British larch is regarded as the most hard wearing of all domestic softwoods. Its particularly high resin content means that it requires no chemical treatment! Its natural durability in contact with the ground makes it suitable for posts and in fencing. Larch has good tensile strength and can be used for structural purposes. We source our larch as locally as possible, part of it from our own woodlands. Larch is a cost-effective and sustainable option and its varied uses include decking, cladding, roofing as well as interior features such as panelling and shelving. Top quality knot-free timber is used in boat building.
The colour of British larch varies from cream in the sapwood to pink and red-brown hues in the heartwood and adds warmth and character to your indoor and outdoor spaces. As larch ages its colour changes to a beautiful silver grey. Why not experiment with burnt larch cladding inspired by the Japanese art of shou-sugi-ban? The burning process is said to release a protective carbon layer providing increased fire resistance and durability.
Larch grows on steep slopes and even though the logs look straight while in our yard we expect, due to tension release, some thinner pieces to bend after sawing. This is avoidable on shorter (under 3m) or much thicker pieces (over 100mm). Thankfully larch is very flexible and it is possible to push it into place before securing with nails. If this will be a problem for your project please ask for alternative (Douglas Fir).
Douglas fir timber shows a remarkably clean-cut division between the hard, red-brown summer wood and the paler, softer, pinkish-yellow springwood of the same annual ring. No matter how fast the tree may grow, it always lays down a high proportion of strong, dense summerwood. This makes it very satisfactory and dependable timber for heavy constructional work. It is light yet able to withstand high loads, but not durable outdoors unless treated with preservatives. Douglas fir can be fairly knot-free and available in long lengths which makes it a good timber for boat building, oars etc.
A few interesting facts on Douglas fir: It was brought from North America to Europe by the Scottish botanist David Douglas in 1827. Douglas fir is one of the most magnificent trees in the world. Indeed Britains tallest tree is a 211ft grand Douglas fir planted in the 1870s beside Loch Fyne, Argyll.
Scots pine is a readily available low-grade softwood. It has low natural durability but is well suited for pressure treatment. We produce all of our treated fencing posts from Scots pine as it best absorbs pressure treatment and performs well in contact with the ground. While to date Scots pine is most commonly used for fencing and firewood, it can also be used for external cladding or decking after pressure treatment. We occasionally find a more specialist use for it in supplying Pine flooring to customers replacing antique Victorian floor boards.
One potential usage of Scots pine that could be explored further is a method that uses solid timber elements called 'Brettstapel Construction'. Not only is this a cost effective, quick and relatively easy way of building. It also encourages the wider use of low-grade homegrown softwood timber that would otherwise be unsuitable for construction.
Sitka spruce is the main conifer species grown in the UK and a readily available low-grade softwood. Like Scots pine it has low natural durability but is well suited for pressure treatment. When used outdoors such as in fencing - its most common use here at the sawmill - Spruce requires preservative treatment. Untreated Spruce can be used as construction timber indoors and above ground. Round timber can be used as structural elements in buildings.
Spruce timber is referred to as 'whitewood' due to its pale colour ranging from creamy white to a pale pink or pinkish brown. In dry spruce there is little colour difference between the heartwood and sapwood.
Oak is highly valued as a hard, sturdy and versatile timber. Oak flooring lasts for generations and oak furniture will show little signs of wear. Oak is used for all types of structural work - in beams and lintels, oak frame construction, windows, doors, and floors. Good quality oak is widely used for furniture, interior joinery, carving and turning. Quarter sawn oak was traditionally used for panelling, because of its beautiful figure and stability. Scottish oak generally has a wilder and more characterful grain than European oak, with more pippiness and occasional burr. Due to tannins the heartwood of oak is durable and suitable for exterior use without preservative treatment. Oak varies a little in colour depending on growing conditions, but is generally described as light tan or biscuit coloured. (cited from http://www.ashs.co.uk)
Ash is the toughest native hardwood with excellent shock resistance. These properties ensured its use from earliest times as the best handle for all tools that involve impact, and for most weapons. Ash is a popular furniture timber, with excellent bending properties, therefore ideal for parts of chairs. It has even been used on skis! Ash can also be used for interior joinery e.g. for stairs. Ash flooring brings a lightness to the room. The timber has a clean white to light brown appearance and a varied though subdued surface figure. Rings show a clear contrast between early and late growth. Ash is always markedly ring-porous: each spring its cambium produces a ring of very large open pores to carry a large current of sap up its stem. Despite its strengths, ash timber is perishable and liable to beetle attacks. Ash from our sawmill has amongst others been used for shelving, flooring, worktops and doors.
Sycamore is excellent for furniture and internal joinery, particularly in kitchens where it's ideal for kitchen tables and worktops. It's also used to make musical instruments, e.g., harps and violins, and for making domestic utensils, like rolling pins, pie moulds, and chopping boards. Rippled sycamore with its stunning fiddleback figure is used for veneers and craftwork. It is also ideal for steam bending.
The timber is a lovely creamy colour with a natural lustre. It darkens somewhat on exposure to light, becoming golden in appearance. Sycamore has a subtle figure, with visible growth rings but few other distinguishing features. Rippled sycamore has a beautiful wavy figure, caused by varying grain direction. Sycamore is classed as perishable and therefore unsuitable for use outdoors. (www.ashs.co.uk)
Beech wood is hard, strong and heavy, but it lacks the toughness and shock resistance of ash. It is versatile wood for furniture making and lots of indoor jobs that require a piece of wood. Even growth and very fine pores make it easy to work in any direction. One of the properties of beech is a considerable degree of shrinkage and swelling. This can be advantageous if used in the right circumstances. For example bone dry beech dowels inserted in softwood with a higher moisture content will swell and thus effectively join wood together with or without adhesives. Beech is a pale creamy brown colour, with distinctive dark flecks.