When it comes to crane mats, many people are surprised to find out that timber mats are very popular in a lot of industries. It’s easy to dismiss wood as a primitive, out-dated material that is best consigned to rustic-style kitchens and artisan bakeries. Since the industrial revolution, we’ve come to rely more on metals – steel in particular – in our industries, so what makes timber so valuable when it comes to crane mats?
Timber, it seems, offers several advantages over steel when used for crane mats. Here are a few of the major ones.
Timber weighs significantly less than steel
Steel is much heavier than timber, as you no doubt already know. The extra weight of steel makes moving the crane mats into position difficult, so additional machinery is usually needed. When it comes to transporting the crane mats from area to area, the extra weight of the steel can increase shipping costs and can also increase the amount of fuel needed in transportation.
Timber crane mats cost less to produce than steel ones
Timber crane mats are much cheaper to produce and buy than steel mats. There’s nowhere near as much energy and effort involved in collecting and refining the raw materials, for a start! Once the iron ore has been mined, it needs to be smelted and only then set into moulds, whereas timber is much easier to turn into mats. In addition to this, once a steel mat has been manufactured, it is impossible to change its size. Timber is much more adaptable, with makers able to produce all manner of shapes and sizes. Wooden mats can even be trimmed to fit another job if necessary.
Timber is more flexible than steel
Wooden crane mats have a bit more flexibility and “give” than steel ones do, which is very useful in some applications. All crane mats are made from top-quality hardwoods that are also slightly bendy – they won’t just snap under excessive weight. In fact, the bending and maybe a few popping or creaking noises can serve to tell workers that the load is maybe too much, allowing them to intervene before something goes wrong.
Timber crane mats are safer in some dangerous environments
The relative softness and flexibility of timber makes these mats more appropriate for the more dangerous industries – gas, oil and even nuclear. Wooden mats are far less likely to disturb or damage delicate structures like pipes and tanks and can be seen as a form of protection for them when work is being carried out on or near them.
Wooden mats offer more traction than steel
As you can imagine, the natural grain of the wood offers people and machinery much more traction and grip than most steel does. Many steel mats have a smoother surface that becomes unworkably slippery if it gets wet or muddy. Of course the mats can be topped with gripping finishes, but these can wear off under heavy use and may mean that the mat has to be replaced, leading to avoidable expense.