Timber refers to wood used for construction works. In fact the word timber is derived from an old English word ‘Timbrian’ which means ‘to build’. A tree that yields good wood for construction is called ‘Standing Timber.’ After felling a tree, its branches are cut and its stem is roughly converted into pieces of suitable length, so that it can be transported to timber yard. This form of timber is known as rough timber. By sawing, rough timber is converted into various commercial sizes like planks, battens, posts, beams etc. Such form of timber is known as converted timber.

Timber was used as building material even by primitive man. Many ancient temples, palaces and bridges built with timber can be seen even today. 1.5.1

Classification of Timber

Various bases are considered for the classification of timbers. The following are the important basis:

(i) Mode of growth (ii) Modulus of elasticity (iii) Durability (iv) Grading (v) Availability.

Classification of Timber Based on Mode of Growth

On the basis of mode of growth trees are classified as

(a) Exogeneous and (b) Endogeneous

(a) Exogeneous Trees: These trees grow outward by adding distinct consecutive ring every year. These rings are known as annual rings. Hence it is possible to find the age of timber by counting these annual rings. These trees may be further divided into

(1) coniferrous and (2) deciduous.

Coniferrous trees are having cone shaped leaves and fruits. The leaves do not fall till new ones are grown. They yield soft wood.

Deciduous trees are having broad leaves. These leaves fall in autumn and new ones appear in springs. They yield strong wood and hence they are commonly used in building construction.

The classification as soft wood and hard wood has commercial importance. The difference between soft wood and hard wood is given below:

  • In soft wood annual rings are seen distinctly whereas in hard wood they are indistinct.
  • The colour of soft wood is light whereas the colour of hard wood is dark.
  • Soft woods have lesser strength in compression and shear compared to hard woods.
  • Soft woods are light and hard woods are heavy.
  • Fire resistance of soft wood is poor compared to that of hard wood.
  • The structure of soft wood is resinous while structure of hard wood is close grained.

The cross-section of a exogeneous tree is as shown in the Fig. 1. The following components are visible to the naked eye:

properties of timber
Fig. 1. Cross-section of exogeneous tree

1. Pith: It is the inner most part of the tree and hence the oldest part of exogeneous tree when the plant becomes old, the pith dies and becomes fibrous and dark. It varies in size and shape.

2. Heart Wood: This is the portion surrounding pith. It is dark in colour and strong. This portion is useful for various engineering purpose. This is the dead part of wood. It consists of several annular rings.

3. Sap Wood: It is the layer next to heart wood. It denotes recent growth and contains sap. It takes active part in the growth of trees by allowing sap to move in upward direction. The annual rings of sap wood are less sharply divided and are light in colour. The sap wood is also known as alburnum.

4. Cambium Layer: It is a thin layer of fresh sap lying between sap wood and the inner bark. It contains sap which is not yet converted into sap wood. If the bark is removed and cambium layer is exposed to atmosphere, cells cease to be active and tree dies.

5. Inner Bark: It is a inner skin of tree protecting the cambium layer. It gives protection to cambium layer.

6. Outer Bark: It is the outer skin of the tree and consists of wood fibres. Sometimes it contains fissures and cracks.

7. Medullary Rags: These are thin radial fibres extending from pith to cambium layer. They hold annular rings together. In some of trees they are broken and some other they may not be prominent.

(b) Endogeneous Trees: These trees grow inwards. Fresh fibrous mass is in the inner most portion. Examples of endogenous trees are bamboo and cane. They are not useful for structural works.

Classification of Timber Based on Modulus of Elasticity

Young’s modulus is determined by conducting bending test. On this basis timber is classified as:

  • Group A: E = 12.5 kN/mm2
  • Group B: E = 9.8 kN/mm2 to 12.5 kN/mm2
  • Group C: E = 5.6 kN/mm2 to 9.8 kN/mm2.

Classification of Timber Based on Durability

Durability tests are conducted by the forest research establishment. They bury test specimen of size 600 × 50 × 50 mm in the ground to half their length and observe their conditions regularly over several years. Then timbers are classified as:

  • High durability: If average life is more than 10 years.
  • Moderate durability: Average life between 5 to 10 years.
  • Low durability: Average life less than 5 years.

Classification of Timber Based on Grading

IS 883-1970 classifies the structural timber into three grades: Select grade, Grade I and Grade II. The classification is based on permissible stresses, defects etc.

Classification Based on Availability

Forest departments classify timbers based on the availability as

  • X—Most common, 1415 m3 or more per year.
  • Y—Common, 355 m3 to 1415 m3 per year
  • Z—Less common, Less than 355 m3 per year.

Properties of Timber

Properties of good timbers are:

  1. Colour: It should be uniform.
  2. Odour: It should be pleasant when cut freshly.
  3. Soundness: A clear ringing sound when struck indicates the timber is good.
  4. Texture: Texture of good timber is fine and even.
  5. Grains: In good timber grains are close.
  6. Density: Higher the density stronger is the timber. Hardness: Harder timbers are strong and durable.
  7. Warping: A good timber does not warp under changing environmental conditions.
  8. Toughness: Timber should be capable of resisting shock loads.
  9. Abrasion: A good timber does not deteriorate due to wear. This property should be looked into, if timber is to be used for flooring.
  10. Strength: Timber should have high strength in bending, shear and direct compression.
  11. Modulus of Elasticity: Timber with higher modulus of elasticity is preferred in construction.
  12. Fire resistance: A good timber should have high resistance to fire.
  13. Permeability: Good timber has low water permeability.
  14. Workability: Timber should be easily workable. It should not clog the saw.
  15. Durability: Good timber is one which is capable of resisting the action of fungi and insects attack.

Uses of Timber

Timber is used for the following works:

  1. For heavy construction works like columns, trusses, piles.
  2. For light construction works like doors, windows, flooring and roofing.
  3. For other permanent works like for railway sleepers, fencing poles, electric poles and gates.
  4. For temporary works in construction like scaffolding, centering, shoring and strutting, packing of materials.
  5. For decorative works like showcases and furniture.
  6. For body works of buses, lorries, trains and boats
  7. For industrial uses like pulps (used in making papers), card boards, wall papers
  8. For making sports goods and musical instruments.

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