Wood, Part II

Let’s talk about nudity. Nude people tend to have limited effect on history, but there are always a few exceptions. The naked folks among us tend to belong to two groups– the very poor and the very rich. By “poor” I mean Papua New Guinea. By “rich” I mean Greek islands on a yacht.

So it is with naked wood. Once Upon a Time, to let your woodgrain hang out, you needed to be either so incredibly poor that you collected shrunken heads, or you lived in a place that later became a vast museum run by the national park service. Bare wood, in the time of my grandfather, meant rare, exotic, EXPENSIVE wood that did not rot or decay when exposed. It was not “ordinary” wood and the wealthy people who displayed it knew that and used that technology to allow them to show off.

This led, as it always does, to “cheap knock-offs” made by people who did not understand what was so special about redwood or teak or cedar and why having an entire house made of this wood was a big deal. Hey–it’s just wood! Pass me another Pringle! Put summa dat printed plastic woodgrain up in the kid’s room. Awww-right!

Okay, I’ll stop.

The point is that whenever we see naked wood before the great anti-plastic explosion of the 1960’s, we see some kind of technical showing-off. The wood is exotic and demonstrates just how frackin’ rich this old boy was. Like on a yacht.

So it’s no big surprise that we saw “woody” cars and “wood” paneling and all sorts of bizarre stuff that caused my father some visible discomfort when he found himself giving in to the temptation to put up wood paneling, knowing as he did (being in the lumber business) that plywood paneling isn’t “real” paneling, but a trend is a trend. A fad is a fad. People judge you on looks if they don’t understand what they are looking at.

So up goes the paneling. And the “wood” floor. And the “wood” trim. And anything else “wood” that became easier and easier to mimic as the technology of fakery became more developed. But, originally, the wood was there, on the yacht, on the staircase of the home of tycoon J. J. Hill, or inside the Rolls Royce or whatever, to scream “money” as well as “class.”

To understand WHY the wood wasn’t filled, primed, and painted (a.k.a. “finished”) is to understand technology, and most people didn’t understanding it then, and they don’t understand it now. “Duh, I see rich people have WOOD STUFF. Duh, I wants WOOD STUFF!” Enter smiling Ray with his amazing printed plastic wood substitute.

Note on today’s blog entry:

This is exactly the kind of stuff that causes people to become upset and stop reading a blog. I know this. The internet tends to run the power of a single lie we tell ourselves.

“Everybody is equal.”

This lie is taught between juice boxes when the toddlers are still in their car-seats, and will never die. It comes from the same space as the misunderstanding that “wood” is a color. It’s true that we are all equal before the law, and all equal in the sight of God, but for the most part, we do not have the same ability to understand why the plywood in a bomber was filled, primed and painted. Everybody is not equal, sadly enough.


Well look, I already told you! I deal with the customers so the engineers don't have to! I have people skills! I am good at dealing with people! Can't you understand that? What is wrong with you people?

  • So the wood paneling on Albatri was the elite Huns showing off? It seems to have enamored a lot of WWI modelers, it’s practically a cottage industry. But what’s wrong with loving natural wood? I like it in furniture and floors. Yeah I know it’s environmentally unsound. But isn’t everything that humans do?

  • leave a comment

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Create Account

    Log In Your Account