MD Tom Compton introduces a very special product; the riven chestnut lath
Hand riven from split sweet chestnut rounds the laths are made out in the woods under tarp, usually by the extremely hardy and highly skilled woodland workers managing the coppiced woodlands.
The hand riven laths are tradition woodland products, primarily used for traditional lime plastering of ceilings and walls in the restoration of period and heritage properties (although there’s nothing to stop them being used in a new build!).
Welcome to the world of sweet chestnut coppiced woodland, the home of the hand riven chestnut lath.
This is no ordinary woodland.
In fact, we’re going to come right out and say it… this is not a natural woodland. This is a coppice. A pact between human and nature where human vows to tend and nature does what she does to the best of her ability. (more…)
Our traditional Hand Riven Chestnut Laths are the artisan lime plasterers dream. Our quality is exceptional, our supply is plentiful and our prices are the very best in the industry.
For over 10 years now our hand riven laths have been used in lime plastering work up and down the country. From everyday plastering in traditional buildings to the restoration of the grand houses and historic palaces of England, our traditionally made laths are helping to maintain integrity and quality of heritage restoration works.
The purpose of the riven lath, as opposed to sawn lath, is to provide extra grab for the fibrous lime plaster. The splitting follows the grain down the wood and leaves an uneven ‘reeded’ surface. This means that the plaster will stick and grip, even on ceilings. The uneven & irregular nature of this tradition building material is the key to it’s quality and usefulness.
The quality of our laths is unbeatable. The Chestnut coppicers are great crafstmen and great care is taken over every stage of lath production, from the management of the woodland rotation, to selection of the standing timber, the cutting, the storing and not least of all the actual lath splitting which is very highly skilled work in itself. The attention to detail in the production of our hand riven laths is exceptional.
The coppice is a very traditional and highly sustainable form of woodland management that produces a harvest of Sweet Chestnut round timber that is perfect for the production of incredible durable building materials.
When you use our traditional hand riven Chestnut laths you are supporting not only the sustainable coppicing of Chestnut woodlands across the south east of England but dozens of lifelong woodsmen who are dedicated to preserving their skilled trade by educating the next generation of coppicers and lath splitters without whom houses like Clivedon, Petworth, Sion, Hampton Court and Windsor Castle could not be cared for.
We keep stocks of 3ft, 3ft6 and 4ft lengths in bundles of 50 pieces.
Delivered straight to your door for your lime plastering projects from the coppiced woodlands of Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire!
Ornate Interiors was founded over twenty years ago, and they’re still combining technical knowledge and creativity, manufacturing and installing decorative plasterwork for interiors and exteriors, conserving and restoring historic plasterwork, along with a range of expert services. Thanks to their team of industry specialists, Ornate Interiors have earned an enviable reputation for consistently delivering high quality and effective plastering solutions.
Air dried, machine profiled, finger jointed, PEFC Sweet Chestnut Cladding
It is quite a mouthful isn’t it?
Well, this is a cladding with a big name and an even bigger reputation and no mistake!
It’s not new but it’s been on the side lines for a while, coming in behind our beloved Oak in the popularity stakes on a regular basis but now it seems our little friend Castanea Sativa has been catching up, making a bit of ground on good old Oak.
26 July 2013 – Sarah Farmer, English Woodlands Timber Ltd
Grown in Britain came to us in a dream and said… no they didn’t, but they might as well have done.
Out of the blue in March this year an email came through to Tom & Andy – both CONFOR members – from Dougal Driver, introducing the Grown in Britain initiative – backed by DEFRA – to address the idea of British Foresty & Timber as an economic resource and inviting them to attend a meeting in Whitehall. Serious stuff. It made an impact.
I think the first thing that hit home for us at English Woodlands Timber was that somebody noticed us. Somebody who mattered (big important government people) actually noticed that this country has a Forestry Industry and a Timber Industry. That’s us, you and me. Somebody noticed us!
So, then the second big shock was ‘they’ wanted to talk to us. We, suddenly, not only had a voice – because let’s face it, we’ve always had a voice – but we also had somebody who wanted to listen. Huge.
English Woodlands Timber is a company based on the practice of forestry and the practice of converting timber for use. It’s pretty simple when you put it like that. It’s been our work forever. It’s all we’ve ever done. Or all we’ve done since the 1940’s when Beech was in such high demand that there wasn’t enough room for rabbits to run between timber stacks let alone people. It’s not like that now. Beech, what is Beech again? Now we have enough space to drive a procession of articulated lorries round the yard – as well as a few roaming pigs from the neighbours farmyard.
The space is there because the British logs aren’t. The lorries are there because the British timber isn’t. That’s a fact of our business. But it’s not for want of trying.
English Woodlands Timber forestry department is working harder than ever. Work keeps coming and private clients keep buying woodland for leisure purposes. Forestry for productive, economic purpose is much tougher. We hunt high and low for logs for conversion.
The ‘timber’ part of English Woodlands Timber has a thriving, strong, wide ranging customer base whose businesses are built on wood. Wood. Without it these businesses would not exist. Their skills, their crafts, their products, their windows, their Oak frames, their dining tables, their kitchens, their boat hulls their bespoke cladding, their new wide plank floors… none of it would exist because it is all based on forestry and the conversion of logs to useable timber.
