From Norway, an eco-alternative to tropical hardwoods

An example where Kebony can be used. Photo: Kebony

Kebony, with factory in Skien, is now offering a replacement which could cut the demand for unsustainably logged tropical hardwoods, namely softwood made more durable through a chemical process.

One of the reasons tropical forests are being cut down so rapidly is demand for the hardwoods, such as teak, that tend to be denser and more durable than softwoods.

The Norwegian company has now developed an environmentally friendly way of making softwood harder and more durable.

The Economist describes the process: Kebony stops wood from rotting by placing in a vat containing a substance called furfuryl alcohol, which is made from the waste left over when sugarcane is processed. The vat is then pressurised, forcing the liquid into the wood. Next the wood is dried and heated to 110ºC. The heat transforms the liquid into a resin, which makes the cell walls of the wood thicker and stronger.

The products are completely recyclable, environmentally friendly and create woods that are actually harder than most tropical hardwoods. Treated Canadian maple, for example, is harder than tropical merbau and jatoba. The strengthened softwoods can be used in everything from window frames to spas to garden furniture. Treated maple is also being adopted for decking on yachts.

The initial cost is similar to that of teak, but the maple is more durable and easier to keep clean, and it does not need to receive further treatments.

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