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TimberSIL GlassWood: Long-lasting Non-Toxic Wood Infused with Glass

29 March 2011 3,889 views 2 Comments

In ninth grade English class I was forced to read a book called Frankenstein, which I found horrifying not only because it chronicled the slow march to destruction of a hideous, emotionally overwrought monster created out of various bits and pieces of the recently deceased, but also because the denouement takes place up at the north pole. In my imagination the north pole is bitterly cold and dark, full of craggy icebergs, ancient snow, and super predators including walruses with pointy tusks, hungry polar bears, and ferocious cold-adapted velociraptors.

Image courtesy mirror.uncyc.org

In the case of Frankenstein’s monster, manufacturing a human being out of various other people resulted in the production of a highly unfortunate, eight-foot tall murderer. Mary Shelley was a little bit ambigous about the process (with good reason) but it’s clear that however it was accomplished, the manual combination of different human beings does not produce a new person who embodies the best characteristics of each of his constituent parts.  Thankfully, this is not the case for materials.  In fact, combining different materials often results in improved products that leverage the best qualities of their components; the strength of one material compensates for the weakness of another, and vice versa.

Wood appears to be a willing partner in many composite material ventures: last week I wrote about woodwool cement (read more here) and this week I am featuring TimberSIL GlassWood, which is wood that has been infused with glass.  More specifically, the wood is bathed in liquid Sodium Silicate, “comprised of microscopic particles of glass in an aqueous solution” (TimberSIL). Glass is a surprisingly strong material in compression, although it is brittle and shatters easily when subjected to tensile forces.  Wood, on the other hand, is weaker, but it makes up for that deficiency by being flexible. 

Image courtesy Treehugger

Sodium silicate consists of “a mixture of sand and soda ash used since the 1800s in detergents and as an egg preservative. Lumber soaks in it under pressure, then bakes until an insoluble matrix of amorphous glass hardens throughout the wood. It makes the wood highly resistant to rain, bugs, and general wear. It costs $4.50 per 8-foot 2×4.” (Thomas).  The glass layer surrounds and fuses with wood fibers, greatly increasing their strength and allowing nails, screws, and other fasteners to bite in more effectively. 

The glass keeps the wood from warping because it blocks the absorption of moisture, and it also acts as a fire retardant.  It renders the wood less pervious to traditional attackers (rot and decay, termites, fire, etc). The glass barrier is permanent, non-toxic, and non-corrosive, and since GlassWood lasts longer than regular wood, it requires replacement much less often (TimberSIL).  The product accepts stain and can be cut and sanded like conventional wood. 

TimberSIL takes wood to the next level by fusing it with glass.  And in contrast with Frankenstein’s monster, it doesn’t terrorize people all over the countryside with its appearance and subsequent random acts of violence, nor does it moan on and on about how it has been rejected by its creator. 


I have filed GlassWood under wood, for obvious reasons.



Thomas, Justin. “Popular Science’s Best of What’s New: TimberSIL.” Treehugger.com 11/13/05. Accessed 03/29/11. URL.

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  • Josh Goodman said:

    Hey, I take it the aesthetics of the timber are not any different to normal wood?

  • Alli Dryer (author) said:

    That’s my understanding!

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