Tag Archives: sweet chestnut

Handcrafted Cleftwood fence and gate

Handcrafted fence frames and gate

Handcrafted wooden frames and gate

Handcrafted rustic frames and gate made from Sweet Chestnut wood

The design challenge was to create a unique semi open divide between the edge of the driveway into a garden. This particular garden has a South-Westerly aspect, with rolling Devon hills beyond. The customer wanted something specially designed to enhance their garden, be handcrafted and unique.  After considering a few options a design was agreed that involved creating two sculptural wooden frames either side of a central gate. This was to be handcrafted in durable Sweet Chestnut wood. Curved cleft pickets of various lengths were fitted in small groups to the bottom rails. Two pieces of Sweet Chestnut branch wood were stripped of bark and incorporated into each frame.

Bespoke designed gate

Handcrafted Cleft Rustic gate

Bespoke Cleft gate made using Sweet Chestnut wood

A bespoke three foot by six foot lightweight gate was designed to fit with the cleft wood frames. The lower section of the gate followed the theme using curved pickets. For the upper section a piece if mirror cleft Sweet Chestnut branch wood was morticed and tenoned into the gate frame. The gate was hung with galvanised hook and eye hinges.

The finished Design

Bepoke fence and gate decorated with lights

The finished fence frames and gate, decorated with exterior lights

A curved link piece was added to join left side frame to the side of their house. The frames were decorated with exterior lights for the Christmas period. The customer plans on adding wire netting to the back of the frames to deter their Persian cats from escaping to the lane from the enclosed garden. Fortunately their cats aren’t agile climbers.

Designing and installing bespoke handcrafted garden items is what we specialise in. We work with our customers to create something different. Please browse through some of our other projects for examples of our work.

To discuss your design requirements please call on 01409 281549 or email to info@wealdenheartwood.co.uk

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

Some useful things about firewood

While our British summer is stuttering along with varied weather, I thought a post to help people who buy firewood would be useful, specifically, non-kiln dried firewood logs. So how can you tell good firewood from bad?

Ideal hardwoods that are most readily available and good for both open fires and woodburning stoves are:

Another good hardwood is Sweet Chestnut but it can spit out hot embers. Sweet Chestnut can be burnt safely in a wood burning stove, but you still have to be careful when the stove door is opened. All these hardwoods have a high proportion of woody material per volume, which means they have a high bulk density, so more wood means more fuel to burn.

Common hardwoods that are not so good for firewood logs:

  • Aspen
  • Poplar
  • Sycamore
  • Willow

Freshly felled these hardwoods have a high volume of water and less woody material. When seasoned the bulk density of the log is much lower with these hardwoods and that means less fuel to burn.

Softwood logs:

Several softwoods when seasoned burn well in a stove. However, you will get through more logs compared to good quality hardwoods. Larch being one of the better softwoods.

How to tell if the wood is of good quality:

  • seasoned firewood will have a lower odour
  • have loose bark and/or peeling bark
  • visible cracks & splits, especially on the ends
  • dead fungi
  • have a lighter weight

How to tell if it isn’t seasoned:

  • unseasoned firewood will have a strong possibly sweet odour
  • the bark will be firmly intact
  • the ends will be damp
  • the end grain will be more uniform in colour
  • the log will be much heavier as it is loaded with water
  • if part-seasoned there maybe moulds and active fungi visible

All wood will burn, but firewood logs that are wet will be no good.

The dangers and problems of unseasoned wood:

  • steam containing volatile compounds will be produced and will deposit in your flue lining or chimney
  • a build up of these deposits will increase the risk of a fire in the flue or chimney
  • the logs will be difficult to light
  • You won’t get much heat due to the higher water content, which defeats the purpose of buying the firewood logs in the first place
  • you could damage you’re woodburning stove. Always check what fuel types and quality are approved by the manufacturer for the woodburning stove

Delivery horror stories – why you should always check your load:

  • logs that were claimed to be seasoned but weren’t when they arrived
  • unseasoned logs disguised by a top layer of good quality logs
  • tree surgeon waste logged up and sold immediately
  • apparent seasoned wood delivered in the pouring rain uncovered during transit and dumped on the driveway

When a delivery arrives you often have little time to check the quality of the firewood and you can feel pressurised into accepting it. Any reputable firewood merchant shouldn’t mind you spending a few extra minutes checking a sample before accepting the delivery. If you consider the product to be poor then reject the delivery.

