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Wood Science and Technology Vo]. 7 (1973) p.

9 by Springer-Verlag 1973
A Comparison of Static Bending, Compression and Tension
Parallel to Grain and Toughness Properties of Compression Wood
and Normal Wood of a Giant Sequoia +
B y R . A . C 0 C ~ : r ~ E L L a n d R , M . K ~ U D S 0 ? ~
University of CMifornia, Forest Products Laboratory, Richmond, Cal.
Compression wood (CW) of the giant sequoia studied had higher values than normal wood
(NW) in crushing strength and ultimate stress in tension parallel to grain, in toughness, in
modulus of rupture, and in work to maximum load and total work in static bending. In the
green condition CW had higher values than NW in stress at the proportional limit and work
to the proportionM limit, and about the same modulus of elasticity in static bending. In the
dry condition CW was about equivalent to NW in work to the proportional limit, but was
sIfghtly weaker fn s~ress at propor~fon~,l limi~ and modulus of ela.stfef~y ~ s~atie bending.
The compression wood of this giant sequoia, even though formed when the tree was suppressed
and having relatively narrow rings, can therefore be said to be essentially equivalent to
normal wood so far as the mechanical properties tested in this study are concerned.
I n the course of obtaining wood test material for a mechanical properties st udy
[Cockrell et al 1971], a second-growth giant sequoia tree (Sequoia gigantea (Lindl.)
Decn.) was found leaning against another tree as a result of stream-bank under-
cutting. Because young giant sequoia trees usually are straight-growing and have
well-developed buttressed bases, t hey are seldom found in the leaning condition.
Therefore, this was considered an unusually good opport uni t y to obtain com-
pression wood for the species. Upon cutting the sequoia, a well-developed semi-
circle of compression wood (CW) 33 rings wide was found on the low side (Fig. l) ;
this provided test material for comparing properties of compression wood with
those of normal wood (N-W).
The tree was 15.1 inches in diameter at breast height and 81 feet high, with a
spike (dead) top lodged against the crown of a large ponderosa pine; the main
t runk was straight and was inclined at an angle of 26 degrees with the vertical.
The first live branches were 48 feet above the ground. There were 86 rings at the
stump, which was about 1 foot above ground level. This suggests t hat the sequoia
was about 55 years old when it became lodged in the pine, and t hat it had been
suppressed for the 33-year period, during which time the compression wood was
Although compression wood is a common growth defect of coniferous trees,
test results have been reported for only a few species, and therefore there are
relatively limited test dat a to indicate the extent and exact nature of how such
*) Given at FPRS meeting in Dallas, Texas, June 1972
242 R.A. Coekrell and R. M. Knudson
Fig. 1. Cross section showing zones of compression wood (CW), normal wood (NW), and
tension-side wood (TSW)
wood differs in mechanical propert i es from normal wood. Studies report ed by
Markwardt and Wilson [1935] and more complete studies by Pillow and Luxford
[1937] indicate lower stiffness and, allowing for its great er density, a general
deficiency in most other propert i es; this is more pronounced in the dry t han in
the green condition. Onaka [1949], summari zi ng the literature and including his
own st udy of Pinus densi/lora wood, st at es t hat " . . . t he increase (in strength)
which accompanies t he decrease in moisture cont ent is smaller in compression
wood. " Perem [1960] concludes t hat when st rengt h values are compared directly
(neglecting weight differences), compression wood generally appears to be stronger
t han normal wood. These investigators report ed t est dat a on some or all of certain
aspects of bending, of compression parallel to grain, of tension parallel to grain,
and of toughness. The present st udy was designed to compare in somewhat more
detail t he same properties in the compression wood and normal wood of this
part i cul ar giant sequoia. Fibril orientation and shrinkage characteristics will be
dealt with ill a subsequent study.
