Forest products and defense


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Forest products and defense
Physical Description:
Winslow, Carlile P
Forest Products Laboratory (U.S.)
University of Wisconsin
United States -- Forest Service
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory ( Madison, Wis )
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 29559946
oclc - 82677639
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february 1941

Madison, Wisconsin
In Cooperation with the University of Wisconsin

Digitized by

the Internet Archive

in 2013



U. S. Forest Products Laboratory

TAtional defense means more than a big army, a two-ocean navy, and
a skyfull of airplanes -- it means an adequate supply of natural resoscurces,
of which timber and forest products are outstandingly important.

A nation that has within its boundaries a bountiful supply of forest
products has an enormous advantage. Fortunately, the timber suprlies of the
United States, except for certain special nurocses requiring relatively
minor quantities, seem ample to meet our forest products needs of the pres-
ent emergency, and doubtless for future emergencies if we will carry cut
sound forest practices with cur abundant forest lands.

War intensifies most peacetime uses of wood in addition to bringing
forth n.-o- European war are using a veritable host of diversified forest -orcducts, some
of which are age-old whereas others are the products of modern research.
They include such things as wood for cantonments, barracks, houses, fac-
tories, hangars, scaffolding, boats, wharves, bridges, pontoons, railway
ties, telephone poles, mine props, antitank barriers, shoring, shipping con-
tainers, and air-raid shelters; plywood for airplanes, blackout shutters,
prefabricated housing, concrete forms, ship patterns, assault boats, shin
interiors, truck bodies, and army lockers; fuel for gascgenes, trucks,
tractors, stoves, boilers, and mobile kitchens; pulp and paner for surgical
dressings, boxes, cartridge wrappers, building papers, pasteboards, gas-
mask filters, printing, and propaganda distribution; synthetic wood fibers,
such as in rayon, artificial wool and cotton, for clothing, parachu.tes2,
and other textiles; wood cellulose for explosives; wood charcoal for gas
,nasks and steel nroduction-; rosin for shraonel and varnishes, turrent'ine
for flame throwers, paint, and varnishes; cellulose acetate for nhctcgraihic
film, shatterproof glass, airplane do-nes, lacquer, ceuer-t, and mo:lded
articles; wood flour for dynamite; wood bark for insulation, tannin, and
dyestu.'s; and rubber for all -oeacetime uses in addition tc tires, tank-
treads-, and other standard army and navy uses.

1-Presented before the Annual Conservation Conference at Hartford, Ccnr-.,
Feb. 6, 1941
-Textile Iorld, p. gy, Sept. 1940.
-Wood, p. 209, Sent. 1940.
-Fortune, p. 6l, Sept. 1940.

In the last war the United States had 20,000 Americans scattered
throu;-hout France operating sawmills and cutting forests for bridges, rail-
ways, and other war uses. As high as 30,000 trees were used daily by a
single French army cor-os. Simultaneously the Forest Frr-ucts Laboratory
was ex-nanded six-fold and operated 24, hours .a day keening abreast of the
various technical wood problems of the Army, na-vy, and. other defense

Discoveries in new and wider uses of wood have gone so far today that
it is essential to our national defense to keep abreast of the4. -.c- Germaas,
in their 4-year plan under General Goering, classed fore-t products as the
second most important natural resource of the country and strenuous efforts
were made to use every scrap of wood to aid the military and defense situa-
tion. Because of the shortage of food in Germany and also because of the
high cost of crude oil and gasoline, attention was given to the production
of sugar and alcohol from wood. Raw wood sugar can be used for animal food,
and with refinement for humans. It may be fermented with yeast to form
ethyl or "grain" alcohol to replace gasoline. A shortage of wool and the
fact that there is no domestic cotton, directed the Germans to the production
ofl"wood-wool" and "wood-cctton." A certain -ercent-;.-e of wood-wiool is re-
quired in all German uniforms. Research work in Europe has also brought
stc-dy progress in developing a wood-gas generator, so that for the past
several years busses, trucks, and even pleasure cars have been powered by
this means.

