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From the Editor's Desk
Malleable and Durable

When I was in grade school in the 1970s, educators had just begun sealing the gender split that previously had girls and boys taking separate specialized courses in cooking, typing, and “vo-tech” — classes in vocational technology such as metal shop. Raised by an older and traditional mother who was always at odds with post-’60s culture, I was stunned to find myself, by the eighth grade, forced to attend wood shop, of all things. There I was, a refugee from purely academic and domestic expectations, wearing protective goggles and pressing a miter saw through sticks of wood for the purpose of making a picture frame.

But while I’ve repressed memories of other coeducational enrichments, like playing soccer with very large teenage boys, I remember every detail of working with those sticks of wood. It was probably the first time I really took pleasure in a material that I wasn’t wearing. Spending several days during that academic quarter choosing the right wood for my project, sawing it, sanding it to a silky finish, staining it, I was enthralled by wood’s malleability, its fabulous texture and durability.

History always makes mincemeat of traditional expectations like those I had, and most of us try valiantly to keep up and live well in our times. Industries, of course, go through the same changes. Industrial processes and human ingenuity make the perfectly obvious — like a material we just call “wood” — into something more than itself, something more complex, with greater and greater ranges of application.

Over the course of its existence, ASTM Committee D07 on Wood has had to be as malleable and durable as the material it standardizes in order to meet the ever-changing needs of the wood industry. The committee has gone from establishing simple standards for grades of the comparatively few species of wood in use in the early 1900s to standardizing such complex materials as the multiple variations on glued laminated timber available in the 2000s.

And, as many standards developers know, changes in materials and processes have led to changes in standardization itself, as in the recent emphasis on performance standards vs. prescriptive standards. For Committee D07, the shift has come in accommodating the needs of manufacturers that have invested heavily in product innovation. In response, the committee has moved its emphasis to developing standards that establish acceptable safety limits while not limiting a manufacturer’s ability to optimize its product’s performance.

In their feature article this month, authors Bob Leichti and Bob Ethington describe other challenges faced by D07 in the 21st century, including globalization and electronic technology. I think technical committee members of all stripes reading their article will see in Committee D07 the very same attributes that keep all functioning committees going: an ability to bend with market forces while focusing on the overall goals of developing reliable, market-relevant standards that work well for an entire industry.

Maryann Gorman
Editor in Chief

Copyright 2004, ASTM International