Sycamore is one of our favourite English timber species. We treasure it for it’s delicate lustred colouring and fine grain. The trees are sizeable so board size can be fantastic and it’s relatively easy to source good quality logs so it’s a big hit with furniture makers and manufacturers.
What’s in a name?
Acer pseudoplantanus is Sycamore’s botanical name but it’s also known as Great Maple, European Sycamore, Sycamore Plane, and Sycamore Maple. Confused? Well Sycamore & Maple are both Acers and as trees not so very different, plus Plane (Platanus) has similar qualities and appearance as a tree so it’s understandable they’ve all been mistaken for each other in the past. For us wood people they’re actually 3 quite identifiably different timbers, which of course means more choice for you if you’re a furniture maker or an interior designer or specialist joinery!
Sycamore trees are native to the UK, deciduous and fairly commonly found from well managed, sustainable woodland sources. The trees can grow to enormous dimensions of 50m height and 1.5m diameter or more and so it follows that Sycamore logs are substantial in size too. As a timber its hardwood, pale white wood. The sap and heartwood are the same colour size and visual qualities. It’s grain is broad, strong and vibrant because the annual growth rings of the tree are very marked. The overall colouring is creamy yellow with the marked growth rings a rich reddy-brown. We think SYP is a very handsome looking timber and have found that it’s graphic ‘woodgrain’ look means it’s growing in popularity all the time.
The European Sycamore is know to be the hardest, strongest pine in existence and it’s is fairly durable and resistant to decay.
For us the striking characteristics of this timber are it’s big, distinctive grain pattern, the large dimensions and durability. An interesting combination of qualities for a creative designer maker or joiner to work with.
This is a timber species that’s not exactly common, we have cut and dried it for the last… oh uh um…. at least 3o years. It’s been a staple on our stock but a niche timber in the great scheme of things, sought out by traditional furniture makers and turners who knew their stuff. Interestingly we’ve seen an increase in demand recently, perhaps because homegrown timber use is increasing but we think it’s a reflection on a revival of interest in the knowledge base of wood and wood culture and we’re thrilled this is the case, not least of all because Sycamore timber deserves to be treasured!
For projects that require a clean, white colouring or a crisp, strong contrast or an almost stoney hardness then it’s a popular option. For use with food, kitchen workshops, chopping boards, turning for platters and serving dishes or even rolling pins not least of all because it is inert i.e. it doesn’t taint or leach tannin.
The only snag with this particular Acer is is perishability. Not something most people know but it’s something we understand having handled it for so long. Basically it doesn’t keep when it’s wet so it’s not a species we can air dry. Once it’s been cut it’s necessary to kiln it almost immediately. A few days for a bit of initial drying but then it needs to be vacuum kilned to extract water to bring down moisture levels. You can tell timber that hasn’t been cared for as it should because it often has stick marks (no air drying no stick marks!) and a grey coloration rather then nice, pristine white. As we understand it he greying and stick marks are stains due to the active bacteria that begins to degrade the cells once the timber has been exposed to the air.
As for workability, this species is a dream. It cuts and planes well with hand or machine tools, it has good bending strength so is good for steaming and it takes stains and finishes well.
So it’s a sensitive little soul with a heart of gold, our Sycamore… and a bit of TLC tis all it asks!
The proper Technical Info from TRADA
Wood Type: Hardwood
Mechanical Strength: High strength properties similar to those of Oak
Density (Kg/m3 at 12% moisture): 630 but varies by up to 20% +/-
Sycamore trees can grow to enormous dimensions of 30m or more in height and 1.5m or more diameter so it follows that Sycamore logs are substantial in size too. Sadly it’s more often the timber handling equipment that determines the size of available boards. We aim to seek out and facilitate the drying of long and wide boards in homegrown timbers and Sycamore is included in that spec.
If you took the lack of durability of Sycamore as it’s bottom line, that keeps in within the interior realms. flooring, furniture making, kitchen worktops, interior joinery and variations along those themes. With thermal modification it’s possible to change that spec to use it for cladding and exterior furniture making too.
Do you use Sycamore in your work or do you won some Sycamore furniture? We’d love to see it!
Sycamore is pretty much always in stock as boules and waney edge (through and through) boards. We can machine it to order to but the raw wood is pretty raw! So in through & through we cut and keep thicknesses 27, 34, 41, 54, 65, 80 & 100mm thick.
Typical boards widths go from as small as 150mm on a crown board up to 1.0m or more sometimes for a centre board. The majority are 300-400mm and, as you can imagine, the super wide boards sell very quickly*. Lengths can actually be quite short, starting at around 2.0m and going up to 4 to 4.5m in length. Longer is harder to come by, but we’re working on it !
The boards are likely to encompass all the grades although Sycamore is a classic straight fine grain timber. It’s harder to come bu lots of character within Sycamore boards, in fact the prized rippled grain Sycamore might even be more common than a gnarled, burred, knotty board. Them the breaks we guess… horses for courses… that’s what Oak, Elm and Yew are for!