Fundamentally there is nothing substantially new in these technical
develo:-,.:mits that the United States is not familiar with but at' that time
and even now they are not economically practical in the United States. H"-:
ever, should unforeseen disaster befall us the techniques for p-oroducin-
such things are well'known and wood could be used over here for such purposes,.

With this sketchy perspective as a background, and recc*-nizii-, that
technological advances with wood and other products have brought S.,'.y
changes in our -oresent forest products war needs from those of the last wpr,
there are nevertheless great numbers of diversified uses requiring forest
products and many technical problems for their improvement confronting us
tod-:;'. I will describe a few of the more important, either from the st.:,r-
point of quantity or of technical problems inherent to their use.

Lumber .,nd Structural Material

If we consider national Icfense in terms of an Aierican army of
1-1/2 million men by July 194l1,5 we think at once of cantonments and train-
ing centers; and these mean not only barracks but recreation halls, theater ,
hospital, mess halls, warehouses, post c:*ck nf-.o, and other buillin --
all of which require enormous quantities of forest products.

^Eng. 17ew~c Be., p. 53, Oct. 1940.


Thus, a score of modern townns to house our soldiers are being erected
at various strategic points throughout the United States. With few exce-ptions,
the structures are being built of wood, this material lending itself to
greatest speed in procurement and labor supply. The buildings are well
planned for the health and comfort of the men and are superior to the ca-nton-
ment construction pf World War days. The structures are adapted to three
temperature zones.- Some in the deep South consist of framed tents but the
majority located elsewhere are of strndrrcd wood frame-and-sheathing con-

An idea of the magnitude of this undertaking .!:ry be had from the fact
that the buildin.-s to be occupied by a division of approximately 17,000 mTrin
cover 1 square mile. It is estimated by the INational Lumber Manufactururs
Association that 1,500 feet of lumber are required for each enlisted aIn
housed in barracks and 825 feet of lumber for each man housed in a tnt camp.
Thc whole program will use about 4-1/2 billion feet of lumber. This includes
1-1/2 billion feet for industry housing, 1 billion feet for crating, and 1/2
billion feet for the :avy.-

Efficient defense means efficient wrorkmun behind the lines as well as
at the front. Efficient workmen, in turn, mean living quarters that m(ct
modern American standards. The War Department9 estimates that at last 7
men are needed in war industries for every soldier on the firing line. To
house the workmen needed at our shipyards alone will, according to the
Ui-ttional Defense Advisory Commission, require 42,000 new housing units; the
Navy needs about 65,000 houses. The foregoing figures do not include
housing for workers in Army and Navy armament factories yet to b,. built.
Th.- houses are to be erected by p-rivate builders, using public fundsIo. it
is reassuring to know that officials are disposed to use lumbcher so far is
is possible for this construction.

Wood is particularly well suited to hangars in wartime due to the
speed of erection and mainly with unskilled labor, thus releasing the
skilled artisans frr other important wartime production duties fte
largest hangars for the R.A.F. in G-reat Britain is reorrt-d to have just
been cco ,Icted, having been constructed of timber. The area cf th' rocf cf
this ]..- is more than 70,000 square feet.II

-Ej. lTew.os Record, T. 43, Oct. 1940.
7-Tocsdale, L. V., otes on Cr-ntonment Plans.
-gAmer. Lbrman., p. -0, Oct. 5, 1940.
-,Ma.j . E. Barker, J. 3. Chum. Warfare Service, :. 6, Chem. $ t. kt
July 1940.
-OCharles F. Palmer, Coordinator, iT.D.A.C., p. 29, A..O.r. Lbr'an. Sc t. 21,
llAustralian Timber Journal, p. 379, June-July, 1940.
R1250 -3-

Since the very life of the British navy and of her manufacturing
interests deTends uocon the uninterrup-cted o-eration on a vast scale of the
English coal mines, one of the 'most urgent demands of the United Kir:!cm at
the present time is reported in the official Canada Year Book to be for mine
rrops. !T-rmal imports amount to more than 100 million cubic feet of wood
for this purpose. About 70 percent of this formerly came from the Baltic
countries, and ste-s are now being taken to secure large quantities in Canara
and ewf oundland. 12

