Training in the Timber Industry

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For some time now in this country there has been a lot of criticism of education that there has not been enough practical training for students. Computers and ‘clean hands’ options for students seem to have become the norm, with traditional ‘hands on’ trades falling behind.

I still think that there is a way to go, to ensure that we identify those students who are suited to ‘get their hands dirty’ in a practical way – Carpenter, bricklayer, plasterer, painter …….. the list goes on, rather than pointing them in an academic direction that they may fail in.

IMG_1743But it is changing, there are colleges who have thriving and growing construction skills departments, Chichester College is one of them.

We have had the pleasure in sponsoring the Furniture section of Chichester College for over 15 years. One element of our sponsorship is the end of year awards, of which we sponsor the years Best Furniture Ne wcomer. In 2016 we will also be sponsoring the Carpentry & Joinery Outstanding Achievement Award.

Why is all of this important? Well, from our company’s point of view it is two fold. We are seeing the beginning of the careers of possible future employees, and also the start of future customers.

It is therefore brilliant to hear that Chichester College furniture student Edward Harringman has just won Gold medal in the World Skills competition in Brazil. This is a tremendous accolade at the very start of Edward’s career. We would like to congratulate him on this award.

This is not a ‘one off ‘, Chichester College has entered students into the World Skills competitions for some years now, with previous students also winning Gold and lowIMG_1744er medals. This is a real reflection on the talents, skills and passion of the tutors at the college. Christian Notley, who heads up the Furniture team at the college, also has the role of World Skills UK Training Manager. At the end of each academic year, I get invited to the end of year exhibition for the furniture students, and every year I am amazed both at the quality of the work and the ideas for innovative furniture. Where the inspiration for the ideas comes from I don’t IMG_1754know, but I’m glad it does. The students work is awesome, and I’m glad that we are seeing male and female, young and mature students training together to give a vibrant future to our industry.

Well done Chichester College, its Principal – Shelagh Legrave and all of the tutors. You are leading the way in Construction training  .

 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

Young People in Furniture

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I had the pleasure again to attend Chichester College’s Construction Award evening recently. I make no apologies for repeating what some of you may have heard me say before, what amazing ideas and quality work.IMG_2255

We have had the pleasure of sponsoring Chichester College Furniture section for nearly fifteen years and sponsoring the Best Furniture Newcomer 1st Year for over a decade. The quality of the students work is amazing, and the ideas of some of them – mind blowing. The student tIMG_2256hat won our prize this year, Liam Maskell, is an apprentice at Rolls Royce Motor Cars in nearby Goodwood. Liam is a very ambitious and skilful young man, who was a pleasure to spend some time with. He produced a very delicate occasional table in Oak and Walnut veneer. He tells me that he hopes to become a member of Rolls Royce’s management development program in due course, I have no doubt he will be successful, and wish him every success.

I had a look around the college end of year furniture show, again, great ideas and quality. I was pleased to see that the winner of our prize last year – James Millard is continuing his training into the IMG_2252second year and still producing great items, a couple pictured here. The one piece that really took my eye was a beautiful barrel topped box made by one of the second year students, brilliant workmanship.

Chichester College is certainly leading in the education field, with a number of their students taking part in the World Skills competition and winning! They were graded 7th in the UK last year, this year 4th!! Keep up the good work and working with industry.

W L West & Sons are truly proud to continue the relationship with Chichester College.

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

12 Days of Christmas – Timber Style

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M0037We would like to wish all of our customers Past, Present and Future a

VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR

Walnut burr 2 (2)On the First day of Christmas my Timber Merchant brought to me…….. One WALNUT BURR – can be supplied with a Partridge when in season!, immediately available this Burr is well seasoned and will reveal some beautiful features when cut. This is a very large Burr standing approx 1.4 x 1.6m at its widest points.

On the Second day of Christmas my Timber Merchant brought to me…….. Two Curved Style Gates ideal for Doves to perch on. Curved Braced Gates Sept 2010 003Our skilled gatemakers will make you a superb Curved Style gate or any hardwood gate that you desire in any quantity, just give our team a call.

