Friday, August 22, 2008

Feats of Woodworking: Splinter Supercar Edition

I'm not sure you can get any cooler than this in the world of woodworking. What's next? A wooden robot??? I wouldn't put it past Joe Harmon, of Joe Harmon Design.

(I got the photo via Design-Milk.)

This isn't just a car. It's a supercar with a twin-supercharged V8 engine (still, it would be no match for my Honda Fit!). According to its stupendous website, the Splinter Supercar is an experiment in testing the limits of wood as a building material. Harmon is doing the project as part of a graduate degree in Industrial Design at North Carolina State University. It's not like this is a normal car with a wooden shell stuck on top of it. In fact, as many of the components of the car as possible -- including the chasis, the body, the suspension and parts of the wheels -- are made of wood. Most of the parts are molded out of veneers using vaccuum presses.

I'm particularly impressed with the design and execution of the suspension. Harmon and his team "decided a leaf spring was nothing more than a bigger, stiffer version of a longbow, so [they] researched bow making and came upon a wood called osage orange. The strongest wood found in North America, it has properties that make it excellent for use in longbows." What's so impressive about this feat is not just the design itself, but all the work that went into learning how to do each thing along the way, such as his research into bow making. I really love the spirit of that. The ambition of this project reminds me of that of the Hughes H-4 Hercules (the so-called (incorrectly so) "Spruce Goose") designed and flown by Howard Hughes.

For any of you attending the IWF (International Woodworking Fair) in Atlanta, PLEASE report back about what this car is like in person. For those who want to explore the process more, the documentation of the project is epic. I encourage you to read the "innovation" section on the website.

See excellent process photos on Harmon's flickr photostream.

See numerous videos on the YouTube.

Here's Dawson's introduction video:

Via Design-Milk. Link.