On the Stump with the Wood Doctor: Dr. Eugene Wengert Previews His Symposium Session

Gene Wengert Head ShotFor more than 35 years, Dr. Eugene Wengert has trained people in the science and efficient use of wood and wood products. As part of the pre-Expo symposium, Wengert will lead a session titled “Stump the Wood Doctor.” Attendees will be able to bring their most-difficult wood questions to one of our industry’s leading experts for discussion, insights, and solutions.

Wengert is the president of the Wood Doctor’s Rx LLC at WOODWEB in Bishop, Georgia, and professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of eight practical books and has published more than 500 articles relating to the wood products industry. As a former professor and extension specialist at Virginia Tech, and researcher at the USDA Forest Products Lab in Madison, Wisconsin, Wengert taught more than 30 practical wood processing classes and seminars each year for the wood products industry, including sawing, edging, grading, drying, machining, and gluing.


He shared details about his upcoming session and industry experiences with Hardwood Floors.

How did you start being known as “The Wood Doctor”?

In 1978, FDM magazine, now FDMC, asked me to write an article about a common manufacturing problem, splitting in glued-up panels. It was written in the style of symptoms, diagnosis, and cures and was titled “Rx for Splitting Headaches?” The popularity of this article resulted in the monthly article called “Ask the Wood Doctor.”

Do You Have a Favorite Wood?

Of the 50 species of wood that I work with, my favorite species is sweet gum. It machines better than most and can be finished to look like walnut, cherry, or even maple.

Make_It_Happen_brand_stamp_2023_v2What Can Attendees Expect to Learn During your “Stump the Wood Doctor” Session at Symposium at the NWFA Wood Flooring Expo?

Some topics we will discuss at the seminar include practical techniques to eliminate all surface checks, getting all lumber within one percent MC of the target MC, benefits to floor performance, and kiln costs. We also will cover if sawmilling affects drying quality and product quality, is yield a predictor of profit, moisture meters, and powder post beetles. Audience questions are encouraged.

Mark your calendars now to join us Pre-Expo Symposium Tuesday, May 2 | 9:45 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Stump the Wood Doctor with Dr. Eugene Wengert
Photo courtesy of NWFA

You’ve Had a Long-Running Column in FDMC Called “Ask the Wood Doctor.” What is the Most Common Question you Have Been Asked During that Time?

So far, more than 1,300 questions and answers have appeared in FDMC. For me, it was and still is exciting to help the industry with problems that could be corrected without exorbitant expense. Factored into most of my answers also is economics…after all, isn’t the goal of a wood manufacturing facility to make money? It’s hard to choose one question that stands out, but the flooring industry really likes questions about machining, splitting, and cracking.

Why is it so Important to Understand How the Wood Drying Process During Manufacturing Affects Wood Flooring?

Moisture is really important, but we seem to have a disconnect between the person who is drying the lumber and the person who is using it. The person drying it dries it according to the “book,” while the person using it might have some special needs that are not communicated. Out of the dry kiln, you can produce various qualities if you know what the quality definition is. So, defining the quality precisely is really where we have a disconnect.

What is the Biggest Advancement in Recent Years When it Comes to Drying Lumber?

In the past, when you bought lumber or dried it yourself, it all came in the same and if it wasn’t quite the same quality, it didn’t matter because everybody had the same issue. About 20 years ago, some people decided to insist on much higher drying quality. Whether it’s flatness or moisture content, it didn’t matter, but they started to insist on better quality. All of a sudden, they were producing a better product. The people that were in the big pool of everybody drying it the same and not really knowing what quality was were left out in the dark.

“The new moisture meters have an unbelievable amount of information they can give us. If you’re going to measure moisture, make sure that you’re measuring and calculating, and setting targets. The moisture meter is a tool used for improving and not an end in itself.” — Dr. Eugene Wengert, The Wood Doctor

Do You Have a Top Piece of Advice to Keep in Mind When Using Moisture Meters?

The old moisture meter was nothing more than a fancy ohmmeter measuring electrical resistance. The new moisture meters have an unbelievable amount of information they can give us. If you’re going to measure moisture, make sure that you’re measuring and calculating, and setting targets. The moisture meter is a tool used for improving and not an end in itself.

When it Comes to Wood, Do You Think You Have Seen it All?

I think I have probably seen it all, but you have to be a little careful in saying that. One of the rarest things I’ve seen is, once in a while, a tree will get a black chemical in its circulation system and when lumber is cut from that tree, the surface looks beautiful. Then you come back in a week or so, and all of a sudden, you see these little black spots like tar inside the tree. The tar kind of oozes out to the surface. So here you have a beautiful floor, and suddenly you have some black spots on it, and you think somebody must have had tar on their shoes and walked on the floor, but it’s restricted to just one board here, one board over there. That’s about the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.

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