Why in the World Would Anyone Want a Computer-Driven Wooden Nail Gun?

CC BY 2.0. Lignoloc gun and nails/ Lloyd Alter

Beck nails it again.

A few years ago we asked Why in the world would anyone want a wooden nail? It was about the Lignoloc from Beck Fastener. It was a special nail gun that drove compressed beech nails into wood where they bonded with the softer wood. I thought it was really exciting and full of possibilities; a major problem with recycling wood is the nails.

Wood nails

Wood nails/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Wood nails are not as hard as steel, but they really bond well with the wood. They don't rust or stain siding; you can barely see them. They do not act as thermal bridges (the heat transfer through metal nails can add up).

The special design of the LignoLoc® nail tip and the large amount of heat generated by friction when the nail is driven in cause the lignin of the wooden nail to weld with the surrounding wood to form a substance-to-substance bond.
Nail gun on table

Nail gun rig/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

At Greenbuild 2019 in Atlanta, Beck showed a new version, with a nail gun set up in a device where you feed the wood in, and it places the wood nails in whatever pattern you tell it to. It's called an Automated Nailing Head. The possibilities of this are even more exciting.

My first thought was that it would make a terrific form of Mass Timber, a form of Nail Laminated Timber. As I noted recently in What's the difference between all these laminated timbers:

NLT is really just a modern name for what has been done forever in warehouses and factories, and used to be called mill decking; you just nail boards together. Anyone can make it anywhere and it has been in the codes for a hundred years.

NLT doesn't need a big investment in fancy presses or expensive equipment, and can be done on site or in a barn. A major problem with it is that it is full of nails, which makes it hard to reuse or repurpose. That's why I was so fond of Dowel Laminated Timber or DLT; it's all wood. But as we showed in our post on DLT, it can take a lot of investment and equipment to make it.

Chad with nail

Chad with nail/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Chad Giese of Beck America also described how Lignoloc was being tested in Cross Laminated Timber as well, and even added to conventional CLT to improve its fire resistance.

When I first wrote about the Lignoloc, I noted, "This is why I love Twitter." After all this discussion about whether one should fly to conferences, I have to say that this is why I love trade shows, the serendipity of walking the floor and finding such interesting stuff. More at Beck Lignoloc.

I wanted to show how the gun worked, and how it looked when done, so I moved in and out with my phone camera and the video here is terrible. I apologize and include it anyway.