Timber is one of the most common historic building materials, but relatively little is known about how it ages in situ. Here we investigate historic and modern Scots pine to determine any chemical or mechanical differences between them. Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) microscopy was used to investigate differences in the chemical composition of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) timber, comparing small samples from historic beams about 500 years old with modern timber. The hemicellulosic acetyl content was reduced by about half in the historic samples, uniformly across the thickness of the beams. A chemical mechanism was therefore suggested for the loss of acetyl groups, as has been observed in paper. In paper, deacetylation and the resulting release of acetic acid are accompanied by loss of strength. Mechanical testing of the historic timber was difficult because the available length of the samples along the grain was only 20 mm. After developing a miniaturized compression test developed for the purpose, it was shown that the relative stiffness of the historic Scots pine samples was reduced by about half compared to modern material.
Hudson-McAulay, K., Kennedy, C. J., & Jarvis, M. C. (2020). Chemical and Mechanical Differences between Historic and Modern Scots Pine Wood. Heritage, 3(1), 116-127. https://doi.org/10.3390/heritage3010007