Inspiration


Garden Gates – The Essential Guide

Friday, May 26th, 2017

The humble garden gate – It’s easy to think of them as just a necessary fixture of the garden, a continuation of the garden fence or wall and merely a point of entry and exit. In reality however, they enhance the aesthetic appeal of a property or garden by adding character, colour and style. The gate is often the first thing visitors see and its appearance can define someones expectation of what lies beyond by giving a good or bad first impression.

wooden-garden-gate

Shutterstock | By Happy cake Happy cafe

Which garden gate to choose

Choosing a garden gate largely depends on the style and intended purpose. For some, a small white picket style gate that blends in seamlessly with the fence provides a traditional country cottage look. For others, something altogether more sturdy and secure that provides a higher level of privacy and security may be what is needed.

picket-fence-style-garden-gate

Shutterstock | By Chrislofotos

Types of gate

Essentially, garden gates tend to be made from one of two materials, wood or metal. Metal gates come in a variety of shapes and styles. Although straight angular designs are available, metal gates traditionally tend to be more ornate in nature with symmetrical twists and curves in the metal work.

In terms of size, it depends on the size of the opening. From the standard garden gate and side gate to the altogether more impressive estate and driveway gates. They can be as small and simple or as big and impressive as can be imagined.

New metal gates

Deciding on whether to invest in a new metal garden gate largely depends on budget and the type or style of gate required. Modern metal gates can be picked up from many of the major DIY chains relatively cheaply, in many cases for as little as £40. High quality metal gates can cost hundreds of pounds or more for bespoke designs and materials.

Metal gate restoration

Reclaimed metal gates, usually constructed out of Wrought Iron can be purchased from around £50 upwards. Depending on size and style, and if they are sold ‘as is’ or have been lovingly restored, reclaimed gates can run into the hundreds or even thousands of pounds. The beauty of an old metal gate is that it can be taken on as a home DIY project. They can be sanded back with an abrasive paper or wire brush to remove rust and other loose surface material. Once returned to clean metal they can be treated with a rust treatment if required and painted with a suitable exterior metal paint, or other treatment such as Hammerite.

old-rusty-metal-garden-gate

Shutterstock | By Kent Taylor

If getting your hands dirty isn’t for you, there are companies who can be found online that offer sand or shot blasting services. This takes old gates back to bare metal by removing all traces of rust, corrosion and previous surface coatings. Some provide professional refinishing or coating services or are happy to send the stripped gates back to the owner for painting.

Wooden garden gates

Wood has been used in gates for centuries, think of castle draw bridges, ancient church gates and doors. This all proves that wooden garden gates can last as long if not longer than a metal one if well maintained. For some, keeping it wooden reinforces the connection with nature and the surrounding plants and trees.

New wooden gates

As with metal gates, wooden garden gates can be bought off the shelf at any number off online and high street retailers. Costs can vary dramatically depending on the size, style, type and grade of the wood used. For a budget garden gate, look to spend around £30 to £50. For a budget full height side gate, usually around 1.8mtrs tall, look at spending around £70 to £100. At the other end of the spectrum, an off the shelf premium garden gate usually costs between £80 and £160 with full height premium side gates costing anything up to the £250 mark.

new-wooden-garden-gate

Shutterstock | By jacqueline moore

Basic estate and driveway gates can range from £200 upwards, again depending on size, style and construction. High end versions can cost thousands.

Gate care and maintenance

Having spent your hard earned cash on the perfect gate for your garden, it makes sense to ensure that your investment is given the best protection to keep it looking good for as long as possible. If well maintained there’s no reason why a good quality wooden gate wouldn’t last a lifetime.

Almost all new garden gates are tanalised or pressure treated to protect the timber against wood rot and insect attack. This said, these treatments don’t provide all-round protection against weathering. Weather erosion and UV rays will slowly degrade the effectiveness of these treatments eventually rendering them ineffective. Whether made from a softwood or hardwood, treating the timber with a wood preservative and a top coat of oil, stain, paint or varnish will protect the wood for years.

If the gate is to be kept natural where the wood is clearly visible, our recommendation is to overcoat any preservative treatment with a clear exterior wood oil or decking oil. These products tend to contain a blend of wood oils, waxes and resins that penetrate into the wood grain to provide excellent protection against water ingress. Many of these products also contain UV filters which help to retain the natural colour of the timber for longer, delaying the onset of the grey, weathered look.

Garden gate paint

If painting a wooden gate to add character is on your agenda, it’s important to ensure that any wood preservative used beforehand is wax, oil and silicon free. Many garden paints are water based and any pre-treatment that contains wax, oil or silicon will simply repel the paint from the wood.

An alternative to painting is using a pigmented or coloured exterior wood oil. These are available in both semi-translucent and opaque finishes and work perfectly well over wood preservatives that contain wax or oil.

painted-wooden-garden-gate

Shutterstock | By Natalia Dobryanskaya

Wood Stains

Applying an exterior wood stain to a wooden gate is a great way of retaining the natural grain of the timber while changing the colour to give a desired effect. For example, a light coloured softwood gate can be stained and sealed to give the colour appearance of Mahogany, Teak, Rosewood or Walnut. Wood stains such as Sadolin and Sikkens are designed to provide excellent colour and long lasting protection to exterior joinery and wood. Ideally suited to smooth planed timber rather than rough sawn wood, a key feature of these varnish-like stains is that they can be maintained over the years by cleaning and re-coating when the finish starts to look dull or tired.

Why oil wooden gates?

As with any other garden wood such as sheds, fences and decking, it’s always a good idea to oil the wood as part of a yearly garden maintenance program. Why? Simply speaking, wood oils penetrate in to the wood grain to replace the natural oils lost over time. This helps to keep the wood nourished and flexible, helping to prevent or reduce cracking, warping and splitting. In addition, many exterior wood oils and decking oils contain UV filters that help to protect the timber from the bleaching effect of the sun.

Another benefit of using wood oils is that they help to prevent water ingress, a common cause of mould, algae and wood rot.

Wooden gate restoration

Old wooden gates that have turned grey or silver over time can usually be restored, as long as they’re not rotten and falling apart. Follow these simple steps to give old wooden garden gates a new lease of life.

  • Remove any old coatings such as paint or varnish with a paint stripper or by sanding
  • Treat any green or black areas with a suitable mould and mildew cleaner
  • To restore the colour of timber that has turned grey or silver over time, use a wood reviver and restorer and scrub in to the surface of the wood grain with a stiff brush or scotch pad
  • Rinse off the wood reviver with water, following the manufacturer’s instructions at all times
  • Treat the gate with a suitable exterior wood preservative remembering that if the gate is going to be painted or treated with a water based product, the preservative must be wax, oil and silicon free
  • Apply a clear or coloured exterior wood oil, decking oil, exterior wood stain or paint

Top Tips

  • Wooden and metal garden gates must be clean, dry and free from surface dirt, grease and other surface contaminates before treating, coating or painting. Wiping the gate down with White Spirit or Methylated Spirit is a great way to de-grease the surface before treating
  • Wooden gates should be allowed to dry for several days to allow any moisture in the wood to evaporate before treating
  • Most paints and wood finishing products require an ambient air temperature of 10℃ or above to aid application and work effectively
  • Do not paint or treat garden gates if frost or rain is likely within the next 48 hours

Need help from an expert?

If you have a new or old garden gate and are unsure of how to tackle the project, give our resident experts a call. They’re here to help and best of all, our expert advice is free.

5 Tips to Create a Gorgeous Garden

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

With the days finally longer and the sun higher in the sky, we may find ourselves spending more and more time in the great outdoors. Our gardens become an extension of our homes, allowing us to reconnect with nature and relax or enjoy some time in the sunshine with our families. If you are lucky enough to have a bit of outside space to call your own, you may be thinking of ways to improve the space and create an outdoor oasis that you’ll be able to enjoy for the warmer months to come. Here are 5 ways to make sure it’s looking its best and maximise your enjoyment on those sunny days and warm evenings.

The Big Clear and Tidy

clear-and-tidy-garden-tips

The first step to making any garden look inviting is to start with a good tidy. Mow the lawn, prune any bushes or trees that have become a bit unwieldy and remove any weeds that have grown in between your plantings. Use a pressure washer to remove any moss from pathways or dirt and grime from your fences or decking to prepare it for a refresh. For a more intense clean, consider products like wood reviver gel to treat and restore the natural colour of wood that’s turned silver or grey as a result of sun and weather damage or a garden deck cleaner to clean, protect and revive decking. While it may not be a fun job (and you can always hire someone to do it for you if you really hate it!), starting with a nice clean slate means knowing exactly what you are working with and anything else you may do after this, simply adds to the effect of a well-maintained outside space.

Paint and Refresh

paint-refresh-garden-paint

Have a look at your painted garden furniture or shed. Has it seen better days? There is a myriad of garden paint colours and finishes available to give it a fresh new look. Update and revive it with a fresh coat of garden shed paint or stain. Just remember, you’ll want to first sand it down and remove any flaking paint before applying your first coat. With a small bit of elbow grease, these items can look like new again! Consider using decking oils or stains to revive decking or fencing after cleaning and to protect them from any sun or weather damage in the months to come. For metal furniture that’s looking a little tired, consider using spray paint in a new colour to give it a whole new look for the season.

Zone Your Space

create-zones-to-break-up-garden

For any garden size, creating various areas for specific activities is a great way to make the most of your space. You might want to consider a dining table and chairs to make the most of the warm evenings or if you have a nice sunny spot, a bistro set to enjoy your morning cuppa. Consider a shady spot to escape the heat of the day with an outdoor hammock or create a spot to relax with an outdoor sofa and coffee table or lounge chairs.

An area just for the BBQ is perfect for entertaining or you might want to install a fire pit for roasting marshmallows. Of course, if you want to be a huge hit with your kids, consider creating an area just for them. A sandpit, a Wendy House or a trampoline are all ways to keep them entertained through the school holidays – just be sure to use play-friendly ground covering like play bark to keep them safe.

Add Cosy Textiles

add-textiles-to-garden-spaces

Treat your outside space the same way you would any room. Consider bringing out some cushions and throws from indoors to add pattern and colour to your space, make seating more comfortable and to wrap up as the sun goes down. There are plenty of water-resistant outdoor cushions on the market but if they aren’t waterproof, then you’ll just remember to bring them inside at the end of the day!

Don’t forget your lighting

garden-lighting

Festoon and solar fairy lighting are a great way to add a bit of sparkle to any outdoor setting and look especially festive for those summer parties that go into the evening hours. Consider up-lighting for architecturally interesting plants or inset lighting in decking for stairs or along pathways to create drama. Of course, you don’t want to forget things like lanterns and tea lights to create a lovely atmosphere once the sun goes down. How will you be updating your garden this year? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below or share with us on Twitter! Remember to check out our extensive range of exterior wood finishes to create your perfect garden this summer.

Article written by Kimberly Duran. All images via Swoon Worthy and used with kind permission.

Top Autumn Garden Maintenance Tips

Friday, October 14th, 2016

Summer is behind us and the colder, darker months are fast approaching. Its time to put the garden furniture away, lock the patio doors and forget about garden maintenance for the next 6 months. Right?

autumn-leaf

Not necessarily. Early autumn provides a great window of opportunity to squeeze a few more weeks of enjoyment out of the garden. It’s also a great time to prepare and protect garden sheds, fences and decking.

