To Workshop... Woodland Heritage's training course: Part 2

Thursday, April 21, 2016

To Workshop... Woodland Heritage's training course: Part 2

Woodland Heritage holds a three-day training course twice a year that is truly unique - one training course that covers growing trees through to their final processing, use, and sale... This is part 2 of the full article review of the course.

Read part 1: From Woodland...

… to Workshop
The ‘from woodland’ sessions gave me a great introduction to managing a woodland, and we were given a host of materials for further research. Then the ‘to workshop’ sessions began, as the instructors moved from growing and felling timber, into transforming that timber into a finished product. 

Get articles like this in your inbox! 

Sawmilling timber
In the classroom, we discussed the various methods of sawing logs into timber and why certain methods are used. Then we went outside for a hands-on demonstration of a mobile LT40 hydraulic sawmill. The attendees were impressed with the ease that the operator could load, position and saw the logs into plank after plank. Then they took turns operating the sawmill themselves.

When you have logs sitting in the log yard, our instructors stressed that you should not try to pre-cut beams, but only cut a beam once you have an order for it. Beams are sold green, and are not kiln dried. 

Planks can also be cut green to order. If the buyer needs rustic timber that will be used outside, he may buy it green. Some buyers may buy the wood green with the intention of drying it themselves.

Beam sawing techniques –
   •  The boxed heart method is simple and balances log stresses, resulting in a beam that stays straight. 
   • Cutting halved beams, sawing through the middle, is not good for long lengths, due to their tendency to curve, but can be useful for short lengths. 

Planking techniques – 
   • Through and through is the easiest and most common method of sawing planks. The crown boards have a tendency to cup. 
   • Billet sawing releases stress in the log but reduces the maximum width of the planks. Thicker planks should come from the centre of the log, as they will be quarter sawn and more stable.
   • Quarter sawn boards are the most stable and typically result in the most attractive visual appearance. Quarter sawn planks shrink less than planks sawn with other methods. Less risk of checking during the drying process. Best results come from logs of more than 1 metre in diameter. 

Valuing timber
Then the clipboards and calculators came out as the attendees were split into groups and given the task of calculating the market value of the timber that had been cut on the sawmill. The teams were shown how to take into consideration sapwood waste, defects, etc. The final estimations were then reviewed by an experienced timber buyer, who helped to refine the price analysis.

Drying Timber
Cutting and pre-drying timber before selling is speculative based on past order history. You must anticipate orders and timber in stock, so try to leave planks as wide as possible when drying, so that there will be a lot of flexibility for future order fulfillment. 

Drying timber is a whole science to itself, but our instructors did a great job of supplying us with general principles and recommendations to get the beginner started. We were divided into teams again and stacked a pile of timber for drying, using stickers between each layer of timber.

As a rule of thumb, 1 inch thick timber takes 1 year to air dry. Thinner stickers slow down the drying process by reducing the airflow. Stickers should never be green timber, but should be dried to around 18%; otherwise they will stain the timber they are in contact with. 

Many sawmill companies air-dry their timber for several weeks or months, and then place the half-dried timber into a kiln for final drying. 

When boards dry, the grain will try to straighten out, which causes the boards to cup. Thin boards from a small log will dry straight, but thick boards from a small log have a lot of strength and a strong tendency to cup. 

Something to remember is that timber only needs to be dried to match the moisture content of its final environment. Exterior wood products do not need to be kiln dried, air drying is sufficient.  Interior woodwork is generally kiln dried to around 10-11% moisture content. 

Working timber
Throughout all three days of the course, a master woodworker was busy in the on-site workshop, working on a variety of projects, and during breaks from the regular sessions, attendees could spend time with him, asking questions, watching him work, and get hands-on with several simple yet inspiring projects of their own. 

A session in the workshop focused on various wood species, their qualities and common uses in woodworking, as well as their unique issues and challenges. The workshop time was very valuable, as we could all watch the timber being turned into the final product.

‘Renaissance of European Oak’ lecture
A highlight for everyone was a special session with Roger Venables, whose long career in the wood industry has seen him involved with projects such as the restoration of Windsor Castle, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and more. What was so fascinating is that he offered an inside look at how they designed and executed their magnificent projects, with amazing amounts of behind the scenes details.  

It was obvious that everyone immensely enjoyed the course, the content presented, and the interactions with instructors and the other attendees alike. Among the attendees were arborists, apprentices, landowners, sawmillers, woodworkers, foresters, etc. The range of experiences and knowledge from the whole group made every moment educational and engaging.

Everyone was incredibly attentive, each one scribbling notes throughout the sessions, a testament to the quality of the material being presented, and the value it held for the listeners. 
The course is held twice a year, usually in May and September. Class size is limited.

An excellent video that summarizes the course:
For further information, please contact Woodland Heritage:



Welcome to the stories and articles section of our website.

Here you will discover how Wood-Mizer sawmill owners worldwide are actively growing local economies by processing wood more sustainably and profitably. 

I invite you to contact me for any questions about these articles.