To start a ball rolling and help the human race…

To start a ball rolling and help the human race…

So why not abandon our continual acquisition of more and more manufactured goods and buy, or preferably learn to make, just a few simple wooden things for ourselves? You need not go whole hog live in a Neolithic-style roundhouse…or teach your kids to carve bows and arrows… But any reduction in the amount of goods we buy can reduce our impact on the planet. Who knows, we might be able to start a ball rolling and help the human race return to the more gentle delights the Age of Wood.”

Roland Ennos – The Age of Wood


I’m Chris Scott, and for more than a generation, I have been working on a concept that could “start a ball rolling” as Roland Ennos suggests in the quote above.

This concept, which I call I WOOD Grooved Wood, rethinks how wood can be more efficiently used for everything from building homes to creating the furnishings we use inside them. I WOOD is a ludicrously simple innovation: mill one or more grooves into the length of lumber – preferably at the sawmill. This simple change will more efficiently use the trees that are harvested, reduce shipping and storage requirements, produce lighter and stronger end products, allow faster drying with a reduction in twisting and warping, increase the harvest from smaller-diameter trees, increase building productivity, eliminate construction on-site waste, and make our homes more energy-efficient.

Worldwide implementation of Treecycling’s I WOOD grooved wood could result in:

  • Saving more than a trillion dollars, just in the US;
  • A dramatic reduction of our carbon footsteps, at virtually no cost;
  • The creation of thousands of small businesses around the world;
  • Housing for every family in the world by 2050.

What’s more, the I WOOD concept is open source and can be used by anyone at any time for their own products without referring back to I WOOD or Treecycling!

One would think, with all of these advantages, and virtually no drawbacks, the I WOOD concept would have been quickly adopted thirty years ago when I first proposed it. What’s preventing that change?

Ennos hints at some of the roadblocks to changing the way we approach our use of wood in The Age of Wood. He explains how the homage tradition in wood crafting has stifled innovation:

“Even if a craftsman made a useful innovation, it would be unlikely to spread because it would have been hard to pass on. Crafts trades were handed down through the generations, largely from father to son, and the techniques were demonstrated by example, not by written or even verbal instruction. Craftsmen developed a feel for their trade over a long apprenticeship, not through textbook study. And with workshops spread evenly across the countryside, and little contact between the different wood base trades, new skills would only slowly spread. Craftsmen would carry on working in the same way, following tradition, in other words, because “if it’s the way we’ve always done it, then that’s the right way to do it.” This homage tradition is a conservative trait; it ensures that standards are maintained, and mistakes averted, but it strangles innovation.”

Rolan Ennos – The Age of Wood – Pg. 180

What Ennos refers to as homage tradition, continues to stifle innovation, not just with regards to improvements in wood, but in every instance of change that could improve our quality of life, or in the case of climate change, the very future of life itself. We must both, let go of our idolization of tradition and embrace a more cooperative sharing of ideas if we are to ever “start a ball rolling”.

The problem with balls is that they tend to roll – downhill – landing in a pile of “yea, buts”.

Eventually, a visionary ball will dig their way out of the naysayer pile, determined to push their idea forward.

Realizing that they have discovered a Much Better Way of doing things, they start their uphill climb with great enthusiasm.

But, while they are convinced that their Much Better Way will be good for everyone, the forces of naysayer gravity keep pulling them back. It’s just the resistant nature of change.

It takes time to set sedentary spheres into a forward, uphill motion. Fortunately, it isn’t necessary to get everyone on board. You just need enough momentum to pivot the teetertotter. While it can seem that change happens gradually, looking back at significant changes in human history such as the ones Ennos describes in his book, there is almost always an unforeseen circumstance that causes the course of history to suddenly change course – much like the pivot of a teetertotter. One day it’s all slanted one way, the next, everything has changed.

Current weather-related catastrophes are convincing even ardent climate deniers that we have to do something drastic – we have to make some big changes. Visionaries, whose ideas that once seemed foolish, are now being sought out with the hope those same ideas can save us.  And even though it might seem like we just keep backsliding into old habits, change soon becomes inevitable.

There’ will always be the naysayers mucking up our progress, but circumstances usually bring them around. We can only hope it isn’t too late. This is where we are now with I WOOD.  We now have a team working together – and unlike a solitary, visionary ball, a team doesn’t roll downhill. It climbs. It stays focused. It builds traction. This is where you come in.

Once the teetertotter starts to pivot, even the naysayers can’t stop it!

As the consequences of climate change become more evident, the realization of the urgency of changing the way we’ve always done things builds momentum. Hundreds of brilliant innovations, like I WOOD grooved wood, are finally reaching that tipping point. A MUCH BETTER WAY of doing things, including how we work with wood, is underway!

The team that could take the I WOOD grooved wood concept to that tipping point could well come from the millions of individual woodcrafters plying their craft in under-used workshops throughout North America. Recent worldwide events have moved us toward a new renaissance in how we view work and success. Computer-operated machines have transformed the job market. The workforce, apart from the service industry, has changed completely. The COVID 19 pandemic accelerated these changes in ways none of us imagined prior to 2020.

The potential of home workshops around the world to adopt a new way of working with wood is immense. With I WOOD grooved wood they can produce products previously made with plastics and other carbon making materials, from furniture and household items, to buildings, manufactured from local resources and meeting local tastes and needs. This can be achieved by individuals working from their own homes who don’t want to return to the past 9-to-5 grind.

Even after the pandemic is in our rear-view mirror, the jobs created in home workshops can continue to be beneficial for all of us. Working from home reduces the need for travel to work, rush hour roadblocks, city parking blocks, and many other currently accepted “ways of life”.

E-commerce has also opened up opportunities for marketing home workshop products. We are working to support this with where woodworkers can sell their products online.

On a larger scale, timber can be grooved directly at the sawmill, making it possible for local businesses to manufacture the components for I WOOD kits to build structures from sheds to homes.

We are excited! It’s been a long road, but Treecycling with I WOOD grooved wood is at the tipping point! Welcome visionaries!

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Comment (1)

  • Juan M del Rio Reply

    An insightful description of how change happens.

    July 1, 2021 at 10:25 am

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