Sticky timbers

It’s all about the wood.

It’s why we do what we do. It’s all we do.

Our work  is to produce beautiful timber. It’s the kind of work that hasn’t changed in over 30 years… and the same can probably be said for our methods but that is a good thing!

We’re all working with a knowledge that has been passed down through the company since the sawmill was started on this site in the 1940’s (wanna see some pictures? … give me a few days… I know I put them somewhere round here) .

So I thought it might be interesting to try to capture some of the ‘how’ of what we do.

The guys seemed quite into that, so one day Graham and Grant went to work with a camera and this is what they gave me.

How we put a log into ‘stick’

I think it’s a nice place to start because it’s the near beginning of  life-in-the-yard if you’re a piece of wood…   ready?

Hang on it’s a roller coaster ride!

So, the log Graham and Grant are working on here is a 46mm thick (will be 41mm stock), prime Oak cut through & through (T&T). It’s one of a mixed parcel of Sweet Chestnut, Oak & Pippy Oak that were cut in the first week of January this year.

First of all the freshly cut, tightly banded log gets retrieved from the yard and brought to a good flat working space with the loadall. The back of Peter’s kiln dried shed is a favourite spot… out of the weather and within earshot of Cliff and the Shadows !

Next, get rid of the band, release the timber and make sure you have everything you need to hand before you start…

.. and have a quick brush up to keep Peter’s domain in the manner in which it is accustomed.

Now we start the important stuff…  put a tape measure along the length and take the measure.. this one is 5.6 m long.

Then we start the the laying out.

With the smaller thickness logs the guys can use their brute strength to handle each board – thicker boards need the forklift for every move (which is why we’re getting them a vacuum lift but ssshhhhhhh don’t tell them…  it’s a surprise!!) – ok, back to work.. so the first board goes down onto the bearers..

Graham gets down and takes the width measure from half way down the log so that we get an average width…  remember, trees are tapered – wide at the bottom narrowing at the top – so it would be very difficult to measure every board and log accurately…  instead we measure to get a median.

The measures are recorded on our bandmill production sheet so we can enter the information onto our stock system for future reference and also to calculate volume of production yield.

Then we get to the sticks.

We use  fresh sawn Poplar (otherwise known as Tulipwood) for sticks. In our experience this species is benign – it doesn’t react with any other species & doesn’t stain – and is suitable for use with species we’re cutting. We do re-use them until they whilst they are straight and clean. Once they are damaged, bent, dirty,  rotten they are no good as sticks but are great for kindling!

Graham places the sticks down the length of the board…  starting 100mm in from the end – so we can get our fingers into the end of the log when we need to! – and then placing them evenly every 500mm. The positioning of the sticks on the first board is where the sticks on every consecutive board will go.

The main purpose of ‘sticking’ logs is to allow the ventilation of each board as evenly as possible and in that process ensuring that pressure (weight) is evenly distributed so boards will season and air dry as flat as possible.  It’s effectively ‘setting’ the timber in position because it’s very soft when first cut and hardens over the years of drying.

You can imagine what would happen if the sticks were staggered !?!

Recording the log measure and the timber characteristics is important. This is information we then store and it allows us to have a view of the stock from the safety and warmth of our office (one of our dream goals is to make that information available via our website … with pictures of course!).

We also mark the boards, making notes on knots, splits, cracks and dimensions, this same information is noted on the production sheets. This board has a split in the grain between some of that striking  medullary ray. In our T&T logs the centre boards are quarter sawn so have medullary ray but this does vary in intensity). This is a good one!

So we carry on down, or up, the log until it is completely whole again.

Did you notice that strange looking hammer that Graham is keeping close at hand? It’s very precious so who ever is in charge of it is under alot of pressure not to lose it!

It’s our tag hammer. It fixes the timber tags to logs and boards.  Every round log has a tag that someone.. usually Tom.. has stuck on the log when it was out in the woods after felling.

The round timber tag number is useful up to a point.. but then we want to re-tag it and re-number it once it has been through the bandmill so that we can enter it into our air dried stock.

Both tag numbers are logged on the production sheet, and that information stays with the timber for it’s life in our yard, so that we always have an audit trail back to the point of origin.

