WTS Newsletter - September 2014

The Wood Technology Society
3 Sep 2014

Newsletter from the Wood Technology Society - September edition


Wood, as with many other things, gets much more interesting and involved once you are on the inside!


Wood Focus - publication suspended

Do not be despondent - so, for the time being at least (although most likely permanently) we have lost Wood Focus; counterintuitive though it may seem, that is progress and will ultimately prove to be beneficial. Wood and the WTS are in need of becoming more widely recognised in the material world, a situation which will be advanced by being seen alongside all the other materials sectors as part of Materials World - although it is somewhat ironic that as I was typing out for the last newsletter the suggestion for a photography competition for cover images, the powers-that-be were deciding to suspend publication of Wood Focus - the readership extending way beyond the confines of a solely wood interest. As I note above, wood gets much more interesting once you are on the inside, whether it is your particular field of expertise or not. (Marlon Brando thought so! - see below). Delighted I was not told beforehand about the change as I would have been denied the opportunity to write this. Wood Focus might have gone but now, in addition to Materials World, you have this regular, scintillating - I would say, wouldn't I ! - WTS newsletter, for which news items relating to any and all wood topics will be gratefully received. Go on - help me make it even more scintillating! I don't make the news - I just try to find it!

So precisely where, in this Materials World, does wood, or WTS, fit in? If you profit from wood, is it not in your best interest to do what you can in support of increasing awareness of it as a raw material and in the development of an education programme for the next generations of wood industry and trade professionals?



WTS Board member Morwenna Spear has set us up on LinkedIn so let's get those discussions going!

WTS LinkedIn group


Schools Affiliate Scheme - Connecting teachers to the world of materials, minerals and mining

I provided the link to that in the last newsletter, but to continue the above theme and growing recognition, I have some old news for you, gleaned from, of all places, Wood Focus:

Outreach and the Wood Technology Society

Ask any teacher or his/her pupils what they know about the wood industry in the UK and the reply might be limited to knowing that wood comes from trees. We are the invisible industry, but it is difficult to see why: we are in the top six economic activities in the UK, on a par with iron and steel, employ more than 120,000 people and use some very advanced technology in production and manufacture. Read the full article


July WTS Board meeting

Not just for a change of scenery, nice though it was, WTS Board members converged on the University of Bath for the July meeting, organised and hosted by Dr Martin Ansell, Reader in Materials and former IWSc President. As a prelude to the formalities of the day (and lunch - thank you very much, on behalf of everyone, Martin!) Martin had arranged a tour of the University's facilities to give us an insight into their involvement with wood and research activities which turned out to be a real eye-opener! Any careers advisers out there who would like to get a handle on wood options for the next generations of wood scientists/technologists/advocates (because the current 'older' generation will not be at it forever!) should get in touch with Martin and just pop along to Bath to find out for themselves.

Messing around for the all-to-briefest of time with their scanning electron microscope was utterly fascinating and it is truly astonishing the wood features still to be seen in a piece of charcoal, from a garden bonfire - opinions were divided as to what species we were looking at but we eventually decided it was a cleaved radial-longitudinal plane in yew. 



With the recent decline in interest and support for the WTS (following the demise of the IWSc or because no-one can be bothered anyway these days?) whilst walking with the group around the University I voiced my thoughts to one of the others that I wonder, occasionally, why we bother with all of this given the lacklustre attitude we seem to constantly encounter? 'I know', was the reply. To which I responded 'and then I get together with this group and I know precisely why we bother'. 'I know', was the reply!

Get in touch with the WTS if you feel you would like to be more directly involved, or believe we could be doing better.


WCTE 2014 and the 68th FPS International Convention

The 2014 biennial World Conference on Timber Engineering was held in Quebec City from 10 to 14 August 2014, concurrently with the 68th annual Forest Products Society International Convention. The venue was the Centre des Congres de Quebec and more than 900 delegates and 100 partners were registered for the joint meetings.

As well as keynote lectures, there were nine parallel sessions to choose from. Hot topics at WCTE 2014 included tall timber buildings, cross-laminated timber and innovative connection systems. Other sessions included composite systems, serviceability, architectural achievements, seismic loading, grading and quality control, fire safety, design codes, timber bridges, environmental impact, bamboo structures, rehabilitation and teaching wood design. The FPS presentations covered fire retardants, historical buildings, wood chemistry, new species, the wood cell wall, life cycle assessment and carbon mitigation, timber supply, timber testing, wood anatomy, bio-deterioration, durability, adhesives, marketing, laminates and coatings, biofuels, wood processing and mechanical properties.

