Custom Precision Joinery rose to the challenge laid down by Dainis Dauksta at a Woodknowledge Wales knowledge event on Developing the Welsh Joinery Sector – Barriers and Opportunities for Windows by offering to make a demonstration window from (1) local Welsh timber (2) to a specification acceptable to housing associations and (3) have it ready for WoodBUILD 2019. We were not disappointed!

This second knowledge event in our “Campaign for Wood Windows” looked at how the Welsh Joinery sector can respond to the real and growing demand from the social housing sector to supply wood windows and ultimately how the joinery sector can access home-grown timber to be used in making those windows.

Larch on planer showing straightness of the grain
Larch for the windows on planner. This photo shows the straightness of the grain after the first 20-30cm which can be removed.

During the event Dainis Dauksta (sawmiller, designer and consultant) had challenged perceptions that Welsh (and UK) forest plantations provide low grade softwood which is only fit for fence posts and biofuel. He urged us all to learn more and not to make the mistaken judgement that fast grown is always inferior to slow grown or that large ring width means low density. His talk illustrated how large Welsh logs which are currently being used in low value markets such as fencing and bio-fuel can provide high grade joinery timber.

The Timber

Two reject larch garden sleepers (2.4m*250mm*125mm) obtained from BSW were resawn (by Dainis Dauksta) into joinery sizes as specified by Custom Precision Joinery. The sleepers, which had been air dried were cut so that the juvenile corewood [1] was specifically sawn out and excluded from the final joinery grade product, this is because the core wood can have properties which are significantly different, and variable compared to the mature wood.

“Home grown larch is currently such an under-utilised joinery timber” said Dainis Dauksta who supplied the material used by Custom Precision Joinery. “High quality joinery grade timber is currently going into low value end markets which is such a waste of our resources.  This project showed just how easy it was to select and cut joinery grade timber from larch that was being sold as reject garden sleepers.”

Custom Precision Joinery checked the joinery grade larch on delivery and confirmed that it was fit for purpose. The scantlings where then conditioned in their workshop for two weeks before machining into the required profiles.

British grown larch is a moderately durable softwood with a colour that ranges from a light to dark brown heartwood to a white sapwood. It has a density of around 550kg/m3 at a moisture content of 12%.  When wet it has a tendency to distort but once dry it is generally stable.  Potentially large volumes of larch could become available in Wales because of the Phytophthora ramorum epidemic.  Larch is a very useful construction timber and larch grown in Wales can already be visually strength graded to C24.  It can be used for cladding, structural and joinery applications. High-quality stainless-steel fixings should be used to avoid corrosion of fixings.

The Windows

2 windows displayed on a table at a conference trade show
Two windows made by Custom Precision Joinery from Welsh larch and on display at WoodBUILD 2019.

Two windows were made at Custom Precision Joinery in Buckley, north Wales, they were the same design but had different paint finishes.  The windows were made to a design supplied by Coastal Specialist Ironmongery Ltd (also participants in our windows workshop). The design used was one which has already been approved as suitable for social housing.

We are very pleased with how these windows turned out” said Colin Morris from Custom Precision Joinery. ”A large percentage of home grown timbers are generally of a higher standard than that of imported timbers. However, the Welsh supply chain is an issue for manufacturers in the joinery sector like us. But with the right investment and perseverance Wales has a unique opportunity to enhance this sector.”

What next?

Profile detail of window made by Custom Precision Joinery, fixtures by Coastal Specialist Ironmongery and paint finish by Remmers (UK) Lrd.

This project has shown that high quality joinery items can be made from Welsh timber that is currently being sawn and sold for low value garden sleepers. Just by grading and sawing that same material in a different way it has been transformed into a high value joinery grade timber.

Simple interventions like this could help develop the supply chain for Welsh timber and offer smaller sawmills opportunities to diversify and provide higher value products into the joinery sector. However, the demand for joinery products made from Welsh timbers need to developed. One way to do this is by working with housing associations and local authorities. This is being done through the Home-Grown Homes Project, led by Powys County Council which is exploring supply chain interventions to encourage growth of the timber sector in Wales.

At the end of the Home-Grown Homes Project a set of recommendations will be presented to Welsh Government with case studies to demonstrate how interventions could help improve the supply of Welsh timber to Welsh house building manufactures to build more and better homes.

Woodknowledge Wales would like to thank Custom Precision Joinery for offering to make these windows from Welsh timber and putting them on show at WoodBUILD 2019. We would also like to thank Coastal Specialist Ironmongery for their part in providing the specification for the window design and Craig Lovatt, formally of Custom Precision Joinery and now of Remmers (UK) Ltd for initiating the project.

[1] Corewood or ‘juvenile wood’ is found within the first 10–20 annual rings adjacent to the pith.

From garden sleeper to beautiful window. Challenging perceptions about Welsh timber