Species of wood

Wood is a beautiful material with an endless variety of colours and textures.
Here are some of the woods I use - though it is by no means an exhaustive list.


Quercus robur (English Oak)


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Probably the best-loved British native tree, the English Oak is a familiar sight in parkland and the countryside. Its spreading, rugged shape, massive
trunk and distinctive lobed leaves have all become a symbol for the British nation, and its seed, the acorn, is a logo for the National Trust.

The English Oak slows its growth down as it matures, producing a timber which is both very hard and very durable. Famously, it was used for building warships from Tudor times, and Nelson urged the government to plant more oak woodlands for this purpose during the Napoleonic Wars.

Oak is a hard and decorative wood with a particularly attractive figure in quarter-sawn material. It is a remarkable material; strong, extremely durable, heavy and attractive which makes it the ideal wood to use in construction both indoors and outdoors. Scottish Wood has sold oak for a multiple of purposes, including boat building, construction beams, restoration work, post and rail fencing, bridge-building, signs, waymarkers, lintels, board-walks, flooring, outdoor and indoor furniture etc.

Traditionally oak was the main building timber in Europe including posts or beams, boards or roof shingles. It was also the main shipbuilding timber. Oak structures can and do last for centuries and there are churches in Scandinavia whose original oak timbers are over 1000 years old.


Acer pseudoplatanus (Sycamore)


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Sycamore is the largest of the European maples and was introduced into Britain in the Middle Ages.


The wood is very smooth and white and has traditionally been used for making violins, spoons, furniture and veneers.

Sycamore can be cut in any direction and produces an excellent finish. It also has excellent bending properties and can be easily stained which makes sycamore an excellent choice for furniture and internal joinery. Traditionally in Scotland, fine boxes for trinkets and snuff were made from sycamore wood, sometimes in conjunction with dark laburnum. The spectacular wavy grained or "rippled" sycamore is generally used for making musical instruments and very fine furniture.


The wood is white with a silky lustre, and hard-wearing, used for musical instrument making, furniture, wood flooring and parquetry. Occasionally trees produce wood with a wavy grain, greatly increasing the value for decorative veneers. It is a traditional wood for use in making the backs, necks and scrolls of violins. The wood is often marketed as rippled sycamore.

Sycamore is also the wood preferred for shoe lasts, for parts of piano actions, and because of its exceptional resistance to abrasion, for flooring in gymnasia, bowling alleys and dance halls.


Fagus sylvatica ( Beech)


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Perhaps the most beautiful of our large native trees, with elegant spreading branches and leaves which turn rich copper in autumn. An edible oil has been made from the nuts. A liqueur, beech leaf noyeau, can be made from the young leaves.

Beech is a clean, hard wearing timber with a bright clean appearance making it one of the most popular homegrown timbers available. It is heavy and strong with a pale pinkish brown colour with numerous small radial flecks (medullar rays) of warm brown. Older trees have lovely colour variations across their wide boards and, if set aside while still in log form, beech can become 'flamed" and eventually 'spalted'. Flamed beech has a stronger colour and is especially popular for fine furniture, kitchen cabinets and worktops. Spalted beach has a spectacular pattern of black lines and is particularly sought after for turnery.

Beech can be worked in any direction, even across or at any angle to the grain. This is due to its even growth and lack of large pores or rays. It is also very stable once seasoned, ideal for steam bending and takes a stain well. This makes beech one of the most favoured woods for furniture.

It has an excellent finish and is resistant to compression and splitting.


It is particularly well suited for minor carpentry, particularly furniture. From chairs to parquetry (flooring) and staircases. Beech is used for the "wrest-plank" in pianos.


