Module 8: Wood Utilization and Technology


The forest is one of the most valuable resources in Nova Scotia. Its utilization is the base of many industries in the province. Wood which comes from the forest may be regarded as the final stage in the development of a living tree. It should be used wisely. To understand how wood may be used to best advantage, it must be looked at closely. Learning about how wood grows, about its structure, and about its strength, will provide the information you need. After reading this module, you will look at your woodlot and be able to assess the quality of individual trees and the tree stand more effectively.

This module is dedicated to the wise utilization of wood through an understanding of its structure and properties. You may find the first part of this module quite technical but this information forms the framework for later lessons when sawmill products, strength properties, grading techniques, and markets are discussed.

Traditional Wood Products

Historically, wood was used mainly as a fuel, and the ash as a fertilizer (potash). Later it became widely used as a building material; first as logs and later still as lumber. The list of wood products is endless since wood is such a versatile material and a renewable resource.

Uses of Wood
In general, the softwoods have been used primarily for pulp and paper, lumber, timbers, posts and poles, panel products such as plywood, laminated timbers, shingles and shakes, boats, joinery and interior finish, furniture, containers, musical instruments, and concrete formwork and scaffolding. Hardwoods are also used for some of the above applications, but primarily for furniture, cabinetry, decorative veneer and plywood, flooring, cooperage (barrels, and casks), pallets, turned products such as dowels, handles, etc., sporting goods, and toys and novelties, and fuelwood.

Changes in Use
The above list is by no means complete. New used continually evolve while many traditional products are displaced by more modern materials. For example, excelsior (or wood-wool), manufactured from poplar, basswood and pine, was once used extensively as a packing material when shipping fragile goods; today, styrofoam has displaced excelsior for this purpose. One example of a reverse trend is the dramatic recapture of the flooring market by hardwood strips and parquet, displacing carpeting to a large extent. Many of the principal wood products will appear in more detail in a later section of this module.