There are several very good reasons why garden wood should be given a little TLC as Autumn sets in. Although early mornings and evenings can potentially bring falling temperatures and the first frosts of the year, on the whole, day and night temperatures tend to hover around the double figure mark, making October the perfect time for some last minute garden lovin.

Essential Autumn garden maintenance

After what has been a glorious spring and summer, sun baked garden wood can become, dry, warped and brittle. Replenishing the timbers lost natural oils is essential in helping to keep wood supple and healthy, preventing cracking and splitting.

On the flip side, if your shed, fence or decking is overshadowed with trees, bushes or buildings, chances are that it’s prone to mould, algae and wet rot which on decking, can be a serious slip hazard.

A little Autumn maintenance can go a long way to keeping garden wood healthy. It also means that when Spring comes around, it’s quicker and easier to get everything ship shape and looking great.

Things that go bump in the garden

Autumn brings two notable events, namely Bonfire night and Halloween . Although only a matter of days apart, both dates present a great opportunity to bring friends and family together for one last garden party before winter. And, with people shuffling around in the dark on potentially damp or wet decking, safety is paramount. After all, the only bangs and bumps in the night should be the sounds of fireworks and ghostly ghouls.

autumn-pumpkins-in-garden

Our top tip for winter decking maintenance.

Simple as it may sound, giving your decking a good sweep with a stiff broom once a week over the winter can help to protect and preserve your decking finish for longer. Allowing organic debris from bushes and trees to settle and mulch down on the deck and in the grooves can accelerate the build up of mould and algae, potentially causing long term damage to the decking timber.

Here is a list of products you may need to clean, prepare, preserve, treat and maintain garden decking, to keep it looking good and lasting for longer.

  • Decking Strippers: To help remove old decking stains and the greying effects of rain and UV sun damage such as greying and silvering of the wood
  • Decking Preservers: To protect decking boards, posts, steps and more from mould, algae and insect attack
  • Decking Cleaners: To remove and kill off green and black mould and algae, a potential slip hazard, from garden decking
  • Decking Oils: Clear and coloured to seal and protect wooden decking from foot traffic and weathering. also nourishes the wood to protect from cracking, splitting and warping
  • Decking Stains: Decking treatments with colour. These treatments help to protect and preserve whilst adding colour to transform decked areas.

Not sure what you need?

Unsure of what to use on your decking this Autumn? Why not give one of our in-house resident experts a call on our freephone landline number 0800 781 8123. Weather you have softwood, hardwood, new, old, bare wood or previously treated decking, our team of experts can give you free guidance and advice on how best to preserve and maintain your garden deck.

Halloween Ronseal Decking Stain Deals

Top DIY Projects to Prepare Your Home for Autumn

Monday, October 3rd, 2016

Now that summer is officially behind us and autumn is here, it’s time to think about getting your home ready for the shorter days and colder weather. If you’re looking to tackle some DIY projects in preparation for winter, Home Improvement Leads have come up with a short task list to help you get started. Here are some of their top tips on how to maintain and protect the wood in and around your home this autumn.

Exterior Wood DIY Projects

As the weather begins to change this autumn, protecting the exterior of your home is essential—especially for external wooden surfaces such as sheds, fences, decking windows, doors and cladding. Here we’ve highlighted some of the more common exterior wood care projects that are perfect for this time of year, that will help you to get your home ready for the change in weather.

Winterize your garden decking

Repairing and replacing damaged and broken sections of garden decking can be a big job. Prevention is better than cure so Autumn is the time to clean, seal and protect decking boards before the cold, wet and windy weather starts to take hold.

Using dedicated decking cleaners, preservatives, stains, and oils to remove mould and fungi from garden decking before protecting and sealing. Now is also the perfect time to recolour or stain your decking to keep it looking better for longer. Protecting garden decking in the Autumn makes spring cleaning and preparation for the following spring and summer months a whole lot easier.

garden-decking-maintenance

Autumn is the perfect time to maintain garden decking before winter sets in.

Protect wooden windows and frames

If you haven’t started this annual tradition already, we recommend taking the time every autumn to inspect and repair any exterior damage to your home’s wooden windows, replacing panes and frames if necessary. While larger jobs will require the help of a professional, you can maintain your wooden windows with stains, paints and finishes that protect against decay, mould, wood rot, fungi, and UV rays. It is particularly important that this job is completed before winter, when the weather is not as cooperative and any drafts or damage (decay included) will affect both the comfort level of your home and your energy bills. (If you have the time, you can also stain your interior wooden window frames, but make sure to get this done before the winter while you can keep windows open to reduce fumes and shorten drying times.

wooden-windows-and-frames

Ensure that wooden windows & frames are sealed and protected.

Refinish your garden fence panels

If the fencing in your back garden is looking less than perfect after a summer or two of sun and weather damage, you can stain and finish fence panels and posts with many of the same products you would use for your shed, decking, exterior window frames and doors, to protect against wood rot, decay, and the elements. This is useful especially during the colder months when fluctuating temperatures cause the wood to expand and contract and rain, wind and snow wreak havoc on wooden fence panels and posts.

Revamp your porch

Enclosed front porches require the same kind of maintenance as decks and fences, so take the time now to seal and restain your porch’s wooden flooring, protecting it against the winter weather. Many homeowners also take this opportunity to maintain and protect their front door with wood oils, paints, preservatives & stains. Once you’ve finished these wood care tasks, why not take your porch renovation one step further and add some all-weather furniture, decorative accessories, and a seasonal wreath or door hanging?

Interior wood care

While the wooden surfaces around the exterior of your home will require the most work this autumn, there are several jobs you can complete indoors to complete your home’s seasonal transformation even after the weather has taken a turn for the worse.

Maintain your hardwood floors

Homeowners who are blessed with original soft & hardwood flooring know that maintenance is key to keeping them looking great. Take the time this autumn to apply oils, varnishes, stains, and cleaners to keep your wooden floors looking their very best. Although this falls under the category of indoor DIY projects, we think that it is best completed before winter truly hits, since you won’t be able to use your floors for a while after applying products and ideally want to keep doors and windows open for ventilation.

wooden-dining-table-finishes

Finishing or re-finishing real wood furniture can be a great DIY project.

Restore, renovate or rejuvenate your dining room table

If you’re looking for the perfect pre-holiday project, we recommend giving your dining room table a face lift by cleaning, refinishing or even changing its appearance. Or, if you’re the adventurous type, how about building a new table from scratch. While homeowners who are looking for some labour intensive DIY will love the idea of a handcrafted dining room centrepiece, the former of these DIY projects is more easily achieved. Unfinished furniture is the easiest to work on while previously waxed or oiled tables are also relatively easy to restore or makeover with wood stains, oils and waxes. These will breathe new life into an old wooden table and depending on the size of the table and the amount of work required, could be done in a day or less even allowing a few hours of drying.

Need Help?

If you have any wood related DIY projects and are unsure of which products to use, give our team of friendly resident experts a call on 0800 7818 123, 7 days a week. They’re always on hand to provide free advice and guidance on the right products for your project.

Small Garden Design Guide

Friday, May 20th, 2016

With literally thousands of books and websites offering large and small garden design guides, there’s certainly no shortage of great ideas to update and transform your outdoor living spaces. Although large scale renovation guides are great, sometimes all that’s needed are a few easy to follow principles to start you off down the garden path of discovery and creativity.

Take it from the experts – The small garden design guide

This week we’re sharing an infographic from Wayfair.co.uk called the ‘Small Garden Design Guide’. This handy visual provides some quick and easy wins for creating more space and achieving the garden of your dreams on a budget. Created with advice from six of London’s top garden designers, it gives their top tips for creating a visually impressive space in even the smallest of gardens.

So, if you’ve been procrastinating over what to do in the garden, it’s time to get those hands dirty and let the creative juices flow.

Small Garden Design Guide


Now although we can’t help with the patio or potted plants, we certainly can when it comes to protecting, preserving and even colouring your garden shed, fences and wooden garden furniture. From wood oils to stains, varnishes to paints we have everything you’ll need to help with your garden transformation.

We’re Here to Help

If you’re unsure of what products you need for your garden projects, give our team of resident experts a call on our UK free phone number, 7 days a week.*

At wood Finishes Direct we love to see how your projects have turned out. If you’ve been working hard to revive, renovate or restore a garden shed, decking or garden furniture, and are happy to share your photos with us and our community of followers, simply send us an email with your photos or share on our Twitter and Facebook pages by clicking on the social share buttons below.

*Call us or pop in to our shop 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday : Saturday 8am to 5pm, Sunday 10am to 6pm.

Garden design ideas – Using paint to add colour & style

Friday, May 13th, 2016

It’s around this time of year that gardens across the land burst into life. With blossoming fruit trees, flowers, lush green grass, and with a little luck and favourable weather conditions, a splash of colour from strawberries and other garden fruits.

summer-garden-design

Summer Time In The Garden

Unless you’re a big fan of flowers, and have a carefully planned growing cycle of colourful blooms that last throughout the year, chances are that like many, your back garden probably comprises mostly of greens and browns from plants, grass, the garden shed, fence panels and decking. To enhance things further and to make your garden spaces a place of relaxation and pleasure, a simple garden design plan with some added colour can make a big difference.

Left untreated, exterior wood will slowly turn grey or silver as the tanning in the timber surface is broken down by the Sun’s UV rays and weathering. For some, greying fence panels and sheds provide the beautiful aged look of a mature garden that has history. Others on the other hand want to retain some colour in the timber of sheds and fences. This is usually done with a brown or wood coloured treatment or stain.

Although browns and greens are undoubtedly among the predominant colours within nature, nature is also great at throwing in a splash of vibrant colour to liven things up. For example, woodland colours can include the striking shades of blue and purple from Bluebells, warm yellows from Primroses and a peppering of White from the flowers of Snowdrops and Wild Garlic.

bluebells-in-woodland

Woodland Colours – The Stricking Contrast of Bluebells

The trend of adding colour to our gardens has gained momentum in recent years and is now covered extensively in lifestyle and gardening magazines. The use of coloured paints and wood stains in garden design is also taking centre stage at many of the big national gardening shows and events.

Adding colour to your garden design ideas doesn’t mean turning it into a psychedelic rainbow of colour, that would scare away every living creature for miles around. It could be just enough to catch the eye in the form of a painted watering can or something more grand, such as a garden shed painted in a corn flower blue with powder pink window frames and trim. Black fence panels, as strange as it sounds, provide an excellent contrast to lush green plants and lawns.

shed-of-the-year-chrissy-brown-1

Shed of the Year Contender by Chrissy Brown

In recent years, the market has become awash with garden paints and stains to satisfy the growing demands of the DIY enthusiast. But, in our opinion, it’s usually best to stay with the reputable brands that have historically specialised in wood care products such as Ronseal, Cuprinol and Barrettine. In addition to adding colour, it’s worth remembering that garden paints and stains are also designed to protect and preserve timber structures and fixtures from the elements.

Choosing which products to use in your garden design is largely down to the desired colour and the type of surface to be coloured. Cuprinol Garden Shades comes in a wide range of attractive colours, offers up to 5 years weather protection and is perfect for all types of garden sheds and fences. It can also be used on trellis, cladding and about any other wooden surface. Although Cuprinol Shades paint can be used on decking balustrades and handrails, it’s not recommended for decking boards as it’s not durable enough to withstand a high degree of foot traffic.

