European & English Hardwoods

Some of our oak is over
two hundred and fifty years old
At the time of felling. Ben and Ben
have a hands on approach and have
great respect for both the
timber and the woodlands.

wood sourcing

Round logs are individually sourced, measured and graded by Ben Sutton in the forests of Britain and Europe and then brought to Helmdon Sawmills for cutting. We grade according to three diameter classifications and four log qualities. On arrival at the mill, the different log grades are separated out and stacked together ready for sawing.

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This is when logs are debarked prior to sawing and then a production of one quality are sawn together. At this point Ben grades each pack of sawn wood, board by board off the saw to determine if the log produced the anticipated grade.

selection process

We use different diameter classes for different productions. For example, our production for kitchen manufacturing is not a by-product from beam grade material, it is a high quality log with a small diameter (40cm to 50cm) that allows us to produce a superb board 20cm to 40cm in width and 2.5m or 3m in length, ideally suited for the purpose.

For our thick section production, (54mm or more) in both character grade and first quality we use only a large diameter log. This allows us to cut horizontally through the heart board to remove the tension and therefore produce a wide, flat and even board. Our 100mm, 130mm and 150mm boards come from the centre of trees with a 36” quarter girth or more.
This allows the medullary ray to run horizontally through the board and after four to six years air-drying produces a superb, wide board without surface checks.

sotterly sawmills
Hardwood Timber at Helmdon Sawmills
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drying process

Once sawn, the wood is placed “in stick” to allow the boards to air dry. The sticks lie across the boards, creating space between each board for the wind to pass through. The packs of wood “in stick” are then stacked at the mill to air dry. For each 1” of thickness the board must air dry for approximately one year.

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At the end of our air-drying process the wood is moved to our Sotterley Sawmills. This is where Ben's team takes over production. At Sotterley we have five high tech kilns to further dry the wood. This lengthy process of reducing the moisture content of the wood produces the most suitable boards ready for a central heated environment.

We are even able to take the moisture content down to 6% which makes the boards suitable for underfloor heating, something difficult to achieve with imported flooring.

final checks

When the kilning process is finished, Ben personally inspects the wood as it is de-sticked from the kiln. The quality and the grade are re-checked and the packs bound and stored. It is a long process to get to the point where most timber merchants buy their wood. But it is imperative that we go through this process taking great care every step of the way in order to achieve the highest quality of board for our cusBeners...

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