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Standards facilitate the development of wood industry
China Standardization 2022-02-15

Wood has been an integral part of people’s life for thousands of years. It has been not only used for constructions, furniture, and daily necessities, but also served as a main pillar for the economic and social development. Wood industry is a long-established business in China. Its standardization work, starting since the founding of the People's Republic of China, has realized the standardized and specialized production at an early stage. It has witnessed a historical leap of the forestry and grassland industry, and made tremendous contributions to the national development.

The earliest forestry standards

There was no unified standard on wood measurement before 1949. At that time, people from various regions used varied measurement scales. For example, "Longquan" code as a traditional bamboo scale stick was popular in the south of Yangtze River, British measuring units were used in coastal regions such as Shanghai and Hangzhou, and Japanese measuring units were applied in the northeastern China.

At the initial stage of its founding, China was in badly need of wood, especially unitary wood measurement and testing standards. Thereupon, the northeastern region, as the largest commercial wood production base, started to apply metric system. Based on that, three technical standards on specifications for wood, methods of wood scale stick, and wood volume table, were developed by the then national forestry department in 1952 with reference to the standards in the former Soviet Union. A year later, the three standards were put into trial use in forest zones nationwide. The three standards, without standard number or year number, were the very first wood measurement standards in China, from which every wood standard today was derived.

In 1954, the first two of the three standards were revised by piding wood into four categories: logs, fir-tree poles, boards and crosstie. Four years later, the three standards were amended and evolved into a series of standards, such as GB 142-58, Log for direct use, GB 143-58, Processing log, and GB 144-58, Log inspection. As the first ones released in accordance with standard format, the standards marked a new chapter of Chinese wood standardization.

Outstanding social and economic contributions

Growing out of nothing, and from planned economy to market economy, the forestry industry has always served as a pillar in the national development. The current 273 standards on wood today, originated from the first three standards, fully demonstrated the demands of industrial development, and the progresses in scientific and technical fields and economic and social development. Wood production, processing, and sales also went through two stages: "sales based on production" and "production based on sales".

From 1949 to 1977, China’s accumulative wood production was 909.4 million m3. The revision of standards focused on resource saving, quality improvement, and products subpision. Taking the revision of Log inspection in 1963 as an example, plus-minus tolerance was added in the standard to reduce the great waste of wood and labor caused by no minus tolerance under the low processing capability at that time. The revision received hearty welcome from wood producers, and played a critical role in resource saving and efficiency improvement. In this period, 11 national standards and more than 30 sector standards were developed, such as Papermaking raw material, Crosstie material, Log for aircraft plywood, and Secondary processing log, played a supporting role in accelerating the national economy and saving forestry resources.

Since the reform and opening up took effect in 1978, China’s wood standards entered a new phase, targeting at "internationalization, quality and efficiency improvement, and green development". Up to August 2021, China has published and implemented 140 national standards and 133 sector standards on wood, covering wood bases, logs and saw logs, and structural wood. The standards system has kept a close pace with the international level, and 23 ISO standards and advanced foreign standards have been adopted, which accounted for 22% of the total wood standards in China.
Many standards, including GB/T 16734, Names of Chinese main wood, GB/T 18513, Names of Chinese main imported wood and GB/T 18107, Hongmu were applied widely, which strongly facilitated a healthy wood trading market. The revised ones, such as Log of peeled veneer, Log of sliced veneer, and Lumber for musical instrument, responded to urgent market needs, maximizing the benefits and regulating the market. And 22 test standards were applied in the measurement of wood properties, including GB/T 1927-2009, Method of sample tree collection for physical and mechanical tests of wood. The standard series of Testing methods of wood physical and mechanical properties laid an important foundation for the wood industry, and were put into extensive use in fields covering scientific research, teaching, wood test, wood structural design, and wood processing and manufacturing. The 17 national standards on wood physical and mechanical property test (GB 1927-80 to GB 1943-80), published and implemented for the first time in 1980, won the fourth prize of Outstanding National Standards Award in 1982.

Active player on the international stage

With leading output of wood floor in the world, China also has greater influence for its standardization work on wood in the international stage. In 2014, an international standard on solid wood floor ISO 17959:2014, General requirements for solid wood flooring, was officially released with the leading efforts of Chinese experts, making an important breakthrough and contributing Chinese wisdom in international standardization work. Five partial standards of ISO 13061, Physical and mechanical properties of wood - Test methods for small clear wood specimens, managed by Chinese experts, were also published. Since 2015, SAC/TC 41 on wood has actively fulfilled its role as the Chinese counterpart to ISO/TC 218. It attended five international conferences organized by ISO/TC 218, and undertook the plenary meeting of ISO/TC 218 in 2010 and 2018.

In the past seven decades, the wood standardization in China started from scratch and contributed prominently to the forestry development and national construction. Now the nationwide commercial fell has stopped completely, but the dominant position of wood production, processing, consumption and trade in national economy has not changed. According to statistics, China produced 90.28 million m3 of wood, imported 60.57 million m3 of logs and 38.11 million m3 of saw logs in 2019, showing its role as the largest wood processing and manufacturing base in the world, as well as the most important woodwork processer and exporter.

There is a long way to go for wood standardization. By closely focusing on objectives of the 14th Five-Year Plan, the production and marketing needs of domestic and foreign markets will be considered to establish a scientific standards system, improve the overall quality of standards and strengthen their publicity and application, making positive contributions to the modernization of forestry and grassland industry.

(Chinese version provided by SAC/TC 41 on wood; edited and translated by Liu Hongbo)
供稿:全国木材标准化技术委员会 (SAC/TC 41); 编译:刘宏博

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