The Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, has just released the new edition of “Wood Handbook — Wood as an Engineered Material,” as part of the FPL’s centennial celebration. And it’s yours free, via PDF download at the FPL web site, either chapter-by-chapter or in its entirety.
This first update since 1999 (it’s the publication’s seventh edition) contains new chapters on the importance of wood as a sustainable material, a discussion on the material’s microscopic structures, wood moisture interactions and preservation practices, as well as low-magnification micrographs of cross sections of commercial species.
Editor Robert J. Ross writes in the introduction that “The Wood Handbook originally focuses on construction practices that utilized solid-sawn wood. Since its first printing, the state-of-the-art in wood construction practices and the range of wood-based products available to the consumer have changed considerably. …We have made every effort to include the more current references, in addition to many historic ones, to help guide the reader to the appropriate sources of information.”
So what kind of information? Here’s a look at the table of contents listings of just four of the 20 chapters, to give you an idea of the masses of information you’ll find inside this 508-page document (and for each, there are citations and additional references at chapter end, should you wish to dig even deeper):
Chapter 5: Mechanical Properties of Wood
Orthotropic Nature of Wood; Elastic Properties; Strength Properties; Vibration Properties; Mechanical Properties of Clear Straight-Grained Wood; Natural Characteristics Affecting Mechanical Properties
Chapter 8: Fastening
Nails; Spikes; Staples; Drift Bolts; Wood Screws; Lag Screws; Bolts; Connector Joints; Metal Plate Connectors; Joist Hanger; Fastener Head Embedment
Chapter 10: Adhesives with Wood Materials
Bond Formation and Performance; Surface Properties of Wood for Bonding; Physical Properties of Wood for Bonding; Adhesives; Bonding Process; Bonded Joints; Testing and Performance; Standards
Chapter 16: Finishing of Wood
Factors Affecting Finish Performance; Exterior Wood Finishes; Application of Finishes, Special Uses; Finish Failure or Discoloration; Finishing Interior Wood; Wood Cleaners and Brighteners; Paint Strippers; Lead-Based Paint
It’s impossible to do justice to this important document in a quick blog entry, but suffice it to say that if you’re interested in more than just picking up whatever S4S is offered at the home center, you should download “Wood Handbook.” Other than 15.1 MB of storage, you’ve got nothing to lose – and lots of interesting and useful (and perhaps a little geeky) wood information to gain.
— Megan Fitzpatrick
(a self-proclaimed geek)
• Want to dig a little deeper into specific uses for various woods? Check out “Wood for Woodturners,” by Mark Baker, which discusses 150 species with information on seasoning and turning characteristics (just $9.99 in our Woodworkers BookShop).