Oak – It doesn’t grow on Trees!

IMG_1747I know, it’s an old joke but the inference could be nearer than we think.

I was at the first Timber Trade Federation conference on European Oak in April held in co-operation with the European Organisation of the Sawmill Industry. There were representatives from the principle Oak producing countries in Europe. They gave some quite amazing/shocking statistics, and I describe it in that way because it is both of those things. I refer to the increasing demand by China for timber generally, and in this case Oak.

Now you might think what’s China got to do with the UK’s use of Oak? Well, an enormous amount as it happens. Their hunger for Oak in log form has grown by 244% in the last 7 years!! In 2010 the bought 183,362 tonnes of Oak, in 2017 this rose to 630,827!! For France this has risen from 101,160m³ in 2010 to 352,139m³ in 2017.

What is the impact of this? Well it doesn’t stop there, the barrel market is also extremely buoyant ( I guess all of us Wine and Whisky drinkers are responsible for that!). The barrel trade takes the very best, clear and straight logs, ironically, they then crosscut it into relatively short lengths.

The impact is that there is a reduction of available Oak in both log, plank and square edge form. Sawn timber production in France reduced by around 30% in 2008, and it really hasn’t increased much since. Oak prices have continued to rise over the past 10 plus years, and the consensus of the conference is that it is very unlikely that this trend of price increases will change. Availability of larger diameter and longer logs is also reducing. We have been Cherry picking those specimen logs for many years and this has resulted in larger diameter and longer logs being less available. So to continue the woe, this is topped of by the recent appalling winter weather preventing access to the land, shooting and hunting across Europe, which, unfortunately for our industry, takes a priority in the landowners eyes!

 

What about UK Oak stock? Well there is Oak available in the UK and some of it is very good. We need more landowners to start managing their woodlands and think about releasing some, not all of their timber stock. Selective felling is obviously a better, more aesthetic way of harvesting timber.  Can we be self-sufficient? I very much doubt it. The Grown in Britain campaign is championing this cause and it has definitely had an effect on the demand for UK, but we would be unable to meet the whole demand in the UK.gib-logo-dual

So what is the future for Oak? I think it is still rosy, but we need to be prepared for price increases. We also need to think about the grades we ask for and the application it is being used for. Is first quality really needed? Does the end customer understand character Oak? They may prefer the beauty that character Oak can bring.

We do have a responsibility to use timber more economically. Lets face it, its been growing for 100’s of years. Consider the price and the work that has gone to get it to the workshop bench. The tree has been (hopefully) looked after in the woods, thinning has been done to allow it to grow good and tall. An experienced forester has selected the trees to be felled, and a skilled tree feller has felled, trimmed and crosscut the log. A professional timber haulier has transported it to a sawmill where a sawyer, probably with decades of expertise will mill the log into whatever the log has been selected for. It doesn’t stop there. Further machining, cross cutting, planing and sanding will create the most wonderful pieces of joinery or furniture. So all in all, a lot of work to bring the humble Oak tree to a building near you.

Don’t forget there are alternative species for some uses, Ash, Beech, Sycamore to name a few. These seem to have fallen out of favour, but they can all have their place.

Don’t forget, for all of your hardwood and joinery softwood requirements…………………

Call our Sales Team on 01798 861611 or email: sales@wlwest.co.uk

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Timber’s Green Credentials

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There have not been many of my posts that have not praised the flexibility and beauty of timber. In the UK we have a very active promotion of timber through various trade associations including the Timber Trade Federation, but especially in the WOOD FOR GOOD campaign. We should be promoting the use of timber at every opportunity. Those of us in the timber industry truely have a product which is helping the world in its task of healing the global warming problem.