Ok, well here’s where you could have some fun. Sycamore’s so strikingly pale that you could have fun mixing it with any other species, but if you wanted to stay on the pale side, some white Ash boards would go, and if you want serious contrasting strip pick Black Walnut maybe. If you want to match in hardness or strength the Ash and Walnut are good but prime Oak will give you matching strength almost like for like and if it comes to it and you really can’t find what you need with a Sycamore spec you might find something in sister species, N.Am Maple.
Oak is a timber species revered in British culture.
Associated with history, tradition, longevity, steadfastness, durability, toughness, and strength; across centuries we’ve anthropomorphised the ‘great Oak’ tree and it’s timber believing it represents us and that our lives are inextricably linked.
For us here at Cocking Sawmills this is only too true. Even today Oak is our bread and butter. We know, from the last 3o odd years of sawmilling, that the same goes for many of you joiners, framers, foresters and furniture makers too.
It’s a timber species we all know so well that we don’t stop to question or ponder on it’s qualities, it’s properties, it’s potential and it’s limitations (does it really have any?!). We eat, sleep and dream in Oak and yet, more often than not, we take it for granted.
Well not today.
Today we’re going back to wood school to talk about our beloved Oak, starting with names…
What’s in a name?
Meet Quercus. In Britain we have woodlands full of Quercus robur (pedunculate Oak) but it’s also native across Europe. We also come across Quercus petraea (sessile Oak). Both species are talked about as European Oak, but that includes French Oak, English Oak or Eastern European Oak. There are many (so many) variations in the Quercus gang it would be a waste of ether for us to list them when Wikipedia are doing such a good job but it’s worth remembering that although they all share a name they certainly don’t all share their timber properties.
NB We separate our origins so we can source specifically and from a single origin. In the British timbers we also document provenance, including woodland.
Oak trees are deciduous (at least our Quercus species are). They’re commonly found across the country and the rest of Europe from well managed, sustainable woodland sources. Oak timber has pale yellow brown heartwood with medium coarse grain, tending to be straight and uniform. Exceptions are when quarter sawn, brown/yellow streaked, or pippy/burry. Workable with machine or hand tools depending on grain pattern but very difficult totreat (moisture & acid content). Takes glue, stain and polish well. Strong durable timber with medium moisture movement.
The proper Technical Info from TRADA
Wood Type: Hardwood
Mechanical Strength: High
Treatability: Extremely difficult
Moisture movement: Medium
Texture: Medium to coarse
Density (Kg/m3 at 12% moisture): 720 but varies by up to 20% +/-
In timber form Oak is of course a hardwood. It is known for it’s golden yellowy brown colouring but this has variations depending on origin and grade. The sap and heartwood are contrasting colours. The sap’s easy to see but is also a nice creamy colour and can be incorporated into projects if appropriate. The annual growth is strongly marked and the quarter sawn boards show a glistening flame pattern through the grain called Medullary Ray. Oak grain actually has an enormous range although technically documented as medium coarse. It is possible to find tight, narrow, straight, fairly smooth grain but also broad coarse and wild grain. Origin, age, soil properties, weather conditions… all these things contribute to the visual and mechanical properties of Oak.
Oak trees can grow to substantial dimensions of 30m or more in height and up to 1.5m diameter. Naturally it follows that Oak logs are substantial in size too.
Our British Oak is often short in bole (trunk). It is longer when grown in managed woodlands rather than open Estate land. Diameters however can be enormous as long lived estate Oaks survive in situ for centuries and produce great widths.By contrast, the deep European forests can produce incredible lengths and great straightness common with well managed forests. The straightness allows for maximum sawn width yields.
In the past we have been limited by timber handling equipment (kilns, cranes, lorries, even doorways) which determined the sizes of available timber but in recent years, as part of our aim to grow the market for homegrown timber, we have made the decision to seek out and facilitate the drying of long and wide boards in local timer but also when we buy and import logs and timber from Europe or N.America.
Oak stock is represented in every product area. We produce fresh sawn beams and cladding every week. We saw logs into boules which become our waney edge board stock after drying and there is always large square edge stock to select from, sourced from France, from Croatia, from Serbia and from other places we can find excellent certified sources.
The stock grades cover all normal Oak grades. We keep large volumes of Character, Prime and Super Prime square edge. We always have English & French waney edge. We select for quarter sawn and we keep Pippy Oak in light, medium and heavy Pip as well as Burr when we can find it. We rely on Tom’s log buying expertise to surprise us with the rarer feature grades for furniture and cabinetmaking timber.
In terms of available thicknesses, Stock Kiln dried boards range 18,2o, 27, 34, 41, 54, 65, 80, 100, 120mm thick with squares stocked up to 150mm. Typical board widths go from as small as 150mm on a crown board up to 1.0m or more sometimes for a centre board. The majority are 300-500mm and, as you can imagine, the wide boards sell very quickly. Homegrown Oak lengths can actually start quite short at around 2.0m but go up to 8m or more. Longer is harder to come by, but we’re working on it !
