Locally sourced Oak

We recently shared some information about our current batch of Oak wood that we thought our followers would find interesting. The feedback was rather disappointing! Whilst we were super excited to have finally sourced our most popular timber within 30 miles of our workshop, it initially seemed your average Joe wasn’t quite so impressed.
Was reducing carbon footprint not important to our customers?
Was the process only fascinating to us as makers and not the end consumer?
Did people not care where the furniture in their home comes from?
We were certain the latter was not true. Maybe people were so underwhelmed by the information because we didn’t actually go into that much detail. So if the above is important to you, we hope you find the following an interesting read.
Oak tree with ivy growing on
Until recently, we have bought all of our Oak timber in individual boards from a timber yard 50 miles from our home and workshop. We always bought English Oak but the wood could come from trees 2 miles down the road or from the neighbouring counties of Cambridge, Norfolk or Essex. 
It has been our goal for a number of years to be able to source wood more locally. Why? Well,firstly it saves time, petrol and air pollution to travel a shorter distance to buy your materials, whatever the medium you work with. Secondly, if you can find someone willing to sell you a whole tree then you can be guaranteed of the consistency of all of the boards of wood produced from this single tree. And believe me you can get a LOT of coat hooks from one tree!
We were lucky enough to find someone who had felled an Oak tree in their garden with the intention to use it for their own woodworking projects but now had other commitments. It’s so easy to forget when you see smooth, straight grained, Oak furniture that it started off life as a tree towering as high as the house your furniture is now in. 
Oak tree trunk with branches removed
So how exactly does this tree end up reduced in size, shaped and sanded and back in your home as a piece of furniture? 

The first step is to remove the crown or smaller branches of the tree. These are not large enough to be used for furniture making so will most likely be used as a source of fuel. Once only the main trunk remains it can be cut away from the root system and tidied up. Old Oak trees provide a valuable network to smaller, younger trees around them. It’s important to make sure that single tree felling is done by an expert or if you are purchasing wood it carries the FSC stamp so that our forests can continue to be managed sustainably.
It is rare to see wooden furniture cut in disks showing the rings of a tree. This is because the wood is so much more stable when cut lengthways, in line with the grain or rings rather than against it. And nobody wants an unstable light in their living room! These long cuts through the tree trunk are repeated and the wood is specially stacked. This stacking process is referred to as leaving the wood ‘in stick’. Small sticks are used to separate each board from the one below allowing air to continuously circulate, slowly drying the boards. 
Oak wood felled and ready to be made into boards
 
The tree has to dry? A bizarre concept if you have never really thought about it before, but a tree draws up a huge amount of moisture from the ground whilst it’s growing and one way of reducing this moisture is to leave it to dry out in the open for a few years. You may have heard of kiln dried wood. This is a short cut process of drying the wood with heat so that it can be used almost straight away. We only ever use air dried wood because we are happy to be patient and let the wood dry out over time but we have also found that this slower process produces a better result when steam bending, which is how we make all of our products.
The moisture content of wood is really important when you are manipulating it with the use of steam as we do. If you want to read more about the process of steam bending we have written about our experiences here.
So, one air dried board at a time, we take this precious tree and carefully cut, plane, steam, shape and sand the pieces into products that are worthy of a place in your home. We hope that by understanding everything that happens before this wood even enters our workshop, you will have gained a new interest, appreciation and maybe even fascination (no, still just us then?) for furniture made from locally sourced wood.
Local Oak timber drying in stick
If you want to see a quick snapshot of this process you can watch our Instagram highlights ‘about our Oak’ or to refer back to this post you can pin it here:
locally sourced oak blog post with oak cluster light

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