American Hardwood Southeast Asia Supplement 2018

T he hardwood forests of the USA and Canada hold the most diverse array of hardwood species anywhere in the temperate regions of the world – and they are under-utilised. Whereas the hardwood diversity of Europe was largely eliminated in the last ice-age by the east-west Alps, the same did not happen in North America where the Appalachian Mountains run north-south allowing the trees to come back as the ice melted. In consequence, for example, there are very many oaks in the USA, of which 16 are commercially available, compared with two oaks in Europe. Other native species, such as tulipwood, black cherry, black walnut and hard maple are now unique to the North American continent. Many of these American hardwood species, from alder to walnut, are preferred by designers for the choices of colours and grains they exhibit for furniture, flooring and high-end joinery. Equally important is the fact that they perform well, depending whether the priority is strength, hardness, machinability or the need for a first class finish. Many of them stain easily and well, providing further choices for designers of interior products and are available sawn in long lengths and wide boards. Another issue is the composition of the forests. While species diversity is important, so is the fact that oak is dominant, representing nearly 40% of the standing timber, at a time when oak is the most popular temperate hardwood in world markets for hardwood flooring and furniture. More recently research projects by AHEC have produced new opportunities for exterior applications. Thermally Modified Timber (TMT) in ash, oak and tulipwood and Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) in tulipwood offer new opportunities for American hardwoods in Asia. For many product applications (and for paper) Asia’s increasing plantations of fast-growing species (rubber, acacia, eucalyptus) do provide some vital material, but their small diameter logs require more processing of laminating, finger-jointing and gluing. They cannot match the larger diameter American species for yield in solid wood. However there is room for both in Asia’s burgeoning production and consumption. For decorative veneer the USA is also an essential provider of raw material, often to cover Asia’s plantation species. But to come back to the point about harvesting, all 20 main commercial American hardwoods are readily available in volume on a consistent basis. When consistency is vital to large scale manufacturers in Asia, there is another unique benefit which is North American hardwood forests offer diversity of species 14 AMERICAN HARDWOOD Southeast Asia Supplement 2018 Theworld’s forests offer hardwoods of every description and increasinglymore andmore hardwoods are being planted, especially in Asia. Why therefore is the North American natural hardwood forest resource so important to Asian manufacturers? Michael Buckley FIWSc MPhil, explains. High quality sawn lumber from USA