Saturday, 14 April 2012

Sustainable Timber

I have already written about the times that we spend on our beaches walking, watching wildlife and gathering seaweed, but not about collecting the timber that gets washed up. So a recent find of a good straight birch tree trunk was a bonus, especially as it appeared not to have been in the water too long. It was also reasonably accessible and just about fitted in the Land Rover. Now getting wet timber off a beach on a rainy day is not everyone’s idea of fun, but for me a way to get interesting raw materials for my wood turning. To my way of thinking any piece of native hardwood is of interest if it is reasonably straight, more that more than 30 cm long and 15cm in diameter, and if it has an interesting grain then so much the better. My aim is to always, if possible, use waste timber so I am always looking out for “useful” pieces of timber. My sources are varied, in addition to driftwood, there are discarded chunks lying in forest undergrowth, storm damaged trees on farmland and in friends and neighbours gardens. The island is well wooded with about twenty per cent of its 338 square miles planted and harvested by the Forestry Commission. The Forestry Commission plantations are mainly spruce and larch that are of little interest to wood turners. Recent and current replanting programmes will bring back native hardwoods but in the main the small woodlands tucked in river valleys and glens are of much more interest to me, being a mixture of oak, ash, hazel, and birch. Beech and sycamore are occasionally available but these species tend to be in plantations near the larger houses of the then gentry. Our own garden in the grounds of what was the manse built in 1798, is typical with a mixture of mature conifer and deciduous trees. So windfall branches are an occasional near to hand source. I cut the timber into pieces easy to handle and then usually store it in the log store to dry out naturally. Some pieces I turn in the “wet” condition usually as a bowl shape and leave to dry out before finishing. Sometimes the blanks dries out without deforming, other times it splits and is condemned to the firewood box along with unusable timber and my mistakes. No wood goes to waste and the trees continue to offer me raw materials.

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