Should the United States be required to fulfill her Western Hemis-
rh.-'re defense pledges every kind and type of seaworthy ship that can be built
will be in demand; many will be of combined wood and steel. Zven shies now
built of steel require miles of planking for decking. From Australia comes
the reporti-3 that some battleship-s require about 500,000 board feet of lumber
and certain ocean transports take about 700,000 board feet of lumber and
about 3000000 square feet cf plywood.* Then there are the mine-sweeping
vessels, high-sceed subchasers, and other boats of the mosquito fleet, all
of which consume large quantities of wood. A large floating target, such as
used for training naval aerial bombers, takes about 200,000 board feet of
ti .ber .13

Approximately 90 percent of the wharves and docks of the world are
constructed of timber. The British are reported to require 3,600,000 board
feet of timber for dock and harbor maintenance alone._

Important to shipyard engineers, military bridge builders,, and all
others engaged in heavy wood construction are the modern metal connectors
recently devised for timber joints. Such connectors make it possible to
distribute the load on the wood over a broad area, with fewer bolts than
would otherwise be necessary. The net result is that wood becomes a more
efficient material than ever before in the erection of great engineering

Air-Raid Precautions

In the event of United States entry in the war, the recent research
in impregnating wood with fire-retardant chemicals will, no doubt, come
into use for protecting '-ivy yards, hangars, -i other wooden shelters from
incendiary bombs. An interestir.,- new wood use is for blackout shutters
which permit ventilation yet prevent light leakage. A combination shutter
of'sheet steel over plywood is also r-norted as being used in :zl:,;d for
bomb s-olinter protection of windows in city factories and buildir. -..

--anada Year Book 194o0.
- 1J. T. hosper, Director, Timber Develor-m'rit Assn. of Australia, Australian
Timber Journal, p. 355, June-July, 1940.



Timber and sand are used on the top floor of building-s s rrtecticn against
bombs of the thermite variety. A new typ)e of orint containing borax, X e-
veloped by the Forest Prciucts Lboratory for prevcnticn of the s rea rf
flame on timber, is of social interest for arctection against incendiary
bombs. After an air raid, timber is, of course, ro uired fcr bracin. :lls
of buildin-s that have been hit and if left woull create a public 7, r,".
A special concession has new been made in Enland to occupants %nd o'-oers cf
houses whose -remises have been damaged in air raids, whereby they c1 t ii
timber up to the value f $25 on declaring thc.t such timber will cnly cc urd
to repair such d.m:-ge.-


Boxes and crates, whether of fiberboard, veneer, or wcod, absorb
great quantities of forest products. Already in Great Britain, for ex'-s'mle,
3,500,000 boxes for c- ,11 arms ammunition, 1 million cordite brxes, 10
million boxes fcr canned food, and 1 million cases of bacon ar. reorted to
have been ordered. Cases are also required for instruments such as range
finders, sextants, and the like. Crates for airplanes and airplan< eCgines
utilize great quantities of timber.

During war cargo space is at a premium. It is essential that as
little room as possible be taken un by the containers, ad yet they must
be strong enough to protect their contents against rough handling ar-
ticularly munition shirsr.ts. The Forest Products Laboratory is hel-ing in
many ways in the design of containers for war commodities. To cite 'n
example, the Laboratory was recently called on to redesign a wooden co tainer
for the shirmcnt of bombs. The redesigned container employs asen instead
of the more expensive white nine, requires less cargo space, less lumber,
less weight, yet has greater strength than the original containr.

Pulp and Pan-oer and (ther Chemical Products

Before the current war in Eur-o6e 50 percent of our 'cod onuln a.d
78 percent of our newsprint were imported. In this era of world-wide
strua-rle for raw materials it is of great importance to cur natirnl deT-
fense that research to increase species utilization and develop hih ield
processes has advanced to a point where today the 'JUited Status has the
species to supply its own nulu and -oa-mer needs. Mvoreovwr, wood, in tec
form of pulp, .-oy prove an important elc:ient in further icrcvi or traeic
relations with South America.

