Timber can either be a valuable resource or it can literally be dead wood waiting to rot away.
For many farmers, in the absence of any processing facility, the latter is probably more often the case.
But when timber is cut into planks or posts, its value increases dramatically – particularly if it is oak, beech or some other variety of hardwood.
Robin Carter’s company, Timber Resources, specialises in providing a mobile wood-processing service to farms and estates within a 150-mile radius of his Hampshire home.
A totally mobile operation, he uses a LogLogic bandsaw unit which he transports behind his Land Rover.
“English hardwoods are some of the finest timbers available and, in terms of quality, are vastly superior to those we import,” he says.
“Farmers should never make the mistake of underestimating their value when they are properly processed.”
The saw unit can handle timber of up to 6.2m in length, 1.4m in diameter and weighing up to 3.5t.
Wood is placed by a loader on a cradle, which is then raised to position it on the main frame.
Once on board, the length can be rotated hydraulically to present the correct face to the band saw unit.
“The value of the cut timber can be made or lost by knowing where to cut and to what thickness,” says Mr Carter.
“You need to keep in mind what it can be used for – you can only make wood smaller.”
The hydraulically driven band saw runs along two rails as it cuts a slice of timber.
After each cut, the slice of timber is removed and the rails are lowered by a set distance to position the saw blade for the next cut.
For furniture-maker Simon James, the services provided by Timber Resources are considered an essential part of promoting his interest in timber and timber products.
Farmers Weekly caught with him at a farm near Stagsden, Bedfordshire, where Robin Carter’s team was processing rounds of oak, beech and elm – cutting them into planks and stacking them to start the process of air drying.
“I’ve hired Timber Resources for a couple of days to cut some timber I have accumulated – not all from the immediate locality,” says Mr James.
“I’ve had some oak transported in from a farm in another area.”
He makes the point that, while the milling of the timber will cost him about 900 for the two days, the value of the timber, once cut, will run into several thousands of pounds.
“After it has seasoned, I will use the wood to make furniture – book cases, cabinets and tables, some on commission, some just for the joy of it,” he says.
We watch as a particularly large piece of beech is rolled onto the mill – an innocuous piece weighing about two tonnes which has clearly been lying about for a number of years.
The saw is fired up, the first slice is removed, and Mr James moves forward to see how the cut timber looks.
“That’s terrific,” he enthuses.
“Look at the black pencil lines and the different colours.”
The desirable “spalting” is caused by a fungus growing within the tree.
“The skill of the miller is crucial in a job like this – he can make a big difference to the ultimate value of the milled timber,” says Mr James, who points out that supplies of British hardwoods are becoming increasingly difficult to find.
“We are paying the price for all the hedge and woodland removal that was done during and just after the war.”
Slice by slice, the beech round is reduced to planks, each about 8cm thick and requiring four people to stack them.
The day’s work has resulted in a sizeable rack of timber that will take up to a year to dry down before it can be worked.
“From tree to table, an almost worthless piece of timber is transformed to an item of furniture which is attractive, useful and will probably last for generations,” says Mr Carter.
“More importantly, it is wood that will be now appreciating in value.”