Bicycle Diaries: Got wood?

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27.1.08

Got wood?

build a bike!

We never did this in woodshop %) Marco Facciola, a 16 year old high school student, decided to take the traditional curriculum in a whole new direction: a wooden bike. He notes that his choice of materials isn't all that original. In WWII Holland, rubber and steel were scarce. So his grandfather, Case Vandersluis, built wooden wheels for his bike. What is original is that Marco decided to construct his entire bike out of wood, even the drive train.

The first challenge that Marco successfully tackled was building a chain that wouldn't break. I wonder if he's ever heard of Eric Sloane? If he has, he shouldn't have worried so much. Sloane, who was known as Mr. Americana, penned some 50 books and numerous newspaper columns all celebrating good ole' Yankee ingenuity. My absolute fav is A Reverence for Wood. With it, Sloane reminds his modern readers that the first European settlers in America developed
...[a] special knowledge of which wood is suited to which task, the ready identification of native trees, the reverence for wood, the instinctive knowledge that wood can warm the soul as well as the body --

Well before our modern obsession with sustainability and even before the Back to the Land Movement of the early 70s, wood was the ultimate renewable resource. Sloane shows that in many ways it was stronger and more flexible than iron. The wooden teeth of giant mill cogs wore more evenly and ultimately lasted longer. As a result, wood drove our early industrial revolution.

I'm sure that Eric Sloane, who died in 1985, would've been fascinated by Marco's project. It reflects not only ingenuity but self-reliance and frugality. Sloane believed that these are the ultimate American virtues, for as he describes in A Declaration of Self-Dependence,
My Nation was born with a declaration of independence, but to be free, I must also practice an individual independence.

...As frugality is part of the family economy, so must thrift be important to national revenue. The practice if thrift is insurance against greed, which had no part in the original American philosophy.

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