Download our OAK pdfwhich gives a good overview of the Oak we stock
When you look at Oak, it’s durability, it’s strength, it’s aesthetic qualities, it’s technical qualities, it’s extensive and ready availability in a wide range of products, not to mention the inherent knowledge base around Oak it won’t surprise you to know Oak can be used for almost anything.
Popular among green Oak framers & builders, joiners, furniture makers, carvers, turners, garden designers & groundworkers and anyone else that uses wood for anything at all. Oak can be applied to almost any interior or exterior purpose and is the strongest, most naturally durable timber option in homegrown timber due to Tannin content and density. Fresh sawn, it’s yellow brown colouring can take an exterior finishes once surface dry, otherwise it will silver down very respectfully.
It’s about the most popular and widely used timber in Europe. Use it round, use it green, use it riven, use it sawn, planed, profiled, air dried, kilned, English, French, Croatian, German, quartersawn, crowncut, pippy, burry, with bark or de-barked, use it through and through or square edge, super prime, prime, character rustic or downright downgrade. Oak is a great non-toxic option for use in children’s playgrounds and school landscaping and needs no additional chemical perservatives.
How are you going to use your Oak?
Alternative & Mixer Species
For alternatives to European Oak swap continents to America and you find Quercus rubra (red Oak) Quercus alba (white Oak) both usable and available for furniture and joinery. We don’t keep a lot of N.America stock but we offer the option for joinery and furniture customer preferences. Other alternatives for hard tough internal timber could be Beech or Sweet Chestnut. For structural purposes Sweet Chestnut or Douglas Fir could work.
In truth there’s endless fun with combining species but for good visual mixers we like Ash for nice grain patterns and gentle, cool contrast colouring and we like Walnut as a deep, warm contrast colouring.
Oak & Tannin
Tannic acid, also known as Quercittanic acid, is part of the chemical make up of Oak. Tannin contributes to the inherent durability of Oak and is present all forms of the timber. The reason it should be noted is that although it is fixed within dry, aged wood, in oak with high moisture content or in oak that’s exposed to external weathering the tannin can leach and stain.
Fresh sawn timber, boards that are still high in moisture, external cladding and structural timber for framing may show tannin leaching. It can leave a brown stain (like a tea stain funnily enough!) on the wood surface, on the ground if it’s been standing or underneath if water has run and dripped over it in situ.
If you’re using Oak externally ask us about tannin in your project.
For simplicity’s sake we talk about most of our stock in terms of Character, Prime or Super Prime to reflect our customer’s general project requirements.
The specific scientific timber grades have been documented to make visual identification of grades universal. One great reference for this is the publication Making the Grade, well worth a read if you want to build your wood knowledge and understanding.
Technically, as documented by Making the Grade, this refers to a relatively low grade of timber that exhibits a mix of inter-grown knots, pin knots, heart shake, or colour variations.
At English Woodlands Timber we use the term Character Oak to describe a very broad grade that includes anything that falls below Prime, 1st grade Oak standards with exceptions only for our feature grades
This then means under the term Character our boards include 2nd Grade Oak and incorporated sub grades plus may include pin knots, splits, cracks, heart shake, insect attack, bark pockets, areas of rot, sapwood and colour variation.
As an overview we don’t put restrictions on boards in this grade providing the appearance and mechanical properties of the particular timber are suitable for its intended purpose.
Our actual stock then incorporates particular selections within the grade of Character Oak.
Waney Edge Character Oak stock will generally sit in original boules and we select and measure from the stack depending on each customers requirements, preferences and the particular use for the board.
Square Edge Character Oak stock is a different thing altogether.Here a more sophisticated, applied grade selection has been carried out and boards are stocked in packs of similar grade qualities.
These packs tend to contain the higher qualities of Character Oak, the 2nd grades which exclude more rustic features and in terms of appearance are more representative of real Oak with good grain patterns, sound knots, lovely honey colouring… everything one normally expects from real Oak.
This means by selecting from packs it’s possible to get a consistent grade and overall ‘look’. This speeds up selection and is useful for flooring projects, cladding projects, bespoke kitchens, door manufacture, furniture range manufacture etc where all boards need to have similar colouring, knot sizing and grain pattern. By selecting from graded packs of Square Edge Oak you get a reassuring consistency, even in Character grades.
The term Prime has always been used to indicate the top grade of timber.
It’s criteria is used to verify the mechanical properties of a board by visual means and seeks to differentiate Prime graded boards as boards that are fit for specific purpose, namely joinery, cladding, cabinetry, furniture making or highly machined timber products.
In this way, the grading of Prime timber is about what is allowed within a board outside of straight grain, even colouring and good quality wood husbandry.
In Prime Oak we allow one inter-grown knot* up to 20mm diameter or several small knots up to a 20mm combined diameter**. One small bark pocket is allowed. Small sap bands are allowed – we follow the French convention of ‘one in, one out’, the underlying principle being to provide a ‘fair measure’.