But in economic terms these businesses need English Woodlands Timber to provide wood so that they can survive, make a living, create jobs, pay taxes.
Sometimes it’s a bit touch and go if I’m honest. The requirements are taxing… can you imagine that tree you’re standing next to as a part of a window frame in a £15 million apartment in Chelsea? Can you imagine the labour, the cost, the time, the waste, the knowledge, the expertise and the effort it takes to get that flawless finished product out of a tree in the woods? And if we can’t do it from homegrown logs we have to look at imported timber, because if we don’t, we don’t have a business and the customer doesn’t have a business and people don’t have jobs and the government doesn’t get their tax.
So when Grown in Britain called we just couldn’t turn the other way. They’re offering English Woodlands Timber and our industries a life-line so we’re grabbing it, with both hands.
What does that mean for us? At the moment it mean’s about engaging with the process that Dougal and Stuart are establishing. It’s about turning up. Taking part.
So far we’ve spent a few hours in our own thoughts coming up with ideas that address an issue on the agenda for a meeting. We’ve spent ten minutes here or there brainstorming together. We spend a few minutes a day reading what’s been going on twitter, making connections with other Grown in Britain partners and talking about Grown in Britain to our customers, where we can we say it on delivery notes and invoices and we’re dedicating a page on our website to news and information about Grown in Britain.
Significantly we actually took the step to incorporate Grown in Britain into our stock system by re-categorising homegrown timber stocks as ‘Grown in Britain’. This was important because not only does the origin of the timber matter in so many technical stages of the supply but origin matters to our customers. They can browse our stock online and see the Grown in Britain name for themselves against boards of waney edge Ash or hand riven Chestnut laths or whatever they’re looking for.
We recognise that we need to promote this initiative. If Grown in Britain is to build in substance and to generate action for the future of British forestry and timber industries then people to know and care about it. This matters to us because our work matters to us.
So what’s the plan? We don’t know yet. We’re working on it. We’re working individually, in our offices, sawmills, woodlands, we’re doing our head scratching, putting out ideas down, bringing it to the group, putting it on the table and talking about it. The Grown in Britain Team are making that happen. They’re staying in touch, they’re nudging us, they’re encouraging us. They’re getting us thinking and then they get us talking, as a group, at workshops and at meetings.
Right now it’s about individuals connecting, like minded thinking, common goals, collective optimisim, ambitious ideas about what the future of British Forests, Woodlands & Timber resource could look like… and this is where Grown in Britain comes in… but without the downright determination of a handful of people to reach out and get the scattered individuals together round a table, to provide the method, to galvanise the thinking, to generate the plan of action and provide a platform for it all to stand on… optimistic ideas, ambition, hope.. is where exactly it stays.
We no longer stock Austenitic Stainless Steel annular ring shank nails although we do especially recommended them for the installation of external timber cladding and hand riven chestnut laths for lime plastering.
The steel used for these nails is an austenitic* grade that contains an addition of molybdenum that gives it improved corrosion resistance.
For use with timber this steel grade is the key to avoiding black staining and corrosion of the fixings from tannin (a natural chemical present in some timber species) and therefore to ensuing the quality, longevity and integrity of the project.
For use with timber cladding we advise 80mm, 65mm & 50mm depending on timber thickness
For use with our hand riven plastering laths we advise 30mm
As don’t have what you need in stock today we will gladly recommend an alternative supplier.
Shakes are a funny name for what most people call ‘shingles’. They are the handmade version of the modern sawn shingle.
The name was probably a reference to the timber they used to make them out of i.e. it was probably ‘shakey’ (woodspeak for logs with splits in) which makes sense as this product just takes advantage of the natural tendency of the wood to split on felling and drying.
Hand riven shakes are fairly rare and sourcing them depends on availability of an uncommon level of skill and experience in coppicers and woodland workers. At times in the past we’ve been fortunate enough to find just such a maker but in recent years it hasn’t been possible.
Luckily we can provide a superb alternative in our bias cut shingles.
They’re very different. They’re much smoother, more regular, they’re easier to install as it happens, being flat and even, but they are comparable to shakes. They mimic the traditional shake in their full length face grain. That intact grain means water runs off rather than soaks up into endgrain. That means increased durability and longevity when compared against regular sawn shingles.
So whilst we wish we had oodles of shakes to fulfill the shingle wants and needs of roofers and cladding installers across the land right now we can offer Bias Cut Shingles until the cows come home or the coppicers get more support and can make a better living from their very sustainable and particular methods of woodlands management…
These are our hand tapered Oak pegs for use in timber framing joints shaped from freshly split Oak rounds on a shave horse (out in the woods no less) by the fair but skilled hands of our coppicers.
The pegs have a slight taper at the top and at the point but the central body is 18/9 mm* in the roughly hexagonal shape made by shaving off. The point is made to help locate the peg in the hole so that it can be bashed in (the technical term?) for a tight fit.
