A revolution may be brewing quietly in Magnolia Springs, Ala.
Henry Cleveland, who lives in this Baldwin County community, thinks that houses and boats and truck bodies and satellite disks can be made of cardboard. More accurately, he knows they can be built from a special type of cardboard, which he calls Cleboard.
Mr. Cleveland has patented a process that uses intense pressure to impregnate cardboard with a mixture of chemicals. The finished product is Cleboard, which Cleveland describes as being as hard as rock, waterproof, and an economical building material.
Cleboard begins as cardboard approximately three-eighths of an inch in thickness and on rolls 8 feet wide. After the cardboard is cut to size for the particular project under construction, the chemical treatment begins in an environment where temperature and humidity are strictly controlled.
''The process involves five or six timed stages when the chemicals and pressure are applied,'' Cleveland explains. ''We use different chemicals and pressures depending on the use of the Cleboard. We can make it essentially as hard as you want it.''
The principle behind Cleboard was discovered by accident. While a truck body was being waterproofed, a piece of cardboard became saturated with a chemical mixture. To Cleveland's surprise, the cardboard hardened.
He pursued the principle over the next seven years, experimenting with various resins as he developed the mechanics to produce Cleboard. Throughout the experimental phase, Cleveland devised numerous ways to use the material.
One of the most practical applications of Cleboard may be in home construction, where Cleveland speculates that one of his houses could be built for about half the cost of a conventional home.
''We could build it on a concrete slab, build it with a basement, or build it with more than one story,'' he asserts. ''Adding rooms would be simple, because you just add another cube to the house,'' he goes on.
Cleveland maintains that Cleboard houses would be sturdier than conventional ones, and he supports this belief by referring to the original use of Cleboard in truck bodies.
''Truck bodies have to be built stronger than houses,'' he declares, ''because they have to withstand wind resistance and road vibrations.'
Cleboard also has industrial uses. As an example, Cleveland was contacted recently by a company in the Northeast which produces batteries.
''They have to rebuild their plant every few years because fumes from the sulfuric acid used in the batteries eat away their factory,'' he says. ''They were interested in using Cleboard to build their next factory. Cleboard is impervious to sulfuric acid.''
Cleveland's tests show Cleboard is also waterproof and resistant to salt and salt water. ''The only thing we have found that will damage it is hydrofluoric acid,'' he adds.
To the developer, the future of Cleboard looks promising.