What to expect from our Woodland to Workshops
The first three-day Woodland Heritage Woodland to Workshop course was held in May 2008 at Whitney Sawmill near Hay-on-Wye, Herefordshire. It gave an overview of forest management and the operations and problems involved in growing trees of high timber quality, the defects to which logs can be prone, measurement, sawing and storage of logs and sawn timber, and an opportunity to discuss the problems facing smaller wood-using enterprises.
The course was the inspiration of Will Bullough, the owner of Whitney Sawmill, and Peter Goodwin, Chairman of Woodland Heritage. It was run for 12 participants, most of whom were wood users (e.g. furniture makers, sawmillers, timber buyers and a horse logger) rather than growers, though some of these were also present. The value of the interactions between this diverse student group provided the real ‘added value’.
After an introduction by Susan Bell (Trustee of Woodland Heritage), Will Bullough and Gavin Munro set the scene and ran the course. Geraint Richards the Duchy of Cornwall’s head forester and Graham Taylor of Pryor and Rickett Silviculture led the day in the field at Aconbury wood, owned by the Duchy. Two evening lectures were given by Peter Harper of the Centre for Alternative Technology and Roger Venables, a past Woodland Heritage Trustee, on the ‘Renaissance of European Oak’.
The workshop discussions and demonstrations took place at Whitney Sawmill. Will Bullough outlined the problems faced by smaller sawmill enterprises operating within tight profit margins. He emphasised the desirability of woodland owners selling small parcels of broadleaves (hardwood) to provide them with the chance to bid successfully.
Topics covered included:
- Distinguishing between normal drying splits and shakes
- Minimising damage caused by ambrosia beetles
- Practice at identifying various kinds of damage and undesirable features of logs, including woodpecker damage, spiral grain and blue stain fungi and wide sapwood
- Likely markets for unusual logs including curved stems, “pippy” oak, and ripplegrained sycamore
- The merits of a portable band saw (a Wood-Mizer)
- Practice at measuring and calculating timber volumes both in the forest and the sawmill. The importance of accuracy and reliability was emphasised. The losses incurred when converting a log to planks were also discussed.
- Air drying.
There was agreement that the diversity of the students’ backgrounds contributed much to the course through their individual knowledge and experience. Both Gavin and Will were praised as being confident and interesting speakers, keen to impart their knowledge, encouraging student participation and questions in an informal and friendly atmosphere. Woodland Heritage will be running similar courses throughout the year.