Hardwoods – Are we being respectful??

In my last blog I spoke about the fact that there will be specification reductions in Oak, and continued price increases. I also sowed the seed of thought that we should give timber a greater respect.

I recently visited Carrefour du Bois in Nantes. One of the largest timber exhibitions in Western Europe, and a great opportunity to speak to a wide variety of suppliers. The comments of my previous post were ratified with many, if not all the sawmillers and timber merchants that we spoke to saying that they are experiencing difficulties in sourcing good Oak logs.

I stood chatting to a UK friend in the industry about how we in the UK view timber, and the direction of our conversation led us to the conclusion that timber has become a commodity, an item on the shelf to be selected on a whim. In many ways disrespectful to a material that has been growing for decades if not centuries. As an analagy, we in the timber industry are being asked for ‘Caviar’ timber for ‘Burger’ prices. There seems to be no consideration for the whole process that goes into the production of the end product. Cheap seems to be the way in the UK. We saw a great example of this a few years ago when we tried to market some superb hardwood fence panels constructed with stainless steel fixings, where the British public spend hundreds of pounds on plants, they want cheap fence panels.

We regularly hear – No knots, no splits, no pin holes, no colour change. Why? Those features add character to the end product, they are natural, and environmentally, if we include them we can use more of the timber thus being more respectful to the original tree. We should be using more of the tree and creating less waste or by-product. Is it that we have lost the knowledge of how to utilise the whole tree? Have those skills really disappeared?

I think in the UK we possibly have the worst attitude to hardwoods in that we want the holy grail. Attitudes to a more varied quality really do need to change. A better understanding of timber from those designing and specifying need to be achieved and we in the industry need to encourage that to happen if we truly, as a country, want to be environmentally conscientious.  Our company tries very hard to ensure we utilise as much of the timber we buy as possible, this is not only an economic decision, its an environmental one as well, shavings recycled to animal bedding, slabwood to biomass and small offcuts to firewood.

So, moving forward, we need to think a little more about what we are using the timber for, do we really need clear, no knots timber? Could you use a different grade? Could we fill any knots and make feature? Have you really discussed this with your end client? Are they aware of the amount of waste that can occur from restricting specifications?

Come on UK, we can do better – Use Timber Wisely!!

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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Make the most of Timber!

IMG_7262As part of the construction industry, the timber trade is one of the oldest parts of it. But are we making the most of the timber we use? Could we be more aware? Could we reduce the wastage and get more from the timber? Haven’t we got a responsibility to make the most of a piece of timber that may have been growing for up to 200 years?

The answer to all of these questions is yes!!

Often our salesIMG_7675 team get asked for wider boards and longer lengths of timber, which we are happy to supply where required. However, often, either in passing, or after extensive conversation about the customers project, we find that the 200mm wide board that we have been asked for (and could be harder to find) is being ripped down into 4 x 45mm width boards. Similarly, the customer who insists on 5m long boards we discover is cutting them into 2 x 2.5m lengths!!

IMG_1197I could say ‘It doesn’t grow on trees’ but obviously it does, but for how long? The trees that make those long lengths and wider boards are in the minority they are not the norm. So please, when you are ordering, tell your supplier what your end sizes are, you may find that they can offer a more competitive price, and we make more out of a natural product that has been growning for decades.

Our industry has an environmental duty to make the most out of our natural resource, please, think when you order.

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

Sustainability – Do we understand it?

DSC03305v2Sustainable?

One of the Oxford English dictionary definitions of  ‘Sustainable’ is ‘Able to be maintained at a certain rate or level’. But what does that mean in the timber industry?

Timber is a sustainable product, we all know that. It can grow again given robust forestry practises. However, lets take the European Oak – Quercus Robur, a staple in the construction and furniture industry in North Western Europe. It is sustainable, but not necessarily in larger sizes and lengths. The Oak, as we all know has a very long life cycle, saplings planted in 2016 probably will not be ready for harvest of a good size until 2116!!! So sustainable yes, but over a long period. Wide diameter and long logs may not be available indefinitely.

TT Oak March 2011 003Why, you ask am I rabbiting on about this? Well, in my view when we talk about ‘Sustainable’ those of us in the timber industry – from Forester to Carpenter and every process in-between, should all be making the absolute most of the timber that we are using.

