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Sahand Hariri Akbari

Woods and Their Properties

March 16, 2011 —
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One of the most commonly used materials all around us is wood. There are many different kinds of woods with wide ranging mechanical, physical, and thermal properties, which make them suitable for different applications. From building houses to making kitchenware, wood is an ideal and easy to use material. In general, wood is broadly available at reasonable prices and is easily formable, making it desirable for construction work. Of course, depending on the application, different properties of wood are desirable. For example, for building a house with wood, high strength is desired, whereas for making a cutting board, you probably want something that has a harder surface so it doesn’t get dented easily. Wolfram|Alpha now has a large database of all kinds of wood and their various properties.

There are various ways you can obtain data on woods using Wolfram|Alpha. If you need to quickly skim through the different kinds of woods, Wolfram|Alpha can generate a quick report of properties of a certain kind of wood.

In the example above, Wolfram|Alpha shows all the available properties for pine wood grouped by relevance. As there are many different kinds of pine wood, Wolfram|Alpha reports the mean value and provides information for the lowest and highest available values in the group, as well as a histogram showing the distribution of these values. Of course, if you want to see the properties for a specific kind of pine wood, you can either type it in or choose it from the assumptions drop-down menu at the top of the page.

North American loblolly pine wood

A property can have different values based on different kinds of measurements or the condition in which it was measured. This is indicated in gray parentheses next to the name of the property. An example of this can be seen in the figure above, where different values for the property “shrinkage” are reported based on the orientation of shrinkage.

Wolfram|Alpha also allows you to do a side by side comparison of a couple of different kinds of wood quite easily. Just type in the names of the woods.

Pine wood, elm wood

Seeing a summary report of all the properties is very useful and has many advantages. However, sometimes you may just need to quickly look up the value for a specific property. Simply type in the name of the wood and the property you need to see.

Pine wood Young's modulus

An average result is returned along with a Members pod showing the various types of pine wood that Wolfram|Alpha knows about. Click the “Show details” button to see some statistical information on the value reported.

Show details

As can be seen, the lowest value belongs to green spruce pine and the highest value belongs to dry pond pine. A histogram shows the distribution of these values, and a footnote denotes how many entities were used in computing the result.

Wolfram|Alpha has data for about 500 types of wood. This is yet another big step we have taken toward our goal for housing one of the most comprehensive databases for materials in general.


I can’t believe this is all free. I use WolframAlpha to do basic math all the time.
I am not an engineer, so I am not interested in wood.
I can imagine many people are, though.

Posted by Patrick Blouin March 16, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Cool! This would be really interesting prep for a backyard project. Speaking of which, does Wolfram alpha do gardening?

Posted by human mathematics March 17, 2011 at 1:31 am

    I wouldn’t go that far, as calculators are still pretty portable. However, at the rate W|A is going, it won’t be too long.

    Posted by M Clason March 22, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Wolfram|Alpha is the best thing that could have happened to students and engineers. With this and Mathematica, every math app there was before is now obsolete, including calculators.

Posted by Mauricius GV March 18, 2011 at 4:22 pm

This information is potentially very useful to museum professionals. Why not include some visuals of the various cuts of each type of wood and some microscopic views of cell structure?

Posted by C. Nelson March 19, 2011 at 11:05 pm

In Asia, they use invory bamboo to make sleeping mat which is really cool. I’m not sure if you classify bamboo as some kind of wood. But look at this aspect, wood is really useful because it helps reduce the heat in tropical country.

Posted by albertzhu March 27, 2011 at 11:47 am

As a longtime Mathematica user of well over 20 years, I was curious as to what Alpha had to offer about the physical properties of wood.

It is unfortunate but your treatment of wood properties in WolframAlpha is primitive to say the least. Information on the Internet that is available from many sources would blow this away. For example, see Wood Handbook 2010 edition by US Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, WI for wood properties from all over the world. It has some holes it it but it is a very good start. This reference has besides physical properties has cell structure, scientific names and a lot of interesting stuff.

Wood as a material is a non-linear visco-elastic anisotropic material but for practical purposes can be approximated as a linear orthotropic material. Actually its extremely non-linear in compression.

I seriously recommend that you re-evaluate the organization of your web page on this subject in order for it to be a credible resource. For instance, you will find that the Modulus of Elasticity and Shear Modulus in three axes are quite different from each other and that there are 6 Poisson’s ratios.

Posted by Robert Lucas September 8, 2011 at 8:35 am

    @ Robert -
    Thank you for the feedback. We continue to improve our data in this area and have passed along your suggestions to the members of our team.

    Posted by The Wolfram|Alpha Team September 8, 2011 at 12:31 pm