A couple of weeks ago we went up to Sotterly Sawmill in Suffolk where Ben Sutton of Sutton Timber was ready to put our lovely sycamore through the mill to produce the 43mm thick planks from which we will make the various pieces for Springfield House. For reasons both of time and aesthetics we are approaching the timber processing in rather an unorthodox manner – ordinarily the sawn timber would be stacked in stick (each plank laid horizontally on top of another with 1 inch square sticks between them to allow air circulation) and air-dried for a year before being placed in a large kiln to precisely and rapidly reduce the moisture content and stabilise the timber. However, we require the timber by the end of the summer and, being a very pale wood, sycamore tends to go grey and develop stains from the stacking sticks and we would like to keep it as pale and clean as possible.
Ben has been fantastic in providing knowledge and expertise as well as doing extensive research into how best to achieve this, not to mention being willing to try something different with us. Based on his research we have decided to air-dry the sycamore vertically for one month and then slowly reduce the moisture content in the kiln over several weeks. It’s a bit of a gamble but apparently others have had success with this method.
Over to Phillip Read and Nicholas Shore, the brilliant duo who man the big saw. We had no idea how much good usable timber we would get out of the tree so it was with not a little nervousness that we gathered around the huge machine which was to open it up.
With some relief we watched as plank after plank of beautiful pale sycamore came off the saw without signs of rot or hard, dark knots.
A couple of the logs split when the tree was cut into log sections as huge forces of tension were released. Fortunately the boards are wide enough to work around the splits.
So all we can do now is wait and see what happens to the planks over the next couple of months. Some will twist and warp as further inherent tensions are exercised but hopefully not too drastically for use and hopefully the clean white timber will not turn grey or stain.
Wish us luck and remember to check the Springfield House build blog over at Studio Bark to see how the rest of project is coming along.