Specifically formulated for garden sheds and fence panels, Cuprinol 5 Year Ducksback is an advanced non drip wood stain that is water repellent and offers protection against frost and weathering for up to 5 years. And if you’re looking for a colourless wood preserver, to protect your wood before painting or staining, we recommend Cuprinol Wood Preserver Clear. This product works particularly well as an undercoat with Cuprinol 5 Year Ducksback.

For wood and non wood surfaces, Ronseal Garden Paint could be the answer. Ideal for almost any surface including wood, terracotta, metal and brick, this garden paint comes in a wide range of bright vibrant colours including Purple Berry, Summer Sky and Lime Zest. Perfect for wood and metal garden furniture, Terracotta plant pots, brick garden walls and more.

garden-design-ideas-painted-plant-pots

Painted Plant Pots

Need Some Garden Design Inspiration?

Still not sure? For inspiration take a look at the following resources for some great garden colour ideas.

House to Home – How to use paint to add colour to your garden

The Telegraph – Paint colour into your winter garden

Learn2grow.com – Colour is Beautiful (Using Paint in the Graden)

The middle-sized garden – Re-vamp your shed – a really short & easy guide

Home Gardener – Tips on colouring and protecting garden sheds, fences and garden furniture

Making Spaces.net – Quick & easy garden spruces

Stuck on Garden Paint? We’re Here to Help

Here at Wood Finishes Direct we stock a wide range of products that colour and protect exterior wood from the heat of summer sun and the harshness of winter. If you’re unsure of what product you need for your garden design project, give our team of resident experts a call on our UK free phone number, 7 days a week.*

At wood Finishes Direct we love to see how peoples projects have turned out. If you’ve added colour to your garden, no matter how big or small, and would like to share your photos with us and our community of followers, simply send us an email with your attached photos.

*Call us or pop in to our shop 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday : Saturday 8am to 5pm, Sunday 10am to 6pm.

The Wonderful World Of Bamboo

Friday, February 26th, 2016

In terms of all things wooden, Bamboo isn’t usually the first wood type that comes to mind. Ask a thousand people to name 5 woods and you can almost guarantee that Bamboo will rarely feature, being pushed out of the running by the likes of Oak, Pine, Mahogony, Beech and Cedar. So why is this? Is Bamboo inferior in some way? Is it only good for a very limited number of uses, here in the UK and around the world? Lets investigate further.

bamboo-forest

Bamboo growing in its natural habitat

In terms of wood sustainability, fast growing trees are better. The faster a tree grows the sooner it reaches maturity and can be used as a natural resource. Carefully managed tree planting programs can help by ensuring that there is a constant stream of new trees being planted as mature trees are harvested. The main issue with tree planting programs, especially for hardwood trees such as Oak is that they take many years to grow to maturity, in most cases at least 40 to 50 years if not longer.

When it comes to how fast a particular type of tree grows, environmental conditions and the locality of the tree can have a measurable impact. A tree that’s growing in an ideal location, under ideal conditions, will grow faster and reach maturity quicker than a tree of the same species that’s growing in less favourable conditions.

To clarify for those that are already shouting at the computer monitor that Bamboo isn’t a tree, and for those that didn’t know, Bamboos are a sub-family of flowering perennial evergreen plants in the grass family. But even though they are not strictly a tree, many species of Bamboo still grow to produce a highly usable wood.

So where does Bamboo fit into the sustainable wood equation? Put simply, Bamboos are the fastest-growing plants in the world with some species of bamboo growing as much as 92cm, around 3 feet, in 24-hours, a rate of almost 4cm (1.5 inches) an hour or around one inch every 40 minutes. With the optimum harvesting period considered to be around 5 to 6 years, it’s easy to see why the popularity and demand for Bamboo has increased so much in the last two decades.

Bamboo, like true wood, is a natural composite material with a high strength-to-weight ratio useful for structures. Bamboo has long been used as scaffolding in the far east; the practice has been banned in China for buildings over six stories, but is still in continuous use for skyscrapers in Hong Kong. The Bamboo page on Wikipedia states that ‘Bamboo has a higher compressive strength than wood, brick, or concrete and a tensile strength that rivals steel.’

bamboo_scaffolding

Bamboo is commonly used as scaffolding on high rise builds in many parts of the world.

What does Bamboo get used for?

Because there are so many different types of Bamboo, all of which have their own unique properties, the list of Bamboo uses probably runs into the thousands. Because of this we’ve listed just a couple of the obvious and perhaps less obvious below.

Bamboo flooring

varnished-bamboo-flooring

An example of Bamboo flooring that has been finished with a varnish

The popularity of Bamboo flooring has increased enormously over recent years and is now huge business, especially in the United States. There’s no denying that its practical and perfect for busy environments including commercial premises such as restaurants, cafes and more. There are concerns however that because of its popularity, native forests in China and other parts of the world are being cleared for Bamboo plantations. With the use of fertilisers to increase quality and yield of crop, there are now concerns that the positive environmental benefits that Bamboo once had are now being eroded by the mass clearance of land and the chemicals being used.

In addition to flooring, Bamboo is being used for a whole host of other building and construction materials including Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), wooden beams, particle board, veneer, moldings and more.

Pulp and Paper Products

Like traditional woods, Bamboo is also used for a wide range of paper products including paper, cardboard, toilet tissue and coffee filters to name but just a few.

Textile Industry

Bamboo cotton blend is a highly effective anti bacterial combination that is more hydrophilic than cotton and more absorbent. Bamboo is used in a massive range of textiles from bedding to nappies, cleaning cloths to socks. Bamboo is more breathable and more absorbent than cotton and dries nearly as quickly. There is growing interest and demand in Bamboo clothing with suppliers such as BAM Clothing selling a full range of mens, women’s and children’s clothing made from this incredible plant.

Energy

Bamboo is also used in the Bioenergy industry for fire in the form of Bamboo charcoal, fire briquettes, pellets and in the production of Biofuels.

bamboo-charcoal

Bamboo Charcoal

Food and Drink

In the animal kingdom, everyone knows who loves Bamboo. In terms of us humans, almost everyone has eaten or at least heard of Bamboo Shoots, but have you tried Bamboo wine, tea, beer, vinegar or even Bamboo charcoal coated peanuts? It’s all out there for those looking to try something new.

Car Interiors

Fans of Jaguar cars and other classic British cars will be aware that the choice for ‘top end’ car interiors has traditionally been Walnut. Not anymore. Bamboo car interior trim including steering wheels, dashboards, centre consoles and interior door trims are being offered by many prestige car manufacturers including Rolls Royce and Lexus.

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Real wood is commonly used in both vintage and prestige cars.

Sports Equipment

Gone are the days of purely functional sports equipment. Looking good is now as important as what the sporting equipment is used for. That said however, in some cases, Bamboo as a construction material has been found to be a better performer than some of the traditional materials used. Bamboo can now be found on everything from golf tees to snowboards, fishing rods to baseball bats, ski poles to bicycles.

Technology

This is a bit of a strange one. Although the human race seems to have an insatiable appetite for all things technology, including iphones, laptops, tablet computers and more, there’s a growing trend of encasing these high tech gadgets in the most natural, low tech materials such as wood. This isn’t a new concept as it was in the 1920’s that the cutting edge technology of radio was being housed in highly decorative solid wooden cabinets.

vintage-wooden-radio

Vintage wooden radio from the 1930’s.

Today, there are an increasing number of companies that sell a range of Bamboo and other wood covers and protectors for almost every type of smart phone and tablet computer. If there’s nothing main stream that you like the look of, some even provide a bespoke design service so that your wooden phone protector is a one of a kind. For those wishing to go that bit further there are even computers, keyboards, computer monitors and even the computer mouse, all available in a real wood finish.

The list of Bamboo products and uses continues to grow as greater awareness of its strengths, benefits and of course its beauty becomes more wide spread. The big question is will the increasing demands for Bamboo ultimately destroy its credentials as an eco friendly alternative to wood from trees?

If you have a question on how best to finish Bamboo flooring, toys, smart phone covers or musical instruments made from this wonder material, give our team of resident experts a call who will be happy to help.

Hand Made Valentines Gifts – Part 2

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Judging by the response we received from last weeks blog post about hand crafted Valentines gifts, a fair number of you were inspired to give it a go and for those that haven’t started yet, and in case you needed a gentle reminder, Valentines Day is this Sunday. Time is running short so if you are going to make something, now’s the time to get busy.

Although time is running short, it doesn’t mean that there’s not enough time to create something that is both beautiful and personal, a gift that will be treasured for ever. And the good news is that this weeks offering is even more simple to make than last weeks. Interested? Lets get started.

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An easy to make Valentines Plaque – Wood Finishes Direct

If you prefer a video guide to this project, you’ll find one nearer the bottom of this article.

So as with last weeks project, we suggest using a piece of plank from an old pallet as it’s ideal for the project and free. Wooden pallets are a great source of free timber for all sorts of projects, big and small. Presuming your pallet has been dismantled, you’ll be left with a load of planks and wooden blocks, which we used for last weeks Valentines gift idea.

Cut the timber plank down to the required size then sand it smooth, firstly using p80 and then p120 grit sandpaper to get it ready for dying. Gently rounding off the edges with an electric sander or by hand gives the wooden plaque a softer, weathered look but its not essential as it’s just a question of taste. Drill two holes in the corners so that twine can be put through for hanging. Again this isn’t essential as it’ll look great free-standing on a shelf or mantlepiece.

Use Manns Water Based Wood Dye in white and a Manns Disposable Foam Brush to apply the dye. Stir the wood dye thoroughly before and at regular intervals during application to ensure a consistent colour. Pour the dye into a paint tray or other container then apply liberally. finish off by working along the grain taking care to remove all excess from the surface of the timber with a clean, lint free cloth before leaving to dry for around an hour.

While the wooden plaque is drying make your stencil by finding a design you like and score it out on some thin plastic with a sharp craft or stanley knife, for our example we’re doing alternating hearts to match the design we did on last weeks tealight holder.

Next, just fix the stencil in place with some masking tape, we’ll be using the same Manns Water Based Dye in red that we used last week. Dip just the end of the Manns Disposable foam brush lightly in to the dye, blot off any excess on a microfibre cloth, then test it on another piece of wood to make sure not much is coming off. Apply to the stencilled area very carefully to avoid bleeding – work in from the edges applying just a tiny amount at a time.

making-valentines-day-gift-plaque

The wood dye should be applied very thinly to retain the crisp edge of the stencil.

Leave again to dry for an hour then carefully remove the stencil. Once fully dry give it a gentle rub down with a Manns Finishing Pad, then you’re ready to apply a topcoat.

For the top coat we’re using Morrells Nitrocellulose Spray Lacquer in high gloss. As with any spray, always apply in a well ventilated area and wear a suitable mask too. For the sake of our video, we’ve applied the first coat in our shop and then moved outside to apply subsequent coats.

Firstly shake the can well, then from around 15cm spray the lacquer over it in short even bursts. Allow the lacquer spray to dry for around 20 minutes between coats under normal conditions. If spraying in cooler or damp conditions, these drying times may be extended.

It’s important that between coats you lightly denib with a fine or medium Manns Finishing Pad, this smooths out imperfections and aids adhesion of further coats. you should be doing around 5-8 coats for this project. So without further delay, here’s our video guide to producing another stunning Valentines gift.