The pegs are generally left sticking out on either side of the joint until the wood has dried out and shrunk down a little, then it can be ‘bashed’ in further if there’s room.
When the timber frame is finished the ends can be taken off cleanly to give a nice round detail on the joint for future generations to marvel over.
We keep them in stock in bundles of 10. Pop by and pick them up when you need them or save yourself the time and them alongside your fresh sawn structural Oak cutting list.
We can also produce proper dowels which are the same green Oak pushed through a dye to get smooth round cylinders for a slightly different purpose joint. We don’t do an awful lot of them but if you need ’em.. they guys’ll make ’em!
Homegrown Sweet Chestnut is sweet alright, it’s a charmer and no mistake.
We all know the ‘poor man’s Oak’ expression, but Chestnut (Sweet not Horse) makes an interesting alternative to Oak in lots of circumstances and its certainly not ‘poor’ in any way, shape or form.
Our favourite thing about Sweet Chestnut has to be the coppicing, the traditional woodland products and the oldschool woodland worker way of life… but having said that Chestnuts do grow into giants if left un-coppiced and the gargantuan waney edge boards from those trees are quite awe inspiring. Maybe we like Boards best… ?
What’s in a name?
Sweet Chestnut or Castanea Sativa, sativa meaning cultivated by humans, probably because the nuts (Chestnuts!) are edible (if cooked properly!) It’s the same species as the European Chestnut, the Spanish Chestnut or otherwise know as just plain old Chestnut, but also Marron.
It’s true that when it’s fresh sawn Chestnut’s hard to tell from Oak. It has a similar colour , maybe due to the Tannin content (like Oak) but when it dries it’s quite different. You wouldn’t normally have trouble telling the two apart.
Dry, the colour is creamier than Oak, with sometimes contrasting brown streaks than you wouldn’t see in Oak (unless it’s Brown or Tiger Oak of course) and sometime some strong yellow colour (that old devil called tannin again).
The grain pattern is actually a real feature, it’s open, fairly coarse, great for wide expanses on tables or worktops, a bit like Ash or Elm in that way, however it still has a fairly dense grain and with that Tannin content it has inherent durability, great for outdoor tables then!
Chestnut from coppiced woodlands is also fantastic for traditional riving as it’s naturally inclined to split down the grain. It makes laths, staves, battens, hurdles, pales, rails, shakes, and all the things you can make with those things.
It’s strong and durable so it’s great for cladding, for decking, really good for groundworks, for fencing other landscaping work. It maybe not so great not as heavy structural framing timber, unless you’re making a round timber frame and then it’s an exciting prospect!
Like other fresh sawn products, Chestnut will take a finish when it’s surface dry if you want to stop the weathering and silvering process, otherwise it will grey down over time and doesn’t need any preservative treatment.
When it’s dry and machined Chestnut will take finishes as any other hardwood, although it’s always worth checking your finishes are compatible with the Tannin in Chestnut and that your product doesn’t contain strong alkali (eg. ammonia) which will react with Tannin and darken the colour.
TECHNICAL INFO established by TRADA
Mechanical Strength: 80% that of Oak
Treatability: Extremely difficult apart from sapwood
PRIME (Grade 1)
The following are the properties that are allowed or permitted within Prime grade Sweet Chestnut:
Fully and partly inter-grown knots: one ≤20mm diameter or several smaller up to a combined diameter of 20mm
Non inter-grown knots and rotten knots: occasional if measured-out
Checks: occasional surface + occasional splits in sound knots permitted
Colour: none specified, but surface stains are not generally regarded as a defect providing that they do not penetrate into the timber. Stick-marks and other penetrating stains are not permitted
Grain: straight or nearly straight + wavy-grain is accepted providing that it can be regarded as a special decorative feature that will not limit the performance of the piece in its intended use.
Rot / insect attack: no
Warp: none specified
Wane: none specified
Sapwood: should be excluded if used externally
BOULES logs cut and dried for use range from 450 – 1000mm diameter and 3-6m in length, cut into thicknesses 27,34,41,54,65,80,100mm. See stocklist
BOARDS in waney edge are available in the same thicknesses as BOULES (of course!) in varying widths up to 1.0m and lengths up to 6.0m. See stocklist
STRUCTURAL fresh sawn timber is customer cut and is available in similar sections to Oak, up to 300mm section dims and up to 6.0m lengths. Rounds for framing are usually not as large as square section equivalents and are not too difficult to find in local woodlands.
CLADDING, DECKING & FLOORING Chestnut all comes from the same stock as above and is available to order in standard sizes and some not so standard!
Fresh sawn chestnut is good for structural work, cladding and external landscaping , used in the sawn situations you would use fresh sawn Oak.
Dry, Chestnut is good for most joinery or furniture work.
It is very popular for external cladding in air dried, machined profiles, partly because of it’s eco credentials (use of small growth logs therefore very sustainable source) and partly because of the finger jointing option which means you get really long lengths (6.1M). It’s superb for flooring – have you seen our office lately?! The colouring is very mellow and rich, creams and browns giving a significant difference in aesthetics when compared with the softwood alternatives.