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The History of Wood

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Over the centuries on these Islands, the types of timber craftsmen use in their construction projects has altered and varied quite considerably. The main reason being the availability of certain types of timber.

Going right back to ancient times, when the population lived in small country villages, the timber of choice would be local fruit woods, pear, apple etc for their rustic furnishings and building materials, for the doors of their village huts and cottages.

The populations were quite small and the demand for timber relatively small too, although the varieties of wood used - the fruit wood and hardwoods were slow growing, availability was not a concern, despite that fact that these varieties once cut would take quite some considerable time to replenish.

As populations grew, the demand for timber became greater for all types of construction work and forestry had to be orientated towards faster growing species and the likes of the pine family came into his own.

The demand for hardwoods also increased. Hardwoods were seen as status symbols and the importation of these products from Spain, Brazil etc became the norm. This came as a detriment to some of the native species as the imports brought infestation with them, resulting in the complete annihilation some indigenous species such as the English Elm, the Dutch Elm Beetle wiped it out, which is why if you own an item of furniture or a door constructed from English Elm, you have quite a rare piece.

Pine seems to be quite a dirty word amongst the timber trade and customers today and perhaps rightfully so with many suppliers 'cut now and use tomorrow' production technique resulting in some horrendous post-production movement and rotting of the wood.

Old pine should not be mailgned... However, back when timber was respected by its users and customers, pine was selected from the more mature trees and once cut would be horizontal planked stored and rested (seasoned) and so naturally dried to prevent movement and distortion when used. It would be nothing to walk into a timber yard and see planking that had stood for months or even years before the owner classed it as ready for use. Then once selected and passed to the workshop for manufacturing purposes, a door for example would be dry constructed - all mortise, tenons and panels cut and the door put together without glue and then left to rest again before finally the piece would be glued together. This is typically how Victorian and Edwardian doors are constructed. For this reason I tell my customers there is no need to fear period doors that have been constructed from seasoned pine, and they are most likely more seasoned than modern day hardwoods. And those natural seasoning techniques used meant no kiln drying.

Hardwood commanded high prices throughout Elizabethan, Georgian and Victorian times which again is why the availability of Oak and Mahogany doors is limited. Only the gentry and large households could afford the likes of Oak and Mahogany doors, window frames and other hardwood furniture and fixtures, and the use of such timbers was a way in which the moneyed, the powerful and the landowners emphasised their position and status. English Oak has had a global reputation which it retains to this day, it's one of the most respected timbers in the world. But in our line of business, we also respect the strength and beauty of period, naturally seasoned pine.

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