Follow the steps above and your Valentines gift will go down a treat. As with last weeks project, let us know how you got on with your before, during and after photo’s.

If you’re unsure about anything covered in the above blog post or video, don’t be shy. Give our team of dedicated experts a call or drop us an email and we’ll happily answer any questions you may have. If you want a different colour or perhaps a wax or oiled finish, not a problem, we can advise on a wide range of alternative products that’ll give you the finish that you’re looking for.

Valentines Gifts With a Personal Touch – Part 1

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Valentine day is celebrated all around the world on February the 14th, but the true origins of this day and how it came in to being is largely unknown by most.

valentines-day-message-of-love-stone

Nur die LIEBE zahlt = Counts only the love

Some historians believe that Valentine day originated from the very ancient, possibly pre-Roman festival of Lupercalia, observed on February 13th through 15th, to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. Other researchers have rejected this claim saying that there’s no proof that the modern customs of Saint Valentine’s Day originate from Lupercalia customs. No matter what the origins, the celebration of Saint Valentines was later Christianised by the Catholic Church.

Although there are several saints throughout history who shared the Valentine name, not much is known about the actual Saint Valentine that this day was named after. It’s likely named however after a Saint Valentine who was sentenced to death for conducting secret marriage ceremonies, after Claudius II banned marriage. Claudius II did this as he believed that unmarried men made better soldiers. According to legend, during his imprisonment, Saint Valentine healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. An embellishment to this story states that before his execution, he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell.

Nowadays, an estimated 1 billion Valentines Day cards are sent every year, making it the second most popular celebration, beaten only by Christmas. In America alone $20 Billion Dollars are spent every year on Valentine’s day. Although some people go all out to lavish their loved ones with jewellery and other expensive gifts, many people feel that a personalised hand made gift, made with love, just can’t be beaten.

heart-shape-made-from-twigs

Home made Valentines gifts can be easy to make and totally unique.

Truth is that you can make an amazingly romantic gift, without spending a fortune. These gifts can be made relatively quickly and easily, often from recycled items and don’t require any exceptional skills.

There are literally hundreds of great craft and DIY Valentines gift ideas that anyone can make, using handy online guides and tutorials, to add a personal touch to your Valentine’s day gift. To demonstrate just one example, we’ve made a video tutorial on how to turn the corner block from a wooden pallet into a beautiful and unique tea light holder.

We hope the video above has inspired you. If you’re ready to give it a go, here is a handy step by step guide to help you make this amazing Valentine tea light holder.

STEP BY STEP.

How to make the Holder: Wear suitable protective equipment for each step.

1. Dismantle, or get someone else to dismantle an old wooden pallet

2. Sand the block, firstly with p80 and then p120 Sandpaper – You can either leave the edges as they are or smooth and round them off by sanding for a softer appearance.

3. Bore the hole for the tealight and non-flammable insert such as a dedicated glass or other tealight holder using a power drill and a flat bit. Make the hole a few millimeters larger than the non-flammable insert.

4. Re-Sand the block using p120 sandpaper paying special attention to the newly bored out hole.

5. Dye the block white using Manns Water Based Dye in White working in the direction of the grain and removing any excess dye after application with a Microfibre cloth.

6. Make your stencil – use any design you like. This could be a love heart, name or any other symbol that has a special meaning – trace it on to a thin sheet of plastic or card using a sharp scalpel or craft knife.

7. Once the dye has dried, denib using a Manns Finishing Pad. Remove any traces of surface dust then position your stencil on to the wooden block with masking tape. Apply the Manns Water Based Wood Dye in Red or another colour of your choice. Work in from the edges and be really sparing to avoid any bleeding of the dye.

8. Once it has fully dried, remove the stencil, then apply several thin coats of Morrells Nitrocellulose Lacquer spray. in a well ventilated area while wearing a suitable mask. Denib between each coat of lacquer but not the final one. You can apply between 3 and 9 coats of spray lacquer depending on the look and depth of finish you require.

9. Insert the tealight and Hey Presto – you’re done!

It goes without saying that candles in any shape or form can be a fire risk. It’s for this reason that the hole in your candle block must be big enough to accommodate a glass or other suitable tealight holder. Tealights should never be used in the wooden block without a suitable holder and naked flames should never be left unattended.

If this Valentines gift idea has got your creative juices flowing, and you’re already thinking about other great things that can be made, here are a few more helpful resources with dozens of craft ideas. It’s worth remembering that the enjoyment isn’t just in the giving but also in the doing and there are a huge number of things that can be safely made with the children.

arts-and-craft-with-children

Making things with children can be great fun

Great resources for making valentines gifts

Next week we’ll be posting another great Valentines Day gift project that can be done as either an addition or as an alternative to the one above.

Here at Wood Finishes Direct, we love to see other peoples projects and how they turn out. If you want to share your experience with us and our community of followers, feel free to send in any before, during and after photos you have.

If you have any questions about the materials or products that we’ve used in our Valentines gift guide video above, simply call and speak to one of our resident experts on our UK land line Freephone number or alternatively, drop us an email.

Which Wood Finish Is Best?

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

A question we’re asked frequently here at Wood Finishes Direct is simply ‘which wood finish is best?’ Like most things involving wood, there’s no simple answer to this but fear not, help is at hand.

which-wood-finish-is-best

Which wood finish is best? A wood oil, varnish, stain, wax or paint?

Wood finishing can be complex. Trees are naturally growing organisms, with their own unique DNA and as with most living things, are sensitive and adaptive to the environmental conditions they grow in. Because of this, even two pieces of wood from the same species of tree from the same woodland or forest could produce different results when treated. It’s a little like two children from the same parents, unless they’re identical twins, chances are that they may be similar but have distinct differences or be as different as chalk and cheese.

So what is the best finish for wood? In a nutshell it depends on a host of factors, the most common being listed below:-

  • What type of wood, Softwood or Hardwood?
  • Is the wood interior or exterior?
  • Has the wood been sanded and how?
  • What is the wood being used for i.e. floor, door, picture frame, bookshelf, dog kennel etc
  • Is it old or new wood?
  • Is it bare or treated wood?
  • What sort of finish is required coloured or clear?
  • What sheen is required, matt, satin or gloss?
  • Easy maintenance or outright durability?
  • What is the expectation of durability?

So to help with trying to determine which wood finish is best for you, the wood your working with and the project to hand, let’s explore some of these key questions.

What type of wood? Softwood or Hardwood?

And before anyone answers ‘from a tree’ it’s worth noting that there are a lot of ‘wood’ products that are not strictly from a tree but can still be treated in the same way. As an example, Bamboo is technically a grass and what about all those man-made woods such as MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) and particle board?

softwood-or-hardwood

It’s not always easy to know if something is softwood or hardwood

Softwood and hardwoods

This is another area that can be confusing as the classification of a softwood or hardwood is determined by how it fruits and its leaves and not just by the weight, density or strength of the wood. There are actually some softwoods that are harder than some hardwoods and some hardwoods that are softer than some softwoods. Confused yet? We’ve written a blog post entitled Confused everything you need to know about wood if you want to know more.

Natural colouration of the timber

Wood has its own natural coloration that isn’t always evident when freshly planed or sanded. As an example, pine, especially old pine can look pale and virtually colourless in its raw state. Put on a clear wood oil or varnish and they will enhance the natural character and colour of the timber, normally a warm golden or orange colour. Although some people like and enjoy the warm colouration that this gives, it’s not to everyone’s taste. The natural colouration of the timber will also have an effect on the final colour if treating the wood with a pigmented or coloured product. Stain a piece of Pine and Beech with the same wood stain and it will produce quite different results. Remember those school days of mixing two colours to make a completely different colour?

The good news is that if you want to keep wood, especially Pine, Oak and other light coloured woods looking natural, without the natural colouration coming through, there are some great hard wax oils from Osmo and Fiddes that do the trick, namely Osmo Polyx Oil Raw 3044 and Fiddes Hard Wax Oil Natural (also known as Oak Lightning).

Is the wood interior or exterior?

Although softwoods and hardwoods can both be used for interior and exterior projects, it’s fair to say that some wood types are better for some projects than others based on practicality, cost and the types of finish required.

inside-outside-wood

Decaying roof exposing inside wood to the outside elements

Exotic hardwoods such as Teak, Iroko, Balau and Ipe are great for decking, garden furniture and other exterior projects due to their dense and oil rich nature. They’re naturally hardy, resistant to weathering, and biological issues such as mould, algae and other types of fungal and insect attack. The flip side is that because of their dense, oily nature, they have to be carefully prepared if coating with a varnish or paint, to ensure good adhesion with the surface of the timber and to prevent the finish from breaking away from the surface of the wood. Specialist opaque products from brands such as Sadolin, Sikkens and Dulux Trade work well and are available in a range of colours.

Very dense hardwoods can also be problematic when it comes to oiling. Many types of decking oil and other exterior wood oils are too thick to penetrate into the dense grain of the timber with specialist, highly refined oils such as Osmo Extra Thin 1101 for interior wood, or high quality Teak Oil for exterior wood being the best option. These products are clear so will not add additional colour to the timber other than giving the wood a darker damp look and drawing out the natural grain and colour of the wood. Even with these oils, the wood may need to be left to weather for a while to open up the wood grain before oiling. It’s highly likely that these types of wood will only absorb one or two very thin coats of oil. Not all clear wood oils contain UV filters meaning that when exposed to direct sunlight and rain, the wood will naturally turn grey / silver over time.

Generally, commonly used timbers such as Pine and Oak are easier to paint, varnish, oil and stain than exotic hardwoods. If protected correctly with a suitable preservative and finished in the correct way, they will perform very well in external environments and could last a life time if maintained correctly. The other benefit of using these woods is that they are cheaper and more suitable for products with UV resistance or the thicker pigmented or coloured oils.

Has the wood been sanded and how?

Proper sanding is key to a good finish, especially so with wooden floors. If you’re looking to oil a piece of wood that has been previously painted or varnished, it’s imperative that all traces of the old surface coating are completely removed. Failing to do this may prevent the oil from penetrating into sections of the timber resulting in an inconsistent finish.

sanding-wood-correctly

Sanding wood correctly is imperative to get the best results

In most cases, sanding to a 120 or 150 grit is perfect. If wood is sanded too finely it can block the surface pores of the timber making it difficult for wood oils to penetrate. This could result in a tacky or sticky surface or an inconsistent finish / colour if using a pigmented product or stain.

Wooden floors should be sanded a number of times using progressively finer grits of sandpaper. Depending on the condition of the floor, it may require a very course grit to start with then several passes with varying grits until reaching a 120 / 150 grit smoothness. If the sanding hasn’t been done properly, swirls, scratches and other strange patterns and marks may appear when staining with inconsistent colour patches. If this happens the only option is to sand again taking extra care to sand properly.

What is the wood being used for?

If you’re working on a picture frame, there’s no need to use a bullet proof varnish that is more suitable for a dance floor or sports hall. Easy maintenance wood oils may be better in high moisture environments where a varnish may start to crack and peel. For a classic Shabby Chic look, some products are better at giving that ‘worn over time’ look than others. This is why we have wood finishing project pages on our site which list which products are best for which projects.

shabby-chic-furniture-finish

Different wood finishes work better on different projects.