Boothman 009_2On the Third day of Christmas my Timber Merchant brought to me…….. Three dozen or more square metres of 200mm width flooring (raw material from France). Manufactured in our own workshops to your order, this beautiful hardwood flooring will grace your house for years to come.

On the Forth day of Christmas my Timber Merchant brought to me…….. Four hardwood worktops,PRO Site 001_2 first class to carve your four calling Christmas birds on. All of our hardwood worktops are bespoke, made to your own sizes in our West Sussex workshop. Making a spectacular feature in your kitchen. For Worktops page click here.

Australian and exotic 008On the Fifth day of Christmas my Timber Merchant brought to me…….. Five Turning Blanks, ready cut Rings of hardwood for our Wood Turning enthusiasts. Many different species, sizes and thicknesses on stock. Pop into our shop and have a browse.BALL2

On the Sixth day of Christmas my Timber Merchant brought to me…….. Six Oak Beams, beam 003v2we’re not sure about the Geese laying, but the well air drying Beams are laying in our yard. Various sizes available, these beams are sourced for their Air Drying qualities. We are able to offer planing and profile cutting facilities for beam as well.

Spalted BeechOn the Seventh day of Christmas my Timber Merchant brought to me…….. Seven cubic feet of Spalted Beech, well – not the correct beach to see Swans on, but beautiful when used in furniture. Available in Through & Through boards 100, 80, 54 & 50mm thicknesses.

On the Eighth day of Christmas my Timber Merchant brought to me…….. Eight fencers a Picture 172v2Fencing, well their not quite milk maids but they can fence a dairy pretty quickly. Yes, we have a Fence Installing Department as well. Trading as PRO Fencing and based in Farnham, Surrey our team can supply and install all types of fences. From timber fences and gates to steel security and ball court systems. Give Martin or Chris a call on 01252 726391 email: enquiries@profencing.co.uk

008On the Ninth day of Christmas my Timber Merchant brought to me…….. Nine Country Oak Doors, these will definitely get your Ladies a’dancing when they see them hung in your house. Again manufactured to your sizes in our West Sussex workshop out of beautiful Quercus Robur – Oak to you and me, these can be either Ledged and Braced or just Ledged. We can offer discounts on higher quantities.

On the Tenth day of Christmas my Timber Merchant brought to me…….. Ten Aussie Australian and exotic 005Burrs although you might not need ten! These will get the Lords a’leaping when the’re turning into elegant platters. We import these directly from Western Australia. Selected individually by our supplier these are amazing pieces of Australian timber. Available in Coolibah, Brown Mallee, Sheoak, Red Gum, Jarrah, Yellow Box, Silky Oak and White Top. As these are aimed at the craftsman they are in smaller sizes, call our shop or email them on shop@wlwest.co.uk for details.

DSC00089On the Eleventh day of Christmas my Timber Merchant brought to me…….. Eleven different mouldings, well, we can mould most moulding to your design with all tooling made in house. Even for Organ Pipes!! Yes if you have a requirement for moulded timber for whatever use, give us a call. We can manufacture from scratch to your drawings or we can match most historic moulding. Give our mouldings page a glance, there are many example of styles of moulding there.

HOLLY2On the Twelfth day of Christmas my Timber Merchant brought to me…….. Twelve cubic feet of Ash for TT Oak March 2011 028v2the hoops, Oak for shell and Yellow Pine for the inner hoop for our Drum customers. Yes, we have drum customers we supplied both Through and Through and square edge timber to them. So I think you can see we can meet most requirements for timber. Just call our sales team on 01798 861611 or email sales @wlwest.co.uk

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

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

The Mighty Oak – The most versatile timber in Europe!

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The Mighty Oak

What a grand name for one of our favourite natural species, to give it its full botanical name ‘Quercus Robur’. It has to be one of the most versatile European species, indeed probably one of the most versatile in the world. But then, I am biased – being Oak sawmillers!!

