New EU Timber Regulations ……. are you prepared?

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Are you aware of the European legislation that will affect ALL timber traders from next year?

With effect from 3 March 2013 – Regulation (EU) No 995/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010 (EUTR) comes into force. This piece of legislation has been in discussion for some considerable time and has been commented on by many different organisations. Our input has been through our membership of the Timber Trade Federation. You can click on the title of the legislation above to go direct to the EU website.

The legislation covers most timber products (excluding recycled) and mandates everyone involved in the supply chain to prove that the timber has originated from legal sources. The legislation classes the timber trade into two categories, Operators – these are people who place timber for sale for the first time in Europe, and Traders – who are people who in the course of a commercial activity, sell or buy within the European market.

Quite a few of us we will be classed as Traders. In simple terms, this means that we have to prove who we purchase timber and timber products from, and who we sell them to. This information must be kept for at least 5 years.  Most of us have some type of purchase and sales invoicing system and this will provide the framework to meet the legislation. From our point of view, we are meeting our EUTR obligations by being signatories to the Timber Trade Federations – Responsible Purchasing Policy. A mandate of membership which is audited every year.

For Operators the requirement is more onerous. Operators must prove that the timber or timber product being placed onto the European Market for the first time is from legally harvested timber. Evidence of a robust due diligence system must be demonstrated. The due diligence systems must be periodically audited to maintain the robustness of the legislation.

But beware – it is possible that even if you are a Trader and therefore purchasing within Europe, if it is proved that you have been supplied illegal timber, and you have received it unknowingly, you can still be liable to prosecution and confiscation of product!!

We are in the favourable position of being ahead of the game with our trade federation, but our feeling is that there are many businesses out there who are oblivious to this new law. This is very concerning, we feel that there are many craftsmen and traders that do not know about the legislation or think it does not apply to them. If you feel that you are unsure, then you really ought to make some enquiries. It is better to be sure than face a prosecution through lack or research.

You can gain more information from the following website:

Timber Trade Federation – EU Timber Regs Guidance

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

John O’Groats to Lands End by Pedal Power – The Epilogue

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As you have hopefully read in my previous posts, Gerard Magill, our timber buyer here at W L West & Sons Ltd, undertook to cycle from John O’Groats to Lands End with a group of friends. The trip was very successful. I wrote the previous blogs by gaining information from a closed Facebook page written by the support team using mobile apps. Gerard returned this Monday – Larger Legs – Hungry – and enjoying all of the rest he can get. I asked him to summarise his journey in his own words, the elements that I could not possibly write myself, so here is his summary of his 8 days of cycling.

There were some very hard times during the trip and some very good times.

Waking up each morning I often lay there wondering how on earth I was going to ride 120 miles that day.

Over nine days riding we averaged 16 mph over the day. Previously at home I’d been riding 50 miles at 14 mph so we were on a pretty rich pace, led by Mark and Neil, two very keen, fit (and younger) cyclists.

I hadn’t realised how important nutrition was. Eating late the night before meant we were pretty full in the morning but still managed to down a full English (Scottish / Welsh) Breakfast. Each hour we had to consume 90g of carbohydrate to maintain our calorie input, so our breaks were spent scoffing fruit, chocolate and energy drinks. Generally we had a late lunch after 70 miles and then had a three course meal in the evening. I still managed to lose a bit of weight and have been ravenous ever since completing the journey!!  Each day we were supported by Clare who was driving the Minibus with the bags, spares and food. She was magic and had a great gift for identifying what we needed before we did. It was like having our own personal Guardian Angel!

They were members of the group that I’d met just before leaving and spending such a lot of time together meant I get to know them pretty well in a short space of time. Luckily we had British humour to keep us going and the smiles took the stress out of the miles. After sharing a room with Mark one night he moaned that it had taken him over an hour to get to sleep. I mentioned that he was snoring after ten minutes and he replied that he did that because he didn’t want to talk to me!

