Q; Why does woodland need to be managed – Surely the best woodland for wildlife is one that is left alone to grow naturally by itself?

A: Good question and one that deserves a good, long and complex answer. However for the purposes of brevity here’s the much abridged version!…

We live on a crowded island where many pressures are placed on the land and indeed much of this has a long history and heritage of human interaction dating back nearly 10,000 years to the last ice-age. Up until the First World War (1914-1918) we had less than 5% woodland cover (as a percentage of total UK land surface area) an even smaller portion of this 5% (i.e. less than 1%) was what could be considered ‘Ancient or Sem-Natural Woodland’ (ASNW) – that is woodland that has been around since Tudor times (i.e. before 1458) shown on reliable maps of that time. Following the establishment of the Forestry Commission in the UK in 1919 to address the issue, woodland cover has increased to a current national average of 12%. Much of this has been of coniferous or exotic species that has helped to secure a commercially available timber resource (much sadly undermanaged due to cheaper imports from primary forest materials from other parts of the world) but has not necessarily favoured our native wildlife.

The heritage of our native woodland is one of centuries of human intervention, through coppicing, selective felling and thinning (for use as wood fuel, tracks, barriers, buildings, boats, furniture, instruments and ornamentation) – some woodlands have had a history of management that dates back to prehistoric times that has favoured, moulded and shaped the natural fauna and flora (including unbroken mycorrhizal associations) that now live there. This represents an unbroken continuity that predates our earliest cathedrals, monuments and monoliths (including Stonehenge) and arguably should be no less deserving of ‘World Heritage’ status for their cultural value and now, sadly, rarity.

A dynamic woodland canopy – that is one that opens and closes through a cycle of thinning, coppicing and natural regeneration (sometimes supplemented with planting) has been shown to support a greater diversity of plants and animals than if a closed woodland canopy was allowed to persist. (Some ‘deep woodland’ specialists do need unbroken conditions for their preferred high humidity and low light levels to be maintained but these are much rarer and the woodlands in which they are found are or should be managed accordingly). However for the most part our managed woodlands, old and new alike, represent a win-win situation for reconciling human interests with those for wildlife. A carefully considered purchase of a UK grown timber product should help to maintain this ‘virtuous’ circle.

Q: How long will it take for my order to be delivered?

A: It depends upon what you are ordering and how busy we are at the time of your order! If we have material in stock that meets your requirements, without the need for milling or machining, we can usually effect delivery within just a few days (again, this depends upon how long, wide and heavy your order might be as this will influence how it can be delivered and at what cost). Upon receiving your enquiry / order we will contact you directly to discuss your requirements and the options available, timing and prices for delivery.

Q: Why does timber need to be dried before it can be used?

A: All wood shrinks as it dries. Not all uses of timber need it to be dried first; for example greenwood craftspeople turn or work their timber after it has been freshly cut. However the wood will inevitably shrink and allowances have to be made for this and this can limit what can be made.

Joinery and cabinet making (effectively anything made from wood for use in a warm, dry domestic environment) requires stable material that does not move (i.e. does not shrink or expand) so the best quality corner and edge joints can be achieved and the final work does not loosen up or fall apart.

Q: How long does it take for my timber/order to be dried?

A: We might have dried timber already in stock that we can supply you but it takes time to dry timber and at a rate that minimises the possible occurrence of distortion, cracking, splitting and case-hardening to occur. We have a wide variety of timbers air drying at any one time but space is always a limitation in what we can store and what we can kiln-dry further to a lower moisture content. The rule of thumb is that at least one year is needed for air drying hardwood (especially oak) and six months for softwood (eg Douglas fir) with every inch (25mm) in thickness of the timber. Based on past experience, we only put timber into the kiln that has been air-dried already. The results are more satisfactory; less timber goes to waste (from distortion) and the whole process is much more energy efficient and cost effective. On average, once the kiln is stacked full, prepared, programmed and switched on, the drying process should only take between two to three weeks.

Q: How hot does the kiln get and is it really efficient?

A: Our kiln does not exceed 60°C (140°F) and generally only requires up to 55°C (131°F) in order for most timbers to reach 8% moisture content (MC). This tends to be a bit on the dry side even for domestic / indoor use and here in the SW of England, given greater atmospheric humidity being closer to the Atlantic, we tend to dry to between 10-12% MC which serves most of our customers’ requirements. However we can dry your timber to whatever moisture content you may require.

In terms of energy efficiency ours is a dehumidification kiln which is better than most traditional heat and vent kilns but not as good as a solar kiln which we would love but do not currently have the space or money to build! The dehumidification system draws moisture out of the kiln’s chamber atmosphere and can use the latent energy from this and turn it back into heat the dry air which is driven back out into the chamber. This combination of steadily increased heat and lowered humidity in turn draws further moisture out from the timber. The great thing about this system is that the wood does not get ‘cooked’ which most heat and vent kilns do, (as these operate at higher temperatures of 100°C (212°F) or more) so the vitality and freshness of the timber in our kiln is maintained.

 

Any other questions? Please call me on 07974 217168 or send me an email using this form