Sort of got a bit confused with the days and missed writing about the APF show – the UK’s largest forestry,woodland and arboricultural exhibition held on the Ragley Estate in Warwickshire (see last blog for all the photos). It only happens every other year so it’s best not to miss it (and it’s a very good day out for the forestry team). We cadged a lift with Acacia Tree Surgery and others as it is good to travel in a big mini bus and get to meet old friends – one of which was Mick Thwaites aka Dr Livingstone (he found a most suitable hat for hedge laying at the show!!!!).
As usual there were so many woodchippers it was ridiculous -I suppose they have so many because a good percentage of the punters are tree surgeons. These are Timberwolf chippers -probably one of the best makes (we have a tractor mounted one as that saved a fortune). I think the price of one with an engine is well over £15,000 probably nearer £20,000 these days; a PTO one is about £12,000. One item I saw that was not a bad idea was the industrial log burner- saves on chipping the wood but means it needs loading more often… has potential.
This year there were a lot, and I mean a lot, of industrial wood chippers! Blimey is there going to be any wood left in a decade?!!!!!! Some extremely good planking wood was just split and chucked into these monsters; one wonders why people seem to have no imagination and just think wood is only fit for burning, a real shame to see.
Don’t get me wrong about firewood- there is a place for it and, when you have loads of unusable offcuts, cord wood, thinnings and damaged wood it should be utilised efficiently and, for the small-scale producer, there were plenty of innovations regarding making logs for sale to the home user.
Now occasionally you come across something that could be a very good innovation- this log chopper was pretty impressive and I can see that, if it stands the test of time, it would be an excellent machine to buy for the Wimpole Estate as it looks very safe to use and relatively simple. Just chuck a billet in (or piece of cord wood) and out come logs- no hands near saw blades and that’s got to be a good thing as there are a lot of people without thumbs and fingers because of logging saws. It works by rotating the main drum where the wood goes in and the saw blade is set in the bottom.
Another good innovation was the tree tent- one of these only costs roughly £300-£500 each, depending on the size. Not a bad idea for the ranger programme and for getting people out into the countryside. Fancy sleeping in a wood in a tent sixty foot up in the tree canopy? Shouldn’t want to go sleep walking though!
Been looking at getting a sawmill to convert the GOOD timber into value added products or just selling the planked timber. Trouble is… what to buy? This was was one of the main reasons for me to go to the APF show. This year there was a much better choice and range. Had a look at the Wood-Mizers but they are quite expensive and only have medium width bandsaw blades; however they are good and many people have them; I also suspect they have a very good advertising regime… Then there are some less expensive sawmills like Logosol- these however do have very narrow bandsaw blades and can only do smaller tree trunks. Oh what to do? There was an Italian bandsaw- very robust but, at £35,000, I had better look at some more!
There was a Hudson- much like the Logosol- but then I found a German made bandsaw-this was also expensive but seemed value for money and had a very wide blade… unfortunately it still had a hefty price tag of £35,000 for the smallest one (their others are huge). One very good point about this sawmill was its ability to deal with not so good timber- timber that has big branches and knots going into the trunk. I love furniture with character and some of the best antique furniture has lovely figuring due to branches etc. If only I had the money…
Last year was particularly wet and, for most of the winter, we huddled up to radiators elsewhere on the estate (as Cobbs Wood Farm has no water or heating) and tried our best to dry our clothing out but, alas, every morning was the same- cold, wet chainsaw trousers and waterproofs and soggy boots… started to get trench foot it rained so much! NOT this year, we have had enough of being cold and wet. So, when I saw this space heater that uses wood ( yes wood) it ticked all the environmental boxes. Our shed could do with one of these and there isn’t a problem installing it as we have a hot works licence to use grinders etc. So, the way this works is, you put the wood into the fire chamber and light it, ten minutes later the yellow electric fan that fits on one side blows hot air out of the other side. Basically the top section has a massive heat exchanger- just need a flue and spark arrester. Cost was normally £1500 but the show price was too darn good to miss out on ( also had free delivery). Watch this space, we will be reporting on the efficiency of this space heater…
Another ‘must buy’ was the Tuffdip- with so many problems with the modern treatment of softwood posts it’s high time we used sweet chestnut posts from English woods. They do last longer with the modern copper treatments but their life could be further prolonged by using the Tuffdip product. It’s bitumen based and sets rather hard unlike normal roofing bitumen paint which is much softer. This Tuffdip won’t come off and will protect the vulnerable zone just around ground level where it is wet and open to the air. The next batch of chestnut fencing we get will be treated with Tuffdip and hopefully I won’t have to replace the posts for a good 10-15 years.
