Woodturners Guild Journal - December 2003 - Issue 28 - Pages
8 & 9
Francis Morrin went to see a new
commercial timber operation which traces each plank right from the
source to the end use.
Lisnavagh Estate lies in rural Co. Carlow, just a short distance
outside the picturesque village of Rathvilly. Like many estates
it was left with a legacy of fine woodlands along with farmland,
buildings etc., that many will be familiar with. However, just as
all rural life and especially farming has been hit by the changes
in modern farming practices brought on by EU policies, Lisnavagh
has had to change and diversify to survive. Part of this diversification
has been to examine the resources left on the estate and in particular
at the woodlands. The result of this examination was a new development
for those who use and are interested in wood, the Lisnavagh Timber
"We realized that wood is important
as a material to its end users and started to look at ways we could
service that need" says William Bunbury, director of the project.
"We decided that we would start to collect timber as it fell
around the estate, but not only that, we decided to catalogue every
piece that we collect so that the timber is completely traceable"
he says. The project was some time in development while William
constructed an advanced computerised database which would service
the needs of the project and yet be easily accessible. This database
can track where the timber came from (along with photos of the tree
before harvesting), timber quality, size, distinguishing features
and more. This database is at the heart of the project.
The process of harvesting timber begins by
collating reports of felled trees and/or trees which need to be
removed for various reasons. Each tree is visited and photographed,
then details of the tree such as size and distinguishing features
are noted, and it is then labelled with a unique serial number.
This number then stays with that timber for the rest of its life.
Back in the office, the information is added to the database. When
enough trees await conversion, they are collected and brought to
the milling area where a mobile bandsaw mill is used to convert
them. The timber is cut primarily for furniture i.e. 1 inch planks
but some is always cut for heavier planks too. "We also keep
a stock of the burrs and highly figured timber we come across for
turners and sculptors - usually 4 inches thick" adds William.
Each plank is numbered from the original tree as it comes off the
mill and sticked out for air drying.
follows established rules for drying "we stick out the timber
in a covered but open walled shed to allow it to air dry using the
1inch to 1 year rule before moving the timber on to the kiln"
he says. During this time of sticking out, the timber is constantly
checked and the ties that are used to bind the piles together are
tightened as the timber shrinks during drying. "At the moment
we kiln the timber in batches" explains William, "and
after this final drying we keep the timber in a dehumidified room
to prevent the moisture content of the timber re-equilibrating with
moisture in the atmosphere".
"All of the timber is listed on the
database - along with the stage it is at" says William, "so
that we can service exactly a woodworkers needs. Furniture makers
may need timber at a lower moisture content than turners for example
and we can supply that". Such details obviously affect price
with kiln dried timber ranging in price from €20 to €50
per cubic foot (plus VAT). On request, customers can have a report
of the timber currently on hand and in what dimensions so that they
can choose according to their needs and if they purchase, each lot
is accompanied by a certificate stating the source of the timber
and a bit about the timber for the end source.
I ask William what he has planned for
the future. "Well, we definitely need to expand sales to higher
levels and also we need to invest in some more machinery" responds
William.The Lisnavagh Timber Project seems to me to be unique, -
at least I haven't heard of anything similar anywhere - and probably
sets a benchmark for many timber suppliers both at home and abroad.
Visit the Irish Woodturners Guild website - click