Is it old or new wood?

Old wood can react differently to new wood. If the wood has been recycled and was previously treated, this could also have an impact on the type of product to use and the finish it will give. For example, old wood that was previously oiled or treated with a wood preservative that contained wax could repel water based paints and varnishes.

new-or-old-wood

New wood can be treated with almost anything, old wood may need thorough sanding.

Is it bare or treated wood?

This is similar to the point above. If its new bare wood then it can be treated, stained or coated with a huge variety of products. If it is or has been previously treated, it could limit the type of product that can be used. As an example, you can’t oil a floor that has a varnish finish.

bare-wood-verses-treated-wood

Bare wood is ready for treating, pre-finished wood may need sanding.

What sort of finish is required coloured or clear?

There are a vast range of products that give a variety of different finishes from the slightly tinted to the totally opaque, soft colour tones to vibrant primary colours and everything in between. We always take it upon ourselves to try and understand the type of finish that the customer wants and make recommendations based on the information provided.

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Wood can be kept bare or coloured with a wide variety of semi translucent or opaque colours.

When we are asked what product is best to achieve a Medium Oak or a Victorian Pine colour, our first response is ‘define what colour Medium Oak or Victorian Pine is? A good way to demonstrate this it to go to Google Image Search and type in ‘medium Oak wood’. Google will present thousands of images of wood and furniture and it soon becomes very apparent that everyone’s interpretation of medium oak is different. This also applies to high street brands. Buy a tin of dark oak wood stain from one manufacturer and the same from another and they could be anything from slightly different to not having any similarity at all. When it comes to colour, the best approach is to ignore the product colour name and decide visually on what colour best meets your preference and the needs of the project.

Another reason why colour is always tricky is because everyone’s computer monitor is calibrated differently in terms of brightness, colour and contrast. A product colour on one monitor may look different on another and different again on another. Then there’s the issue of the type, age, condition and natural characteristics of the wood, the same product on one piece may look different on another. This is why we always stipulate that a test area must be done and allowed to fully dry before starting any project to test colour suitability.

Which sheen level, matt, satin or gloss?

The sheen level of a product can change the whole appearance and feel of an object or room. while a shiny floor screams elegance and class a matt finish gives a more natural, cosy feel. In terms of exterior finishes, most wood oils leave a soft satin finish when first applied. For a lasting exterior satin or gloss finish, opaque wood coatings and paints are the answer.

Interior finishes tend to come with more sheen options from dead matt through to super gloss. in some cases, a satin variation can be mixed with a matt or gloss to achieve a sheen level that is something in between what the manufacturer supplies.

Easy maintenance or outright durability?

In a nut shell wood finishes tend to fall into just a few categories, waxes and oils (products that penetrate into the surface of the wood), varnishes and paints including pigmented opaques (Products that form a skin or seal on the surface of the wood).

tough-durable-wood-finishes

Varnishes and paints can be longer lasting. Wood oils are easier to maintain

Generally speaking, If the wood has been prepared correctly and the product has been applied correctly, surface coatings such as paints and varnishes tend to have a longer service life than waxes and oils, potentially lasting many years before requiring attention. The thing to consider is that when these types of wood finishes reach the end of their useful life, usually when they start to show signs of wear, peeling, flaking or cracking, its often a case of stripping the old coating back to bare wood by sanding or using a suitable paint and varnish remover, before re-coating or painting.

Wood waxes are used for interior surfaces, usually furniture (see Wood Furniture Wax) and other low contact surfaces such as picture frames and wood panelling. Wax will never crack and peel and is very easy to maintain. Although stand alone waxes can be used on flooring, they’re not very durable and are prone to wear and staining from liquid spillages, far from ideal in kitchens and bathrooms. The only wax products we recommend for wooden floors are hard wax oils.

Wood oils are very popular and it’s not difficult to see why. There are a wide range of interior and exterior wood oils that are all formulated to provide a specific look and function. Interior wood oils for floors and kitchen worktops are highly durable, potentially lasting years but unlike a varnish, there is never a need to sand them off when they start to look tired and worn. It’s simply a case of cleaning the surface or perhaps giving a very light sanding before applying a fresh coat of oil over the top of the old. As good as new.

Exterior wood oils move with the wood so will not crack and split. They allow the wood to breath and many, not all, offer some degree of UV protection to protect the natural colour of the timber for longer. If colour is desired there are a range of semi translucent tints and opaque coloured oils that can provide a ‘paint like’ appearance. These are great for protecting and colouring exterior wooden surfaces without the risks of cracking, peeling or flaking.

How long will a wood finish last

This is the classic ‘How long is a piece of string?’ question. As with anything, how long something lasts comes down to the amount of wear and tear it’s subjected to. An oiled floor in a restaurant will require more regular maintenance than one in a domestic property, An exterior coating on a beach side property will likely require more maintenance than that of a sheltered town house. This is why manufacturers rarely give a stipulated life expectancy of a product. This said however it doesn’t mean that a job will have to be redone every year or two. If a wooden surface has been properly prepared and a product has been applied to the manufacturers guidelines, then most wood finishes will provide years of protection to the timber and pleasure to the property owner.

Wood Finishing Help

[youtube]https://youtu.be/Umn0CgJpdSg[/youtube]

We hope that the above article and video helps to explain some of the finer points about wood finishing but If you have any questions about which wood finish is best for your project, just give our team of resident experts a call or drop us an email.

Wooden Raised Vegetable Beds – To Preserve or Not To Preserve

Monday, January 18th, 2016

For gardeners, the New Year means the start of the new growing cycle. From Cauliflower to Leeks, Onions to Peas, January and February are the months for sowing seeds. At this time of year, this is done undercover, usually indoors to protect from frost in preparation for planting out in Spring.

baby-seedlings

Baby Seedlings

The popularity of raised vegetable beds or raised vegetable gardens has increased enormously over the years, but why? Raised vegetable planters have several key benefits over planting directly into the soil.

For one, not everyone has access to a garden that has bare soil or grass. Even if a garden has been completely paved over, a couple of wooden frames or raised veg beds can provide all the space you need to grow your own. Even if you do have spare garden or lawn space that you’re willing to give up, raised vegetable beds can still be better than planting directly into the ground in some instances.

If you don’t fancy digging up a section of lawn and disposing of the turf and surplus soil, simply setting up a raised bed or two and filling with compost can save a lot of digging and the worry of getting rid of the turf layer and any surplus soil.

A raised vegetable garden can be good for growing long root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips, as long as the planters are deep enough to accommodate the depth of soil required. In the ground Carrots and other long root vegetables can become misshapen or stunted. This can be caused by stones or dense clumps of soil and clay, a problem that doesn’t exist with a wooden frame filled with compost.

The other key benefits of raised vegetable beds is that they offer excellent drainage, ideal for vegetables that perform poorly in sodden or water logged soil. Another plus is that the soil temperature tends to be higher than ground temperature with the sun warming from the sides in addition to above. A down side of raised beds for vegetables is that they can require more frequent watering than ground crops in dry periods.

How many raised veg beds should I have?

If thinking about growing vegetables in raised beds for the first time, it’s better to start small and add as time goes on rather than setting up numerous large vegetable beds for them to run wild with weeds. It also depends on how much space you have or are prepared to use for growing food. If you can manage a saw and a hammer, start with small 60cm by 60cm (2 foot ) squares. These are big enough to grow some smaller vegetables and can be nailed or screwed together to make a patchwork of 4, 6, 8 or more ‘crop zones’, all neatly contained in their own square. Once you decide that you can manage and above all enjoy growing and eating your own food you can expand both the size and quantity of raised beds to meet your requirements.

garlic-in-wooden-raised-vegetable-beds

Start with small raised vegetable beds and easy to grow crops

To buy or build

Knowing whether to buy or build comes down to several factors. When buying as a kit you know that the set up is going to be pretty straight forward in the sense that everything you need is pre-cut and in the packet, including fixings. The flip side is that you’re limited to the shape, size and timber specification of the manufacturer. Chances are that a kit version will probably work out more expensive than a home made version, cheaper kits may not last as long.

Home constructed vegetable beds can have several advantages over the kit versions including…

– Size and shape determined by space or needs
– Potential to use better quality timber
– Cheaper to build and could last longer
– More environmentally friendly if using recycled timber

square-foot-raised-vegetable-garden

Raised vegetable bed segmented into 1 foot square growing areas

To preserve or not to preserve?

Using wood preservatives on a raised vegetable garden is a hot topic and one that doesn’t have a clear answer. One thing that is true is that preserved timber will always outlast unpreserved but here is the dilemma. For most, the idea of growing your own vegetables is about purity and freshness. Food that is naturally grown without chemical assistance and that can be pulled from the ground, cleaned, prepared, cooked and served up on a plate within hours. Encasing soil and the vegetables in a wooden frame that has been impregnated with insecticides and fungicides doesn’t sit well with many. So what is the answer?

freshly-grown-vegetables-straight-from-the-garden

Freshly grown vegetables straight from the garden

If going the natural route is the only option then buying newly sawn, untreated timber to construct the frames is the option to go for. Although this may sound like a bad idea initially there are several things that can be done to ensure that the raised beds don’t disintegrate within the first year.

Firstly, the choice of wood. The type and thickness of the wood can make a big difference to the overall life of a wooden raised vegetable bed. If going for a soft wood, something like a pine, then using structural grade planks that are around 5cm (2 inches) thick will certainly outlast a frame that is constructed from low quality, thinner timber.

Another chemical free way of preserving wooden vegetable frames is to staple or tack plastic sheeting to the top outside edge of the timber, over the top horizontal flat edge, down on the inside then back under the bottom edge towards the outside. This will help to protect the inside of the wood from direct contact with the soil and the worst of the moisture. With the inside of the frame protected, the outside can be treated with a wood preservative, coloured or clear to add protection and character if desired.

The timber type can also make a major difference. dark exotic hardwoods such as teak and iroko are much more resistant to moisture, weathering and rot, hence why wooden garden furniture is made from them. Using lengths of decking made from these timbers will provide years of maintenance and preservative free planting but will cost more than softwood timber.

For many, cultivating a raised bed vegetable garden is all about functionality and end result, others like to make them an aesthetically pleasing addition to the garden. In terms of the outside, they can be as rough and rustic as you please or, smooth coloured and stylish.

wooden-raised-vegetable-bed-stained-and-sealed

High sided raised vegetable bed that has been stained and sealed.

Can wood preservatives be used?

By their nature, wood preservatives can be used on any bare wood timber but there are people who worry about the preservative leaching out of the wood and into the soil and ultimately into the vegetables. The following is an extract from the growveg.co.uk website…

The issue is that all of the common methods of preserving woods have their problems when it comes to growing edible produce. For many of us, one of the primary benefits of growing our own food is the knowledge that our vegetables have not been sprayed, treated or artificially enhanced. Organic principles can be applied very successfully to home gardens but treating the wood in contact with the soil and plants can cause many questionable chemicals to leach into the ground, contaminating the crops. Details of the extent of this problem are hard to come by…

Some gardeners say that as long as the treated timber is left to stand and weather for at least a week or two before using for raised vegetable beds, it will be fine. Others suggest that you leave at least 6 inches between the preserved timber and any vegetables being grown. In cases like this it really does come down to personal choice. There are wood preservatives on the market such as Croma Wood Treatment that are non toxic, water based preservatives, specifically formulated for use on compost bins, raised beds, grow tables and vegetable planters.

