Preservation & Seasoning of Timber

Seasoning of Timber

This is a process by which moisture content in a freshly cut tree is reduced to a suitable level. By doing so the durability of timber is increased. The various methods of seasoning used may be classified into:

  • Natural seasoning
  • Artificial seasoning.

Natural Seasoning of Timber

It may be air seasoning or water seasoning. Air seasoning is carried out in a shed with a platform. On about 300 mm high platform timber balks are stacked as shown in Fig. 1. Care is taken to see that there is proper air circulation around each timber balk. Over a period, in a natural process moisture content reduces. A well seasoned timber contains only 15% moisture. This is a slow but a good process of seasoning.

seasoning of timber, preservation of timber
Fig. 1. Air seasoning

Water seasoning is carried out on the banks of rivers. The thicker end of the timber is kept pointing upstream side. After a period of 2 to 4 weeks the timber is taken out. During this period sap contained in the timber is washed out to a great extent. Then timber is stalked in a shed with free air circulation.

Artificial Seasoning of Timber

In this method timber is seasoned in a chamber with regulated heat, controlled humidity and proper air circulation. Seasoning can be completed in 4 to 5 days only. The different methods of seasoning are:

(a) Boiling (b) Kiln seasoning (c) Chemical seasoning (d) Electrical seasoning.

(a) Boiling: In this method timber is immersed in water and then water is boiled for 3 to 4 hours. Then it is dried slowly. Instead of boiling water hot steam may be circulated on timber. The process of seasoning is fast, but costly.

(b) Kiln Seasoning: Kiln is an airtight chamber. Timber to be seasoned is placed inside it. Then fully saturated air with a temperature 35°C to 38°C is forced in the kiln. The heat gradually reaches inside timber. Then relative humidity is gradually reduced and temperature is increased, and maintained till desired degree of moisture content is achieved. The kiln used may be stationary or progressive. In progressive kiln the carriages carrying timber travel from one end of kiln to other end gradually. The hot air is supplied from the discharging end so that temperature increase is gradual from charging end to discharging end. This method is used for seasoning on a larger scale.

(c) Chemical Seasoning: In this method, the timber is immersed in a solution of suitable salt. Then the timber is dried in a kiln. The preliminary treatment by chemical seasoning ensures uniform seasoning of outer and inner parts of timber.

(d) Electrical Seasoning: In this method high frequency alternate electric current is passed through timber. Resistance to electric current is low when moisture content in timber is high. As moisture content reduces the resistance reduces. Measure of resistance can be used to stop seasoning at appropriate level.

However it is costly process. This technique has been tried in some plywood industries but not in seasoning of timber on mass scale.

Preservation of Timber

Preservation of timber means protecting timber from fungi and insects attack so that its life is increased. Timber is to be seasoned well before application of preservatives. The following are the widely used preservatives:

1. Tar: Hot coal tar is applied to timber with brush. The coating of tar protects the timber from the attack of fungi and insects. It is a cheapest way of protecting timber. Main disadvantage of this method of preservation is that appearance is not good after tar is applied it is not possible to apply other attractive paints. Hence tarring is made only for the unimportant structures like fence poles.

2. Paints: Two to three coats of oil paints are applied on clean surface of wood. The paint protects the timber from moisture. The paint is to be applied from time to time. Paint improves the appearance of the timber. Solignum paint is a special paint which protects the timber from the attack of termites.

3. Chemical salt: These are the preservatives made by dissolving salts in water. The salts used are copper sulphate, masonry chloride, zinc chloride and sodium fluoride. After treating the timber with these chemical salt paints and varnishes can be applied to get good appearance.

4. Creosote: Creosote oil is obtained by distillation of coal tar. The seasoned timber is kept in an air tight chamber and air is exhausted. Then creosote oil is pumped into the chamber at a pressure of 0.8 to 1.0 N/mm2 at a temperature of 50°C. After 1 to 2 hours timber is taken out of the chamber.

5. ASCO: This preservative is developed by the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun. It consists of 1 part by weight of hydrated arsenic pentoxide (As2O5, 2 H2O), 3 parts by weight of copper sulphate (CuSO4⋅5 H2O) and 4 parts by weight of potassium dichromate (K2Cr2O7) or sodium dichromate (Na2Cr2O7⋅2 H2O).

This preservative is available in powder form. By mixing six parts of this powder with 100 parts of water, the solution is prepared. The solution is then sprayed over the surface of timber. This treatment prevents attack from termites. The surface may be painted to get desired appearance.

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