The Wood Handbook

Wood as an Engineering Material

If you’re looking for a complete compendium on all things wood related, then The Wood Handbook may be just what you’re looking for. Subtitled “Wood as an Engineering Material”, this encyclopedia of wood knowledge was written by the USDA Forest Products Division, based in Madison, WI. Best of all, the material is available as a free download, either chapter by chapter or the entire book as a very large PDF file.

We have included the updated 2010 version of The Wood Handbook below as a convenient and easy way to download the relevant chapters in a PDF format. Along with each chapter download link, we have added the chapter title and a brief overview of topics from the chapter to give you an idea of what each one covers. This way you can access or download just those parts that interest you.

The Wood Handbook includes sections on engineering with wood, timber resources, the structure of wood, physical properties and moisture content of wood, designing with wood, the mechanical properties of wood, wood fastenings, composites, working with round timbers and ties and much more.

First issued in 1935, The Wood Handbook is considered the preeminent source of information on wood and wood products. Anyone who works with wood will find this one of the most useful books you can own.


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The Wood Handbook

Front matter (Preface, Acknowledgments, Contributors) (PDF 547 KB)

Chapter 1: Wood as a Sustainable Building Material (PDF 464 KB)

  • Timber Resources and Uses
  • Species Descriptions
  • U.S. Wood Species
  • Imported Woods
  • Chapter 2: Characteristics and Availability of Commercially Important Wood (PDF 2.4 MB)

  • Timber Resources and Uses
  • Species Descriptions
  • U.S. Wood Species
  • Imported Woods
  • Chapter 3: Structure of Wood (PDF 1.2 MB)

  • Bark, Wood, Branches, and Cambium
  • Sapwood and Heartwood
  • Growth Rings
  • Wood Cells
  • Chemical Composition
  • Species Identification
  • Chapter 4: Physical Properties and Moisture Relations of Wood (PDF 1.4 MB)

  • Appearance
  • Moisture Content
  • Shrinkage
  • Weight, Density, and Specific Gravity
  • Working Qualities
  • Decay Resistance
  • Thermal Properties
  • Electrical Properties
  • Coefficient of Friction
  • Nuclear Radiation
  • Chapter 5: Mechanical Properties of Wood (PDF 2.2 MB)

  • Orthotropic Nature of Wood
  • Elastic Properties
  • Strength Properties
  • Vibration Properties
  • Mechanical Properties of Clear Straight-Grained Wood
  • Natural Characteristics Affecting Mechanical Properties
  • Effects of Manufacturing and Service Environments
  • Chapter 6: Commercial Lumber (PDF 1.1 MB)

  • Hardwood Lumber
  • Softwood Lumber
  • Purchase of Lumber
  • Commonly Used Lumber Abbreviations
  • Chapter 7: Lumber Stress Grades and Design Properties (PDF 1.0 MB)

  • Responsibilities and Standards for Stress Grading
  • Visually Graded Structural Lumber
  • Machine-Graded Structural Lumber
  • Adjustment of Properties for Design Use
  • Chapter 8: Fastenings (PDF 1.7 MB)

  • Nails
  • Spikes
  • Staples
  • Drift Bolts
  • Wood Screws
  • Lag Screws
  • Bolts
  • Connector Joints
  • Multiple-Fastener Joints
  • Metal Plate Connectors
  • Fastener Head Embedment
  • Chapter 9: Structural Analysis Equations (PDF 1.2 MB)

  • Deformation Equations
  • Stress Equations
  • Stability Equations
  • Chapter 10: Adhesive Bonding of Wood Materials (PDF 1.1 MB)

  • Adhesion to Wood
  • Surface Properties of Wood Adherends
  • Physical Properties of Wood Adherends
  • Adhesives
  • Bonding Process
  • Bonded Joints
  • Testing and Performance
  • Chapter 11: Wood-Based Composites and Panel Products (PDF 1.8MKB)

  • Scope
  • Types of Conventional Composite Materials
  • Adhesive Considerations
  • Additives
  • General Manufacturing Issues
  • Standards for Wood-Based Panels
  • Plywood
  • Particle and Fiber Composites
  • Wood-Nonwood Composites
  • Chapter 12: Glued Structural Members (PDF 543 KB)

  • Structural Composite Lumber
  • Glulam
  • Glued Members With Lumber and Panels
  • Structural Sandwich Construction
  • Chapter 13: Drying and Control of Moisture Content and Dimensional Changes (PDF 1.6 MB)

  • Determination of Moisture Content
  • Recommended Moisture Content
  • Drying of Wood
  • Moisture Control During Transit and Storage
  • Dimensional Changes in Wood
  • Design Factors Affecting Dimensional Change
  • Wood Care and Installation During Construction
  • Chapter 14: Biodeterioration of Wood (PDF 958 KB)

  • Fungus Damage and Control
  • Bacteria
  • Insect Damage and Control
  • Marine Borer Damage and Control
  • Chapter 15: Wood Preservation (PDF 1.0 MB)

  • Wood Preservatives
  • Preservative Effectiveness
  • Effect of Species on Penetration
  • Preparation of Timber for Treatment
  • Application of Preservatives
  • Handling and Seasoning of Timber After Treatment
  • Quality Assurance for Treated Wood
  • Chapter 16: Finishing of Wood (PDF 1.7 MB)

  • Factors Affecting Finish Performance
  • Control of Water or Moisture in Wood
  • Types of Exterior Wood Finishes
  • Application of Wood Finishes
  • Finish Failure or Discoloration
  • Finishing of Interior Wood
  • Finishes for Items Used for Food
  • Wood Cleaners and Brighteners
  • Paint Strippers
  • Lead-Based Paint 15-35
  • Chapter 17: Use of Wood In Building and Bridges (PDF 1.0 MB)

  • Light-Frame Buildings
  • Post-Frame and Pole Buildings
  • Log Buildings
  • Heavy Timber Buildings
  • Timber Bridges
  • Considerations for Wood Buildings
  • Chapter 18: Fire Safety (PDF 1.1 MB)

  • Fire Safety Design and Evaluation
  • Fire Performance Characteristics of Wood
  • Flame-Retardant Treatments
  • Chapter 19: Round Timbers and Ties (PDF 550 KB)

  • Standards and Specifications
  • Material Requirements
  • Availability
  • Form
  • Weight and Volume
  • Durability
  • Strength Properties
  • Chapter 20: Specialty Treatments (PDF 904 KB)

  • Plasticizing Wood
  • Modified Woods
  • Paper-Based Plastic Laminates
  • Glossary (PDF 404 KB)

    Index (PDF 1.0MKB)

    Front Cover (PDF 216 KB)

    Back Cover (PDF 222 KB)

    You may order a printed copy of this entire publication from the Forest Products Society.

    The research institution of over 200 scientists at Forest Products Laboratory has provided us with The Wood Handbook -- an indispensable reference work for millions of people world-wide who are woodworkers, design engineers, builders, architects and designers. Check out The Wood Handbook for a complete understanding of wood as an engineering material.

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