Two 4-foot bolts were cut from t he tree, with t he large ends 8 and 9,0 feet above
t he st ump. The large- and smMl-end di amet ers inside bark were respectively
11.7--11.2 and 10.5--10.2 inches. Compression wood, normal wood, and tension-
Comparison of properMes of normal and compression wood of a giant sequoia 243
side wood (TSW) test blanks approximately 11 1 } inches in cross section were
cut from the different zones of the cross section as depicted in Fig. 1. Bending
tests were performed on 1 1 16-inch specimens and compression parallel to
grain tests were made on 1 1 4-inch specimens, all in accordance with the
ASTM 143-52 secondary method. Tension parallel to grain specimens had an
effective cross section of 0.375 0.1875 (3/s 8/1G) inches; toughness specimens
were 0.79 0.79 11 inches in length; both these tests followed the ASTM 143-52
pri mary method. Specific gravity values were based on green volume and oven-
dry weight of 1 1 4-inch specimens.
Fibril angle measurements were made by means of a microscope having a
rotating stage and an ocular fitted with cross hairs; 8 blocks of CW, 7 of NW,
and 5 of TSW were sectioned with 20 measurements made on each section.
Compression wood fibril orientation of the S 2 layer was clearly revealed by the
striations and elongate pit apertures in the traeheid walls of stained radial sections.
NormM and tension-side wood fibril orientation was observed on unstained radial
sections in which iodine crystals were formed by treating with chlorine water and
soaking in I KI solution and mounting on a microslide in 40 per cent nitric acid
[CockrelI 1946].
Re s ul t s and di s c us s i on
Table 1 presents data on rings per inch and fibril angle. Table 2 gives dat a on
moisture content, specific gravity, crushing strength and tension parallel to grain,
and toughness. Table 3 contains data on static bending tests. Table 4 shows
specific strength indices.
Table 1. Rings per inch and latewood fibril angle
Rings per inch Fibril angle
of latewood
number* deviation degrees
Compression (8)
wood 24 3 21
Normal (4)
wood 8 -- 2--4
Tension side (9)
wood 36 9 2
* Numbers in parentheses refer to number o f specimens used for
each value.
Growth rings. The pat t ern of growth-ring width can be seen in Fig. 1, and
average number of rings per inch is indicated in Table 1. Normal-wood test
specimens were t aken from the outer part of the 46- and 37-ring central cores.
The compression wood and corresponding rings on the tension side were quite
narrow, probably as a result of the suppressed growth condition and loss of the
top. Because the zone of narrow-ringed wood on the tension side was only 0.625
inches wide at the center (Fig. 1) and 0.81 inches wide at its wi dest --near the
17a Wood Science and Technology, Vol. 7
244 R. A. Cockrell and R. M. Knudson
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9 O
Comparison of properti es of normal and compressi on wood of a gi ant sequoi a 2 4 5
9 ~ ,
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2 4 6 1%. A. Cockrel l ~ n d 1~, M:. Kn u d s 0 n
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Comparison of properties of normal and compression wood of a gian~ sequoia 247
poi nt of t r ansi t i on f r om compression wood- - onl y t est specimens for t ensi on
parallel t o grai n had wood all of t hi s condition. Accordingly, most of t hese spec-
imens consisted hal f of nor mal wood and half of narrow-ri nged wood.
Moisture content. Green moi st ure cont ent (Table 2) var i ed i nversel y as t he
specific gr avi t y; t hi s is similar t o dat a obt ai ned by Pillow and Luxf or d [1937].
Equi l i bri um moi st ure cont ent of compression wood was slightly hi gher t han
normal wood, and t hi s also conforms t o t hei r findings.
Strength comparison. Comparison of values (Table 2) for maxi mum crushing
st r engt h in compression parallel t o grai n reveals compression wood st rongest and
tension-side wood specimens weakest in bot h green and dr y conditions. Exam-
i nat i on of specific st r engt h indices (Table 4) shows t hat in t he green condi t i on
all t hr ee are essentially equi val ent , whereas in t he dr y condi t i on t hey differ, wi t h
t he order being in i nverse rel at i on t o t hei r specific gravi t y.
