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English arboriculturalist brings band sawmill to reclaim beech at Wildflower Centre
9th December 2004 – In Great Britain a local council and a forest authority are funding the sawing and finishing of a huge, fallen beech limb at the National Wildflower Centre and its subsequent manufacture and sculpture.This reclamation was made possible by use of a band sawmill, regarded as the only equipment to carry it economically, effectively and with minimal ground damage.
It also serves asa useful pointer to tree surgeons worldwide looking to expand. In effect, a small, specialist arboricultural operation has used the band sawmill and a kiln as part of a ‘make-over’ transforming it into a profitable timber processing operation.
The conversion of the fallen, four-tonnes limb from a 200-years-old beech at the National Wildflower Centre, Knowsley, so that it can be made into furniture and carvings was an early project.
Tree Health Services, Liverpool, acquired the Wood-Mizer LT40HD Super Hydraulic band sawmill in June 2004 as well as one of the company’s kilns, the first in Great Britain.
Owner, John Campbell, 37, reveals that income doubled since he acquired the sawmill and he anticipates it redoubling when the kiln’s benefits emerge.
"Before, we used a chain saw but it didn’t turn out the quality of cut we needed and it called for undue labour input.
"Result is a particularly efficient semi-industrial timber processing set-up", he adds.
The recovery project is a partnership between the Knowsley council, the National Wildflower Centre and The Mersey Forest. Britain’s Countryside Agency is also interested in involvement.
The Council’s Community Forest Officer, Gill Dobson, explains that it seemed crucial that a portable band sawmill tackled the project. Damage to the land was to be minimised and the narrow paths called for manoeuvrable equipment. The 1.5 tonnes mill, towed behind John Campbell’s all terrain timber tractor drove direct to the fallen limb which was sawn on the spot. Ground damage was negligible.
Ticky Lowe education officer at the Nat. Wildflower Centre explains that the public reclamation of the fallen beech limb was part of its Annual Winter Celebrations which coincide with National Tree Week.
Gill Dobson explains: "The Wood-Mizer provided a pointed and dramatic demonstration for the two dozen visitors, mostly families who happened to visit the park on 9th December. Children quickly grasped the approach.
"It showed how it can economically process fallen and diseased trees or even one or two trees selected from a copse without damaging the countryside", adds Ms Dobson.
The four-tonnes of processed beech will be sculpted by wood sculptor John Merrell and also made into furniture by Alan Bale for the centre’s Corncockle Cafe.
Merseyside Wood Turners are making a bench for the park and the ‘lump’ where the limb parted from the trunk will be sculpted by John Merrell "…into something unusual", explains Ticky Lowe.
This and the cost of John Campbell’s Wood-Mizer operation will be covered by the Council and The Mersey Forest, with possible funding from the Countryside Agency.
Gill Dobson concludes: "We shall make good use of the 15-feet long, one metre diameter limb an
d what we are calling Timber! - The Forget-me-not Beech Tree Project will serve as a wake-up call to us at Knowsley Borough Council when reclaiming many trees which fall down or have to be felled for good reasons, in future."
She notes the mill’s narrow kerf technology which minimised sawdust and consequently produced up to a third more lumber than say, a circular saw would have done at the Nat. Wildflower Centre.
Tree Health Services
John Campbell formed Tree Health Services in 1999 after operating the first Vermeer tub grinder for Murtagh, the timber recycling specialist. Services included tree felling and clearing, wood chipping, forestry equipment hire as well as timber and forestry consultancy.
However, John Campbell perceived an opportunity to additionally process his own and bought-in hardwoods into finished kiln dried timber, adding value to his product.
Considering options for improved sawing and finishing equipment he decided on the band sawmill and then a kiln from Wood-Mizer, explaining: "During half a day’s training I found myself cutting timber in an hour.
"The mill is fast and produces quality lumber with minimal sawdust – and therefore more sawn timber from the same tree – as a result of the maker’s narrow kerf technology", he adds.
One quarter of the diesel-powered Wood-Mizer’s time involves its hire by local farmers, estate managers, councils and other tree surgeons who use it to produce posts, fencing, gates and barn cladding.
The Wood-Mizer kiln will dry a stock of oak which has accumulated over the past year. Formerly, boards were air dried.
The kiln proved easy to assemble. As it comes in modular form John Campbell will simply install components into a 20-foot insulated container. Alternatively he can construct his own chamber from eight feet up to 24 feet long.
The Wood-Mizer kilning process is based on the proven, industrial scale heat-vent process but in line with a policy of simplifying previously complicated processes. Kiln controls are simple, effective and understandable by both experienced operator and novice.
"So I’m a thorough-going timber processor overnight!" grins John Campbell.
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