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Wood & Timber

Trees have age, just like humans do. Older trees are more stable but not as strong as middle-aged
trees. Younger trees move more and are not ready to use.


Deterioration occurs mainly due to

Decay or rot
Insects, marine borers

Timber not properly seasoned or subjected to intermittent wetting decays due to fungi, termites as
various portions of the wood are used as food. They require both oxygen and excess moisture
hence timber having less than 25% moisture or fully submerged in water will not decay or rot.
Termites also attack wood. They eat wood and form tunnels or tubes inside. Certain species of
beetles and ants will damage timber by digging tunnels through it using the wood for living quarters
rather than food. The major disadvantage of timber is the ease with which it burns as compared with
structural materials.

Methods of sawing timber

Wood suitable for building or other engineering works is

called timber


Parallel cuts made throughout the length of the

Cutting parallel slices of planks
Easiest and economical method
Shrinkage of sapwood more than the heartwood
Causing warp and twisting of planks


Tendency to cup i.e. to curve in a transverse direction

When applied to wood, not having distinct medullar rays this method produces very fine

Timber cut parallel to

medullar rays and
perpendicular to annual

least shrinkage but most wasted

limited rift is adopted

Greater decorative effect

medullar rays pronounced


Boards or planks sawn

tangentially to annual rings
Not suitable for flooring
Planks cut by this method warp too much

Properties of Wood & Timber

Wood is the oldest material used by humans for construction after stone. Despite its complex
chemical nature, wood has excellent properties which lend themselves to human use.

It is readily and economically available; easily machinable; amenable to fabrication into an

infinite variety of sizes and shapes using simple on-site building techniques;
Exceptionally strong relative to its weight
A good heat and electrical insulator;
of increasing importance
It is a renewable and biodegradable resource.

However, it also has some drawbacks of which the user must be aware. It is a natural material and
is available in limited amount.

Drying and Seasoning of wood


The process of removal of moisture content from wood so as to make it useful for construction and
other uses is called drying of wood or seasoning of wood. This reduces the chances of decay,
improves load bearing properties, reduces weight, and exhibits more favourable properties like
thermal & electrical insulation, glue adhesive capacity & easy preservative treatment etc .
Natural or air seasoning

The traditional method of seasoning timber was to stack it in air and let the heat of the atmosphere
and the natural air movement around the stacked timber remove the moisture. The basic principle is
to stack the timber so that plenty of air can circulate around each piece. The timber is stacked with
wide spaces between each piece horizontally, and with strips of wood between each layer ensuring
that there is a vertical separation too.

Air can then circulate around and through the stack, to slowly remove moisture. In some cases,
weights can be placed on top of the stacks to prevent warping of the timber as it dries.

Air-drying is necessarily a slow process, particularly for hardwoods, typically taking 6 to 9 months to
reach moisture content in the range 20% to 25%.

Artificial (kiln) seasoning

Artificial methods of seasoning timber

Kiln drying of lumber is perhaps

the most effective and
economical method available.
Drying rates in a kiln can be
carefully controlled and defect
losses reduced to a minimum.
Length of drying time is also
greatly reduced and is
predictable so that dry lumber
inventories can often be
reduced. Where staining is a
problem, kiln drying is often the
only reasonable method that can
be used unless chemical dips
are employed.

Kilns are usually divided into two classes:

1. Progressive
2. Compartment

Both methods rely on the controlled environment to dry out the timber and require the
following factors:

Forced air circulation by using large fans, blowers, etc.

Heat of some form provided by piped steam.
Humidity control provided by steam jets.

Amount and Duration of Air, Heat and Humidity depends upon:

1. Species
2. Size
3. Quantity

1. Progressive Seasoning:

In the progressive kiln, timber enters at one end and moves progressively through the kiln much as a
car moves through a tunnel. Temperature and humidity differentials are maintained throughout the
length of the kiln so that the lumber charge is progressively dried as it moves from one end to the

Progressive Kiln

2. Compartmental Seasoning:

A compartment kiln is a single enclosed container or

building, etc. The timber is stacked as described above
and the whole stack is seasoned using a programme of
settings until the whole stack is reduced to the MC
required. Compartment kilns differ from progressive kilns
in that the timber is loaded into the kiln and remains in
place throughout the drying process. Compartment kilns
are usually smaller than progressive kilns, and because of their construction the temperature and
humidity conditions within them can be closely controlled.
Compartmental Kiln

Wood defects:

The major problems that arise in wood use may be attributed either to the effects of grain distortions (cell
orientation or alignment), to the effects of excess moisture, or to defects that occur as a result of the
drying process. The specific defects taken into account in the grading of lumber products include:


The result of cutting across a branch in lumber manufacture. If the branch is cut perpendicular to its axis,
the knot is round or oblong and presents a miniature aspect of a tree with visible growth rings. Knots may
be live (cut through a living branch with intact tissue) or dead (cut through a dead branch stub with loose
bark, usually resulting in a knothole

Slope of grain:

A deviation of cell orientation from the longitudinal axis of the member. Slope of grain may be a natural
phenomenon wherein the grain is at some angle to the tree axis (termed spiral grain), or it may be the
result of sawing the member nonparallel to the tree axis. Slope of grain has a negative effect upon wood
strength properties. A slope of 1:20 has minimal effect, but a slope of 1:6 reduces strength to about 40%
in bending and to about 55% in compression parallel to the grain. Tensile strength is even more adversely


Lack of wood. Wane occurs whenever a board is sawn so as to intersect the periphery of the tree,
resulting in one edge or portion of an edge of a board being rounded or including bark. Limited amounts
of wane are permitted, depending upon lumber grade. The effect of wane on wood strength or nailing
surface is obvious.

A lengthwise separation of the wood, which usually occurs between or through the annual growth rings.
Shakes are limited in grading since they present a plane of greatly reduced shear strength. Shake may
occur as a result of severe wind that bends a tree to produce an internal shear failure, or as a result of
subsequent rough handling of the tree or its products.

Splits and cracks:

Separations of the wood cells along the grain, most often the result of drying stresses as the wood
shrinks. Cracks are small, whereas splits extend completely through the thickness of a piece. Splits at the
ends of the member, particularly along the central portion of a beam, are limited in grading.

Insect attack:

Insect attack may range from small blemishes that do not affect strength to large voids or extensive
damage in the wood as the result of termite or other insect infestation. Insect attack is usually treated as
equivalent to the effect of similarly sized knotholes.


Decay, caused by wood-destroying fungi, is precluded from wood use except for certain species in lower
grades because the strength-reducing effects of fungal attack are quite significant even before visible
evidence (wood discoloration, punkiness) appears. It is important to note that decay organisms require
moisture to live and grow; hence, the presence of active decay or mold implies
access to a source of moisture. Moist wood will always decay, unless the wood is preservative-treated or
is of a very durable species