Oak Planters for the Country Living Fair

I was recently commissioned to design and make bespoke Oak planters for the Lucy Summers feature garden at the Country Living Fair at The London Business Design Centre, which runs from Wednesday 18th March until Sunday 22nd March.

Oak planters at Country Living Fair

Lucy Summers feature garden Country Living Fair

My planters are handcrafted using locally sourced Oak from Devon and have been used as corner pieces to frame the overall design, as seen in the picture above.

Below, this is how they looked before delivery to the show.

Bespoke designed Oak planters

Bespoke designed Oak planters

Crafted Mini Yurts

In comparison with a large full sized yurt, a mini yurt is light weight, easy to assemble, highly portable and takes up less space when pitched. Crafted from hardwood timber locally sourced from Devon woods, these mini yurts are designed for a variety of uses for both children and adults. A seven foot mini yurt can sleep two adults and are a great alternative to ordinary tents.

Mini yurt

Mini yurt by the estuary at Tregunna, Cornwall

Mini yurt

Mini yurt in the gardens at Coombe Trenchard

For more information please see website page about mini yurts.

Oak cleft gates

These Oak gates were designed and made for a customer using greenwood. The gates were styled to fit in with their surrounding environment. They also needed to be livestock and deer proof.

To make these gates the green Oak round wood was split into quarters using steel wedges. A froe was used to cleave these quarters into the thinner pieces used to make the individual gate components.

Array

The rough cleft Oak was smoothed and shaped further using a draw-knife. The greenwood was left to partially season for a number of weeks before the final cutting and assembly of the gates took place.

After the Oak had been rested, the next stage was to mark and cut all the tenons and mortices prior to assembly. The rails were carefully chosen in pairs to ensure a degree of continuity between both gates. This design uses five rails and these are fixed using stainless steel nails. Stainless steel nails are used to limit the chemical reaction of the tannic acid naturally present in Oak with the metal, this avoids dark stains appearing on the wood, which you would eventually get with galvanised or other non-stainless steels grades of nails.

Finally, the vertical pales and diagonal braces were cleft, cut, shaped and fitted to the gates.

All our rustic gates are individually designed and handmade for each customer in either Oak or Sweet Chestnut. For further details, please email info@wealdenheartwood.co.uk or phone (01409) 281549 to discuss your requirements.

Stairs and Fencing in Cleft Sweet Chestnut

Intro

This project involved working jointly with another company Quay Carpentry www.quaycarpentry.co.uk. The brief for their customer was to craft components to meet their outdoor stair design, which would link a terrace and have fencing along the top of the terrace. The timber suited for the rustic look was Sweet Chestnut. After discussing design options with Quay Carpentry the individual components were crafted for them.

Crafting the Components

The stair strings were planked by cleaving from large rounds of Sweet Chestnut rather than milling. This was important for the stair string for the turn because cleaving naturally follows the grain, compared to sawing that cuts through the fibres. This helped with the next stage of processing, which involved steam bending and setting on a former to obtain the desired shape. The handrail for the stair turn was also steam bent and set on a former after steaming for a couple of hours. This can seen in the preceding photo, which shows the handrail in the former after steaming.

Array

Two individual rustic gates were crafted. One would be used for the top of the stairs and the other along the fence line. These are shown in the next two photos.

Array

Array

Each of the stair treads were cleaved from large rounds, similar to how the stair strings were produced. The newel posts, fencing posts and rails etc. were made from smaller rounds of Sweet Chestnut. The hand tools used were axe, froe, splitting wedges, draw knife, spoke shave, bit and brace.

Installed Stairs, Gates and Fencing

After the components were delivered to the customer, Quay Carpentry completed the installation. The finished work can be seen in the last photo.

Array

The customer was very pleased with the end result that produced a unique rustic look that is perfect for its function and rural setting.

Bespoke Cleft Chestnut Panels

This project involved making a number of bespoke Sweet Chestnut panel infills, which were installed in the upper area of a barn. Sweet Chestnut had been used for the roofing components, so the customer was looking for the same wood to be used. The stair ladder and upright pieces to hold the Chestnut panels were made by a carpenter using reclaimed Oak. Due to the variability of the Oak pieces, each Chestnut panel was different in size and was custom made to fit each section.