Being 53 I feel that I have achieved something doing the ride, but I wasn’t sure what it was. I’d seen some beautiful countryside, met some wonderful people and been part of a great team. Then I discovered that I’ve raised nearly £1000 for the MS Society so a big THANK YOU to everyone for all of the sponsorship and donations. After that everything seemed to make sense, including sleeping on my tummy for a week!

Would I do it again? Well Dave West asked me that question when I returned to work and………. Yes, I would, I learnt a lot as it was the first JoG2LE trip that I have done, so I would make some changes in how I did it …. No good getting older if you don’t get wiser!!

Thank you Gerard and a very big congratulations to you and the rest of the team. I know that they all had their own charities and it is likely that the whole team have raise between £3000 and £4000, I think that deserves applause and a well earned rest, although I know it won’t be long before Gerard is back in the saddle.

If you would like to support Gerard’s charity, his Just Giving page is still open at: www.justgiving.com/Gerard-Magill

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

John O’Groats to Lands End by Pedal power … Days 7 to 9 The final chapter!!

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After breakfasting with Gerard’s sister, Ani, who had come over to Monmouth to wish the team well, Day 7 (Thursday 12/07/12) saw the team leave Monmouthshire cycling alongside the River Wye, the day started off reasonably dry. After getting to Chepstow, they crossed the River Severn via the Old Severn bridge. Down to Bristol and under one of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s great creations – The Clifton Suspension bridge. At this point the rain started and stayed for the remainder of the day. They then headed down over the Mendips. One of the team managed to have a double puncture which delayed him for a time. The rain continued and increased in severity with most of the team meeting in Bridgewater. Gerard had managed to get down to Taunton and was found shivering at the side of the road. All of the team had arrived at their destination in Tiverton by 6 o’clock in the evening, absolutely drenched. The forecast for the  Friday starts with rain and finishes dry, lets hope the dry weather arrives earlier!

The penultimate day sees the a push across Devon and into Cornwall. They left Tiverton at 8.45 for a bit shorter day – 100 miles, but a 7000ft climb. The early start was, as predicted WET, with Truro as the end of day target. Today was probably the worst weather and the most demanding terrain of the whole trip, with headwinds being the most strength sapping conditions they have experienced all week.. The team arrived in Truro 100 miles and a few sore limbs later, for food and few beers and rest before the final day of the challenge.

Saturday and the final thrust to Land End. The team started out at 8.15 and headed towards the Lizard peninsular, this is the most southerly point in the UK, and will mean that the will have visited both the most Northerly and the most Southerly as well as the two furthest points of the UK. The team all reached Lands End by 13.45 in good spirits, to welcomes from their family. All exhausted and looking forward to a good meal, rest and quality time with their families.The whole journey covered 923 miles with 67 hours and 45 minutes in the saddle. The average speed was 13.62mph and the fastest recorded speed was 50.5mph!!! on a bike ? Must have been Mick Bleach downhill ….. with the wind behind him!!

I hope to post more photo’s from the trip shortly together with a personal account of the adventure from Gerard.

This trip has been a personal challenge for all of the riders and they all have their chosen charities to support. Gerard’s is the Multiple Sclerosis Society and he can be supported by clicking on: www.justgiving.com/Gerard-Magill

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

Water, Water – everywhere!!

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Well we have now been on a hosepipe ban by Southern Water since April due to the severe shortages of water in reservoirs. In that time it has hardly stopped raining, it has to be, without doubt, the wettest drought in living history!!

Those of you that have visited us may know that we are located right beside a river, any sign of heavy rain and the river bursts its banks and the road closes to all but either those equipped with tractors, those who are foolhardy or those that really do not know the area and think they will ‘take a chance’. This afternnoon we have witnessed all of the above!! Having said that, it is higher than we have seen it for a good number of years, the water just reaching our main gate.

But when on earth is the sun going to shine? It is almost the Summer Solstice – 21st of June and we have had a week of very hot weather in March??? whats that all about?, a few hot days in May but little else. How will this affect our timber? It will certainly change the air drying stock and slow it down, this could be good as it may let the timber dry a little more gently.

Well lets hope things get more postive both weatherwise and tradingwise towards the end of June and into July. So for those of you slogging away in the workshop working on the next project………

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