Does anything “snake” creep you out?
Paul Harper from the Wood Work Workshop received an unusual enquiry from a client.
“Can you build a snake cabinet for our Boa-constrictors from a material that’ll not poison the snakes?”
This was the beginning of an unusual project for The Wood Work Workshop.
Melamine pressed boards – just not up to scratch
The majority of snake cabinets available today are made from pressed boards – chip, MDF or plywood.
The problem with the many of the pressed boards available is that they use Urea-formaldehyde based glues. In the 1980s, concerns began to develop about the toxic formaldehyde vapor emitted in the curing process. Emission rates of more than 0.1 parts per million (ppm) takes a toxic toll on humans.
In this case the client was concerned at the toxic toll on their snakes due to formaldehyde exposure.
Formaldehyde resins are commonly used to bind MDF together, and testing has consistently revealed that MDF products emit urea-formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds that pose health risks at sufficient concentrations, for at least several months after manufacture. Urea-formaldehyde is always being slowly released from the surface of MDF. (see more @ this link)
The snake cabinet specifications – a tough one
The environmental requirement for the Boa constrictors is one of high humidity. As you may know, moisture has an effect of timber. Thus the client had to avoid melamine and wood laminates etc. as these absorb moisture over time, and start to disintegrate, irrespective of how well the edges are sealed.
The current offerings of melamine and wood laminates do not have a practical life much beyond 3 years in this high humidity environment due to moisture absorption and breakdown.
Pine and Cedar had to be eliminated as they both give off gases that are harmful to snakes.
The next challenge was that the client insisted on a 20 year lifetime of the raw material in terms of maintenance as this is the life expectancy of a fully grown Boa-constrictor.
The client also considered using Kiaat, but preferred bamboo as an eco friendly display and educational tool.
Solid bamboo – clean air timber
While confirming the facts it became obvious that the environmental benefits of using solid bamboo were a good fit with wildlife conservation.
Coupled with the requirement not to poison the snakes and bamboo’s unrivaled moisture tolerance, Paul knew he had discovered the ideal material to start building the snake enclosures.
Snake cabinet without all the bells and whistles:
The end result.
If you are a herpetologist, looking for a durable and long life snake cabinet, we suggest you contact Paul Harper (083 306 4043) or via his web site - The Wood Work Workshop.
A few useful references: