There was also a time when wood was relatively cheap and plentiful in much of the world thanks to the number of trees just standing around waiting to be turned into useful things like floorboards. Unfortunately wood is neither as cheap nor plentiful as it once was, so it's important to make the most of every tree. Instead of following the traditional line of straight-edged floorboards, Dutch company Bolefloor maximizes the coverage area of floorboards made from a particular tree by following the tree's natural curves.

The Bolefloor system means that not only are no two floors the same, but no two floorboards are the same. The computerized system combines wood scanning systems, tailor made CAD/CAM systems and optimization algorithms to produce natural curved-length floorboards that fit together perfectly with ordinary tongue and groove joints – although ungrooved endjoints or a combination of both grooved and ungrooved are also available.

The system also uses visual identification technology to evaluate imperfections such as knots and sapwood near the edges and, to ensure installers aren't faced with a mammoth-sized jigsaw puzzle, each board is also tracked from its raw lumber stage to final installation.

Although it currently buys both FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified and non-FSC wood, Bolefloor will be applying for FSC certification later this year. Bolefloors are currently available only in solid oak, but other woods will be available around mid-2011. The boards run to 3 m (9.8 ft) in length with special orders for up to 6 m (19.6 ft) accepted. Widths range from 150-300 mm (5.9-11.8 in) depending on the shape of the tree, while thickness is a uniform 21 mm (0.8 in), with a 13 mm (0.5 in) line also available mid-year.

As part of its plan to bring its floorboards to all of Europe by the end of 2011 the company is starting with dealers in the Nordic and BeNeLux countries, which will be listed on the Bolefloor website soon. It is also seeking business partners in North America and is considering licensing its technology in Asia and South America.

In terms of cost, Bolefloor says its floorboards are on the same level as top end traditional floorboards from respected producers. But with their natural shape board's ability to capture the full pattern of the wood grain, there's no doubt they offer something straight cut floorboards can't.

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