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English timber frame house production
Riding an oak boom

Specialist timber processor Wealden Oaks, Edenbridge, Kent has enjoyed the building boom of the past decade to the extent of 3,000% growth supplying oak components for builders of timber frame houses in Kent.

The company saws and converts oak logs into 4500m3 of finished oak beams, trusses, joist, studs, soul-plates, posts, rafters and braces per year –– mostly for Crown Oak Builders which shares their yard. Wealden Oak also sells kiln and air dried oak for joinery and furniture making as well as oak flooring, skirting board, architrave and door linings.

Mike Askew, Wealden Oak founder also runs a subsidiary, Woodland Plus which carries out tree work, makes chestnut fencing, manages woodlands and undertakes tree planting schemes, planting up to 300,000 trees a year for partly for the National Trust, private enterprises and councils. But timber houses account for 80% of his activities and 80% of income.

The operation is efficient and delivers accurate oak components to the builders. Key to this is the sawing of the oak in a set-up which is centred on a thin blade band sawmill.

According to Mike Askew, this Wood-Mizer sawmill offers low wastage and maximum yield from round timber due to the narrow blade technology, a resawing capability, accurate cutting, the ability to cut angles, ease of maintenance and set-up, parts and service back-up from Wood-Mizer UK and good blade life with sharpening carried out in-house using a blade maintainence kit supplied by Wood-Mizer.

Crown Oak Builders chief Simon Hendrikson says the standard of the timber supplied to him by Wealden Oaks is is consistently of high quality with an excellent finish.

The four-years-old model LT40 HD is the latest in a line of Wood-Mizers used by Mike Askew who actually bought the first one to reach Britain just before the 1987 hurricane when he managed the Richardson Trust, which operated as a charity running local woodlands and processing the timber into fencing and other materials for use within the trust and for sale to local businesses. He sawed timber from the Trust woods with it and soon acquired a second Wood-Mizer. Two were needed to cope with the storm-fall.

The relatively new version gives him advantages of easier operation, the ability to ‘carve’-saw, enhanced height adjustment and sheer power while sawing oak which he acquires from all over the country where oak is being felled. The logs are bought to order when a new building is on the books, keeping the whole process in his own hands.

Although he mostly sawed oak he cut and kilned many species before concentrating on oak, which now accounts for 95% of the timber he buys.

He started his business the following year in the yard he and the builder share. They rented it until 2000 when they jointly bought it.

The building boom has greatly benefited them both, with Mike Askew selling ?3,000-worth of oak a day and expanding from 35,000 Euros p.a. ten years ago to almost ?1m now.

Brian Hind, UK

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England, United Kingdom

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