As important as it is to have stable and calm wood, the question has to be asked, if it is useful to demand this characteristic for all other cases (like furniture, floor etc.) as well. My answer is 'no', because wood is a natural building material, it is alive and working. Particularly demanding requirements like motionlessness often lead to the widespread use of glue laminated products (e.g. engineered flooring) which result in huge ecological problems like toxic waste.
A rafter with the intention to warp or twist is never going to be stopped by a glass panel. This glass panel too would splinter with the slightest twist. When looking at this construction, I just admired the clients' trust in our beams and saw this as an experiment and a strange way of measuring the possible movements of our beams. After four years, this panel is still intact and in its place. The experiment can be called successful and shows that even for very difficult and challenging tasks it is worthwhile to consider the possibilities nature offers.
However, he wanted daylight to come through a transom window from the entry into the bathroom and planned a glass partition sitting on the internal wall. The fact that the exposed ceiling rafters were running through both, the entry area and the bathroom, didn't bother him at all. He went to the glassier and ordered a glass panel with an exact square cutout for the wooden rafters.
The architect was so convinced by his success that he then decided to design more components for his house. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up when I first saw his plans. The ceilings upstairs were built to expose and show the long and continuous rafters and the internal walls dividing the rooms were built up to the rafters.
When I hold talks, I sometimes ask the question if any of the carpenters, joiners or cabinet makers is able to mount a five-meter-high glass panel on solid instead of glued laminated joists. Their answer is always hesitant, uneasy and negative. Have crafts people too lost their trust in this wonderful building material? We only need to progress thoroughly, step by step and there won't be any need for toxic and harmful synthetic building materials or chemicals in any area of any home. Every builder should reflect on this.
Every expert knows that dangerous movements of wood in a situation like that happen in the first year and rarely later. By now, 12 years have passed, 12 hot summers with heat and 12 alpine winters with frost and snow on the glass outside the wintergreen. The five-meter-high glass panels still rest without tension on the wooden frame joists as they did on day one.
We eventually got the job for this building and went ahead in our usual manner. I went out and looked for spruce trees which were growing in good forest soil at about 1,400m above sea level. The logging took place in winter, at the waning phase of the moon. It was stacked and dried the same way we always do it. The large glass panels were fitted with our wood and the family was happy with their wonderful winter garden. Not quite a year later, the building was finished.
Any slight movement of the timber frame would put tension on the brittle glass and cause it to shatter. For this reason, the architect wanted to use engineered wood to be safe rather than sorry. He didn't approve of using solid wood at first. The home owner however was aware of the toxicity of most wood glues used in engineered wood products and wanted to avoid this in their new home. Therefore they were looking for solid timbers. The beams needed to be cut from large logs.
One of the most difficult and most exciting tasks were proposed by a young family in 1992. They were planning a winter garden for their new family home. However, the design was different from previous builds by us. The architect had specified the largest size of glass panel that could be transported. Our frames were to house five-meter-high, double-glassed panels. The architect was aware of the challenge this posed.
If you plan to use large glass panels in a building, the need for absolutely stable and motionless wood becomes a matter of life and death. Any movement, ever so slight, would become obvious when the glass panel breaks. We have been manufacturing wooden elements for large glass panels for quite some time now and even though it has become routine, it still is important to design a home well when using glass and wood together.
No one is annoyed by the fine cracks and as long as the roof shingles are kept in good shape, this cabin will still be here in a few hundred years. When exposed beams in a house twist and have fine cracks, it is more a matter of taste and visual appeal than structural integrity, because the load-bearing capacities are hardly affected.
Wood and Glass - the Hour of Truth
On this wonderful July morning the sun is warming the outside walls of the little log cabin in the 'Hohen Taueren', where I made myself comfortable with pen and paper. The sun, wind and weather have colored the wood and blended the cabin into the surrounding environment better than any artist could ever have done.
In a carpentry workshop in Salzburg I found a carpenter family where four generations worked together. Of course they only laid floorboards when the moon was waning: "My great grandfather has done this successfully and obviously we too make sure we use the moon phases to our advantage." Those were the words the young carpenter used to confirm the longstanding tradition in his wood workshop.
The ideal time to set fence posts is when the moon is waning and in an earth sign like Virgo, Capricorn or Taurus.
Professional carpenters can make good use of this gravitational pull the moon has on earth. A wood floor laid when the moon is waning doesn't shrink creating gaps and also makes less sound when walked on.
You yourself can try out these energies in other contexts as well. Wooden fence posts never should be erected when the moon is waxing. After the next frost they will loosen and decompose faster. Fence posts set when the moon is waning or new seem to sit tighter in the ground and also last longer.
The moon's gravity directly influences the absorption and the release of moisture in any being or object which contains water. While human, animal and plant cells absorb when the moon is waxing, the earth absorbs water and nutrients when the moon is waning and the earth releases moisture and nutrients when the moon is waxing. It is a perfect symbiotic process.
When the moon was waning however, it seemed additional and unseen powers were released. The water gouges deeper ditches and trenches into the roads, landslides occurred more often and afterwards, much more maintenance and repair works were necessary.
When I was a forester in my district at the 'Karwendelgebirge', I was looking after a wide work of graveled roads. Dirt roads always experience the biggest damage when we have heavy thunderstorms in midsummer.
I noticed then, that thunderstorms and heavy rains created less damage when the moon was waxing. Usually there was just some gravel debris to be removed.
"I just had a look at them", explained the father. "The three which you put in at the right time, are still filling up nicely with water. The other two however, don't have a drop of water in them. The water runs past behind and underneath the trough."
When the carpenter told me this story, it was clear to me why.
It was after the snowmelt in spring when the farmer finally made his way up there. When he came back and asked knowingly why two of the troughs have been dug in later than he specified, his son asked surprised: "How do you know, you weren't up there all autumn last year?"
The father however insisted: "those troughs need to go into the ground today and that's that." His son then went up to the alp and after he finished digging in the third trough, he left and went dancing. He installed the remaining two troughs a couple of days later and was confident his father wouldn't notice.
Those troughs are dug into the ground and positioned right at a spring or little creek so that the water flows over the rim filling the trough without the trough needing its own intake. The son wanted to postpone this job because right on that day was a dance in the neighbouring village.
Flowing Water and the Sign of the Moon
Another story by the above mentioned Tyrolean carpenter appropriately shows the influence the moon has on nature.
"One autumn, this farmer in the Tyrolean lowlands asked his son to go up in the mountains and install five wooden water troughs for the cattle which are staying up there in the summer months.
What we've noticed is that all the successful floors we have come across have been installed in rooms where there was no central heating. For floors in heated buildings, the above method needs additional drying and storage time where the wood slowly releases its residual moisture.
It is essential that the floor is tight and without any gaps because otherwise the wheat pours through the gaps. However, if you find yourself thinking about using green wood for your floor in your house now, don't! We have tried again and again to uncover the secret of those joint-less, green floors.