If you have any questions about how best to colour and protect wooden raised vegetable beds, give our friendly team a call.

Good Bye 2015 – Hello 2016

Friday, January 8th, 2016

With memories of Christmas and the New Year fading fast, it’s time to start looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that 2016 has in store for us all.

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Good Bye 2015 – Hello 2016

2015 was a great year for Wood Finishes Direct, the company grew significantly in terms of profile, the number of staff we have, the products and brands we offer and above all, the great reputation we have for helping people achieve their interior and exterior lifestyle dreams – Perfect.

How can we help you?

Here at Wood Finishes Direct we believe that our business is more than just providing tins of things, it’s about helping you to achieve your vision or dream, after all, your home is your emotional sanctuary. Whether this is the house you live in or the extended living space of your garden or the hideaway retreat that is your summerhouse, log cabin or converted shed, we have it covered.

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A garden shed can make the perfect retreat

From rustic to ultra modern, shabby chic to vintage retro, we have everything you need along with the expert advice and guidance to make any vision or dream a reality.

In capable hands

Although it’s easy for anyone to say how great they are, don’t take our word for it, just head over to Trust Pilot, one of the UK’s leading independent business review sites and read some of the Wood Finishes Direct reviews, that previous customers have written about our service. With a customer satisfaction score of 9.8 out of 10 based on 8,500 plus reviews*, it’s easy to see how we’ve become a leading supplier of wood finishing products in the UK.

Here are just a few of our most recent customer reviews.

” Order recieived well packaged and on time. Very impressed with Company who returned my phone call when I called them with a query out of work hours.”

” Good price and on time delivery even in the week before Christmas after a weekend order. Very impressed.”

” Great products very good tips for use of the products. Easy to buy good communication from wood finishes and despatched very quickly.”

” Very pleased with product and the service. Ordered Sat. Lunchtime delivered on Tuesday and notified by text the time slot expected. Found the helpline very informative when making choice of the right wood finish to use on oak doors and staircase for my new build. Would certainly recommend.”

So what do we have in store for 2016?

For us, 2016 is all about bigger and better, more products, more brands, more great product and project advice while maintaining an excellent level of customer service. Brands that have recently been added to our portfolio of suppliers include the likes of Cuprinol, Crown Paints, Dulux Trade and Sikkens. For the growing number of people who are looking for the ecological alternative to traditional paints and varnishes, we also stock a range of great wood finishing products from the likes of Earthborn Paints and Osmo Oils.

New shop and open for longer

Two major changes for 2016 are our recently refitted retail shop and our new extended opening hours. After much hard work, our retail and trade store is open making it easier for people who want to come and get the products that they need directly, great for those that need something ultra urgent and can’t wait for next day delivery. We’ve also extended our opening times in both the shop and on the phones so that customers can contact us easier after work and at weekends.

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The Wood Finishes Direct Retail and Trade Shop

Shop opening hours

  • Monday to Friday : 7am to 7pm
  • Saturday : 8am to 5pm
  • Sunday : 11am to 7pm

If you’re not able to pop in and get what you need, it’s worth remembering that we offer next working day delivery on all orders made by 5pm and even better, if your order is £50 or over, next working day delivery is Free.

Got a project in mind? Not sure where to start?

Knowing where to start when looking to renovate or transform your home or perhaps a new property can be tricky. With the current onslaught of wind and rain, gardens are pretty much a no go area with many literally under water. For us, the winter months are all about interior floors, doors, staircases and kitchen work surfaces. While the winds howl and the rain falls, what better time to refresh floors and other interior surfaces with our great range of wood cleaners, restorers, clear and coloured wood oils, stains, paints, varnishes and waxes.

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Not sure where to start? Wood Finishes Direct can help.

Roll on Spring and Summer

With the shortest day now behind us and reseeding fast, thoughts will soon be on the approaching spring and highly anticipated summer months. Will it be a scorcher or a damp squib? Truth is, no one knows but even if it does turn out to be the disappointing latter, you can almost guarantee that there will be at least several warm sunny spells to get out and enjoy the garden, be it with friends and family or perhaps on your own with a book and a cold drink. Even if it does turn out to be more rain forest than the Cost Brava, we have everything you need to seal, protect and preserve exterior wooden decking, doors, sheds, fences, garden furniture and more from wind, rain and sun to keep them looking good and lasting for much, much longer.

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Protect and preserve the wooden fixtures in your garden

So if you’re a dreamer and perhaps less of a doer, why not make 2016 the year of change? Dig out those overalls or old decorating clothes, scan through some life style home and garden magazines or perhaps visit the Wood Finishes Direct Pinterest page, get inspired and set your creative tendencies free. changing the ordinary to extraordinary is probably much easier than you think and well within the realms of a novice DIYer. And with our expert product and project knowledge to help you out, your home and garden could become the talk of the town.

We’re here to help

If you have a question about a particular product or project, even if you’re not looking t o buy anything right away, give our team of friendly, resident experts a call who are always on hand to happily answer any questions you have.

We always love to see completed projects so if you’re happy to share your before, during and after project photos with us and our community, please send them in.

* Reference to Trust Pilot reviews and scores were based on the actual numbers available as at 05th January 2016.

Life After Christmas for Christmas Trees

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Not long now until the fat man with a red suit and a big sack comes down the chimney, but only if you’ve been good, and where does he leave the presents? Under the Christmas tree of course. And what would the festive Season be without a beautiful decorated tree in your house? It’s an age old tradition first used in this country when Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s husband) had one erected in Windsor Castle in 1841, and where many traditions have come and gone over the centuries, decorating the Christmas tree has remained one of the most significant must do’s at Christmas.

 

The History of Christmas Trees

The History of Christmas Trees

Real or Artificial

The big question though, is do you prefer a real or an artificial Christmas tree? For me it’s got to be real, the smell of pine and the idea of bringing the outside in has always appealed to me. It’s also a much more environmentally friendly option, sourced locally means no export pollution, and artificial trees are generally made from materials such as PVC which is non renewable or recyclable. And so every year in the middle of December, I and my family head out to a local farm to pick the tree that we will garnish with the glass ornaments and tree decorations that have been collected and cherished over the years.

Wherever you live there is bound to be local supplier of organically and locally grown Christmas trees. And depending on your budget you can get a great tree from just 3 ft right up to 10 ft if you have the space. It’s always worth doing your research before heading out and getting recommendations from other people about who to go to and what type of tree to get and know exactly what you are looking for. For example do you want a tree that is potted? The advantages of a potted tree are that if you look after it over the festive weeks the needles shouldn’t drop and you could even keep the tree in the garden for years to come. But remember it will continue to grow until it is too big for the pot, and I have known people to plant their trees in their gardens and 20 years later have a giant spruce taking over.

 

Finding locally sourced Christmas Trees.

Finding locally sourced Christmas Trees.

Or are you looking for a tree that you can dispose of after the festive season. And how long do you want the tree to be in use for, if it’s not potted then at some point the needles will start to drop. You will still need to take care of it by giving it regular water. So getting your tree too far away from Christmas could mean that by the time you reach the big day your tree could look somewhat sparse. The type of tree comes into play here as well, the most popular over the last few decades has been the Norway Spruce, it is a good budget Christmas tree that is popular because of it colour and shape. But in recent years the Nordman Fir has begun to take over because of the way it retains its pine needles.

Picking the right Christmas Tree

Picking the right Christmas Tree

Caring for your tree once you have chosen it is paramount, your tree is a plant and like any other plant it needs water. The base of the trunk will naturally create a resin seal with in 4-6 hours and this will prevent the tree from being able to absorb the water that it needs. So when you get home cut across the bottom of the trunk to create a fresh base and then place into water, your tree stand must hold enough water for the size of your tree and you should never let the water drop below the base of the trunk. If it does dry out you may need to make another cut across the bottom, which of course could be a problem if the tree is already decorated.
If you can avoid putting your tree near to any heat sources to prevent it drying out quicker, dried out trees also become a bigger fire hazard.

Your decorated Christmas Tree

Your decorated Christmas Tree

Recycling your Christmas Tree

When festivities are over, it’s time to take the decorations down for another year. For many in the gloominess of January this is a somewhat reflective time, and every year I see sad looking Christmas trees dumped in the front garden and by the side of roads, waiting to be taken up the local waste disposal depot. But there is so much more that these trees can give yet and here are a few up cycling ideas for what you can do if you don’t to waste the tree that has looked truly beautiful in your house for the last few weeks.

  • If you want to put your tree to use in the back garden, stand it somewhere in the garden or place it in the ground temporarily to let the birds feed from it. Hanging bird seed balls, strings of popcorn or fruit on the branches is a great idea in the cold winter months. It can also be a great resting place for all sorts of creatures, including squirrels, insects and birds, providing a little shelter and allowing them to rest and feed off the cold ground.
  • Large branches with some foliage still in place can be used by gardeners to protect some of the more delicate plants from ground frost and snow.
  • The trunk of the tree can be used for firewood, if you have an open fire. Not the Branches however as these can pop and crackle.
  • Or you could use the trunk as a base for a Bird feeder or the edging for a garden bed.
  • Any needles that are left can be collected and used to make an aromatic Potpourri. Just strip the needles and store in brown paper bags. The smell should remain all year round.
  • If there are any woodcraft hobbyists out there, they could use wood from the trunk to make all sorts of things from Candle holders to hanging shapes and if you’re looking for some Christmas Craft ideas take a look at one of our previous blogs >>> 12 Easy DIY Projects for Christmas
  • And finally when you’re ready to finally dispose of your tree, you can have a bonfire, (remember to check local guidelines for bonfires) and then spread the ash in your garden beds. The nutrients from the ash will help to nourish the soil.
  • If none of the above ideas grab your fancy you can of course take your tree to the local waste disposal site. Some local councils offer a tree collection service with convenient collection points around towns and villages including local parks where trees and chipped for use as mulch in local parks and gardens. Some garden centers also offer this service.
Safe Haven for wildlife or Bird Feeder

Safe Haven for wildlife or Bird Feeder

So there you have it, your tree can still be useful once the Christmas festivities are over. Recycling or reusing Christmas trees to make the most out of the natural resource can make a huge difference in so many ways if everyone was to do it. If you decide to do something creative with your Christmas tree in January, we would love to hear about it. From functional feature to something arty for the sake of art, send in your photos and if you’re happy for us to share them with our community of wood lovers, we might just do that.

So from everyone here at Wood Finishes Direct, we wish you all a very happy Christmas and a thoroughly enjoyable and safe New Year.

Wood Finishing Photos From Our Customers

Monday, December 7th, 2015

Here at Wood Finishes Direct we love nothing more than to see what our customers are doing with the 1000’s of wood finishing products that are bought from us every week. And this summer, you wonderful people have inundated us with your amazing photos of your decks, sheds, log cabins and a plethora of other interior and exterior projects.

We have loved seeing your before and after photos so much that we decided to put just some of them in an online photo gallery, for all to see on the Wood Finishes Direct Facebook page here. If you’ve brought any wood varnish, oil, wax or stain from us in the past year, why don’t you add to our photo gallery too. You can send your photographs into wood@finishes.direct or share them on our Facebook page here.