For me, as always, the best section was the one with the vintage machines and green woodworkers; however there did not appear to be a great selection of old machines, which was a shame, but there was an old rack saw that cut some tree trunks into planks. On the other hand the green woodworking section had doubled in size.
It was here that I found some lovely planks of elm for sale. It can be quite hard to get large sizes since Dutch elm disease ravaged the British countryside so the prices can be quite high these days. This elm was going for £50-60 per cubic foot ( I only get £1.5-2.5 per foot for firewood). Of course you have to sell the planks but there is the extra investment and labour to think about with the milling (mind you if we sold logs to make more money that would incur the same costs). Lately I have used a chainsaw to plank some of the twelve-inch trunks of elm on the Wimpole Estate to make seats for stools- this has gone down well with the green woodworkers at Wimpole so maybe, if we can get a bandsaw, we’ll be able to produce a lot of elm planking to sell instead of just chipping it up. (Just think of all the other wood we could plank too!)
There were some good ideas for using the oak trunks that we have at Wimpole- there were some heavy oak seats and tables but also a few timber-framed buildings (and doors); but the best thing I saw made of oak (that would help add value) were the bread boards – simple but very pleasing to the eye and easy to get into the shop.
Sean Hellman had a stall at the show and two of his items of treen caught my eye… one was a lovely carved fish and the other was a carved dragonfly ( very impressed indeed with these two).
Now I did see some really excellent stools and the Wimpole green woodworkers are now advised that, after completing their three-legged stools, they will be challenged to make a three or four-legged stool with stretchers, as they like. This will be the next challenge in November which will give them about two months to complete the stool for judging in January. Their challenge for October is to provide two items that are identical and can be turned or carved… we’ll see what they produce at the end of October!!!!!!!!!!!
Back to work and it’s that time of year when we start to do the hedge laying. First to be laid was the hedge we planted some ten years back around Cobbs Wood Farm. This is all part of the tidy up and I have been wondering about fencing the farm buildings so that some goats or sheep can help us keep the vegetation at bay.
Before we could start to hedge lay we took all the old spiral guards off the stems- made it easier to see what we were cutting but, alas, poor old Paul found another wasps nest among the hedge avenue… we dealt with that and carried on. The Timberwolf chipper comes into its own here- we couldn’t burn so close to the buildings so chipped all the lop and top back into the laid hedge.
Other jobs were to finish off the section of track where the ruts were too deep- another 60 ton was carefully spread along the track. (From a distance it does look like a yellow brick road!) This will have to be rolled later when we have finished this section.
Yet more pest control this week- so many rabbits we don’t seem to be getting anywhere at the moment. Every night we go out lamping – we usually get 30 or so which are then put into a fridge kindly donated by Jess’s parents. You have to keep the carcasses cool ( normally less than four centigrade), I then give out the rabbits to those people who are prepared to skin and butcher them. It helps to stretch the food budget for some and, I have to say, having tried a few homemade rabbit pies made by other people, it’s a wonder more people don’t eat rabbit.
An extra job we had this week was to pick up a Lister stationary engine that I have been loaned by my father. We will get it running and have it working at the various shows we run on the estate… could use it to operate the metal-cutting hacksaw or even make an apple scratter run by the Lister engine, now that would attract a few people in the Farm! We also picked up my mother’s potter’s wheel that she was getting rid of- this could be used to let children and adults have a go at making a clay pot or two as it is treadle operated and we have plenty of Gault clay beneath our feet at Wimpole!
Next show is going to be the Produce Fair held in the gardens and, for our part, we are going to bring along the pole lathes to entertain the public and sell (well try to) some treen in order to buy some more tools for the green wood working group. Will blog the Produce Fair shortly…