July 23, 2003 | By: Aimee D. Heald

How many pounds of pressure will cause a small, thin, hourglass-shaped board to break in two? More than most participants in the recent Wood Magic workshop at the University of Kentucky Robinson Station field day expected.

Participants watched as the piece of wood was suspended from a frame and attached to a bucket. Workshop leader Terry Conners added weight 25 pounds at a time. Finally, after more than 100 pounds were added, the wood started to give in to the pressure and snapped in half.

The experiment was one of many demonstrations used to show the power, durability and versatility of one of Kentucky’s most precious resources – hardwoods.

“Kentucky is in a unique position in the hardwood industry,” said Carroll Fackler, superintendent of the UK Wood Utilization Center at Robinson Station. “The industry employs about 30,000 people and ranks third in manufacturing employment in the state. The industry also contributes around $4.5 billion to Kentucky’s economy each year.”

Conners started the Wood Magic program when he was working at Mississippi State University in 1997 and then brought the program with him when he began at UK in 2001. He said it’s a great educational tool for youth and adults to learn more about the importance of the wood industry and to realize how many wood products they use in their daily lives. He believes Wood Magic tells people the truth about wood in a positive way.

“It’s important because we have to teach people it’s okay to cut down trees,” he said. “Nationally, we plant five trees for every one we cut down. People think you have to recycle paper because you run out of trees, but really we recycle paper because we’re running out of space for landfills.”

Participants watched demonstrations about the different wood varieties in Kentucky and even got to make paper. Before the workshop was over, attendees received a “bubble blower,” which simply was a piece of wood porous enough to absorb a soapy liquid. When someone blows on one end, bubbles come out the other end.

“We have some novel and unique ways of demonstrating the physical properties of wood,” Fackler said. “And we hope this will be something we can use as an Extension activity in the counties or maybe incorporate into 4-H.”


Writer: Aimee D. Heald 859-257-4736, ext. 267
Source: Terry Conners 859-257-2463