One of the first customers this year to send us images was Martin from Cheshire who used Fiddes Hard Wax Oil to treat the floor of his rural property, Hilltop Country House is used as a Wedding Venue. The Oil warmed up the floor beautifully, I wonder how many Brides and Grooms have since exchanged their vows in this stunning location.

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Fiddes Hard Wax Oil Used at Hilltop Country House

Back in April we were also delighted to have provided products to Chrissy Brown who’s shed was a category winner in this year’s Shed of the year, sponsored by Cuprinol Timbercare. She used Barrettine Premier Universal Preservative to give her shed the best protection she could. And we absolutely loved the Beach Theme that she had gone for with her gorgeous ‘She Shed’!

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Shed of the Year Category Winner by Chrissy Brown

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Interior View of Chrissy Brown’s Beach Themed Shed

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Another Interior View of Chrissy Brown’s Shed Of The Year Category Winning Shed.

Ronseal Decking Rescue Paint in Action

Of course in late spring/early summer it was all about decking, how to clean your deck, how to revive it and then what to use to give it the best protection and make it look good. Many of our customers used Ronseal Decking Rescue Paint, like John from Hertfordshire who showed us some great photos of his deck before during and after treatment.

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Untreated Decking Before Work Begins

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Decking Half Done With Ronseal Decking Rescue Paint.

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Job Done – Decking Looks Great After Being Treated With Ronseal Rescue Decking Paint

Example of Ronseal Ultimate Decking Stain Slate

Meanwhile, Nick used Ronseal Ultimate Decking Stain in Slate to treat his decking. The Slate and Grey toned finishes have been very popular this year for many external projects and you can see why looking at the finish of Nicks decking.

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Deckling Treated With Ronseal Ultimate Decking Stain in Slate Colour

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Same Decking From A Different Angle

Throughout the summer you have not only been treating your external wood but also many of you have sent us images of your floors, furniture and upcycling projects. Back in July we had a guest blog from Andrew who built the ultimate Upcycled haven using wooden pallets and scaffold boards which inspired many of you to embark on your own projects. Charles from Winchester showed us his stunning reclaimed maple floor finished with Junckers varnish. From the boot of his car to the finished, furnished room. A satisfying project that anyone would be proud of.

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From reclaimed to finished flooring. Final finish Junckers Varnish

As you can see from just the small selection of pictures above, our customers are passionate about their projects. As well as looking to give the wood in their homes and gardens the best possible protection against wear, tear and the outside elements, it’s also about individual style, taste and achieving a specific look and as you can see, with the right wood finishing product or combination of products, the possibilities are endless.

With the New Year just a matter of weeks away, It’s never too early or late to draw on other peoples projects and experiences to fan your own flame of creativity. Why settle for a boring shed when you can create your own seaside beach hut? Why re-carpet over a wooden floor when you can have a floor that screams class and elegance?

If you have the seed of an idea in your mind but are unsure of where to start or which products are best for the job, give our resident experts a call and they’ll be happy to guide you on which products are suitable for a specific project. And don’t forget to document your project with a series of before, during and after photos to remind yourself, and if you’re happy to do so, others about the transformation from ordinary to something quite special and unique.

The Wood Finishes Direct Story (Part 2)

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Following on from part 1 of the Wood Finishes Direct story and how we got to where we are today, here is the hopefully highly anticipated part 2 of our story that brings us up to present day.

After more than 8 years of growth in our farm barn, the time came where we had to make a move, before the walls burst with inwards stock deliveries and outgoing orders. We were looking for a new home, somewhere with at least twice the space and better transport links. Getting snowed in without being able to get anything in or out at the farm was always a worry and one that we wanted to avoid in our new home. There was also a need to expand our small team of 6 who were by now struggling with the demands of the company’s growth and with the old premises only large enough to accommodate 4 office staff and 3 in the warehouse, space for a larger office and a bigger warehouse with more picking and packing stations became a top priority.

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Stock at the old Wood Finishes Direct Warehouse

When an opportunity came about at Park Farm Road Industrial Estate in Folkestone we were keen to jump at the chance. It offered everything we were looking for, a modern industrial unit with excellent transport links, modern facilities and space to grow, enough for the foreseeable future – or so we thought.

In early July 2013, we closed up shop at 5:30 on a Friday afternoon for the last time. Although at that time we were still a fairly small company, the prospect of moving the whole operation out of the old premises and into the new, including in excess of 80 tons of stock, shelving, office equipment and various other pieces of warehouse equipment and tools, to be up and operational by 9am on the following Monday morning was a daunting one.

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Last Day at The Old Wood Finishes Direct Office

At 6am on the Saturday morning, with the help of all the staff, the ever helpful John the farmer and his fork lift, an articulated truck and a number of friends, on the hottest weekend of the year, we started the mammoth task of moving the whole operation the 8 or 9 miles to our new location. Every tin, box and container had to first be taken off shelving, put on pallets and wrapped before being loaded on to the artic. While this was happening, the other half of the team where at the new address erecting temporary shelving and setting up the new office. After 2 incredibly long, hot and tiring days, it was done.

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Moving out of the old Wood Finishes Direct Warehouse

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Almost Done – Stock Gone, Just Tidying Up To Be Done

After some initial jigging around we soon had our new office space, spacious warehouse with picking and packing stations for 4 and for the first time, a dedicated shop area where customers could call in and order direct over the counter. Ironically, heating was still an issue with the only source of heat in the office coming from an industrial sized gas powered fan blower which was more like the afterburner of a jet fighter. The benefit was that it would take the office temperature from just 5 degrees to 35 degrees Centigrade in under 3 minutes, perfect for those cold winter mornings. The down side of the industrial heater however was that every piece of paper in the office needed to be weighed down before switching it on and having a conversation in the office was out of the question unless using a megaphone. To say that we knew how a roast chicken felt, at gas mark 6, in a fan assisted oven would be an understatement.

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Just One Of The Super Charged Heaters At The New WFD Offices

In the early days at our new premises, things felt positively spacious. Our new office had space for around 10 desks plus all the other furniture and equipment that a modern office needs. Having come from a space of around 1800 square feet to a warehouse that was double the size, it seemed that filling it with stock as the business grew would take many months if not years. There was even talk of building a small gym for staff in one corner of the warehouse expecting to have spare room.

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Our First Offices At The New Address With Space For Around 10 Office Staff

Within the first year at our new address, it became increasingly apparent that the business was growing far faster than predicted and that the newly acquired premises was fast running out of space for new members of staff and the ever increasing amount of stock that was arriving in ever larger quantities, to satisfy the demands of customers orders. Outbound order collections by the couriers were also increased as it was no longer possible to get all our customers orders out on one artic lorry at the end of each day. More space was required!

By sheer luck, another unit right next door to the recently acquired one became available and at just on 9,000 square feet, was nearly 2 and a half times the size of our recently acquired new home. This presented an opportunity for the 3 directors of the business to re-think and re-map the long term strategy that they had all worked so hard to formulate just a year earlier. Needless to say, a new plan of action was soon formed and the additional unit was snapped up.

In February 2015, major work was undertaken to move the whole warehouse operation to the new unit with the smaller unit undergoing a major refit and split into 3 separate areas comprising of an expanded shop space, modern office space with all the mod cons for at least 20 office based staff and a new kitchen and recreation area.

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Unit Refit – The New WFD Offices Start To Take Shape

In the spring and summer of this year, the new warehouse went through a major refit with new wall to wall racking to house the weekly deliveries of stock from the likes of Ronseal, Osmo, Barrettine, Fiddes, Sikkens, Sadolin and more. With so much stock arriving almost daily and being dispatched to customers on a next day delivery service, it was imperative that the warehouse had the latest racking, warehouse equipment, technology and highly trained staff to ensure a slick and efficient operation at all times.

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Just One Of The Isles In The Newly Refitted Wood Finishes Direct Warehouse

Fuelled by the nation’s growing love for garden and Interior design and a growing DIY attitude, there seems to be no end to the incredible growth we’ve experienced. And without wishing to sound like we’re blowing our own trumpet too much, we also like to think that the success of our business is largely due to the fantastic range of products we stock, and the expert advice given by our team of highly knowledgeable staff, who are always on hand to answer any questions customers have about their project of the suitability of the products we offer. Another corner stone of our business is the quality of our after sales service. If after ordering customers have questions about their project or the products ordered, we always do our best to give the best possible guidance to ensure a successful outcome for their wood care projects. It’s a formula that seems to work well judging by the incredible product reviews and customer testimonials that we receive on our site and independent review site ‘Trustpilot‘.

While it would be nice to take all of the credit for our success, it’s also fair to say that the boom in social networks has helped. Today, there are probably tens of thousands of people who are tackling projects from staircases to interior doors, kitchen cabinets to Victorian floors who may otherwise have not, all thanks to online tutorials, ‘how to’ guides and just gorgeous images of completed projects on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest and more.

10 Years and Counting

On Friday the 16th of October, we all headed out to celebrate 10 years of Wood Finishes Direct. It was a great opportunity for all the directors, managers and staff to get together, let their hair down and talk about something other than wood and work. It was an evening at Follies in Folkestone of great food, music, company and the odd drink, a truly memorable evening…

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Some of the staff of Wood Finishes Direct 10th Anniversary Party

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And More From Our 10th Anniversary Party

The Wood Finishes Direct Retail Shop

No sooner had the dust settled from the anniversary party it was back to work. Progress is continuing on the retail shop that is currently going through a major refit and is expected to have a fan fair opening with press and promotions in the coming weeks.

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Wood Finishes Direct Retail Shop Refit.

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Wood Finishes Direct Shop Refit In Progress

The Path Ahead

New product lines are being introduced all the time with the latest offering being a user and eco friendly clay paint and eggshell paint from Earthborn Paints. Earthborn paint products are made completely from natural resources and are solvent and chemical free. This makes them ideal for the environmentally conscious DIY enthusiasts.

Our in-house programmers and web team are also busy at work looking at new ways to make the website bigger, better and more user friendly as well as all the back office programs and functions that tick away behind the scenes to keep the business running effectively and efficiently.

Where will we be in the next 2, 5 or 10 years? It’s always difficult to say exactly as with any sector, there are always changing trends. As in the 80’s and 90’s it was all about pine furniture, today it’s more a lifestyle thing with more and more people looking to embrace the natural beauty of wood for flooring, furniture and doors be it Pine, Oak or something far more exotic. Gone are the days of painting everything in white gloss or covering it in a toffee apple like orange varnish. Current trends seem to be more about protecting and keeping wood looking more natural with products that are themselves more natural than those that were used a decade ago or longer.

Whatever the trend, we aim to be at the forefront of the market with new and exciting products and ideas to help you transform your interior and exterior living spaces. And, if you’re ever unsure of what you need or are just looking for some inspiration, simply give us a call, send us an email or contact us via our blog and one of our resident experts will always be on hand to help you out.

Here at Wood Finishes Direct we love to hear and more importantly see the results that customers have achieved with their hard work and our products. If you’ve undertaken a project, regardless of if it’s the garden shed, decking, a wooden floor or staircase restoration project, we would love to hear about it and share your photos with our community.

What is Pyrography Art?

Monday, October 5th, 2015

So what is pyrography art? The word comes from the Greek “pur” (fire) and “graphos” (writing), meaning writing with fire. In modern practise, this is more drawing than writing, with some artists creating truly fantastic pieces of art.