In selecting from Prime Waney Edge Oak boards to a cutting list or customer requirement we would measure out the waney edges (re:sap), the heart cracks, large knots, shakes and other typical board features that are not allowed within the grade so the board measure (the bit you pay for) would only include what comes within Prime grade, although you may receive a whole waney edge board.
Prime Oak colouring is relatively even but for particular consistency of colour the best method of selection is to choose boards absolutely from the same origin, and ideally from the same boule.
In this way Prime timber does waste more wood than other grades but it is how a single, unique waney edge board can be used to select for a multitude of grades and purposes and is one reason we love our waney edge timber.
Our Square Edge Prime Oak timber has been pre-selected into grades at the milling stage and is an easy, reliable, fast way to buy Prime Oak, especially if you are self-selecting. These boards can be just taken straight from a timber stack and each board measure meets the stated grade on at least one face, if not both.
For homegrown waney edge Oak take a look at Making the Grade – Oak grade 1 for illustrations of Prime Oak
SUPER PRIME OAK
Super Prime is a term that indicates a grade ‘above’ Prime.
It’s a grade that has been normalised as a timber grade in the UK for high grade imported square edge Oak. It’s a description we use of a grade that goes above and beyond normal Prime Oak timber qualities and requirements.
Super Prime is a selection of the most pristine, the most clear, the most pale and evenly honey coloured, usually Eastern European, Prime Oak you will ever see. In most mills it’s edged after kilning in a re-grading process. More labour intensive but definitely serves to refine the grade. I think we’ve called it ‘relentlessly clean’ before and that about sums it up.
Knots aren’t strictly excluded but if you see one it’ll be a small pin knot and only visible on one face. The other face will undoubtedly be clear. The same applies to sap. In Super Prime Oak there will not be a lot of grain pattern. There will not be a lot of variation of anything. There will be no dark colouring. No bark pockets. No wild grain. No splits, no cracks, no shakes. There may be a high proportion of Quarter Sawn boards. There may be a lot of very flat boards. There may be a lot of very straight boards.
If you have a large run of Oak doors and you need them all to look and behave the same, use Super Prime. If you need a quiet, understated solid wood for an interior surface use Super Prime. If you need simple elegance with embodied strength and durability for a feature staircase use Super Prime.
Although it’s a little hard for us to admit, Super Prime Oak has superior qualities that cannot be replicated by other grades or timber species. For this we are grateful as it is a pleasure to work with, a pleasure to select from and a thrill to see it in situ in a customer project.
FEATURE OAK GRADES
This is a very popular feature in Oak resulting from the presence of frequent small pin knots. The can appear singly, in 2’s or 3’s (cats paw) or in groups of growing density which we describe as llight, medium or heavy pip depending on number of knots in a group.
TIGER or BROWN OAK
This describes an attractive colouration caused by the beef steak fungus Fistulina hepatica. We see it in Oak and it produces two different effects.
The first is a narrow brown streak going down through the grain that can hit and miss to produce a variable stripe. This is the Tiger Oak, surprise surprise! Super jazzy, it’s a wonderful vibrant alternative to an exotic species therefore prized by sustainable minded, conscientious designers and makers.
The Brown Oak is where the whole whole cross section of the heartwood is affected, leaving a solid brown colouring known, funnily enough as Brown oak. This may not sound too special but the colouring is so deep and chocolatey and different to anything else that it’s a joy to see and an absolute gift to cabinetmaker looking for that something special.
Burr describes what appears to be dense area of pin knots covering more than 50% of a board. It’s a spectacular visual effect, much sought after and is actually a feature caused by irregular grain growth around groups of epicormic buds.
Although Burring does change the mechanical properties of a board by interfering in the growth of the grain as the knots are so tiny and woven into the grain the board stays intact. Burr boards take more care to dry. They retain moisture differently to a straight grain board. They dry differentially in thickness and hold onto moisture in little pockets. This can produce undulations in the sawn surface but they can be worked very successfully for furniture making, box making, cabinetry etc
We have normal Burr boards but we also keep the actual burrs (big lumpy things) taken from the outer log prior to sawing. These are for special projects, wood turning, one off furniture pieces and the like. If you’re a Burr fan you’ll love these pieces.
QUARTER SAWN OAK
This is the term for boards sawn on the radial plane to reveal the very decorative figuring known as medullary ray. A visible medullary ray (shiny flame pattern) and vertical growth rings in the end grain indicate quarter sawn timber.
This vertical grain means that boards will have maximum potential for stability. This is due to an absence or relative absence of curve/growth ring in the thickness therefore the absence of tension and/or compression inherent in the growth rings that act on boards to cause cupping.
We select particular logs to saw by the traditional quarter sawn method and of course our T&T*** sawmilling produces a number of quarter sawn boards near the centre of every boule. Sawing both methods allows us to select for the super wide quarter sawn boards that occur in boules whilst maintaining the ability to select for varying strengths of the fabulous grain pattern that occurs in outer and crown boards.
The best of both worlds!
*inter-grown knot, alternatively know as sound knot = a knot that the grain has grown through/into rather than around/against so that it is integral in the body of the timber. An unsound knot has grown separately to the flow of grain and can move separately, can be dislodged or even fall out.
