by Tom Massey
Our first visit outside of Greater London was to Balcombe Estate Sawmill where we met Will Wallace, a woodsman and timber enthusiast. The sawmill is surrounded by woodland and the timber is sourced from the private estate. It is either milled and sold locally for timber frames and their repair or used around the estate. They predominantly process English oak. Timber unsuitable for beams and joinery is used for firewood or is processed in to wood chip for bio mass, making use of any waste.
It’s was fascinating to see the working sawmill and their range of indigenous woods and more unusual varieties. As a carpenter I always find it inspiring to see how others work with wood, from each person I believe you learn something new. Will educated us on historic timber extraction, sawmills and the use of hand forestry tools. After a warm pasta lunch kindly served by Will and his wife Gem we had a demonstration of the mobile woodmizer saw mill.
We also paid a visit to Croxley Great Barn in Rickmansworth, the site of SPAB’s 2014 Working Party. The Working Party is a unique week-long training course in the repair and care of old buildings run by professionals. The Scholars and Fellows are invited to take part in the repair specifications, alongside Richard Oxley of Oxley Conservation. We first walked around the site examining and discussing repair options and then were allocated different areas of the barn to focus on. Elgan and I were given the job of specifying the repair of the Victorian threshing floor. In the afternoon we put our ideas forward in a group discussion, headed by Jonny Garlick (SPAB technical officer) and overseen by the local conservation officer. We are currently looking forward to feedback on our specification and we can’t wait to getting started on the barn this summer.