An innovative wood bending technology has been developed by the University of Melbourne, within the Cooperative Research Centre for Wood Innovations, which involves the microwave softening of wood components to make them pliable for bending, the use of an automated bending machine, and microwave drying of bent furniture components. This article presents the results of a study that assessed bending quality and that determined the minimum radius of bending curvature of eight plantation and regrowth Australian timbers using the microwave wood bending process: Eucalyptus nitens, Eucalyptus saligna, Eucalyptus marginata, Eucalyptus diversicolor, Pinus radiata, Nothofagus cunninghamii, Atherosperma moschatum, and Acacia melanoxylon.

Based on the results of the study, the microwave bending performance of the wood species was rated as follows: (1) E. diversicolor, very good (sanding or small amount of machining was required); (2) P. radiata, Atherosperma moschatum, and E. nitens, decent (machining was needed); (3) Acacia melanoxylon and N. cunninghamii, satisfactory (fairly large failures occurred but these were removed by machining); and (4) E. saligna and E. marginata, very bad (large failures which could not be removed by machining).

Overall, the results of the study on the bending performance capabilities of plantation and regrowth Australian timbers showed several differences compared with the literature data relating to the bending abilities of the relevant old growth timbers.

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Author notes

The authors are, respectively, Associate Professor and Postdoctorate Fellow, Dept. of Forest and Ecosystem Sci., Univ. of Melbourne, Burnley Campus, Richmond, Victoria 3121, Australia (bo@unimelb.edu.au, gdaian@unimelb.edu.au). This paper was received for publication in February 2009. Article no. 10577.