**E.g. 1 knot at 6mm diameter + 1 knot at 5mm diameter + 1 knot at 7 mm diameter = a total 18mm diameter and therefore is allowed within Prime grade
***T&T Through & through sawing produces the same boards as plain sawn or also rift sawn
MAKING THE GRADE is an excellent timber grading reference (if we do say so ourselves) and is worth having to hand. Download a copy here by clicking on the book
Our TIMBER SPECIES FEATURE on OAK is a great overview of our Oak stock, what we hold, grades, origins, dimensions, machining and how to buy. Download by clicking on the page.
For a quick fire route to selected Oak stock use the links below
When you’ve selected your waney edge or natural edge boards and all you want is thicknessing or smooth surface planing we have options that go up to 800mm wide in a single pass. Yup, that whole waney edge boards can become your dream table top in a single pass through the planer!
Air Dried timber is timber that has been left to season in the open air. Rule of thumb for Hardwood air drying is 1 year per inch of thickness to be fully seasoned. The reason for drying timber is to reduce the moisture content within and therefore reduce the chance of movement once in use. Air dried T&T timber is suitable for external joinery/furniture/cladding/ etc.
Horizontal load bearing timbers
The useable (usually the lower& branchless) part of a log
The French term for a log butt that has been cut through and through
This term refers literally to the ‘character’ of the timber species i.e. the typical look, feel, behaviour etc it displays. It can also refer to a grade when talking about Oak, more than any other species, and generally means that the timber has too much ‘character’ to be able to make the plain, clear, knot free grade that some joiners and woodworkers like to use and which we call Prime. See Making the Grade for more information
Separation of fibres along the grain forming a crack or fissure that does not extend through timber or veneer from one surface to the other
Although it is possible to obtain timber in large width dimensions for cladding there are guidelines for dimensions from TRADA that exclude large dimension widths because the shrinkage and movement that can occur will be greater in wide boards than in narrow boards and the same width long lengths tend to bend or warp very quickly, whether bowing off the saw or in storage. The resulting problems with fixing and wastage are enough for us to advise against use of timber cladding in large dimensions, width or length.
Durability of the timbers has been measured by TRADA** to a degree (we assume you are not going to bury your cladding in the ground), but the service life of your timber cladding will be largely down to the detailing and fixing methods. Water is the element most likely to cause rots and damage and is the element you are managing by purposeful design. TRADA’s book External Timber Cladding has very good information, details, photographs, advice etc.
TRADA and the BRE’s timber density figures are generally given at 12% moisture content – technically a kiln dried product – but all homegrown cladding material will be of higher moisture content than this and therefore will be heavier. As a rule of thumb F/S Oak is 1100kg/m³ at roughly 50% moisture content and A/D will fluctuate depending on the weather with an average moisture content ,once fully dried (1 yr per inch thickness for hardwoods), of around 20%.
Density of the timber is important for cladding in terms of impact resistance, durability, weight (loading), stability etc.
The colouring of a timber depends on it’s species, age, the soil it was grown on, weathering and many other factors. It is probably the most important visual element in choosing a timber.
This the process of taking one raw material eg. log and converting it to another material for use eg. beam or T&T board
Forestry practice that involves the harvest of young growth of Ash, Hazel or Chestnut by cutting back stumps to ground level that quickly re-grow. The material harvested has many uses including for thatching, fence making, lath & batten making, and makes very sustainable fuel supply. We use coppice for our lime plaster laths and for fencing.
CTS or Cut to Size
Meaning the timber is cut to a nominal width and length in a nominal thickness and sizes indicated are pre-planing dimensions
Likely to be the key factor in choice of species for cladding and external joinery work, the choice coming down to whether to use a preservative, a modified timber or rely on natural durability of a timber species and it’s ability to achieve a desired performance
Natural Durability: The inherent resistance of wood to attack by wood destroying organisms (BS EN 350.1) and in this classification relates to the resistance of the heartwood to attack by wood decaying fungi
Cedar of Leb, Chestnut, Oak, Yew
WRCedar, Walnut, Cherry
Elm, Larch (3-4), Douglas Fir (3-4), Scots Pine
Ash, Beech, Sycamore
FE or Feather Edge
Feather edge is a profile, usually cut from Fresh Sawn timber, for cladding and fencing use. It has one thin edge and one thicker edge.
Metals containing Iron – not many common metals are Ferrous free. For use with our timbers containing Tannin (Oak, Chestnut, Walnut, WRC) Austenitic Stainless Steel is recommended to avoid corrosion and staining issues.
Timber has minimal deformation during fire and it’s strength is not compromised by extreme heat, therefore risk of sudden failure is excluded. Timber will only fail mechanically after fire has eaten into the wood, which happens gradually over period of time. Steel by contrast, is affected by extreme heat and is prone to sudden failure
Also known as Woodland Management. The management of land and trees with regard to protecting the natural woodland environment whilst facilitating forestry based industries.
