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Oak is the strongest, most durable timber we use. It is rich in tannins making it extremely durable and resistant to decay and insect attack, and if kept dry oak frames have frequently lasted in excess of 500 years. The fresh sawn oak we use is of the highest quality consistently available in this country.
Oak's wavering grain lends frames a complexity and movement, unlike softwoods for example. It is well suited to more traditional framing and the characteristic curves and arches which you see within the wall braces and vaulted roof spaces.
The playful grain presents the carpenter with a constant challenge, requiring several years of traditional craftsmanship training, allowing the adoption of different techniques to achieve consistency between different sections of timber.
The initial seasoning and then subsequent response to humidity means that that it never stops moving. Truly it is said of oak that every bit is unique, and working with it or living with it, it will always give the feeling of 'being alive' – many people talk of it as a living material and having a distinctive presence. Its solidity and its assured enduring strength imbues a space with peace and a timeless quality.
We generally advise that oak is used in its 'rough-sawn' state – a fine band-sawn finish. With an oak frame no treatment is necessary either internally or externally as it is extremely durable in its natural state. It can be planed if required however planing green oak will mean that over time the grain will rise again as the timber seasons.
Some surface finishes do not take particularly well as the timber is so dense, although penetrating oils can be used. Any hardening oil, wax or impermeable finishes must not be used as the moisture content of the timber is so great and will result in moulds. These treatments if required are best applied at a much later date once the frame has done the bulk of its drying.
Most of our Oak comes form the forests of Normandy, through a small supplier who we have known and worked with for many years and whose quality and consistency is very high. He personally visits the forests to inspect the trees, and buys standing trees designated by the French Forestry authorities for felling.
The trees are winter felled, traditionally during a new moon; both of these conditions mean the timber will contain the least amount of sap possible. This is important for two reasons: the timber is drier and also contains less sugar, therefore is less likely to be attacked by beetles.
The logs are stored at the mill for between 9- 12 months before being sawn to section. The cutting to section of the logs by the sawyer is a highly skilled profession as he is responsible for getting the best sections out of the log and matching the results to a cutting list. Watch our video for more of an insight into this stage of the life of your timber frame...