I see the word ‘Sustainable or Sustainable supply’ on nearly all timber related websites, whether supplier or customer. Do we use the word without thinking about what it means? Why do we see timber returned for the smallest of knots or character? Where have the skills in carpentry, joinery and cabinet making gone? Our forbear craftsmen, many of which are in their 90’s or not now with us, would have been able to look at the piece of timber, turn it around in their hands a few times and then know exactly how to use that piece of timber on their project with whatever knot or character it contained. We have some fantastic modern wood fillers now, some you mix with the species wood dust that is almost undetectable in knot holes once sanded, a great solution to ensure we can use all of the timber.

We take a customer order, then select from either a square edged board or waney edged board to cut and machine the order. We select in good faith knowing through experience that trees have branches. We buy as good a timber grade as the market can supply. We ensure that we get the very best recovery rates possible to minimise wastage at every stage. But having cut the job in good faith, we then have timber returned that, in our opinion could be used given higher skills in the industry, because it has a knot or a small split, what are we meant to doIMG_6036 with it once it is cut?  Our plan to minimise wastage has gone out of the window – together with the profit margin!! So, not very ‘Sustainable’!!!!!

We must, must, must as an industry take a more responsible look at how we use each and every piece of wood we cut. We need to educate our customers that trees have branches and all sorts of other beautiful characters in it. We must encourage them to accept that clear timber is not the be all and end all, that timber is natural and that every piece is unique.

Then we may be able to truly claim our industry meets ‘Sustainable’ practises!!

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

150 Years in the Timber Industry

wlw logo v6 1865-2015There are not many companies that can boast 150 years in business !! But we can!

www.wlwest.co.uk

Donald & Cecil West 1930s with mother at New rd site
Donald  with Cecil West and Mary, their mother in the wheelbarrow

This year we are celebrating 150 years in the timber industry. We have standing timber records back to 1865 (see below), these were used to record the dimensions of the round timber being purchased. To be honest, it is probable that these were not the first records, our current family members can trace their Great Grandfather – James West, back to the 1851 census. He was aged 52 and described as a ‘Wood Reve’ – which, according to Collins Dictionary was a ‘Steward responsible for wlw timber records 004a wood’. 

So ….. the West family have been in the timber industry for a long time. Indeed of Walter Luke West’s 15 children, yes you read right, 15 children, 6 of the sons were wlw timber records 001involved with the business at some time. Latterly various members of the family have been involved, some long term and some dipping in and out at various times.

  

Sawmill Severals road midhurst 1912_1918
An early sawmill 1912-1918

The foundations of the current company were laid in the 1920/30’s by Walter Luke West and Cecil Owen West – Father and Son and Grandfather and Uncle of two of the current directors. Initially working in the woods, the early premises were located on a corner of the railway yard in Midhurst. working with steam to power the saws. Slowly additional ground was purchased, with Dr Richard Beeching MP increasing the availability of land with his cuts of the railways. We eventually bought the whole  site and developed our sawmilling there until 1986 when we moved to our current location.

Our directors have included members of the family for the whole of our history. Family members are still on the board of directors which also includes Simon Smith as one of our Joint MD’s and Heather Rickards who is our Accounts Director, both of which have over 20 years each with the company.

WLW Steam engine 1951 being towed to Ansells
Our static steam engine being towed to a new owner

I had a look at the current team here, and in particular the members that are involved in the timber production. Of the 16 people involved in the various stages of buying, selecting, converting and manufacturing timber products, there is 469 years of experience in our industry.

Unloading at New Road 1960s
Unloading Oak in the 1960’s

The timber industry in the UK has changed over the years, that has meant changing with the times. We focus very much in working with our clients on projects, many of which we work with for many months working through to project conclusion. Our portfolio is wide reaching these days, spend a few minutes having a look at our website – http://www.wlwest.co.uk it includes machined and profiled timber, cladding, worktops and bartops, bespoke gates, beam timber and much more.

What is clear, if you have a project that includes timber, having a chat with us is a good idea. We would love to get involved with your projects.

 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

Rapold – Hand Cleft Shingles

www.wlwest.co.ukSurface Design Show

IMG_7504WMWe have been busy during January preparing for the Surface Design Show held at the Business Design Centre in Islington on 4 – 6 February 2014.