I once heard a story where someone bought hardwood netted logs in bulk and it transpired that the logs were only part-seasoned. The logs had to be dried out on radiators to reduce the moisture before they could be used in a woodburning stove. I’ve even heard of another case where leaves were still growing on some of the logs that were alledgedly seasoned!

In contrast to UK customers, buyers of firewood in France generally make more checks before accepting a delivery. Often firewood is being bought a year in advance and it will still be rejected if the moisture content is too high.

Whilst you might be restricted on how much firewood you can store, leaving your ordering of firewood to the last minute could limit choice and may increase the risk of getting a bad deal. There is a fair amount of effort involved from forest to delivery, so very cheap firewood should ring alarm bells, either its poor quality or may even be stolen.

Storing your wood
Make sure that you have a dry ventilated place to store your firewood; there’s no point in letting moisture return after all the effort to season the wood.

Don’t forget the kindling
Lastly do get hold of a good supply of quality kindling and make sure you don’t use contaminated waste wood as a substitute, as this will create noxious smoke. A small amount of British lumpwood charcoal is also good for starting fires.

Keep warm and enjoy your real fire!

Charcoal, Firewood logs and Kindling for sale.

Wood for?

A few weeks ago I attended a woodfuel seminar, which was a useful update to previous ones I had been to. This is certainly a market that over the years is developing significantly from the traditional log and charcoal products. There is a long way to go to a mature market and there will be bumps along the way before we reach that point. With new Government backed assistance through schemes like the Renewable Heat Incentive, the Forestry Commission launching a Woodfuel Woodland Improvment Grant and existing EU funding to aid the rural sector in development, the market could shake off many of the current constraints and propel itself forward very quickly over the next few years. 

This brings me to the question in the title of this post “Wood for?” One particular thing stood out at the seminar and it was not from the course content but came from another delegate. This person was already using a significant amount of wood for heating on their farm and they had recently taken delivery of an lorry load of hardwood. It transpired that the wood was mainly Oak. However it was not just branchwood corded up but contained main stems cut to cord lengths. As you can imagine a few of us winced when we heard this. There are several other similar situations I have heard about or encountered where quality wood resources are being diverted to energy consumption instead of useable timber products. There is a significant risk that such occurrences will become more and more common place over the next few years. The hope is that this doesn’t happen.

Sweet Chestnut stack of coppice produce

Stack of Sweet Chestnut coppice produce destined for fencing

Stack of Mixed Broadleaf coppice

Stack of Mixed Broadleaf coppice destined for the woodfuel market

Coppice Wood Extraction

What a difference a couple of weeks have made. The woodland is bursting into life with the leaves on the trees flushing, the Bluebells taking over from the finishing Wood Anemones. On the work front good progress was made on extracting the coppice wood to the landing site. The extraction route is a quite a distance from the felled coupe and in parts it is not straightforward to navigate. The Iron horse is coping well with the task, although there is a lot more to do before this job is finished. The majority of the coppice stools have new shoots developing. What is encouraging is that some of the coppice stools that were in a very poor condition before cutting are also sprouting new growth too. Whilst working a pair of buzzards were circling high above in the thermal updrafts. With an environment like this to work in it is difficult to better no matter how hard the work is.

Finished Coppice

recently cut coppice in March 2011

After finishing the coppicing the next job is to extract the cord wood and erect the deer fencing. There are lots of deer in the area and it is important that they do not damage the coppice regrowth. This might look drastic at the moment but by mid-summer this area will be reinvigorated with fresh new growth.