1979 Flashback: Paste Barrier to Rising Copper Prices

Wood Central Senior Editor Jim Bowden recalls a 1979 interview with Ken Ruddling, Manager of, Tanalith sales for Koppers.

Tue 05 Sep 23


Somebody once likened business activity to the task of having to go up a moving stairway, travelling downwards.

If a lot of effort is expended, then one gets to the top.  Going at the same speed as the escalator the organisation remains stationary but if too little effort is made, be it a big firm or an individual, it goes backwards.

‘Tanalith’ sales for Koppers Australia Pty Ltd are moving forward.  Everyone at Koppers is constantly looking for better ways of doing things, ways that provide benefits for the customer and which, in the long term, also help Koppers grow. There is a recent example of this philosophy.

In northern NSW and Queensland for many years Koppers, and Hickson’s before then, have supplied a form of waterborne CCA wood preservative called Tanalith CA. This was a free-flowing dry powder and, while excellent in many respects, had two major drawbacks. The first was that being a powder there was always the danger it would blow around when being mixed.

While basically, CCAs are safe to handle (and this is certainly true after the preservative has been impregnated into the timber), Koppers is continually working towards making all its wood preservatives completely environmentally acceptable at every level along the chain, from preservative manufacturer to end user.

At the same time, copper in the very dehydrated form needed to produce a powder, was becoming more and more expensive.

“Koppers accordingly went to work to develop Tanalith CA as a paste instead of a powder,” said Ken Rudling, manager sales for Koppers.

“In a short time, the missing problem was solved, and the rising copper prices were halted,” he said.

“There were side benefits in that the paste produced a cleaner solution when diluted with water.”

Tests were carried out at Gatton Sawmilling Co.These were to assure the Queensland Forestry Service that Tanalith CAP, the name for CA in the paste form, was the same as the powder version when mixed with water to produce an operating solution.

Analysis of both timber and solutions was carried out at Koppers NATA registered laboratories at Artarmon, Sydney, and the authorities gave the go-ahead under the Queensland Timber Users Protection Act.

Dick Kidd, Koppers’ process engineer and representative for Tanalith sales in Queensland, then visited all Tanalith plants in the area to ensure the changeover went smoothly.

This was followed by a further visit to make sure no problems had developed. There were none.

“In fact, everywhere plant operators enthused about how easy it was to pour the paste from the drum, and the mixing was much simpler than the powder,” Ken Rudling said.

“Plant owners were smiling because the steadily rising price trend had been reversed.

All in all, a good operation and a couple more steps up the escalator for Koppers and their clients.”


  • Jim Bowden

    Jim Bowden, senior editor and co-publisher of Wood Central. Jim brings 50-plus years’ experience in agriculture and timber journalism. Since he founded Australian Timberman in 1977, he has been devoted to the forest industry – with a passion.


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