Of particular significance to the international ulp *itua'tic'n is
the fact that research has produced a high-yiel sdmichomical pulpin

-Wood, p. 237, Oct. 1940.


process that permits the use of weed hardwood species as an important corn
ponent in newsprint paper which at present uses the more valuable softwood
sp-oecies exclusively. The process is also applicable to low-cost container
boards and by a new laboratory technique to an exceptionally high yield and
high quality alpha cellulose which has possibilities of direct nitration
into explosives.

It is extremely difficult in our defense planning to estimate well
in advance our military needs for chemical commodities. In the event of need,
however, alcohol, acetone, acetic acid, mannitol, sorbitol, glucos., and
various other essential war chemicals can be produced from wood.

Wood in Aircraft

Foremost on the United States national defense program are airplanes --
-.rrybe fifty thousand of them by the spring of 1944.15-

Although there has been a shift to metal aircraft in recent years,
the present war emergency is again bringing a demand for wood. Outstanding
needs seem to be for srruce for wing spars and rol;yccd for the covering of
fuselages and wir-. in training planes; also for a sheet material adapted to
molding or pressing-to-form which would enable all, or parts, of fuselages
or wings to be molded in mass production operations; and for an improved
laminated, compressed, wooden propeller of light weight to meet the require-
ments of increased engine horsepower.

7,land has maintained her fightir.g air fleets successful, : i.,st
all odds, by her extensive use of laminated spruce construction.- At
present wood spars and other framing members with plywcocd coverir.- are used
in the winds and fuselage of military trainers in the "Tnited States. Indica-
tions are that this use will increase.

A recent survey by the Forest Products Laboratory disclosed wide-
spread inter st on the part of the Arr.:, .',vy, and aircraft manufacturerss,
in methods of mc lding lywood under fluid pressure into skins of acce table
wel *pt th :1 nd, b-acklin, to which
weight trat will be secure against the wrir. and buckling to which
metals irro subject. Such skins, which can be varied from one part of the
surface to another in accordance with strength requirements, will form a
sell th;t has hirh efficiency both aerodynamically and structuirally and
will require only light framing members to suTpcrt it. Altho-.. this mol( iir,
process Is still in the ex-neriment'l stage, rapid development is execte d.

W. 13, p. 6?3, A:Scot. 19 ro1.
-i ] .}. ~l< bm~ Dc e


This type of construction will lessen the need for wood of the near perfect
character required for spars. It should make possible the utilization of
veneers of many species not now considered for airplane use ani should
broaden the base f~r raw material supply as well as make supplies of Vco-
available in every forest region.

A. new synthetic resin treatment of wood developed at the YFre .t
Products Laboratory offers important possibilities for such exactin, uses
as airplane iin'-. fuselages, and other surface -p :rts. The tr a:t..:ent con-
sists of impr: ting and plasticizing the cell w'Kll structure of veneer
with synthetic resin-forming chemicals from which can be made, at lc',
pressures, a .i Mly compressed laminated wood with high mechanical 'rer-
ties, moldable to double curvature, and with an extremely smooth s,..rf.c, ,Ca
a high resistance to swelling narii shrinking.

This synthetic resin treatment may also prove especially ap olicablc
to propeller construction. It offers the possibility with low nress res
and in one pressing operation of controllinjthe density as desired from hub
to tip- and gives practically a moistureproof, nonsL-rink --roduct. Get:.;an auad
English propellers are being constructed with most of the blade of laminated,
lightweight, uncompressed wood, and the hub section of compressed, laminated
wood bonded with phenolic-resin glue.

National Defense Needs for Further Research

Five years ago, in July 1935, Wheeler :;cilllen, President cf the
National Farm Chemurgic Council defined the role of research in national
defense in the following words:.