FS or Fresh Sawn
Fresh Sawn timber, also known as Green, is timber newly cut from the log. It is timber still in a soft state, it’s is high in moisture, it hardens as it dries.
Descriptive. timber colour and grain pattern, whether it can be treated, painted etc and how it works. eg. prone to split when nailed etc
Timber grades vary depending on the requirement. Structural timbers are graded depending on their use and fitness for purpose. Joinery (inc furniture, flooring etc) timbers are graded on their visual qualities. For more information on grading see Structural Grades or Joinery Grades
Determined by the way a tree grows, different on every species. The main visual quality of a piece of wood is in it’s grain pattern, perhaps second only to Colour.
The inner zone of wood that, in the growing tree, has ceased to contain living cells or conduct sap.
Grown in the UK.
Assembly of worked timber components and panel products other than structural timber or cladding
Piece of wood made up from smaller pieces joined together end to end, such as finger joint or built up with face to face or with edge to edge joints
KD or Kiln Dried
Kiln Dried timber is fully seasoned AD timber that can be further dried in the kiln. This takes the moisture level down from that achieved naturally in the open air so that the timber can be used in our very dry, centrally heated homes without risk of extreme movement.
Layer wood glued to make a solid thickness, width or length
Horizontal load bearing timber supported on brick/blockwork over an aperture (window or door to you and me!)
All solid timber has a moisture content and this is measurable to within a few percent. Moisture meters are available in varying types and accuracies. The moisture content of a timber changes due to a natural rate of drying once sawn, the mechanical drying process and in response to atmospheric conditions.
Guidelines for levels of moisture content are given in BS 1186-3 as follows
Exterior Joinery – all
13 – 19%
Interior Joinery – Buildings with intermittent heating
13 – 17%
Interior Joinery – Buildings with continuous heating to room temperatures of 12º-19º
10 – 14%
Interior Joinery – Buildings with continuous heating to room temperatures of 20º-24º
8 – 12%
Movement is the dimensional change across the width and thickness of boards when the moisture content of timber changes in response to atmospheric conditions (statement TRADA)
Moisture movement is a relative term and species have been given the broad classes of Small, Medium or Large movement
Rule of Thumb: within the moisture content range 5-30% the across the grain dimensions change by the following classes
for every 5% change in moisture content
for every 4% change in moisture content
for every 3% change in moisture content
to illustrate: a board of 150mm width Oak (Medium) at 25% moisture content will come down to 148.5mm at 21%, 147mm at 17%, and 145.5mm at 13%. Greater width boards are therefore more liable to larger movement.
These are the shaped profiles , often called architectural joinery, that will finish off the interior of a property. The door linings and architraves, the scotia, the picture rails, dado rails and skirting boards and any other decorative finishes that might be required.
Oldest timber building
…in England, the Stave Church at Greensted in Essex, has timbers dated at 12th century. See:
…in the world is the Horiyu – ji Temple in Ikaruga, Japan has timbers dating early 7th century( built 607AD) and possibly late 6th. See: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/indepth/featuredarticles/worldheritage/c_6_horyu-ji.html
PAR or Planed all Round
Meaning planed on each surface apart from ends, usually to specified dimensions i.e. the required finished sizes
Peter the stockman
Peter has worked for us for over 30 years (he won’t thank me for telling you that) and knows all there is to know about the timber in the yard. He manages the stockshed and the kilns and you’ll know him by his hawaiian shirt and cheeky grin!
The occurance of Pippy knots in a timber is due to a species specific (usually Oak and Elm only) behaviour and results in a very attractive knot and grain pattern, also known as Cats Paw.
Vertical load bearing timbers
Timber that is mostly knot free, clear and straight grained. See Making The Grade for more information
Logs are felled (generally a winter activity) and extracted (generally a summer activity) from woodlands throughout the UK and transported to our site as Round Timber (the whole log with branches cleaned off). We try to keep a stock of as many species as may be needed to cut plank and beam.
To produce Air Dried and Kiln Dried timber we saw the logs in our bandmill into planks of pre-determined thicknesses in anticipation of the future requirements of stock. These thicknesses are cut slightly larger than the required thickness to allow for shrinkage eg: to be able to supply a 25mm /1″ or nominal 27mm board we will cut a plank to 29mm and it will shrink to 27mm whilst drying. Allowances increase slightly as planks get thicker and shrinkage ratio increases.
The planks are then stacked as a whole log with small sticks of timber (usually Poplar) laid between each plank, evenly spaced to allow for constant air flow. These are then stacked in the yard and left to dry in the open air (Air Dry). The time can vary depending on thickness of board and species of timber. Some timbers are more sensitive and dry rapidly eg; Ash & Sycamore. In general hardwoods dry slowly at one year per inch of thickness. The timbers reach a level of moisture content after this time period that allows them to be kilned. Care is taken to avoid stick marks in sensitive timber species.
Beam timber is always custom cut to order so that it is in optimum condition and the customer can determine the exact size required.
