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Wood Fights for Markets.

Throughout the first 19 centuries of the last two millennia, wood and products made with wood enjoyed a high status in civilization's evolution. Versatile wood was used to provide fuel and shelter, to build ships and carts, and to manufacture weaponry, tools, musical instruments and furniture.

In addition to its utilitarian value, wood added warmth, beauty and adornment to everyday life, particularly for those who could afford the finest woods crafted into products by the finest artisans.

As the Industrial Revolution took root, steel and other forged metals took the lead in accelerating the pace of product development and manufacturing. Not too far off the horizon were plastics, which would soon compete with wood for certain markets.

During the 1930s, the editors of this magazine routinely chastized the automobile industry for not using more wood in their products. They took delight in reporting on studies indicating that wood was structurally superior to metal, and thus should be used more for auto frames.

In the 1950s, metal cabinetry grew to hold 45% market share in the kitchen cabinet industry. While wood, thanks to the development of case goods-friendly composite materials like hardboard, particleboard and medium density fiberboard, regained its commanding lead in cabinets, it has lost out big time in the automotive, aerospace and electronics industries, though the latter has been offset by the growth of home entertainment and home office furnishings.

Products made with wood and wood composites still hold the upper hand in home furniture and architectural woodwork, but only make up about 25% of the office furniture market. Wood's share of the window industry has dropped so precipitously to vinyl, that the Wood Window & Door Assn. last year dropped "Wood" from its name for the first time in 72 years.

Meanwhile, the store fixture industry has taken the lead in the mix and match of materials. Products often combine two or more types of materials, including laminates, veneers, solid woods, composite panels, metals, plastics, solid surfaces and other substrates and decorative finishes, often involving woodgrain patterns.

As the wood products industry enters the 21st century, it will continue to battle for traditional markets, such as witnessed by the growth of laminate flooring at the expense of vinyl flooring.

Most of all, the wood products industry will be challenged to leverage its most unique and valuable asset, that being its ability to keep humanity in tune with nature.
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Author:CHRISTIANSON, RICH
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 1999
Words:399
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