This is a new venture for us and launches our relationship with Rapold GmbH for the UK distributorship of Hand Cleft roof IMG_8057WMand Wall Cladding Shingles. Rapold GmbH are a family business with a heritage in timber that goes back over 80 years.        Harald Rapold approached us 2 years ago as he felt that the synergy IMG_5488 WMbetween our two companies would make a strong base for the UK. Indeed, between us we have nearly 230 years experience in the timber industry.

Rapold pride themselves on a hand made product, using traditional skills. They ensure that the logs are carefully selected for their straight grain and size. Their team them hand cleave them into the required sizes.

Shingles are available in Oak, Larch , Robinia and White Fir. This is a truly renewable method of roofing using a IMG_7339WMnatural materials that has been used for thousands of years. Traditionally used on churches, they have had a renaissance and are being used as part of modern construction, not just on roofs but wall cladding externally and internally.

Click here for our Shingle Catalogue 

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

Modern Meets Traditional

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A chance meeting and subsequent conversation with an Architectural Technologist recently has led me to read his CPD blog, you can too at: blog.konstrukshon.com . His ability to look at the things that surround us inspired me when I visited London last week. The day was bright and warm and I decided to wander east along the south bank from the Tate Modern Gallery  to Tower Bridge. It is amazing, London must have one of the most diverse mixes of Buildings of any city in the UK.

globeNot far from Borough Market is the reconstruction of Shakespeares Globe theatre. Framed in Oak, it has used traditional construction methods to recreate the atmosphere of yesteryear London.

I carried on along the south bank towards Tower Bridge passing Boris’s Office of the Lord Mayor of London, and across the bridge to St Katherines docks. There has been a dock here since 1125, and similar to the rest of London, has an amazing history. Today it has been converted to offices, apartments andGloriana credit DC07703 Daren clarkev3   leisure facilities, with the dock used as a marina. Here I found the current home of the Gloriana a boat built to celebrate the Queens Diamond Jubilee last year, and one that we had pleasure in supplying timber for. Have a look at my post from last year.

Now on the north bank of the Thames, I made my way Eastwards back towards the oak in london building 002Millennium bridge. Past the Tower of London, and nearer to the traditional seat of finance in the City of London. I wasn’t rushing and in a moment I had to do a double take, amongst the acres of glass were huge baulks of Oak holding the fascia of a building up. On further investigation I found that the building is the home of Nomura – a Japanese financial services company in London. This was the first Carbon Neutral building in London. Designed by Fletcher Priest Architects on the site of a former telephone exchange, it is a brilliant example of how one of the oldest materials known to man – Oak Beam, can be incorporated into a hi-tech building with acres of glass. It looks amazing and if you have an hour spare in London, its well worth a walk along the river. You can see it easily from the south bank as well.oak in london building 005v2

So my jaunt finally brought me back to the Tate Modern, a former power station, recycle, recycle, recycle.

oak in london building 003Timber? A natural resource, a renewable resource, an amazing resource, and one we must encourage more architects to use.  Mix it with Glass, Stainless Steel, Stone, Brick you name it and it will look good with it. Brilliant, what an amazing material our industry has available.

Dave West

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

A new Direction – Signage at its best.

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Good quality and tasteful signage adds a lot to a business or domestic property.

We have been signing the countryside for a number of years now, working with many agencies to supply footpath signs. So lots of you will have been following our lead when you have been out for the Sunday walk.

More recently we have been working with the National Parks Authorities supplying signage for various areas across the South Downs.  Most of these signs have been in Oak, naturally durable and a fitting material for the countryside. The lettering on these have been spray painted to allow the sign to stand out, something we are able to offer with all signs.

Gate backs are a really good way of showing a name of a property without have to have a separate sign. Prior to constructing the gate, we engrave the back (top rail) of the gate, the gate is then constructed and sanded to leave a stunning finish.

Customers often ask us to make memorial benches to be sited sometimes in public areas such as sports grounds or parks, but occasionally in private gardens. I think this is a lovely way to remember someone, especially if they were outdoor people. We use a similar method to the gates, we engrave the tope rail of the bench before assembly.

More recently, we have been making commercial business signs, including our own. Our technology allows us to use a small CAD package to create lineage and most logos to be engraved into timber. The signs can be either left natural or treated to maintain the colour of the timber, the letters can be painted to meet your company’s colour scheme.

Call us to discuss your sign, we are sure that we can make you a sign that will meet and beat your expectations.

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