FPL 2021 Wood Handbook Easily Accessed

All chapters of the Forest Products Laboratory’s 2021 Wood Handbook are available online. You can choose specific chapters from the handbook to view here.

Wood handbook: Wood as an engineering material 

Chapter 1 Wood as a renewable and sustainable resource Brashaw, Brian; Bergman, Richard

Keywords: wood; forestry; forest certification; carbon; LCA; stocks; sustainability; healthy forests; construction; buildings

File size: 2 MB

Chapter 2 Characteristics and availability of commercially important woods Wiemann, Michael

Keywords: Wood anatomy; wood identification; species descriptions; species uses

File size: 25.6 MB

Chapter 3 Structure and function of wood Wiedenhoeft, Alex; Eberhardt, Thomas

Keywords: wood biology; wood chemistry; wood anatomy; wood identification

File size: 8 MB

Chapter 4 Moisture relations and physical properties of wood Glass, Samuel; Zelinka, Samuel

Keywords: wood; moisture; water; water vapor; sorption; adsorption; absorption; moisture content; fiber saturation point; physical properties; density; specific gravity; dimensional stability; shrinkage; swelling; thermal properties; thermal conductivity; heat capacity; electrical properties

File size: 2 MB

Chapter 5 Mechanical properties of wood Senalik, Christopher Adam; Farber, Benjamin

Keywords: mechanical properties; wood; tension; compression; shear; bending; hardness; moisture; hardwoods; softwoods

File size: 5 MB

Chapter 6 Commercial lumber, round timbers, and ties Senalik, Christopher Adam; Farber, Benjamin

Keywords: lumber; grades; dimensions; grading agencies; poles; piles; ties; finished market products

File size: 2 MB

Chapter 7 Stress grades and design properties for lumber, round timber, and ties Senalik, Christopher Adam; Farber, Benjamin

Keywords: lumber grading; size adjustment; moisture adjustment

File size: 1 MB

Chapter 8 Fastenings Rammer, Douglas

Keywords: fastenings; nails; spikes; staples; bolts; screws; withdrawal resistance; metal plate connectors

File size: 4 MB

Chapter 9 Structural analysis equations Lo Ricco, Marco; Amini, Mohamed Omar; Rammer, Douglas

Keywords: structural analysis; wood beams; columns; built-up sections

File size: 3 MB

Chapter 10  Wood adhesives: bond formation and performance Frihart, Charles; Hunt, Christopher

Keywords: wood bonding; wood adhesives

File size: 2 MB

Chapter 11 Wood-based composite materials: panel products, glued laminated timber, structural composite lumber, and wood–nonwood composites Stark, Nicole; Cai, Zhiyong

Keywords: wood composites; cellulose nanocomposites; composite lumber; manufacturing; identification

File size: 5 MB

Chapter 12 Mechanical properties of wood-based composite materials Cai, Zhiyong; Senalik, Christopher Adam; Ross, Robert

Keywords: Wood-based; composite; mechanical properties; structural panel; industrial panel; structural lumber

File size: 423 KB

Chapter 13 Drying and control of moisture content and dimensional changes Bergman, Richard

Keywords: wood drying; wood stain; drying methods; moisture control; determination; wood defects; shrinkage; humidity; EMC; equilibrium moisture content

File size: 3 MB

Chapter 14 Biodeterioration of wood Arango, Rachel; Lebow, Stan; Glaeser, Jessie A.