The sectional outline of the timber i.e. the shape you see if you sliced across the grain
This refers to a traditional method of hand splitting wood down the grain. Used to make laths*, battens, shingles and shakes. *Hand riven laths are always the best kind as the lime plaster can grip to the roughly grooved surface of the timber easily.
RT or Round Timber
The term for trees that have been felled and are now large diameter felled logs
The outer zone of wood that, in the growing tree contains living cells and conducts sap.
The TRADA test for durability class involved timber being buried in the ground and measured the susceptibility to infestation and rot. It is not a measure of durability for typical uses eg: beams and posts, cladding, windows and doors, furniture etc. The actual service life of any species of timber may be a very long time depending on the fixing, design and detailing, orientation and prevailing weather.
Separation of fibres along the grain, irrespective of the extent of penetration, due to stresses developing in a standing tree, or in felling, or in drying of converted timber. ‘Shakes’ also refers to the riven timber tiles made for cladding.
These are WRC, Oak or Chestnut timber tiles, made by hand or machine, to clad walls and roofs
Also know as moisture movement. Can be estimated depending on species Re: Trada data.
This is a term used to describe the way timber cladding, or any timber left unfinished externally, weathers as it dries and hardens whilst exposed to the elements. After a period, averagely 1 to 2 years, the colour will fade to a quite beautiful grey, silvery colour. To prevent this the timber must be protected with an external finish of some kind on a regular basis. To restore timber to it’s original colour would require sanding or planing work and the original colour will be revealed under the silver surface.
Where it grows/ it’s origins, inc where we source it from eg ‘SE England’ Typical growing sizes of the tree – dependent on growing conditions i.e. soil content, local climate, orientation and prevailing weather. Availability – common or rare/easy to source or not – some species are grown very low numbers, or only ornamentally and are therefore harder to source and available volumes are low and prices can reflect this.
Given as the Common Name and the Biological name of the tree
Separation of fibres along the grain forming a crack or fissure that extends through timber or veneer from one surface to the other
SE or Square Edge
Square edge, meaning the Waney edges of the boards have been cut off so that the timber is squared and usually rectangular shape rather than tapered. This is usually how imported timbers are supplied. Square edge also refers to a profile cut from Fresh Sawn timber for cladding.
Mechanical strength of timber should be assessed in relation to resistance to shock, axial compression & tension, resistance to bending and elasticity /deflection. various data sources are available for reference. Trada and BRE are good authorities on technical information on timber.
issues to be considered for use of structural timber : re: loading ; bending, tension, compression, shear, elasticity also :sapwood, knots, slope of grain, deflection, distortion, self-weight of frame
Some timber species contain Tannin, Quertannic acid that is corrosive to Ferrous metals, eating into the metal and leaving black blue stain on the timber but ironically (not pun intended) makes the timber species more durable.
Wood is a good insulator, has good U-values, in that it does not conduct heat well. By the same token it has bad thermal mass, in that it does not store heat well. This makes wood great as an insulator, as a barrier to stop heat getting out or cold getting in, which why it is great as flooring, external cladding and roofing. For this same reason it is not the ideal material to put over underfloor heating but if used, once the floor is up to temperature it will maintain the level of ambient heat required to heat the room but will not be able to store heat and therefore will probably use more energy than a material that has good thermal mass. It is also a good electrical insulator
T&T or Through & Through
A T&T plank is where a log has been ‘sliced’ right through the length with the bark left on. This is how we mill the majority of our logs and is always done to a specific thickness.
Given as Hardwood or Softwood depending on species
More technical info – on movement/stability, durability, strengths, density, particular values that are relevant to the appropriate uses. Fixings and metal components & tannin
The ease with which a wood can be penetrated by a liquid eg. a preservative. There are classes for which species are rated.
TRADA states that timber species rated as durability Class 3 or better can be used without treatment if non-durable sapwood is excluded (BS EN 350 Durability of Wood… statement)
This is the term we use to assess the amount timber left after conversion i.e. the ‘unusable’ timber separated from the usable timber. We have established averages for waste for the purpose of measuring and pricing, but it varies depending on species, specification and material.
WE or Waney Edge
Boards that still have the bark left on the sides, left as T&T or sometimes, e.g. for cladding, one edge is squared and one left waney. Waney edge timber is usually tapered, having the natural shape of the log i.e. the tree is wider at the base and narrows higher up
Western Red Cedar
This refers to how well a species works, whether it is easy or difficult with hand tools or machine tools, and is usually related to grain patterns, hardness, acid or resin content etc. Generally with dry hardwoods the more wavy grained and knotty they are, the more tricky they are to work. Fresh sawn timber is always softer and therefore easier to work.
We still operate as a fully functioning sawmill, sawing T&T plank through the autumn/winter season, beam, making laths, fencing and all our waste goes for firewood or sawdust for the local farm
The u-value (thermal conductivity) information for timber is very generalised and gives the value as 0.14 W/m.k .Not much data is available and what is does not go into individual species, although for construction purposes this figure seems to suffice (NB it is based on data for material 1 metre thickness) Ref.
Our resident Visual Strength Grader Steve (TRADA Reg.no.5183) will be glad to grade your structural Oak to BS5756 if required. Call and ask him for advice on 01730 816941.