So what can you use Oak for then? Well its quite a long list.

Building – for constructional purposes ….. beams, (Oh! by the way, did you know that in a fire an Oak Beam behaves better that a steel joist? The Oak will charcoal on the outside and give the inner timber a bit of protection whilst still maintaining strength, where steel gets soft in heat and will bend. Of course nothing will survive a severe fire, but it is an interesting point).

Joinery – windows and doors, the heartwood of Oak has good durability even when left untreated, the sapwood will decay and be susceptible to insect attack, the heartwood is not. When treated correctly with a good timber treatment it will last even longer. Untreated it will turn a wonderful silvery grey.

Flooring and second fix items – By second fix we mean skirting’s, architraves, picture rails and much more. Flooring can be strip or parquet. Used internally the sapwood performs as well as the heartwood. The only difference is that visually it can be a quite different colour. We have many discussions with customers on this subject, from our point of view it is not considered a defect and will be measured in when we sell Oak plank. Furniture makers do not always like it. But it can give a stunning contrast in the right place.

Furniture – Of course, furniture has been made from Oak for centuries, and most of it will outlast us. Tables, Chairs, Beds, Dressers the list is only limited by our imagination.

Fencing & Gates – A traditional Oak fence will last years, match it with a beautiful hand made gate, and your garden and property will look amazing. Oak gates are something that we pride ourselves on. Our family has been making gates for decades, I could probably say centuries. Around Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire you can see examples of our craftsmanship that were made 30 or 40 years ago and are still is service.

I’ve probably missed a lot of uses out, so tell me in a comment.

What do we look for when we buy Oak? Well, if we are buying Oak logs we generally prefer to buy when the trees have been felled and are at roadside. This enables you to get a better idea of the quality of the timber.

Is it straight? Does the bark twist in a spiral? This often indicates twist in the timber as well, as the bark will normally grow in the same direction as the grain of the tree.

Has it got ring or star shake? This can sometimes be caused by the type of ground it is grown on and will almost definitely result in stresses in the timber, which will cause problems when cutting or machining it.

Can we get a good length to the first major stop? By this we mean to the first branch, clearly, where the branches are there will be what we term ‘a defect’ inside the log – a knot. Some small knots are acceptable, indeed they can disappear inside of the log. But larger ones cannot be worked around, especially if they are dead knots. Oh, yes, Dead knots are loose and in some cases have fallen out resulting in a hole, live knots are permissible dependant on size – these are ones that are firmly in place and have no chance of falling out.

Has it got good colour or is it patchy? Colour can sometimes run quite a way into the log, and sometimes it will taper out in a few centimetres. On occasion we find a Brown Oak log, this is where a fungus called Fistulina hepatica or more commonly known as beefsteak Fungus. A good consistent colour right through the tree is great and we can do something with it, but all too often it can be seen at the base, but not the top and will only go a few feet in, this then causes a patchiness of colour – which again, not all of our customers will accept.
So, what about sawn Oak? Well we do buy in two different forms, Through & Through (waney edged where we sliced the tree into plank but left the shape of the tree) and Square Edge where the timber has been cut to dimensions. In the main we use much of the criteria used on buying a tree and apply it to both of these methods of buying – is it straight grained, free of unacceptable defects (knots), good colour, minimal splits, minimal surface checking.

We do buy Through & Through already kilned from Europe, but we inspect and reject. Each plank is turned over and inspected and either accepted or rejected. We only buy what we feel meets our customers requirements. With square edge, this is graded more specifically and we can choose the grade to fit our customers needs.

So, what are the benefits? Well, by buying Through & Through that is already kiln dried, we can get it to market immediately. If we had cut it ourselves we would have had to air dry it for 1 year for each 1″ (27mm) thickness. Now, we do still sawmill our own logs but we also purchase kiln dried as well. Its a good mix.
With square edge we have the same benefits as Through & Through, plus we have now reduced the wastage by cutting it to widths. Theses are random widths and we sell ‘as arising’, meaning from the top of the stack. So we have again additional benefits.

