FRIM keeps vintage timber engineering machine working
By Published On: January 11, 2019

3 January 2019 (Thursday) – Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) manages to keep its vintage timber engineering device, the Buckton universal testing machine, working with some modification.

The 97-year-old machine, believed to be the only remaining unit in the world, is still in good working condition today thanks to the brilliance of Dr Mohamad Omar Mohamad Khaidzir, who heads the FRIM Timber Engineering Laboratory (TEL).

Mohamad Omar bergambar dengan mesin ujian universal Buckton
Mohamad Omar memberi penerangan tentang kajian yang dijalankan di TEL
Mohamad Omar and the computerised Buckton universal testing machine.  Mohamad Omar explaining about the research conducted at TEL to visitors. 

With his passion in software writing and electronics, Mohamad Omar created a computerised system to enable the machine to operate automatically in conducting testing of timber specimens.

During the colonial days, to fully utilise the Malayan timbers in meeting the growing demand, numerous timber species were identified and categorised by the British government. In the early 1920’s, the Timber Research Laboratory (TRL) was establised in Sentul, Kuala Lumpur, to conduct research on timber mechanical properties in Tanah Melayu as part of the Federated Malay States Railways testing facility.

TRL evaluated the timber mechanical strength properties, the sawing efficiency as well as the durability of Malayan timbers. These tests were needed for the upkeep of railway sleepers, railway sign posts, bridges, train wagon bodies and station buildings.

TEL was the engineering arm of TRL whereby tests such as static bending, tension, compression and shear parallel to the grain; compression perpendicular to the grain; and Janka hardness tests were conducted.

In 1951, the testing facilities in Sentul were shifted to new TRL buildings at Forest Research Institute (FRI) campus in Kepong. Since then, research on forestry and forest products were integrated within the same campus.

Data on the strength and elastic properties of Malayan timbers that were produced from TEL were disseminated worldwide, especially in the English speaking countries. In fact, the international trade of timber worldwide, particularly tonnage price as compared to the strength and durability was greatly influenced by the values produced through the testing done in TEL.

Ever since the Britishera, TEL has been supporting the Malaysian construction industry through the testing and evaluation of timber strength meant for structural elements in formworks, roof trusses, columns, beams, floorings etc. 

Based on TEL test data, several standards such as the MS544 series, had been drawn up to aid engineers, architect, contractors and engineering agencies in using timber in the most efficient and safe manner for construction purposes. Through findings from this laboratory, the standards were able to be drawn up in parallel with other international standards.

Currently, the laboratory embarks on new technologies such as Non-Destructive Testing/Evaluation of timber properties so that every piece of timber is graded for its mechanical abilities, without the need to damage the timber, to ensure public safety.

Gambar bangunan-bangunan TRL
Ujian bebanan yang dijalankan
An aerial view of the new TRL buildings (inside the red circle). TRL was renamed Forest Products Division in 1974.  A load performance test conducted on a timber roof model in 1962. 

Since 1920’s TEL has performed numerous testings for research and services on Malaysian tropical timber species. For the past 10 years, TEL has provided 950 testing services for 250 clients on 4,200 samples, including tropical hardwood, non-wood products of bamboo and oil palm, as well as wood composites (glulam, plywood and wood plastic composite). It has also conducted 10 training courses for higher learning institutes, government agencies and private sector.

For more information about TEL, contact Mohamad Omar (03-62797377) or Dr Ong Chee Beng (03-62797442) or email:

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