Training in the Timber Industry

wlw logo v6 1865-2015www.wlwest.co.uk

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

www.wlwest.co.uk

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

The Mighty Oak – The most versatile timber in Europe!

www.wlwest.co.uk

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

What! Yew again?

www.wlwest.co.uk

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

Hardwoods into Art – Part 2

www.wlwest.co.uk

Last month I wrote a blog about one of our customers, a woodturner who produced items which I could only describe as Art.

Another of our customers Nicola Henshaw, is a sculptor who produces work that again truely can only be described as Art, again Hardwoods into Art.

Nicola has been sculpting for more than 20 years having studied Three Dimensional design at Wolverhampton University. She produces functional and decorative art for indoors and your garden. Nicola has won various commissions many of which are local to her home in the New Forest.

She received a Crafts Council Grant to set up a studio at 401 Workshops in London, where she worked for 14 years, alongside 35 artists and makers. She moved to the New Forest, Hampshire in 2003 and  produces pieces for commissions and speculatively for galleries. Her work is highly regarded internationally and has been commissioned by a wide range of private, corporate and public clients, including Iwatya in Japan, Himatsingka Siede in India, Freehand in USA, The Forestry Commission, The National Trust, Hampshire, Essex, Yorkshire, Dorset and South Lanarkshire County Councils.

Again Nicola’s work is an example of the enourmous number of different uses that we can put timber to. Nicola uses Oak and Lime sourced from us to turn into Art!! Making a truely unique piece of furniture.

I think one of the amazing things about anyone who creates items in wood is where do the ideas come from? Looking at Nicola’s work there is a clear and unmistakable wildlife theme. Have a look at her website at: www.nicolahenshaw.co.uk or give her a call on 01590 623654. I am sure that she would be only too pleased to talk to you about her work and any ideas you may have for a commission.

Click here if you would like to read the first ‘Hardwoods into Art’.

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