It was a novel experience to be able to move back and forth from a timber engineering to a forest products environment, although there was some overlap in the programmes. The major frustration was clashes between presentations with some difficult choices to make. However the oral presentations were kept strictly to time allowing swift transfer between rooms. 

In addition to the lectures, there was a very large poster exhibition, a design and build student competition which took place the weekend before the conferences and a trade exhibition. On the social front, receptions were held on the evenings of Sunday (Congress Centre) and Monday (Museum of Civilization) and at the banquet on the Wednesday evening we were entertained by an excellent floor show provided by a quartet of local musicians. Overall, the conference was a great success, admirably organised by Richard Desjardins (FP Innovations), Alexander Salenikovich (Universite Laval) and Caroline Frenette (cecobois).

Further information

Martin Ansell FIMMM


WTS Membership

In addition to the WTS strategy for the future and increasing WTS membership numbers we would also like to see current members upgrading. Recently upgraded to Fellow (FIMMM) is Graham Skillen, currently Purchasing Executive with Ridgeons Forest Products. In the trade since 1973, following a two-year stint with Timber Trades Journal, and thus able to demonstrate the credentials required for IOM3 Fellowship, Graham is like so many of us, a High Wycombe College graduate. A committed wood advocate, instrumental in company policy on certification and chain of custody (and more recently EUTR), a hands-on involvement with the East Anglia Timber Trade Association for many years, serving as Chairman from 2002 to 2004, he also initiated an East Anglian branch of the Institute of Wood Science (it folded after several meetings because of lack of support - which alas sounds all too familiar and what we are endeavouring to address within the WTS.

Are there more of you out there with similar backgrounds who may also qualify as a FIMMM? Let us know if you might be interested in pursuing the possibility.


The use of wood in hospital construction supports convalescence

Read the article

Wood has begun to be popular in hospital construction, as it supports convalescence, reduces stress and raises spirits. For example, in the development work for the Kajaani Hospital project the use of wood is a strong feature. According to Marjut Wallenius, a Docent and Doctor of Psychology at the University of Tampere, the use of wood in service centres for the elderly and in hospital construction promotes the health and well-being and the mind and body. I also throw down a challenge to architects and structural designers and express the hope that wood can be left visible in interiors, says Wallenius. And that challenge, dear reader, is my reason for including this!

I had occasion recently to find myself in the new entrance foyer of Blackpool Victoria Hospital, I say foyer as it is more akin to the Royal Festival Hall main auditorium. Other than the internal doors, coffee shop and by the reception desk it contains no wood, it is vast and white. I mentioned that to one of the resident guides and how wood is being used in hospitals in other countries - how true this is I have no way of knowing but he was under the impression that the architect didn't want to use anything combustible! Just one example of how far we still have to go!


Truly the end of an era

To continue in the musical vein, that's if you had noticed, 'You don't know what you've got 'till it's gone!', The Canadian Plywood Association (CANPLY) originally founded in 1950 as the Plywood Manufacturers' Association of BC (PMBC) and for a good number of years the plywood division of COFI, by which name it will probably be best remembered, is no more and ceased operations on 31 July 2014. How Canadian plywood will present itself on the market in the future remains to be seen.

Read more here

I should also like to say more on that here myself, but discretion compels me to bite my tongue, for the time being!


Did you know?

In my previous newsletter I homed in on the delights and obvious passion for simply collecting wood; this time, and still in the musical vein, I should like to introduce you to the passion that is lutherie, wood working at its finest in more ways than one! This is a North American organisation and a fine example of working together for the furtherance of a common interest - getting the best out of wood! And making it sound good, to boot!

Guild of American Luthiers


Marlon Brando understood!

In The Times Saturday Review recently Kate Muir did a review of 'Brando's Smile: His Life, Thought and Work' by Susan L Mizruchi. She wrote 'Brando's tastes were broad and sophisticated: on his bedside table when he died in 2004 were Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, Jung's Man and His Symbols, James Gleick's Chaos, The Great Music of Duke Ellington and (more puzzlingly) The International Book of Wood'.

On the cover of The International Book of Wood, from Hugh Johnson's Foreword, it notes 'This book puts on record what Man owes to trees and their wood. He has no older or deeper debt'.

As I noted at the start of this newsletter, wood, as with many other things, gets much more interesting and involved once you are on the inside! I shall perhaps drop Ms Muir a line to suggest that she herself might like to explore inside The International Book of Wood; maybe then she would not be so puzzled by Marlon Brando's inclusion of it in his final book selection!