Keywords: Fungi; insects; mold; bacteria; marine borers

File size: 6 MB

Chapter 15 Wood preservatives Kirker, Grant T.; Lebow, Stan

Keywords: Wood preservation; pressure treatment; disposal; usage guidelines

File size: 2 MB

Chapter 16 Finishing wood Hunt, Christopher

Keywords: finishes; wood; coatings

File size: 14 MB

Chapter 17 Use of wood in buildings and bridges Wacker, James

Keywords: wood; bridge; building; structural; thermal; moisture; sound

File size: 4 MB

Chapter 18 Fire safety of wood construction Dietenberger, Mark; Hasburgh, Laura, E..; Yedinak, Kara

Keywords: Fire performance; wood; char; ignition; flame spread; wildland urban interface; home ignition zone; flammability

File size: 1 MB

Chapter 19 Specialty treatments Ibach, Rebecca

Keywords: Plasticizing wood; wood modification; laminates

File size: 744 KB

Chapter 20 Heat sterilization of wood Wang, Xiping

Keywords: heat treatment; heating times; invasive species; pest; lumber; timber; treatment schedule

File size: 1 MB

An Ounce of Prevention

Thanks to Grant Kirker for writing this article spotlighting how homeowner’s can better maintain their wood decks. Kirker is a Research Forest Products Technologist at FPL in the Durability and Wood Protection Research unit.

The experimental test block setup used to examine the role of accumulated leaf litter on material performance and wood durability in aboveground exposure. The test block is surrounded by untreated pine and the channel between the block and frame is filled with leaf litter. The two black fittings on the top are able to take repeated moisture measurement using a pin-type moisture probe. USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory

Benjamin Franklin is credited with the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, which suggests that taking steps to avert a problem before it starts is far better than taking corrective steps after the problem arises. Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) Wood Durability and Protection researchers, in collaboration with research partners at Oregon State University, attempted to apply this concept to a situation close to home for many homeowners—the wooden deck.

The global wooden decking market in 2020 was valued at $15 billion USD, of which the North American markets made up about 35%, or $5.25 billion USD1. In a 2019 National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) survey2, 20.3% of all new houses included decks. Although this estimate is lower than historical averages, the global pandemic has led to an increasing interest in outdoor living spaces, which will likely cause this market to increase. Wood is an excellent building material for outdoor decking because of its  reasonable cost and low maintenance requirements; if properly installed and maintained, a wood deck can provide a long-lasting benefit to the homeowner.

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Engineers from FPL and the VA Inspect 134-Year-Old Milwaukee Medical Center Building

The first building in what is now the Clement J. Zablocki Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was originally approved for construction by President Abraham Lincoln just one month before the end of the Civil War, for the care of disabled soldiers. That structure was completed in 1869.

Originally called the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers and nicknamed the “Old Main,” the Zablocki VAMC now consists of 20 buildings.

Adam Senalik, FPL Engineer, visually inspecting the studs of a wall on the top floor of Building 7 at the Zablocki VAMC.

Last week, it was time for an inspection of Building 7 – the Soldiers’ Home. Like Buildings 2 and 5, it was built as a barracks for soldiers receiving care at the Milwaukee Soldiers Home. Consisting of three stories and a large basement foundation, the Soldier’s Home, designed by celebrated architect Henry Koch, was ready for business in 1888. Building 7 now supports the offices of the Compensated Work Therapy Department. New IT requirements require the VAMC to update the structural integrity of some of the older buildings.

Bob Ross, FPL Engineer, investigating the structural members in the wall system on the top floor of building 7. Note that the outer layers of the wall have been removed to expose the structural members.

To that end, Forest Products Laboratory Research General Engineers Bob Ross and Adam Senalik took the 90-minute drive to Milwaukee to join Erik Billstrom, on-site engineer for the VA, to carry out the necessary structural analyses.

Erik Billstrom, VA engineer, examines a large white pine timber in the high ceiling of the basement maintenance room and finds he is easily able to remove wood samples by hand.

According to Bob and Adam, FPL regularly receives requests for structural condition assessments, mostly dealing with historic wood structures, structural assessment, inspection, and assignment of allowable design values.

“We usually try to provide direct assistance to other Federal agencies and Departments,” said Bob. “This is especially true for the DoD and Veterans’ Administration.

“What matters most here,” added Bob, “is that this campus does good things for veterans.” The Zablocki VAMC serves more than 64,000 U.S. veterans every year.