I n maxi mum stress in t ensi on parallel t o grain, CW is st rongest and TSW is
weakest in t he green condition, wi t h specific st rengt h indices var yi ng in i nverse
order. I n t he dr y condition, t he CW is much st ronger t han t he ot her t wo and its
specific st r engt h i ndex is appreci abl y hi gher t han nor mal wood. These results do
not agree wi t h Pillow and Luxf or d [1937], who r epor t ed lower t ensi on values for
CW in bot h green and dr y Douglas-fir and old-growth redwood and in green
ponderosa pine. Per em [1960] di d not r epor t on t ensi on values. Onaka [1949]
st udi ed t he rat i o bet ween tensile st r engt h and maxi mum crushing st rengt h and
gave average values for CW as 1.96 : 1 and for NW as 4.19 : 1 in t he green condi-
t i on; for t he dr y condi t i on he r epor t ed 1.42 : 1 for CW and 1.53 : 1 for RTW. Our
dat a f or green give average values for CW as 2.31 : 1, and for NW, 2.92 : 1 ; for
dry, values are CW, 2.45 : 1 and R-W, 1.76 : 1.
Nei t her of t hese t wo studies r epor t ed on stress at t he proport i onal l i mi t in
t ensi on parallel t o grai n (which is i ncl uded in Tabl e 2). Exami nat i on of t hese
dat a shows CW much lower in bot h green and dr y t est s t han NW or TSW, wi t h
correspondi ngl y lower specific st r engt h indices for CW. Thus i t appears t ha t its
hi gher breaki ng st r engt h gives CW much great er capaci t y for plastic def or mat i on
t han NW or TSW have, and t he great er st rengt h of CW in t er ms of t oughness
support s this observat i on. Undoubt edl y, t he pr onounced difference in fibril
or i ent at i on in t he secondary wall (indicated in Tabl e 1) as well as t he many fine
fissures in t hi s wall in cont r ast t o t he compact wall st r uct ur e of normal wood
have much t o do wi t h t he gr eat er st r et chabi l i t y of t he CW.
Fig. 2 i l l ust rat es t ypi cal failures of st at i c bendi ng specimens of t he t hr ee t ypes
of wood. The nor mal wood (S 7 and $6) shows more i rregul ar pulling apar t of t he
fibers t ha n t he compression wood (RT6) which has a bri t t l e failure. The specimens
f r om t he t ensi on side of t he t r ee (S 3 and S 1) all had t he narrow-ri nged wood on t he
t ensi on side of t he beam, and t hi s l ow-densi t y wood usual l y failed in a brash
manner. The fi rst visible evidence of fai l ure i n CW beams was always in tension,
whereas i n I~W beams i t was always in compression.
Green CW is st ronger t han green ~ and TSW in stress at t he pr opor t i onal
l i mi t and modul us of r upt ur e in st at i c bending. Specific st r engt h i ndex values,
however, have a defi ni t e i nverse t r end wi t h specific gravi t y, CW being lowest
and TSW being highest. For t he dr y condition, t he modul us of r upt ur e has t he
same rel at i ve order as in t he green condi t i on among t he t hr ee t ypes of wood, but
248 R. A. Cockrell and E. M. Knudson
Fig. 2. Typical failures of green static bending specimens showing side and tension-side views:
4B $6 and 4B ST--normal wood (NW); 4B S1 and 4B S3--tension-side wood (TSW);
4A N6 and 4B N6--eompression wood (CW)
tb Glreenl
o o,1
i r Dry
/ P.L.=Lood ol proport;ona{ limit
/ /
, ?
fP.L. P.L
0,2 0,3 0,4 0,5 0,6 0,7 02 O,g 1,0in.1,1 0 0,1 02 0,3 O,& 0,5
Deflection Eleftection
. q
/ / I
/ I
EL.= Load at proportionaL I
lim]t 1
\ !