"From the standpoint of national defense, the clear objective of
research should be to make provision for the production, at some cost, from
some domestic source, of every item that it is anticipated may ever be re-
quired for the use of our defensive forces; and, further, of every item of
domestic need that might be shut off by the incident of foreign wars in
which this country may not be engaged.

"Department of Agriculture research projects which clearly contribute
to these ends should, therefore, be worthy of consideration by the Con-rcr;."

Past experience has clearly demonstrated that tochnologic and reseirch
work are critically essential to the efficient use and adaptation of wcod
for defense purposes on both the combat and economic fronts.

Important problems confronting the maximum efficiency of aircraft
production which relate to the present and possible future use of "ood,
plywood, and other forest products are the devcloument of fuselages, win3,

1Agricultural Engineering (Vol. 21, No. 7), July 1940.



and other part:, in whole or in part, by mass production molding or r)ressing;
development of an improved, high-strength, light-weight propeller of variable
density from laminated, compregnated wood for the high-powered motors that
are increasingly in demand; satisfactory bonding of plywood to wing ribs or
ether elements of training planes by means of cold-setting resin glues;
assurance of an adequate supply of spruce lumber for aircraft wing smars;
determination of the basic properties of plywood as an engineering material;
development of a glueable water-resistant coating for interior surfaces of
wood wings or hollow wing s-pars; develcrr ent of paints and varnish finishes
that will imp-oart a smooth and durable surface to the exposed wooden parts -'
airplanes; determination of the characteristics of wood construction, in-
cluding acceptable re-rair methods for various types of structure, bolt
snacings, and stress concentrations; and the development and testing of
various glues and gluir,. techniques.

Other defense problems which either are or may become critical as the
:-.tion's defense effort gathers momentum include the faster drying of walnut
gunstock blanks and other items for special requirements; finding a suitable
substitute for East Indian teak for battleship decking and for gunmcunt
bases; developing an improved plywood, such as ccmn-reo-, for -l'rki... and
decir.i- for assault boats, subchasers, and similar craft; increasing the
supply of pontoon timbers and i'nkirg through the development of chemical
seasoning methods and the broadening of the specifications for this stock;
providing adeTuate protection against decay for wood boat fr:<-...s and other
parts; the further improvement of wood gas-mask charcoal; special --aints,
coatings, and other fire retardants for hangars and other critical struc-
tures; improvement of designs and specifications for shipping containers of
all kinds for specific military commodities; production of essential wood
chemicals; a good domestic substitute for cork and kanck is needed; and
finally wood process specifications for many articles and structures need to
be critically examined, revised, and geared to the present emergency con-
ditions of stocks, supplies, and special needs.

In national defense housing there is an increasing need for engineer-
ing data on the strength and design of both permanent :,.i emergency wccd
structures, especially on modern connectors and other joints and fast( .ir.. s,
glued-un laminated structural members, and prefabrication of houses for
speedy erection at the site; also on seasoning, grading, and selection of
lumber for raid construction; moisture control in barracks and houses to
nrevcnt condensation; and -,rotection against decay, weathering, and fire.

On the economic front, the possibility of developing a large nulp
and paoer market in Central and South America and the possibility of havii.,:
to, moet our own needs with our own f rest resources both s-,.--st the ned
of farther broadening the species base of our pater industry to fullest
extent, as well as, enlarging the number of kinds of nan(er made from our own

Possibilities of ex)or.iing the plyywood industry within our own
country and of increasing our export business with Central and South

America are great. But in order to do so the raw material bnse of the
industry must be broadened. Methods of treating various uoods orirr tc
cutting them into veneer and improved veneer cutting and plyood uanufcturing
methods must be developed and grades and yields determined for soecieC of
wood other than Douglas-fir and for logs of lower quality than are nc' used.

Here in the United States, every individual, every organi:itien, nd
every resource is expected to contribute the utmost toward the national do-
fense of our country. T;.-, individuals are willing, the organization already
exist, and the resources, including forests among those of major inrocrta'co,
are bountiful. This combination, aided by research, can build a strong -nd
secure national defense on both the combat and economic fronts. All thi,t is
required is the "green light."

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