TreeHugger has followed the work of Ben Uyeda for years, from his design work at ZeroEnergy to FreeGreen; now he is creative director of HomeMade Modern, a marvellous resource where the “goal is to introduce ideas that aren't just about acquiring objects but about managing resources in a way that's useful and accommodates changing lifestyles.”
His latest project, at time of this writing not even up on his site yet, is this spiral staircase made almost entirely of plywood. (There is a steel pole up the middle.)
What’s really fascinating is how Ben takes a common material, plywood, and using an X-carve, a CNC machine you can build from a kit, cuts out the treads that then stack up on top of each other to build the stair. This is the stuff of dreams just a decade ago. As Ben notes, “the project harnesses the power of new tools like CNC machines yet still requires traditional tools like drills and sanders.” And labor- it takes him about two hours per step to assemble.
Each step uses twelve layers of plywood, about 1-1/4 sheets per step. One could quibble that it is not very efficient in its use of materials; given the amount of plywood that is in the stair and the also large amount that was left after the treads were cut out. And he still has to figure out a handrail.
There also are many manufacturers of prefabricated spiral stairs; people have been making them since the Victorian era. It may not really be logical or efficient to build one out of plywood like this. But it certainly is impressive to see it done, to see that a good designer with a good CNC machine and a pile of plywood can build just about anything these days.
It raises a few questions for me; I love this kind of digital fabrication, going straight from design to CNC machine, from stack of plywood to finished product. I raved about it when FACIT did this with houses. I also love wood, because of the way it sequesters carbon.
On the other hand, that's a lot of wood; perhaps some things are better made in a factory, particularly when they are such repetitive elements like stair treads. What do you think?