Well, I am sure I have missed masses out about The Mighty Oak, but I guess you get the message – it is probably the most versatile European species available!!

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

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

Timber Industry and Education – A Team

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How do we get more young people into traditional industries? We have heard media coverage in the UK of our young people ‘not wanting to get their hands dirty’, and I do think that there is an element of our education system putting unrealistic aspirations into the minds of some of our students. It is not only impractical, but also costly to put them all through a university education. More than that, it is unnecessary. Our local colleges have an amazing amount to offer students, and we should encourage more colleges to offer more in the subject area of Woodworking. We have untapped talent in our students, some of them do not yet know it, and that is where industry and education MUST join in a partnership.

In 2000 I visited a senior tutor at Chichester College’s furniture department. I noticed several large signs from a competitor of ours, this company sponsored the woodwork department. It gave me the idea needed to start a long lasting relationship with the furniture department of Chichester College. Since 2000 we have been sponsoring the furniture department with materials. We regularly host visits at our Sawmills from Chichester college students, together with visits from other colleges and training establishments in the South, where we explain what is involved in taking a tree and converting it into a useable piece of timber, and all of the problems along the process. We explain what they should be looking for and considering when they buy timber. We feel that this relationship is an important part of the future of the Timber Industry as a whole. How else can we encourage potential stars to join one of the oldest industries in the world. It is important that our nations education system takes a different view on young people’s potential, they can’t all become .com millionaires, indeed a minuscule number of people worldwide ever achieve this level of financial success.

Along the timeline of our partnership with Chichester College, we started an additional sponsorship of a prize in the colleges annual prize giving for the construction department. So about 7 or 8 years ago the first W L West & Sons Ltd Best Furniture Newcomers prize was awarded. Over the years some of the students that have won this award have gone on to represent their college and country in the World Skills competition at a very high level. Now that truly is an accolade both for the students and the furniture department. Along the years they have had some extremely talented and dedicated tutors.

Just recently I again visited their end of year furniture show, they didn’t disappoint. Again the standard being produced in all of the years is amazing , not only in the quality of finish, but in the ideas. Where do they get the ideas from? Simply amazing. Every year the furniture department ‘raises the bar’ to use an Olympic term.  Recently the college finished In the top 10 of colleges nationally. This can only be as a result of top class tutors and visionary management.  Congratulations to Chichester College, long may it continue.

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

What! Yew again?

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An amazing avenue of Yew bushes in a local churchyard.

European Yew (taxus baccata), is a native of Western, Central and Southern Europe. It is also found in North Africa and the Middle East. It is a quite remarkable tree with some examples in the UK and Northern France dating back 2000 years or more! One of the oldest uses was for longbows, one of the first documented uses for longbows in England is in 1294. Traditionally Yew trees were planted in Church yards. There are many stories of why this was, from being planted over victims of the plague to purify and protect them to being planted out of the way of cattle, to which they are poisonous.

A great indication of the contrast between sap and heartwood.

The timber itself is almost unique in its appearance, being quite Orangy Red in the heartwood and cream almost white in the sapwood. This gives a dramatic contrast to any products made from this species. Although not a rare species, getting logs with sufficient girth and straightness to be sawmilled is a little rarer.

So….. back to the squares……….

We have a good number of Squares in three sizes and a variety of lengths, all with their own very individual character.

105 x 105mm, 135 x 135mm and 160 x 160mm. For a list of prices including VAT please CLICK HERE to go to our main web site.

In addition……..

We have also cut some Through and Through boards (waney edged) in 27, 41, 54, 65, 75 and 100mm. Can you imaging the contrast of this timber in a floor? How wacky would that be? This is in a mix of Air Drying and Kiln Dried, so a phone call is best to start your enquiry.

Now I said above that the Yew tree had been used for a number of uses over the years, well how about this…. while taking a few pictures of the Yew trees and bushes in a local churchyard, I came across the ultimate in natural garden sheds!!

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

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