A Study of Douglas-Fir Anatomical and Mechanical Properties and their Interactions

  • Jonathan Bawcombe

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Low embodied energy, ability to act as a carbon store and ease of recycling gives forest products an important role within a low carbon built environment. Almost 25 % of the coniferous resource within the South West of England is Douglas-fir, a species reputed for producing high quality timber. Despite this, the region is facing challenges in delivering the resources full potential, a contributing factor to which is a loss of knowledge regarding its quality. The aim of the work presented is to gain an improved understanding of the quality of Douglas-fir grown within the region, from the perspective of uses in structural applications, the factors which influence material quality and their interrelationships.Flexural modulus of elasticity, flexural and compressive strength were determined utilising small clear specimens derived from 1.3 and 8 m heights within 27 trees from six sites across the South West. Results showed a rise in the magnitude of properties with increasing cambial age, particularly so at younger ages. Differences in values were also recorded between stem heights and with rate of growth. These were however less than age related variations. Results compared favourably to those reported in other studies conducted on the species. Utilising SilviScan-3, anatomical properties including density, microfibril angle and cellular dimensions were measured. Significant variations were recorded with cambial age, and in some instances sampling height. The influence of growth rate on anatomical properties was small.Through statistical and composite modelling, microfibril angle was found to be strongly associated with changes in modulus of elasticity within juvenile wood. Within mature wood and for strength properties, density was the controlling factor. It was shown that a moderate proportion of variations in mechanical properties can be accounted for utilising visually identifiable wood characteristics. The new understanding that has been gained through this work presents opportunities for improved utilisation, the implementation of effective management practices and the development of more efficient visual grading techniques.
Date of Award31 Aug 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorRichard Harris (Supervisor), Pete Walker (Supervisor) & Martin Ansell (Supervisor)


  • douglas-fir
  • forestry
  • microfibril angle
  • density
  • modulus of elasticity

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