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Material Research: Wood & Paper Products

Guide explaining the different types of materials and manufacturers.


Wood is a natural, biodegradable product. It can be used in many ways and the material itself is also flexible - steaming and lamination can be used to bend wood. Wood is generally divided into 3 categories:

  • Softwoods - from conifers (trees with needles), this tends to be strong and is commonly used in building, particularly for sections exposed to the elements since it is generally resistant to rot and insects
  • Hardwoods - from deciduous trees (flat leaves) as well as bamboo and palm, this type has distinctive grains that are aesthetically appealing
  • Engineered wood - not naturally occurring but rather manufactured, this includes MDF, composite boards, and plywood, typically treated with chemical or heat processes

Information from Builderology. For further information on wood, see The Way Wood Works.


  • acoustic dampener
  • hygroscopic (absorbs water)
  • anisotropic (i.e. can have different properties in different directions)
  • burns easily
  • decent heat insulator
  • made of cellulose, lignin, and hemicellulose

For more information on wood and its lifecycle, see Explain That Stuff: Wood.


Paper has been in use since Egyptians first made paper with papyrus in roughly 3000 B.C.E. It is created by breaking down a plant (nowadays, typically trees) to release fibers that are mixed with water to create a pulp and then dried.

Lower-grades of manufactured paper are made using what is called the "groundwood process" - originally, this involved using huge stones to grind up logs but now machines are used. The Kraft process is used to create strong paper by boiling plant materials in alkalis.

For more information on the history of paper and its creation, see Explain That Stuff: Paper.

In the Library: clockwise from top left:
LUX Plantasia Pura Lounge Chair; Chromatic Wood Panels;
stikwood; TorZo Sustainable Surfaces
College for Creative Studies website