Here is where we pay homage to the tree, the timber and the knowledge passed down through decades from within the forestry & timber industry we’ve been a part of for so long.
We’re holding onto what we’ve learned and leaning more everyday about the different species of wood we work with.
Here is where we’ll share everything we know with you.
Come back soon and find out about Ash, Beech, Cedar of Lebanon, Cherry, Chestnut, Douglas Fir, Elm, Larch, Lime, Maple, Oak, Plane, Poplar, Sycamore, Sapele, Southern Yellow Pine, Walnut, Western Red Cedar, Yew and more
If you just can’t wait to find out get in touch and ask us a question and we’ll get right back to you.
It’s easy to rib students for being slack and having an easy life… for being unorganised, for eating last night’s takeaway for breakfast and for doing all their work the night before a deadline… but aren’t we really just a little bit jealous?
Days and nights spent indulging your ideas, studio/workshop facilities on tap, tutors to drain knowledge out of… the college sports facilities and the SU bar !!? Yep.. I’m jealous.
I remember the first student to call us from the 1st year of the 3D Design BTEC at Chichester College was Ugne Krymcevaite. I remember so well because she knew what she wanted! She was so well prepared I was quite taken aback. In a matter of seconds she had given her details, reeled off her cutting list – finished sizes of course – and she was gone, back into the ether from whence she came.
Steve called her back within minutes with the price for the Ash-planed-all-round and before I knew it the timber was ordered, paid for and Peter was walking out of the office with the ‘mill copy’ in hand…
“Most unusual!” I thought to myself… and promptly got on with what I should have been doing.
When the second student called and exhibited similar evidence of being organised, decisive and knowledgable I started to smell a conspiracy… this was not the world as we knew it! Surely alien imposters were inhabiting the bodies of Chichester students???
After at least 18 more phonecalls in the space of 3 days we were convinced and had started to batten down hatches.
As it transpired, under the tutelage of Terry Molyneaux – 3D Design course leader and active furniture maker – students were thoroughly drilled in the art of timber buying and had the added weight of a module deadline to steel themselves against… hence the flurry of decisive action.
Tom (our illustrious leader) was obviously as relieved as I was that we were not going to be fending off an alien invasion and took his own decisive action… “Prizes for the Students”
So to reward their fantastic work ethic, their commitment to design process and inevitably, their finished design pieces we sent Steve and Peter down to meet the students, view the exhibition and award the 3 prizes. Here is some of the work on show to whet your appetite…
These are the choices they made.
1st prize Kai Alexander with his Walnut tribute to Gerrit Rietveld
2nd Prize Madara Degterre with a finely executed Oak lounge chair
3rd Prize Liam Bailey with dining chair in Ash with nice use of colour & grain
These three lucky people very deservedly get to come and raid the timber larder for their next ‘woody’ projects.
So a very ‘Well Done’ to all the students. ‘Thank You’ for using our wood in your designs, and Please don’t take your time at college for granted…!
P.S. Great to see models of the furniture pieces too… you can never have enough models!
I took a quick walk round the stock shed to look for something I know is there and yet again… it’s been moved. The wood that is.
The stock shed fairy has had another change around!
I know we have the weekly challenge of finding places to put new stock… and at the same time Peter is a complete neat freak and refuses to just pile something up infront of something else if it isn’t the right species or thickness or country of origin or something.
So just when I think I know my way around… I discover I don’t.
Funnily enough, I don’t even mind because I never get tired of snooping around in the stock shed.
It’s a great source of inspiration for me. I usually end up getting way too overexcited about all the things I could make or build the following weekend, at which point all the guys in the yard look at each other and roll their eyes…
and then the coffee wears off and I decide to just go and take pictures and wait for someone else to be inspired to make things instead.
P.S. 3 things I love about the stock shed…
1. When we stand boards up so that you can actually see what they look like… I know it’s not how we should store timber (thank you Peter) but it is SO much more interesting to look at this way
2. The old mining bucket that makes me feel Lilliputian.
3. The Sycamore. We take it for granted as a tree and yet it makes a beautiful, affordable wood.
Ok 4 things..
4. I just realised I LOVE that we are tagging & measuring & listing all our boards… it’s yet another thing I can get a bit overexcited about… having a new stock system!!!!!
People are so aften surprised to find that English Elm is available to work with.
The trees no longer survive in our southern part of the country (except for a few pockets eg. Preston Park Brighton) but they do grow healthily further north where climatic variations have meant they didn’t ‘go Dutch’… and here’s the proof!
Adrian and Chris at Cimtree ( fine furniture designer/makers www.cimitree.com ) have recently finished this handmade Elm kitchen. (more…)
Christine Layton was slightly reluctant to show me photo’s of her work (because she is a very humble and modest person) but I have taken advantage of her sweet nature to raid her portfolio to show them off anyway…
This lady makes fine furniture. She works on commissions only but don’t let that very formal term put you off… it just means she doesn’t sell her furniture in shops. (more…)