But are you aware of the benefits of the use of timber in helping to deal with climate change issues? Well, here are a few statistics:

  • For every cubic metre of timber or wood products used in construction, approximately one tonne of carbon dioxide is saved.
  • Wood products have some of the best thermal performance properties of any mainstream construction material. Wood insulates 15 times better than concrete, 400 times better than steel and 1,770 times better than aluminium.
  • Europe’s stock of wood products stores an estimated 220 million tonnes of carbon.
  • The timber industry employs nearly 200,000 people in the UK and is worth nearly £20 billion to the UK economy. As demand for wood grows, so will the industry, increasing the strength of the rural economy in the UK.
  • Currently, European forests provide a carbon sink for around 150-200 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, with an additional 500 million tonnes sequestered annually. These same forests also provide approximately 90% of European timber and wood products, which store an additional 220 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
  • Climate change experts have claimed that simply by increasing the UK’s forest cover from 12 to 16 per cent, the country could, by 2050, abate up to 10% of our national carbon dioxide emissions.
  • At end-of-life, timber can either be recycled into panel boards and other products or used for renewable energy recovery.
  • Between 12-30 tonnes of carbon can be stored in the fabric and content of an average timber house
  • A ten per cent increase in the percentage of wooden houses in Europe would produce sufficient CO2 savings to account for about 25% of the reductions prescribed by the Kyoto Protocol.

Some impressive figures, I hope you will agree.  Each and every time that we choose a timber product over another material in our lives, we also benefit in another way.

So – wooden doors and windows over plastic, timber beams over steel or concrete, wooden cladding over plastic, wooden garden furniture over steel or plastic – the list is endless.

And………. as we have said so many times, timber is by far more the beautiful raw material.

AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY – USE WOOD!!

Don’t forget, for all of your hardwood and joinery softwood requirements…………………

Call our Sales team on 01798 861611 or email:sales@wlwest.co.uk

‘Its a piece of wood isnt’t it??’

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‘Its a piece of wood we can do anything with it’ !!

Can we? There is no doubt that timber is without doubt the most versatile raw material on this earth, but sadly many users really do not understand its properties and what you can and can’t do with it.

There are many questions that need to be asked: Is it being used externally?

Yew

Does it need to be structurally strong? Is it being used for painting? Does it need treatment? Does it need to be easy to work? These are but a few of the questions that need to be considered when you select a species for a project.

So, would you, for example, use Beech for external joinery or fencing – the answer is no, Beech is not a durable species and should not be used outside. Oak in contrast is durable and can be used externally very successfully, however, the sapwood on Oak, indeed all species is not durable and will be susceptible to decay and insect attack. In contrast, sapwood is perfectly acceptable to use inside. I know, I know, I know, some of the cabinet makers and joiners out there will say the contrast in colour is not acceptable!! Well, from a timber merchant’s point of view, sap on Oak is not a defect, so we count it in.

On another tack, would you use American Black Walnut if you wanted a painted finish – No of course you wouldn’t, far too precious a resource and expensive. You would choose a joinery grade softwood or inexpensive hardwood such as American Poplar. Generally softwoods are used for strength and hardwoods for aesthetics – albeit we do have graded structural hardwoods readily available.

We still get many requests for timber not suitable for the end use. There are still some unscrupulous traders that would just sell what they are asked for. This can result in a disaster for the customer. We try to get to know our customers, especially if it is the first time we have met them. We want to understand their requirement, to make sure we supply not only to their requirement but also to suit the end use. Talking to our customers is key – we call it ‘hand holding’.

So – Questions, Questions, Questions – we are here to help.

I guess what I am trying to say is that timber is not just ‘a piece of wood’. Each species has its own character, beauty and abilities for end uses. Our customers do not always understand what species can or can’t do, we do, so – please ask us, we would rather take that extra bit of time to ensure a satisfactory outcome rather than rush and have a complaint.

Don’t forget, for all of your hardwood and joinery softwood requirements…………………

Call our Sales team on 01798 861611 or email: sales@wlwest.co.uk

Hardwoods into Art

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Red Mallee Vase

Timber has to be the most versatile material known to man. The scope of uses is mind blowing, we use it in construction with a lower cost softwood, that is never seen after roofs and plaster are applied to Oak beams that we show off.

We use it for the garden and security as fences and barriers. We use it on our rivers and in sea defence work. We still use a small amount as dunnage

Red Mallee and Ash

(packing for shipping). We burn it for heat and power. We can drive on it in some bridges and temporary roads. We carve it into amazing statues and figureheads.