Array

The handrails of the stair ladder were made from Sweet Chestnut and contrast the darker reclaimed Oak frame and treads.

Array

Array

The panel spindles were made from cleft Sweet Chestnut pales, which were installed into mortices made in the outer frame. A froe is used to split the wood down the grain and a drawknife used to smooth the surface of the pales. The panels have a unique handmade look that blends in with the stone, exposed beams wood and thatched roof of the barn.

Array

Greenwood was used for all the Sweet Chestnut components. The final piece was a bespoke gate made to fit at the top of the stair ladder.  This was designed so that the gate could only open inwards, which was achieved by extending the top left section of the gate.

Array

This a good example of using green Sweet Chestnut for various interior components.

Sculptural Trellis using Cleft Chestnut

Sculptural Trellis
Here are some photos of a bespoke trellis fence that is made from cleft Sweet Chestnut batons and rinded small diameter poles. Part of the inspiration for this design was taken from a Swedish style of rural fence and this was worked into a sculptural design to fit the needs of this project.

Array

A pole frame was constructed and fixed to posts either side of the gap in the hedge. The righthand side post was split down the middle and the poles were fixed inside before being bolted together.

Array

The trellis batons were fixed to the frame with galvanised nails.

Trellis Designs
Here are a few more examples of bespoke trellis that can be fixed to a wall or side of a building. Due the variability of cleaved wood every one is unique, so the designs that can be made are endless.

Array

Trellis made from cleft Chestnut is extremely durable and doesn’t require wood preservatives. The wood will weather to silvery grey overtime.

Array

Rustic Chestnut Gates and Fencing

Here are some examples of bespoke Sweet Chestnut gates and fencing that can be handmade to order. The Sweet Chestnut is coppiced sustainably from woodland, which provides a regular supply of quality wood to create naturally durable products. The wood is used green i.e. not kiln dried or air dried after removing the bark and much of the sapwood. Various green woodworking tools are used, such as a froe, draw knife, twybil, axe, to shape the Chestnut gates and fencing into the finished pieces.

Array

Natural shapes, bends and twists in the wood are incorporated into finished product to create distinct one off pieces.

Array

Array

Products can be made in a range sizes, shapes and styles, so you can let you imagination run wild…

Array

Array

What’s more coppiced woodland has a positive outcome for biodiversity, therefore by buying any wood products sourced from any coppiced woodlands directly supports future habitat management as well as the rural economy.

Array

There is always a good stock of Sweet Chestnut available in various sizes and lengths, so if you require something specially made to order or need to source some materials for your own green woodworking project, then we are happy to discuss your requirements.main website

Low Impact Extraction to aid Woodland Restoration

Restoration of Native woodland on Ancient woodland sites has been growing in importance over the last decade as a mechanism for recovering previously lost or diminished habitat. For those conifer Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS) that are deemed suitable for full or partial restoration, there are many pitfalls to avoid to achieve this goal successfully.

One such activity I’ll cover in this post is the extraction. The wrong choice made could seriously reduce the benefits of restoration to a woodland site. It could even make the situation worse than before the restoration, so careful consideration should be made for each site. If new extraction routes are required to get machinery in, and timber out, then this alone could cause serious damage to the existing ecological conditions and/or restrict the restoration development afterwards. The choice of extraction equipment is vital to give the site being restored the best chance to recover, create the right type of ground disturbance and avoid damage through soil compaction.

Over the years I have experienced two different types of low impact extraction the first being horse logging and the other with an Iron horse low ground pressure machine. Implemented correctly, both of these extraction types are very good for PAWS restoration. My experiences with horse logging were a few years ago when I volunteered some time to the Working Horse Trust based in Eridge, East Sussex. The Ardenne heavy horses that I worked with at the Trust are beautiful and powerful animals, capable of shifting significant amounts of timber through narrow extraction routes, without damaging the woodland floor. My lack of equine knowledge didn’t worry me as there were experienced and friendly people on hand to help. I seriously considered horse logging as a profession to integrate into my business.