It’s the process that FSC and PEFC certification uses, we just happen to have managed our English timber this way as a matter of course.  English timber doesn’t really need a certificate to prove it’s worthiness interms of sustainability…  it is inherently sustainable and audit-able and the felling has always been overseen by the Forestry Commission… but I digress..

On to tags.

Old round timber tag, new air dried timber tag.

Invariably the old tag gets cut through or falls off… good job Graham makes a note of it!

Now we’re getting to the end of the line… the log is whole, sticked, tagged, measured and listed on production.

Graham lovingly straps the log up, compressing the boards slightly ensuring the sticks are fixed inposition and won’t wander when the log…  especially a 5.6m log like this one… bows under it’s own weight on the fork tines.

Now all we have to do is put it into the air dried yard with the rest of the Oak 41mm stock cut this winter!  Which bay is it in again Graham? 

Now look at all the sticky logs!

And here they will sit.. organised and tidy.. and sticked… and they’ll get circulated within the stack – usually no more than 3 or 4 logs high – until they have been seasoned fully and are ready to be kiln dried ( when they get to 18 – 22% moisture.

The logs in this picture will be in Peter’s kiln dried stock shed in a minimum of 2 years time..  watching paint dry has nothing on watching wood dry!  We’ve turned (no pun intended)  it into an art form here at Cocking… 

and the last thing you can accuse us of is impatience… ok, well maybe I’m a bit on the impatient side…  don’t snigger you lot!

So now you know all about sticking, the English Woodlands Timber way.

Know more about timber:

The Timber Research and Development Association is a first-port-of-call timber resource. You can register to get a limited amount of inforamtion – still useful – or join and take advantage of everything they have to offer – if you work with wood I’d recommend it  http://www.trada.co.uk/

Forestry Commission – find out more about forest industry grants & licenses and how English forest & woodland is managed http://www.forestry.gov.uk/website/fchomepages.nsf/hp/gbigl

About timber grading…  it’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth   http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/MTG-WEB.pdf/$FILE/MTG-WEB.pdf

About certification and chain of custody – PEFC  http://www.pefc.co.uk/about-pefc/about  and FSC  http://www.fsc.org/about-fsc.html

I have no idea why this cafe is called waney edge but next time I go to Melksham I’m going there… how could I not?  http://www.waneyedgecafe.net/

I must be hungry or something.. look what I just found.. another wood based cafe name  http://www.theoldsawmill.co.uk/

I was looking to see how other people dry their timber and I found amazingly little of real interest (apart from in the USA!!)  but I did find Jeff Segal who really knows his stuff… from the log right through to the finely crafted furniture … http://www.jeffsegalworkshop.co.uk/timber/index.php

Books – I love books and there are so many great wood and wood related books. I thought this looked like a very useful book Wood and How to Dry it  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wood-How-Dry-Fine-Woodworking/dp/091880454X/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1328716520&sr=8-17#_  although haven’t read it. It’s a compilation of articles from Fine Woodworking  http://www.finewoodworking.com/  magazine which is very well thought of – whoever reads it first… the book that is… I want a review..!

Visit our website  http://www.englishwoodlandstimber.co.uk to know more about us.

Posted on February 8th 2012 under air dried timber, english hardwoods, fresh sawn timber, round timber, woodland management. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 Comments

  • Posted February 13, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Fascinating insight into timber and the processes involved in getting it ready for use. Any more stories?

  • Posted February 10, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting! A lot more in depth than the small country saw mills I grew up around. One was owned by a man named Gilstrap (last name), which was the busiest! Actually, it was real busy.

    Neat to see the whole process.

    I use a lot of kiln dried wood to build frames.

    I would love to know more about the kiln drying process as well.

  • Posted February 8, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic, what a great insight into where our timber comes from.

    Will you do a follow up on the kiln drying proces? And sooner than in two years time when this lot is ready….

    • Posted February 9, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      Thank you!
      We will definitely do that. Next time we open a kiln we’ll do it… we have one that should be ready in 2 weeks time. Graham will love that!

  • Sandie
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting, great pictures, but i am not sure about the warmth in the office!!

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