Bob added that the book he coauthored, Wood and Timber Condition Assessment Manual, now in its second edition, summarizes structural condition assessment research currently used for wood and timber structures. The publication can be found at:  https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fplgtr/fpl_gtr234.pdf.  A previous FPL LabNotes article provides a summary of the manual here:  https://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/labnotes/?p=4599.

Bob Ross reveals a deteriorated nail from the basement ceiling

Starting on the third floor of building 7, the three engineers began to examine the condition of the walls and ceiling.

“It’s in pretty bad shape,” said Adam. “But about what we expected.” Previous engineering analyses had found that the structural beams were not designed for heavy weight. 

The group then climbed up into the dark attic above the third floor and removed a few samples of wood. The blackened strips of wood appeared as if they had been in a fire.

“Maybe they were at one time,” observed Bob. “Further analysis will tell us.”

Satisfied with their inspection and the samples they had acquired, the analysts moved down to the utility room on the basement level. Here, the late 19th-century origins of the building were even more apparent, with period arches and a brick wall that had survived more than a century of water damage. The wall appeared not unlike a medieval dungeon in its heavily “blurred” condition.

Erik set up and climbed a tall step ladder to examine a large white pine timber across the ceiling of the basement. He reached in and was able to effortlessly lift spacers out of the surrounding structure. Finally, the three engineers placed all their gathered samples into large, labeled plastic bags.

“It was a good inspection,” Adam concluded. “I only hope that this building can be saved.”

Reducing Wildfires through Better Utility Pole Inspections

They can pop up almost anywhere.

“They” are wildfires, which can result in loss of human life and lead to billions of dollars of property damage every year in the United States.

Hundreds of failures in electrical utility poles across the nation are one of the leading causes of these disasters. In Idaho alone, nearly 300 wildfires have been caused by utility pole failures in the past 15 years – an average of 20 wildfires every year.

Electrical utility pole failure is one of the leading causes of wildfires nationwide. The sheer number of poles involved makes regular inspections challenging – but the Forest Products Lab is finding new ways to carry out pole inspections quickly and easily. (Forest Service photo)
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FPL Scientist and UW-Madison Bring Science and Art Together

Alex Wiedenhoeft invention contributes to new Audubon Exhibit at the Chazen Museum of Art


Detail of Carolina Parrots from The Birds of America, John James Audubon. Photo courtesy of the Chazen Museum of Art

Alex Wiedenhoeft has contributed so much of his hard work and knowledge to the Forest Products Laboratory in the more than 20 years he has been with us. One of his most useful inventions is the XyloTron, a desktop device that provides high-resolution images of wood.

In his effort to make the XyloTron less costly and more portable, Alex also developed the XyloPhone, a small device that attaches to a smartphone and provides the same resolution as the much larger XyloTron.

In just a few months, the Xylophone has contributed greatly to the ability of scientists in the field to identify and photograph wood. But not just wood.

Artist Emily Arthur, associate professor in the UW-Madison art department, learned about the XyloPhone through her colleague Anne Pringle, professor of Botany at UW-Madison, who studies lichens and fungi in her lab. During Emily’s ongoing collaborative research with Robin Rider, curator of special collections, Memorial Library, the XyloPhone became a way to examine rare books and works on paper.

“I knew this device would be invaluable for the purposes of this research,” said Emily Arthur. “And I was right! Being able to examine the hand-colored engravings from The Birds of America at such a detailed level has revealed new information on the printing techniques that were used in its production between 1827-1838.”


Alex Wiedenhoeft demonstrates wood identification using the XyloTron system. He also developed the XyloPhone as a smaller, more portable device that attaches to a smartphone, but with the same remarkable scanning ability. Photo by Andrew Averil, Hardwood Floors Magazine

The focus of the exhibit at the Chazen Museum of Art is not just the gorgeous creations of the renowned naturalist, John James Audubon, but in particular the methods that formed a tradition of exactitude in engraving that lies behind the work of printmakers like Robert Havell, Jr.

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