Red Mallee and Ash

And not finally, because I have only grazed the surface of uses for timber, but in addition we create art with it.

One of our customers creates the most beautiful turnery, this surely can be described as Art? He uses various timbers, the examples here are from Australian and European timbers. Kevin Hutson is a professional wood turner who started out as a hobbyist. After passing his C & G exams in Carpentry & Joinery at Brighton

Technical College, Kevin ended up as a freelance draughtsman specialising in architecturally designed joinery manufacture. This was the catalyst for Kevin’s artistic and creative side to shine. He is self taught in the design area, but as you can see from his work, successfully so. Have a look at his web site at www.khturner.com, he welcomes commisions, and as you will see, Kevin’s pieces are just a little bit different. In the pictures you will see that he has put together species from different continents is a stunning way.

If you have an interest in timbers that are just a little different, pop into our shop. Stocks are always moving, so its worth popping in and seeing waht we have.

Call our Shop team on 01798 861611 or email:shop@wlwest.co.uk

Solid Hardwood Worktops – A natural part of your Kitchen

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I guess one of the most attractive parts of a Kitchen is having beautiful worktops. Chosen correctly with your Kitchen units, the worktops can become a feature that is also a tool for daily use. Over the years we have seen many materials used for Worktops, but the material that keeps on coming back and is timeless is solid Hardwood Worktops.

There are many people supplying imported worktops, but we pride ourselves in producing Worktops that are totally hand finished. Bespoke made to fit your kitchen, maintained correctly these will give you a lifetime of service. There are many different suitable species: European Oak, Ash, Sycamore, American Poplar, American Black Walnut, Iroko and many more.

We construct the Worktops of uniform width staves using a special ‘F’ joint which increases the surface area of the joint and together with the PU glue, creates an extreamly strong joint.

What you should consider as part of your Worktop decision making process, is the maintenance required to ensure that the Worktops give you good performance for years to come. This includes quite a strict initial oiling program to ensure that the timber gets a good base for repelling moisture, after all, this is going into your kitchen, it will get wet. We want you to get the best out of the products, so be patient, it will be worth it in the long run. You should also consider any edges that may be adjacent to a heat source, an Aga perhaps. These ends need an end cleat (a piece of timber perpendicular to the direction of the staves). Finally, we can supply the worktops, but unfortunately, we are unable to offer a fitting service, it is important that you use someone that really knows Harwood Worktops, we have seen many tops poorly installed. Poorly installed worktops will, inevitably create problems in the future. We can help you out with suggesting good craftsmen for this service.

Clearly, worktops and bar tops are similar, and we can offer Bar Tops as well, indeed many a fine pint has been supped from our Bar tops.

Now, you may only require a small worktop for another project or perhaps just one to contrast with a different surface, well have a look at the Worktop Offers Page of our website – IF YOU CLICK HERE WE WILL TAKE YOU THERE .

On the main Worktops page of our website you will find more details and guidance for the perfect result – CLICK HERE FOR THE WORKTOPS PAGE.

Call our Sales team on 01798 861611 or email:sales@wlwest.co.uk

Ash – Through & Through

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Traditional temperate species can be wonderful to the eye when made in to something beautiful, none more so than English Ash. Late in 2011 we bought a parcel of Ash quite locally. We milled it in September into a range of thicknesses, 27, 34, 41 & 54mm. We  hope some of it will be ready to kiln by April/May time.

You can see from the picture that we have taken care to protect the timber from stick marks by using plastic strips. The Ash has been under cover through its air drying process to make the most of its colour.

Traditionally Ash was used for sports products, steam bending and obviously the furniture trade.  It polishes beautifully. The stock of 41mm is long enough for Stair Strings.

It has gone out of favour inthe last few years, but with some of the problems being experienced with supply of American Ash, we hope that we see a resurgence in demand for the English variety.

Call our Sales team on 01798 861611 or email:sales@wlwest.co.uk