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

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Rapold – Soul of Wood™

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Surface Design ShowWith the Surface Design Show almost upon us we are now prepared for next weeks show.

We will be showing – for the first time in the UK – Soul of Wood™ from RAPOLD Oak_7918With WMGmbH. We have been appointed as their UK distributors.

Zirbe_Swiss stone pine _7880With WMRAPOLD GmbH has introduced a product to the market that will revolutionize interior design. Soul of Wood™  timber design elements, carefully manufactured to preserve the soul of this natural product, are used by architects, boat builders and interior designers to create a previously unknown touch of exclusiveness in all areas of living space. Each piece is unique, no wall or piece of furniture resembles another.

This product is a truly natural product and produces a unique Soul of Wood TM RAPOLD Germany_5510_Soul of Wood TM im My-Sound-StudioWith WMfeature in any living or work space. Soul of Wood™ is currently available in Oak, Black Walnut and White Fir. It is hand cleft on the face, and planed on the rear and side four faces which allows it to be fixed to walls with out gaps.

Pop in to see us on Stand 154 at the Surface Design Show.

Download our Soul of Wood™ product info sheet on our product page.

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

LEARN TO TURN – Woodturning for all

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Would you like to be able to turn wood into beautiful things?

We are pleased to announce that we have a new wood turning tutor – Mr John Wyatt. John joins us in the Dsc00734New Year to bring you a course for beginners or perhaps for those of you who have ‘Jaded skills’.

John joins us after the sad passing of our previous tutor George Karon.

Our course is designed to teach you how to use a lathe safely and competently to produce a beautiful item. John will cover tool use, selection and control, sharpening of tools, parts of the lathe and its use. Cutting techniques and finishing.

Woodturning Course 021

The course is held at our teaching room at our sawmills in Selham, Petworth, West Sussex, GU28 0PJ. So you will be learning in the heart of the timber industry – with wood all around you!!

I have made it seem very simple! For more information have a look at our web site click the link here.

To download an application form with the current available dates, click here Woodturning Course form December 2012

Now, if your really take a shine to woodturning, we can also supply you with a lathe to meet your requirements ……. and

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pocket!, together with the correct tools to do the job. Pop into our shop and have a browse.

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

Record Power – Woodworking machines for enthusiasts

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Anyone who enjoys working with wood knows that good machines make completing a project very much easier. If you are like me, we were taught woodworking at school 40 years ago and if we tried to hand cut a piece of timber square now we would have a 50/50 chance of accuracy. Similarly, hand planing a piece of hardwood? No I don’t think so.

So, if you would like to either update some of the woodworking machines that you currently have or would like to start to create your own woodworking workshop, then pop along and see us on:

Wednesday 24 October 2012.

Record Power, a name synonymous with woodworking, will be holding a demonstration day at our premises from 10.00am until 4.00pm. We have been working with Record Power for some years now, and they manufacture very good woodworking machines. From small band saws, planer thicknessers to woodturning lathes. We are convinced that if you have a question on what machine to buy, that they will be able to answer you. Good prices too. Record Power are always trying to be competitive in their market, and so you will find extremely good prices.

So, whether you are an experience craftsman, enthusiastic amateur furniture maker or apprentice woodworker – pop along to our shop on Wednesday 24 October 2012. You can find us between Midhurst and Petworth in West Sussex, just off the A272 opposite the Halfway Bridge Inn – follow the signs for Selham and Graffham.

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

Family Heritage in Business – Is it important?

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How many old established family businesses do you know?

Obviously that is a very broad question, so lets narrow it down a little. What about family businesses that are 50 years old? I guess that you probably do. There must be hundreds if not thousands across the UK.

So how about 200 years? Well we are sure that Walter Luke Wests’s father (W L West) – James was born in 1799. In the 1851 census, James was 52 years of age, was married to Elizabeth and had 6 sons and 3 daughters (that were recorded at his address). His occupation was described as a ‘WOOD REVE’. We are struggling to find out what a ‘reve’ is, if indeed that is the correct translation of quite an old text! Four of his sons were described as Labourers in the woods. So clearly they were in the timber industry. Now, remember that James was 52 in 1851, it is probable that he would have started work at 14 or 15 years of age. So, we are sure that this is a tangible link that our hertiage in timber goes back at least 197 years!! It would not be unfair to assume that James’s father would have also been in the timber industry, but sadly, we cannot substantiate this. We have found Walter Luke West in the 1901 census, and was listed with wife, four young children, one daughter and three sons. His occupation was described as a Sawyer Timber.

What we do have are tangible records from 1865, these are timber felling records not disimilar to records used today to record timber purchases. These were James West’s buying records. The business as we know it today was formed in the first part of the last century by Walter Luke West and one of his elder sons Cecil. From that point there have been many many West’s involved in every part of the business.

So back to my headline – Is family heritage in business important? Well I guess that I am prejudiced, I am part of the W L West heritage, but we think it is important. Working with family is challenging, probably more so than non-family business, but it is also rewarding. The knowledge that what we have today stems from something 3 centuries ago is mind-blowing. Family businesses also ensure that there is a wealth of product knowledge handed down from father to son, cousin to cousin and so on. It is imperative that this knowledge is not lost. Our chairman is now into his mid seventies, but that doesn’t stop us asking him for an opinion or him from taking an active interest in what goes on, and long may the knowledge tree exist.

Sadly there are many family businesses that are going out of business, some because of the economic climate, but some because there is no natural family progression or the family is not interested. To date we have not had that problem. My grandfather – Walter Luke West (W L West) had 15 children (no TV in those days!) and we understand he was one of 12 children.

How big is that Oak Tree?

Running a business always has its tough times, but we try to make ours one big family.

So – are family businesses important? Well we think so.

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

Gates that span decades!!

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We have been making gates in West Sussex for decades. These are mainly in hardwoods and Oak in particular, but we also construct bespoke softwood gates where our customers require them.

The gates are made using skills that have been handed down over the many, many years and quite a few employees. Walking or driving around the lanes of West and East Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire you can often see our distinctive blue gate tags on the top bars of gates.

Recently, we were asked to replace the gates at Rogate Church in West Sussex, together with the church yard gates. These were quite an unusual design and the Parish Council wanted them replicated and for the top rail to be engraved as a memorial. One of our strengths is that we are able to take an existing gate and copy it, sometimes we have to make slight changes that make it a stronger gate, but generally we can copy like for like.

When we recovered the old gates they had some interesting ironmongery on them, which we carefully removed and restored ready to be fitted on the new gates. There proudly sitting on the top rail was one of our old oval gate tags. On closer inspection it had our original Midhurst telephone number on it, well we moved out of Midhurst in 1986 and the gates were installed many years before that. So, we estimate that they were at least 40 years old and they were still in reasonable order. So our gatemaker went to work and produced two superb pairs of replacement gates. They were fitted by our own fence erectors and now sit looking forward to at least another 4 decades.

We can make a variety of different gates from field and hunting gates, to panel driveway gates to specialist gates as I have demonstrated above. Below is a selection of the sorts of gates that we have made, something to wet your taste. Have a look at our website Gate Page (click here) to get an idea of other styles of gate.

I mentioned above engraving, this is something we can do for footpath signs, house signs and indeed gate backs. All we need is the names that you want engraved, we do the rest. Indeed, we are able to undertake sign engraving onto timber for a variety of uses.

Call us with your enquiry; we are certain we will be able to meet your gate enquiry.

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