This could take a long time to answer in detail! However, in summary, the processes include:
Finding suitable trees
Before anything can happen, suitable trees need to be identified. Often, we find that trees have come down in high winds or sometimes they have died standing as a result of disease. Occasionally, a tree has to be felled because it poses a danger to a house or road. As part of our good woodland management practice, we will fell some trees to allow better trees to grow on to maturity or so that we can create a large enough opening in a woodland to allow for it to be under planted with young trees. All of these things happen anyway. When they do happen, I or another member of the team here evaluate each tree to see if we deem it to be of interest to the Lisnavagh Timber Project. If so, details of each tree and photographs are recorded onto our database – the first step in our traceability system.
For trees that need to be felled for some reason, we use a qualified tree surgeon or forester. It often makes sense for the tree to be “dismantled” first. In other words, the branches are removed from the tree – this minimises damage to the main stem when it is felled. Using chainsaws, wedges, winches and/or ropes the tree is then felled in a safe direction.
Whenever a tree comes down at Lisnavagh, we replace that tree. If it is not reasonable to replant one or more trees on the same spot, then several trees are planted elsewhere instead. Anyone supplying timber to us from outside Lisnavagh is expected to adopt the same policy.
After the tree has fallen, it is marked up for “jointing” which is the process of cutting logs from the trunk and branches. These logs are generally separated into commercial logs for planking, lesser logs for fencing stakes or beams and firewood.
Logs are extracted from woodlands to roadside using tractors, horses, winches or forwarders.
Transport to sawmill
Using log transporter lorry, tractor and trailer or jeep and trailer.
Logs are sawn into planks of desired thicknesses using (usually) a mobile bandsaw mill operated by a contractor in our sawmilling yard at Lisnavagh. As each plank comes off the sawmill it is measured, graded, given a unique reference number and its details are also recorded onto our database.
The planks are stored under cover for at least a year until they are “air dried” (c. 20% moisture content) to the centre. As a rule of thumb 1” planks take one year, 2” planks take 2 years, 3” planks take 3 years, etc.
The planks are placed in one of our dehumidifier kilns (or “seasoners”) for 2 to 7 weeks (depending on thickness and species) to dry down to 10% moisture content. The temperature is kept at 35°C to 40°C.
Storage & Selection
The kiln dried planks are stored in a “Dry Room” – a climate controlled section of our main building. From here, the planks are selected for conversion in the workshop.
Manufacture of products and commissions
In the workshop, depending on the final product, the boards are planed down to the required thickness using a planer thicknesser, ripped to the required width and cross cut to the required length. The reference number of the plank is recorded (to ultimately give the log reference of the tree it came from). Sometimes boards are joined together for larger product (using a biscuit joiner or spindle moulder). Any drainage grooves, wells, finger plates, etc are carved into the board using a hand held router. Further shaping of the boards is carried out, for example using a bandsaw. The edges of boards are often rounded over using a router or spindle moulder. Holes may be drilled through using a pillar drill. A table sander is used to give the board a basic sanding before hand held belt & orbital sanders are used to give the boards a finer finish. Ultimately, the boards are often given a final finish using hand held sandpaper.
The boards are then brought into a dust-free zone for oiling. They are stamped with the log reference of the tree from which the board came. Ribbons and labels are applied. At this point the boards are either packed into a box for immediate delivery or retained in stock for future orders.
For a more detailed look at the processes that the timber goes through at the Lisnavagh Timber Project (where we make the Bunbury Boards), please take a look at the “What we do” section of our sister site: http://www.irishwoods.com/about/whatwedo