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Wood as an Engineering Material - Part I

Course Outline

Wood has been used in the construction of buildings, furniture, tools and vehicles for thousands of years. Today, wood is as important an engineering material as ever, and in many cases, technological advances have made it even more valuable. This course is based entirely on the Centennial Edition of Wood Handbook published in 2010 by the USDA Forest Service, which is regarded as the most comprehensive treatise on wood as an engineering material. Part I of this course provides detailed information on the characteristics and structure of wood, from physical properties to mechanical properties. In addition, this course covers lumber stress grades, design properties, fastener types, and structural analysis equations for wood construction. This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of course materials.

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this course, the student should be able to:

  • Understand the structure of wood;
  • Describe the different wood species;
  • Understand the physical properties of wood, including moisture content;
  • Understand the mechanical properties of wood;
  • Determine the strength of wood;
  • Understand the applications of hardwood and softwood;
  • Select appropriate fasteners for different applications;
  • Understand lumber stress grades and design properties;
  • Apply wood structural analysis equations;
  • Detail various connections;
  • Understand the design properties for wood; and
  • Perform wood stress analysis.
Handbook cover

Course Content

This is Part I of a two-part series on wood as an engineering material. Part I of this course covers the basic properties of wood and its fundamental design theory. Part II of this course discusses the design and application of conventional and engineered wood products in construction. In this course, you are required to study the following material:

Chapters 1 through 9 and Glossary
(PDF, 15.6 MB) of the Wood Handbook

This handbook is published by Forest Products Laboratory of U.S. Department of Agriculture, and is one of the most excellent reference books on wood and its applications in engineering. Because of the large file size, we recommend that you first save the file to your computer by right clicking the mouse and choosing "Save Target As ...", and then open the file in Adobe Acrobat Reader.

The following is the table of content of the Handbook for your reference:

Wood Handbook

Wood as an engineering material. General Technical Report 190.
Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory.

Chapter 1 - Wood as a Sustainable Building Material

Chapter 2 - Characteristics and Availability of Commercially Important Woods

Chapter 3 - Structure and Function of Wood

Chapter 4 -Moisture Relations and Physical Properties of Wood

Chapter 5 - Mechanical Properties of Wood

Chapter 6 - Commercial Lumber, Round Timbers, and Ties

Chapter 7 - Stress Grades and Design Properties for Lumber, Round Timber, and Ties

Chapter 8 - Fastenings

Chapter 9 - Structural Analysis Equations

Chapter 10 - Adhesives with Wood Materials Bond Formation and Performance

Chapter 11 - Wood-Based Composite Materials Panel Products, Glued-Laminated Timber, Structural Composite Lumber, and Wood–Nonwood Composite Materials

Chapter 12 - Mechanical Properties of Wood-Based Composite Materials

Chapter 13 - Drying and Control of Moisture Content and Dimensional Changes

Chapter 14 - Biodeterioration of Wood

Chapter 15 - Wood Preservation

Chapter 16 - Finishing of Wood

Chapter 17 - Use of Wood In Building and Bridges

Chapter 18 - Fire Safety of Wood Construction

Chapter 19 - Specialty Treatments

Chapter 20 - Heat Sterilization of Wood



Course Summary

Wood has been used as an engineering material ever since the early days of human activities. This course is all about wood; from basic wood properties to wood structural design to wood finishing. Topics range from wood species to wood preservation. Practical aspects of use and production of wood products are also covered along with the application of wood in building and bridge constructions. By understanding the basics of wood and its behavior, engineers and architects can utilize wood as an engineering material in a more efficient and creative manner.

Related Links

For additional technical information related to this subject, please visit the following websites or web pages:

USDA Forest Service
APA - The Engineered Wood Association
AWC- American Wood Council


Once you finish studying the above course content you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

Take a Quiz

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered professional engineer. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.