A Venture into English Hardwoods

Updated: May 13, 2021

The continuing story of my education in timber...

After the workshop was set up and I had made several jobs in different pines we were getting requests to make in hardwoods #hardwoods, predominantly English Oak #englishoak. I had used American White and Red Oak on jobs in Ireland but not on a large scale.

There were not many sawmills #sawmills in the area cutting native hardwoods and I made contact with a sawmiller in Welshpool in mid Wales. It was a couple of hours drive through the centre of Wales but I went to see them as I needed oak for an order. This was a one man business and he had the biggest horizontal bandsaw #horizontalbandsaw I'd ever seen. I learned a lot on that visit, hardwoods are sold waney edge #waneyedge and each board is measured across the face at 3 points and an average is taken to calculate the width. I tested the water with about 10 cubic feet, I had worked out that was about 20% more than needed.

These beautiful piece of furniture is made from quarter sawn English Oak.  That's why it has this beautiful fleck all the way through it.  Handmade in solid timber by Kim Roycroft Woodworker and Craftsman.
Stunning buffet/sideboard in English Oak.

As we got more orders for Oak #oak my visits to the sawmill became more frequent and we built up a really good relationship and I learned a lot about drying and stacking out timber. The amounts we were buying increased and they suggested that he would deliver 100 cubic metres with his flatbed truck.

On one visit I noticed a stack of half inch thick oak, the boards were over 2'6" on the butt end, when I pulled some out they were quarter sawn #quarter #sawn and flat as a pancake, I said "I will have the lot" he said "No you won't". I said "why not". The sawmiller had a brother who had a joinery shop and he was already complaining that I was taking too much of the timber that was cut for his intended use. It was cup of tea time, down to his house where his wife served up scones and jam.

This island bench hasw been  handmade in English Elm all in solid timber with dovtailed drawers.  Part of a large kitchen built by Kim Roycroft for a Manor House.
A Dream Island Kitchen Bench in solid English Elm

He started talking about elm #elm #timber trees that he was cutting that had come from the border counties and that because it moves about so much he had cut it thicker than the oak. I was interested and took a few boards back to machine up and see what the grain was like.

This became my new favorite, a dark brown wood with wavy grain #grain and we did not need to stain it but it did test you as a maker as it was very unpredictable and more difficult to handle than oak.

I really enjoyed making from these two woods and much to the despair of the cabinetmakers I was now employing, who kept mentioning how easy Brazilian Mahogany #brazilianmahogany was to work and I wouldn't have to waste time driving to Welshpool.

I did drive away from his farm that day with 1/2" quarter sawn boards hanging out the back doors of the van, to this day it is still the best timber I have used!