Fraxinus excelsior (Ash)


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One of the largest of our native trees, Ash is an imposing tree in woodlands all over the country. It is valued for its timber which is strong and hard-wearing and has a wide range of uses. King of Trees ­ A tall deep-rooted tree, the Vikings considered Ash the king of trees with "its roots in hell and its branches reaching the heavens"

The pale coloured timber is valued for a variety of uses including furniture, tool handles, house interiors, sports equipment, gates and walking sticks. Ash also makes excellent firewood. During WWII, Ash was used to make the wings of the De Havilland Mosquito. In the past, the leaves, bark and seeds were used medicinally.

Ash is a highly grained pale creamy wood. There is usually no distinction between the sapwood and heartwood except in the prized 'Black-heart" or 'Olive Ash" where the heartwood takes on a darker or even black appearance. Ash is popular not only for its looks, but also for its ease of working and incredible strength. It is an ideal wood for making furniture.

One of our toughest native timbers and because of its flexibility it can withstand pressure, shock and splintering. Traditionally ash was used for weapons and the word ash comes from the Anglo Saxon word for spear 'Aesc'. In modern times it is used wherever toughness is important as in sports equipment, tool handles, boat fittings, chair making, cabinet making and turnery. Ash can be readily steam bent into curved outlines without breaking or loosing strength.

Ash is the only wood used for the manufacture of hurleys, referred to as hurls in parts of Leinster and known as a camán in Irish, the timber sticks used in the game of hurling in Ireland. The wood is noted for its resilience and flexibility and was used to make car bodies as well as the first skis. It is also used for cricket stumps, baseball bats and axe handles.


Juglans nigra (Black Walnut)


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Walnut timber is very high quality and is used for furniture and veneers and the leaves and bark are used medicinally to treat skin complaints. The shell has been used in hair dyes, and both the leaves and husks yield dyes. Walnuts are grown commercially for their nuts.

The common walnut and the black walnut and its allies, are important for their attractive timber, which is hard, dense, tight-grained and polishes to a very smooth finish. The colour ranges from creamy white in the sapwood to a dark chocolate colour in the heartwood. When kiln-dried, walnut wood tends toward a dull brown colour, but when air-dried can become a rich purplish-brown. Because of its colour, hardness and grain, it is a prized furniture and carving wood. Walnut burls (or 'burrs" in Europe) are commonly used to create bowls and other turned pieces. Veneer sliced from walnut burl is one of the most valuable and highly prized by cabinet makers and prestige car manufacturers.

Walnut wood has been the timber of choice for gun makers for centuries, including the Gewehr 98 and Lee Enfield rifles of the First World War. It remains one the most popular choices for rifle and shotgun stocks, and is generally considered to be the premium – as well as the most traditional – wood for gun stocks, due to its resilience to compression along the grain. Walnut is also used in lutherie.



Ulmus glabra (Wych Elm)

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A beautiful warm brown coloured wood, highly grained and with a distinctive "partridge-breast figure.
Today it is most frequently used for furniture.

Underground pipes were constructed beneath large cities by hollowing out large elm trunks. Some of these are still dug up today after 250 years below ground.

An unusual quality of elm is its "unsplittability" caused by a stepped pattern in its wood fibres. This makes it ideal for chair seats and the transoms of clinker-built boats.


Taxus baccata
(Yew)

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Yew produces a spectacular chestnut brown timber with streaks of orange and even purple, contrasting richly with the pale cream sapwood. Clusters of tiny very decorative pin knots further enhance this fine textured, smooth and lustrous wood making this a very sought after and prized timber.

The spectacular colouring of yew makes it popular for all kinds of ornamental turnery or furniture construction.

­Yews are the oldest intact trees in Britain and are very slow growing (the oldest living tree is in Perthshire and is estimated to be over 5000 years old). Often found in Churchyards some predate the churches and probably have ancient religious significance.

One of the world's oldest surviving wooden artifacts is a Clactonian yew spear head, found in 1911 at Clacton-on-sea, in Essex, UK. It is estimated to be about 4,500 years old.

Yew is among the hardest of the softwoods; yet it possesses a remarkable elasticity, making it ideal for products that require springiness, such as the medieval English longbow.Yew was historically a prized wood for lute construction.