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Being Driven By Your Woodworking Skills

posted Feb 3, 2012, 6:02 AM by Michael Dekker   [ updated Mar 16, 2012, 6:22 AM ]
There are many people who would say that they are driven by the desire to compete, or driven to madness, but in truth very few can say they are driven by their woodworking skills. Literally, not figuratively.

The notable exception to that statement is Joe Harmon, the creative genius behind Splinter, the 700 horsepower supercar that he built with his own hands. That's impressive, but not entirely unusual. There are many grease monkeys putting together their own fibreglass cars in their garages, and though it does make a rare care, Joe Harmon seems to have upped the ante and entered the realm of the truly unique.

By now, you are wondering what the relevance of Joe's supercar project is to this blog...


Splinter, the 700 horsepower high performance car is built almost entirely out of wood. No, we are not talking about a "woodie", where some of the exterior body panels were trimmed with wood; that's been done before. And no, we are not talking about some wooden interior trim like a dashboard; that's also been done before.

Wooden wheel hub

This car is made almost entirely out of wood. Carved, woven, bent, you name it and this car probably incorporates it. From the wooden I-beam chassis to the balsa-weave-cherry-veneered body panels, and from the wooden wheel rims to the all-important steering wheel, this car is made out of wood.

Some unusual wood is used in the car, such as osage orange, a wood with a history in bowmaking. Balsa wood, traditionally though of as a model-building wood, is actually very strong when properly treated. Cherry and oak round out the wood selection

Splinter's body shell being laminated
And don't get the impression that this car is just a model car carved out of wood either. The pieces were individually designed and crafted. The body shell was manufactured virtually as one continuous woven and veneered piece that once cured had its doors and window cavities cut. The wheels are rotary cut oak veneer, each piece rotated 36 degrees from its mate to maximize strength, and a walnut starburst adorns the front and a cherry starburst on the back, with only a hint of aluminium used for a flange and to distribute load during acceleration.

With a projected top speed over 200-mph, and a curb weight of around 2500 lbs (near that of a late-model Miata), this car will surely turn heads, even if it is in a parking lot. I don't see it being driven much for fear of it getting scratched, but it is truly a work of art, sure to inspire many other woodworking endeavours.

Has all this tempted your curiosity? Head on over to or, the new sponsor's site, for full information, a plethora of photos, and more information about the process than you could comfortably read in one sitting. Check it out!

I'll never look at basket-weaving the same way again...