Hardwoods                                                             Back to Home Page


Britain has a fairly small range of hardwoods, but they include some wonderful woods with qualities that make local hardwoods ideal for a huge range of uses.  For up to date stock enquiries please ring or better still email, but you are very welcome to come and browse anytime we are open.  Unlike timber importers our stock is always changing because when we sell out of something we have to mill more and wait for it to dry – which can be a long time!


The hardwoods we try and keep in stock and on display in our showroom are:


*  Alder


*  Ash


*  Beech (sometimes including spalted)


*  Birch


*  Cherry


*  Elm


*  Lime


*  Oak (sometimes including brown, pippy and Holm)


*  Poplar


*  Sweet Chestnut


*  Sycamore


*  Walnut (only occasionally stocked)



More about these woods:


Alder is an under-used timber that has very attractive grain making beautiful furniture or floorboards, and offering many possibilities for furniture making.  It was traditionally used for making clogs, but these days its potential lies in its warm and rich grain, which contains beautiful flecks unlike almost any other timber and sometimes a little gentle spalting and mini burrs and pippy knots.  The owner of Wentwood Timber Centre chose Alder for the new floor of his bathroom in 2015 and is delighted with the result.  Not the hardest timber, but quite stable and easy to work and finishes beautifully


Ash is versatile and has had numerous uses over many, many years.  It has striking and beautiful grain and excellent finishing properties making it ideal for furniture.  It is very strong and shock-resistant so excellent for tool handles, ladder rungs, etc.  It was always the preferred wood for car frames and chassis.  Its biggest limitation is that it is not durable if allowed to remain wet, so it is an indoor wood.


Beech is a very dense, tightly grained wood much used for furniture making, kitchen utensils, clothes pegs, lollipop sticks etc.  It can have a rather plain appearance so is not so often used where an attractive grain is desired.  It was also used for making carpentry planes until iron became more usual around the end of the 19th century.  Beech can become highly figured when left exposed to the elements for a while, and this is known as spalted beech, and is much prized by wood turners, carvers etc.  Beech is also still extensively used in the furniture industry due to its high strength, but it is usually in frames of soft furniture or other parts that are not on display, or even stained to look like yew or mahogany.


Birch is used very commonly in Scandinavian countries for furniture making and interior joinery, where it is straight grained, even textured and easy to work, but frankly rather plain looking.  However, British grown Birch tends to be very much more attractive with beautiful flecks and attractive pippy knots.  It is an ideal furniture timber.


Cherry has been a favoured furniture timber for a long time.  Its light reddish properties give a slightly exotic feel especially when compared with most European woods which tend to be light in colour.  Historically a rather expensive timber, but now one of the cheaper hardwoods.


Elm is a remarkable timber which sadly is only sometimes available these days due to Dutch Elm Disease.  It has wonderful properties especially durability when used underwater (boat keels are often elm); lightness relative to its strength, and stunning grain, with beautiful small knots.  It also doesn’t tend to crack and split as it is drying; but it is very difficult to dry Elm without it distorting in some very unpredictable ways.  It is very difficult to plane with traditional hand tools, but this is not such a problem if you have modern power tools with sharp blades.  It is rather expensive these days so only tends to be used when there is a particular need such as matching up to existing wood etc.


Lime is a wood with very specific properties – namely lightness, softness and straight grain, meaning it has been the favoured wood of carvers for centuries.  It also used to be the first choice for piano keys, and used to be made into plywood for making aircraft.


Oak could have a whole book written on it (indeed many have been) and it is a beautiful wood with many wonderful properties, including great durability and strength.  It has been used since ancient times for making houses, boats, furniture, and indeed virtually anything you care to mention except where lightness was needed.  It is important to realise however, that in much of Europe (including Britain) this was largely because it was so common and not always because it was the best wood.  For some purposes other woods such as Ash or Sweet Chestnut would be more suitable and cheaper.  Brown oak is the same as normal oak except that it has a lovely brown colour rather than the light colour that is natural to oak.  Holm oak is a related species that is evergreen and has very pronounced medullary rays giving it an amazing grain.  Red oak is another related species much used in North America where it is native.  Red oak tends to be straight grained and less likely to have defects, but not as strong as European oak and more permeable.


Poplar is another of our under-rated timbers, with some great qualities for indoor use.  Light in colour and weight but still strong, Poplar is ideal for furniture, kitchen cupboard doors, shelves and many other uses.  Some people suggest it is ideal for bench slats even though it is not known for durability as it dries off really quickly when wetted.  We would be delighted if any of our customers could confirm or deny this use.  It is the preferred timber for traditional arrows much favoured by re-enactment groups.  What might be more relevant for most people is it is available in nice wide stable boards and has a subtle darker shade in the middle of many boards, and to top it all is cheaper than almost all other hardwoods.  Poplar is a very fast growing tree making it a very sustainable choice, and since the Gloucester match factory closed there is plenty of good quality Poplar available locally.


Sweet Chestnut is one of the most remarkable woods grown in Britain.  The grain is similar in appearance to oak, perhaps a little less striking, but it is a much more stable timber.  It splits easily, but as sweet chestnut dries it will tend to remain straight and develop very few cracks.  It is just as durable as oak, has much less sapwood and is much easier to sustainably harvest as it grows quickly.  It is not favoured by sawmills as logs can often have splits known as ring shake which renders some of the timber useless, but the fact is once any ring shake is cut out, it is for many purposes far superior to oak.  Sweet chestnut is a little weaker and softer than oak, so not ideal for structural beams, but is perfect for furniture, cladding, decking and increasingly window making (where it is superior to anything else grown outside the tropics) and boatbuilding.  Do not confuse Sweet Chestnut with Horse Chestnut which is not related, and is a very poor wood with few uses.


Sycamore is sometimes known as the home-grown Maple.  It is closely related to Maple and has similar grain and qualities, albeit slightly less dramatic grain.  It has a long history of use however for kitchen utensils as it will not impart any taste or smell to food.  It also looks very nice as kitchen cupboards or furniture where it is similar to Birch, but perhaps rather more attractive.  Sycamore is very very stable, and is the only native timber where you are likely to be able to get a really wide board and have little or no cupping or splitting.  This makes it especially suitable for furniture.  Some boards will be very clean and have no markings other than the subtle growth rings (which are very pretty) and other boards will have a host of colours ranging from slight marbling through to serious spalting.  Ideally when selecting boards make sure at least one face is planed so you know what you are getting.


Walnut is a highly prized furniture timber.  Home grown walnut in particular is very sought after, though often a modest size log will have a very high proportion of sapwood, so a board may have very little of the dark heartwood.