Ardenne Heavy Horse with logging arch

Ardenne Heavy Horse with logging arch Weald WoodFair 2009

Iron Horse extracting 18' coppice poles

Iron Horse along a woodland ride extracting 18' coppice poles

However, after weighing up all the pros and cons I decided that horse logging wasn’t the right choice and opted for an Iron horse instead. This has proved extremely valuable to the business and has been impressive in a number of different extraction tasks. Like with a horse’s hoofs, the machines rubber tracks are good at disturbing the top layer to help unlock a sites seedbank.

The Iron horse and horse logging extraction methods are slower and more costly than other larger types of extraction equipment, but what price to you put on the damage the alternatives can cause?

Coppice site extracted using and Iron Horse

Coppice site extracted using and Iron Horse

Going Batty

Last night I visited the outbuilding that adjoins the office to put the recycling materials in the collection box. Whilst I was doing that a bat swooped in, looped round just above my head and flew to the top corner at the back. I moved quietly forward to get a closer look and it had roosted by a rafter. I went back to the house and grabbed my camera. Thinking that the bat might be gone by the time I returned a minute later, I was pleasantly surprised to see it still there.

Array

Bats are often seen flying around the barns and I had tried and failed to take photos of before. This was the first time I had had a chance to photograph a roosting bat. It looks like this area is being used as a feeding site. There are a few large spiders webs at various points underneath where the bat had roosted. These had plently of insect remains and droppings.

I am a novice when it comes to identifying bats. However after doing some research I worked out the bat was most likely to be a Pipistrelle. The droppings were a good help with identification after I gleened as much as I could from the photo of the bat.

Array


Array


Array

The other photos I took of the bat were slightly blurred, so I didn’t upload those. After spending another minute in the corner, the bat then crawled through a very small gap at the top of the wooden dividing partition into the store. It spent a few minutes in there before scrabbling back outside. A few minutes later after the lights were switched off it flew out, presumably to find another tasty moth. This was a wonderful thing to see.

Charcoal, the Good, the Bad and the Dirty

With the Summer weather improving there will be more opportunities to cook on a barbecue and dine with friends and family outside. You might not think that there could be many differences between brands of charcoal, but there are. In this post I will compare home produced hardwood charcoal with tropical hardwood charcoal. Unfortunately, the UK still imports the majority of charcoal consumed annually. British hardwood charcoal is a higher quality and a better product than that produced from tropical hardwoods, and here are some reasons why:

  • There are far fewer impurities in the finished product so it will not taint the food being cooked. The same thing cannot be said for that produced from tropical hardwoods.
  • It is easy to light with a taper of twisted paper, so does not need any lighter fluids or firelighters. When using lighter fluids or firelighters with charcoal, you will increase the chances of tainting any food being cooked from the extra residues.
  • Charcoal made from UK hardwoods has a high carbon content. It will burn slower, you will use less, so it will last longer than tropical hardwood.
  • UK charcoal production is often associated with sustainable forms of woodland management like coppicing. This type of woodland management enhances and maintains a diverse mix of wildlife habitats in our woodlands, thus keeping our woodlands healthy and thriving with wildlife. Whereas tropical hardwood charcoal often comes from rainforest and mangrove swamps, that use unsustainable and ecologically damaging harvesting practices in the form of deforestation.
  • Buying British hardwood charcoal helps sustain rural employment. It is more environmentally friendly than imported charcoal that has to be shipped long distances using more fossil fuels in the process. Importing less charcoal will, in a small way, contribute to reducing our trade imbalances.
  • Making charcoal is a good method for using up small otherwise unusable pieces of wood by converting them into a higher value product.

Based on retail price British hardwood charcoal is more costly than imported tropical hardwood charcoal. However, comparing purely on price is not a fair comparison as I hope you will appreciate from the points mentioned above.

There are many smallscale producers all over the country. Some do supply big retail outlets directly, but be aware that big retailers squeeze producers in all sectors. So if you can, try and source charcoal either directly from the producer or from small local retail outlets and distributors selling their products.

British Hardwood Charcoal in a round Kiln

British Hardwood Charcoal in a round Kiln

Charcoal for barbecues