Timbers used while making Furniture in Wales

Top pick for timber we used in our Pembrokeshire workshop for me was English Oak. One of the reasons was the quality of the timber we were getting from the sawmiller in Welshpool. I didn’t know then that oak hardens with age, and storing for years was not a good thing, that was not a problem as we were using everything we could get our hands on. I loved laying out all the cutting list on waney edged boards or slabs, cutting them out and planning ready to make. Utilizing the timber to its best and getting all the timber for a piece from the same tree. I found it comfortable to work with hand tools. Another advantage was customers loved it finished natural which showed off the grain and figure and if people wanted darker it could be stained golden oak through to dark oak.

Elm came in second, the grain was wild and it was not as stable as other woods, did not take a stain so you got what you got, which was usually spectacular. Although the grain was everywhere I found that it machined well but not as easy on hand tools.

Brazilian Mahogany was a timber we used a lot, not sure why, it was very easy to work and it stained evenly and polished really well. The stock was wide but short – 6’ to 8’ and when I needed a longer board, such as the bar top in the RSL in Haverfordwest which was over 20 feet long, I had to use African Mahogany, causing problems as it was naturally a lot darker than Brazilian.

American Cherry, this was a timber that disappointed me, it worked really well and was very stable but I expected more from it, maybe it was the batch I got from the supplier or importer. Also the board widths were narrow and I had to glue up all of the sides and shelves and panels. I will have to give it another try someday and be a bit more picky.

Maple was another hardwood, I used it laying large floors in public buildings in Ireland and I was keen to make furniture from it, the Maple I used was a different color then the timber used for flooring and did not seem to be as splintery, it worked out really well. I remember making a 10 foot wide triple bookcase and the grain was big wide swirls and it polished to a beautiful hard finish. I also found out that it is one of the few timbers that swells and shrinks along its length.

Chestnut was very like oak without the medullary rays and easier to work, I did notice much of this but the pieces I made were always popular, it’s a wood I would like to use again, not sure if it will be possible living in Australia.

Being in the country and always willing to have a go at something new when local timbers came up from a hedgerow or local farm I'd put my hand up. It was usually small sections and I could manage them on the rip saw which had a 20” blade. Local woods such as Alder, Holly, Sycamore and Yew, the latter was - ‘hard as you know what’- small sections but amazing grain, started to use this for decorative parts such as stringing, great contrast in lighter timbers.

There could be more that I have not recalled but they will have to wait until something jogs my memory. Next time I will talk about West Australian timbers and my endeavors in Mobile sawmilling using a Lewis Saw.

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