~ I
0,6 0,7 in. 0,8
Fig. 3. Comparison of static bending stress-gtrain curves of I~TW and CW tested a) green and
b) dry
Comparison of properties of normal and compression wood of a giant~ sequoia 2 4 9
250 1%. A. Cookrell and R. M. Knudson
t he st ress at t he pr opor t i onal l i mi t is l owest for CW and hi ghest for NW. (Fig. 3
shows t hese results. ) Consi st ent wi t h this, t he wor k t o pr opor t i onal l i mi t of dr y
CW is sl i ght l y l ower t ha n t ha t of NW.
Absol ut e val ues for modul us of el ast i ci t y in st at i c bendi ng of NW are sl i ght l y
hi gher t ha n CW i n bot h green and dr y condi t i ons, wi t h specific st r engt h showing
a gr eat di s par i t y because i t var i es wi t h t he squar e of specific gr avi t y. Thi s l ower
r i gi di t y of CW is consi st ent wi t h t he l ower val ue exhi bi t ed by CW in st ress at
pr opor t i onal l i mi t i n t ensi on paral l el t o grai n.
The gr eat er f l exi bi l i t y and compr essi ve and t ensi l e st r engt h of CW is refl ect ed
in i t s much hi gher val ues for wor k t o ma x i mu m l oad and t ot al wor k; t hi s also
agrees wi t h i t s hi gher t oughness val ues.
Tabl e 5 gi ves r at i os of st r engt h of CW and NW i n gr een and in ai r dr y con-
di t i ons f or t he species t es t ed b y Pi l l ow and Luxf or d [1937], and for t he gi ant
sequoia. The hi gher t he rat i o, t he st r onger CW is i n compar i son ~dt h nor mal
wood. These r at i os are qui t e var i abl e among species and bet ween green and dr y
condi t i ons, but t he r at i os for gi ant sequoi a cr ushi ng- st r engt h paral l el t o grai n,
modul us of r upt ur e, and modul us of el ast i ci t y r esembl e mos t closely t hose for
second- gr owt h r edwood and are hi gher t ha n r at i os for t he ot her species ment i oned.
Al t hough gi ant sequoi a r at i os for t oughness, and for defl ect i on t o ma x i mu m l oad
i n bendi ng, do not par t i cul ar l y r esembl e t hose for second- gr owt h redwood, t he y
are di st i nct l y hi gher t ha n t he r at i os of mos t of t hese ot her species.
Re f e r e nc e s
American Society for Testing and Materials. 1952. Standard metheds for testing small clear
specimens of timber. D 143-52. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Cockrell, R. A. 1946. Influence of fibril angle on longitudinal shrinkage of ponderosa pine
wood. Journal of Forestry, 44 (11): 876--878.
Cockrell, R. A., Knudson, R. M., Stangenberger, A. G. 1971. Mechanical properties of
southern sierra old- and second-growth giant sequoia. California Agricultural Experiment
Station, Bulletin 854.
Markwardt, L. J., Wilson, T. R. C., 1935. Strength and related properties of woods grown
in the United States. U.S. Dept. of Agr. Tech. Bul. 479.
Onaka, F. 1949. Studies on compression and tension wood. Woed Research Institute, Kyoto
Univ. Bul. l~!o. 1. (Translation l~!o. 93. Canada Dept. of Northern Affairs and National
l~esources, Forestry Branch, Ottawa 1956).
Perem, E. 1960. The effect of compression wood on the mechanical properties of white spruce
and red pine. For. Prod. Laboratories of Canada Tech. ~ot e 13.
Pillow, M. Y., Luxford, 1%. 17. 1937. Structure, occurrence, and properties of compression
wood. U.S. Dept. of Agr. Tech. Bul. 546.
(Received May 15, 1972)
Dr. 1%. A. Cockrel], Professor of Forestry (Wood Science),
1%. M. Knudson, Wood Technologist,
School of Forestry and Conversation,
Forest Products Laboratory,
University of California,
1301 South Street, l~ichmond, Cal.