The exact origins of pyrography are unknown, as wood (being organic) doesn’t survive well over thousands of years. Some believe its origins pre-date history, where cavemen would use charred sticks, to mark and burn the wood. The practise of pyrography however can be traced back as far as the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), where it was known as Fire Needle Embroidery. Pyrography is an ever changing art form, as it is always being reinvented with new tools, techniques, materials and styles.

With pyrography art, there is no set style, it’s open to personal interpretation. While some artists stick to a traditional approach, others are bending the boundaries with their own unique styles, by incorporating paints, wood oils and stains.

 

 

As you can see from Joanna Mulder work above (the piece on the right), she has taken the art form, and crafted her own unique, and beautiful style out of a craft that’s over 2000 years old.

Pyrography Tips & Tricks

If this has inspired you to start getting creative, then here is a list of useful Pyrography tip & tricks for beginners.

Pyrography for beginners – Getting a kit – Before you do anything, you’ll need to get yourself a pyrography kit. There are lots of different kits available, ranging from £10, to over £100. We recommend a mid-range pyrography kit in the regions of £20 to £40 for starters. This will help you get a feel for pyrography without investing too much money.

Watch the Experts – If you would rather watch how it’s done before jumping right in, there are plenty of professionals on YouTube, that have recorded tutorials. By watching the pro’s you maybe be able to pick up some pyrography tips and techniques.

Practise – The likelihood is that you’ll not become an instant expert the first time. Find a piece of cheap wood you can practise on to get a feel for things and how pyrography equipment works. Try out a few techniques, and styles to see how they affect the wood.

Sanding the Wood – Even if the wood appears smooth, give it a quick sand down before your start. This will ensure a smooth clean surface to work on. Using a fine grit paper will also help to ensure straighter lines and finer detail in your Pyrography Art. We recommend sanding the wood 3 or 4 times with progressively finer grits, the smoother the wood the better.

Carbon Paper – If you’re not very good at drawing, carbon paper can help you trace onto the wood, giving you a guide to follow. Simply print out the design you would like, place the carbon paper over the wood with the image on top, and trace the outline. This will transfer onto the wood giving you a clear line to follow.

Get Creative – Use your imagination to think of designs to burn into the wood. If your creative juices aren’t flowing, have a look on pinterest or esty to see what others are doing, this will help give you some inspiration. The possibilities are endless with pyrography, you can draw anything, on anything (providing its made out of wood). Why not decorate your boring wooden spoons, chopping board, customise your guitar, or make some decorations for the home.

 

The Finishing Touches

So you’ve now got all your pyrography tools, and you’ve just made some amazing new home decorations, what next? While you could leave it, why not give it some finishing touches, to protect the wood and give your master piece that professional finish.

At Wood Finishes Direct, we have a range of wood finishing products for arts and crafts including wood oils, dyes and waxes. If you Pyrograph anything that you might eat food from such as wooden fruit bowls, we have a range of food safe wood treatments in our kitchenware section. Using our craft products will not just give your work the professional finish, it will help to protect the wood and your art, making it last longer.

If you’re a potential Pyrography beginner, we hope you’ve enjoyed reading our blog and that we’ve answered the common question of ‘what is pyrography?’.

Image Sources

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFWbDAbeqeA[/youtube]

If you’re a seasoned Pyrographer and want to share your pyrography tips and hints, feel free to email us or comment below. If you’re a beginner and would like to share your work with us and others, feel free to send us pictures of your work.

Unsure as to what wood oil or treatment to use on your Pyrography? Our team of wood finishing experts are always on hand to answer any questions you may have on which wax, oil or varnish to use. Simply call us on our UK freephone number or send us an email.

Beautiful British Woodlands and Forests

Friday, August 21st, 2015

We live in a green and pleasant land, and its many forests and woodlands play a large part in making our quirky little nation so beautiful. This week we’re taking a look at the UK’s trees, how they compare to the past, the dangers today’s woodlands face, projects to restore them and organisations that protect them.

Hertfordshire Bluebell Wood

Hertfordshire Bluebell Wood

Why do humans love trees so much?

Why the age-long love affair with forests? One reason is purely chemical – like all green growing things, trees give off complex chemicals that humans find irresistible. All you need to do is spend an hour in woodland and you can feel the magic working. You’re more relaxed, alert, happy and calm, inspired, renewed, all sorts of good stuff. Being around fresh, green, growing things is like medicine for the spirit, and it’s completely free.

This phenomenon hints at an evolutionary imperative, in other words something humans evolved to appreciate for a very good reason. Scientists say simply being outdoors is good for our physical, emotional and mental health. It’s no surprise really, when our race was born and bred in the fresh air and until recently spent most of our time in it.

Facts about British Woodlands and Forests

Britain has all sorts of woodlands. Our oak woods, for example, are dominated by a variety of trees including oak itself, birch, holly, rowan and hazel. Under the canopy you find carpets of bluebells, wild garlic and wood anemones, which die back after spring has passed. These woods are home to masses of insects, birds, amphibians and mammals, fungi mosses and lichens, and this kind of forest once covered much of the country.

The problem with oak is it’s so useful. That’s why we have so few big oak forests left. Henry 8th, for example, more or less decimated the nation’s stocks, using countless thousands of mature oaks to build his legendary fleet of warships. Luckily there’s much more to our country’s woodlands than oak forests.

Take broadleaf forests. According to the BBC nature pages:

“Broadleaf forests are the dominant habitat of the UK and most of temperate northern Europe. There’s little left of Britain’s ancient wildwood, but isolated pockets of oak, beech and mixed deciduous and evergreen woodlands are scattered across the continent, and dictate its biodiversity. These forests are most diverse in the eastern areas of North America and in China. Unlike many forests, plentiful immature trees and undergrowth means most life is on the forest floor.”

Beech woods are a big favourite with their pale green foliage and dense canopy. There’s no way for the sunshine to get through so the floor is usually crisp and bare, strewn with nutrient-poor beech leaves, and there are few if any other trees. But in spring you’ll find carpets of vivid bluebells.

In some places we see coniferous forests, which usually also contain a scattering of broadleaf trees. In some wetter, colder places abroad you’ll see coniferous forests full of massive, incredibly tall specimens of huge trees like the Americas’ redwoods, but our climate is too warm and dry for them. No, really!

Famous forests and woodlands

We’re fortunate to have a god few huge stretches of forest to explore, protected for the future. Sherwood Forest, for example, the home of the fictional Robin Hood and his merry men. Some are classified as Ancient woodland, which means they’ve been continuously forested since 1600. Having said that, there is no woodland that hasn’t been affected by human activity in one way or another since the end of the last ice age.

Sherwood Forest

Sherwood Forest

Wikipedia provides a list of forests in the UK. And there’s bound to be one near you, somewhere you can go to de-pressurise, take time out and reconnect with nature. But the best known woods in the nation are probably these:

  • Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire
  • The New Forest in Hampshire
  • Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire
  • Cannock Chase in Staffordshire
  • Kielder Forest in Northumberland
  • Grizedale Forest in Cumbria
  • Epping Forest in Essex
  • Ashdown Forest in Sussex
  • Royal Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire
  • Savernake Forest in Wiltshire
  • Argyll Forest Park in Argyll and Bute
  • Forest of Ae in Dumfries and Galloway
  • Abernethy Forest in Strathspey and Badenoch
  • Strathyre Forest in Stirling
  • Gwydir Forest in Conwy
  • Clun Forest in Powys

What did our forests look like in centuries past?

We used to have a great deal more forest. The woods were bigger, wilder, richer in wildlife and less-managed. We tend to think the decline happened in the past couple of hundred years as humans, fuelled by the Industrial Revolution, spread across the natural landscape and made it their own. But apparently that’s not the case. The latest research reveals humans have been denuding the country’s trees since the Bronze Age, potentially longer.

Ancient Forest

Ancient Forest

The country wasn’t actually smothered in forest until the Romans arrived. In fact much of England was already cleared by 1000 BC, with the Bronze Age bringing intensive farming on an unprecedented scale. Roman Britain wasn’t a frontier province covered in dense woodland. It was already changed forever, with millions of acres of wild woods cleared to create farmland.

Since most UK trees are pretty hard to kill – with the exception of pine they don’t burn well and they grow back after felling – it was a herculean task. In fact our distant ancestors managed to destroy south east England’s pine forests altogether, which only recovered in the 1900s thanks to the formation of the Forestry Commission.

The challenges British Woodlands and Forests face today

The global economy means tree diseases can travel across seas and vast areas of the planet more easily than ever. Old sinners like Dutch Elm Disease have seen off most of the country’s elms since the 1970s and new diseases like Ash Dieback are making an inroad. Who knows what other tree diseases are in the pipeline, with the climate changing and the environment full of pollutants.

Despite the warning signs we still insist on clearing forests, although in the UK they’re pretty well protected. But there are still building developments, new roads, new housing estates and a housing crisis. If it wasn’t for the various bodies set up to look after our forests and woodlands, we probably wouldn’t have much left by now.

Since we sell wood finishing products, we have a vested interest in the ongoing health of the country’s trees and forests. And as nature lovers we know there’s nothing quite as good as sitting under a tree on a hot summer’s day and simply breathing in that wonderful green smell.

There are all sorts of projects going on, large and small, designed to restore woods and re-introduce native tree species to ancient and new forests. A big vote of thanks goes to all the organisations, at home and abroad, dedicated to protecting our natural heritage and making sure our grandchildren have plenty of beautiful woodland to enjoy. Here’s our roll of honour.

Thank you for supporting our trees…

Can you buy your own chunk of British forest?

Yes, you can. Woodland for sale usually comes without planning permission and no chance of a legal change of use, which makes it relatively cheap compared to buying land to build on. And it usually comes with legal covenants, where you agree to maintain the woodland properly and keep it in good condition by coppicing, thinning and so on. This is great since it puts you in personal charge of the health and welfare of a little piece of natural Britain, something you can be proud of.

You’re sometimes allowed to build non-permanent structures, say to stash your tools and tea making equipment, and in some cases you’re allowed to stay overnight for a limited number of days per year.

How much does it cost to buy woodland in Britain? It depends on the woodland and where in the country you are. Some friends recently bought a 3.5 acre chunk of deciduous woodland on the Surrey / Sussex border for around £45,000. It’s a little slice of heaven, a magical place to spend a day.

The good news?

Best of all, and perhaps counter-intuitively, the amount of woodland in Britain is steadily increasing. As reported by the United Nations in 2010, it has returned to levels not seen since the 1750s and tree cover has more than doubled since the end of World War One. Let’s keep up the good work!

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYZ93G7jnIM[/youtube]

What’s your favourite UK forest or woodland and why? We’d love to know…

How To Build A Shed? Our Customer Shares His Experience.

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

As many of you will know, here at Wood Finishes Direct we love upcycling projects. And recently we received an email for one of our customers called Andrew, who is an Architect and a lover of all things made of wood. Andrew very kindly sent us some photos of a project that he was working on in his very own garden and when we saw the photos, we knew it was only right that we shared his shed building project with others who may be wondering how to build a shed.

Andrew has given a great account of how he went about completing this great project and is thrilled that we’re sharing his experience on our blog. Have a read and let us know what you think in the comments below. So, from here on in, it’s over to Andrew…

The building is 6x4m on plan with the summer house part being 4x4m and a separate section of 2x4m being used as a shed. We call the whole thing a shed! It’s generally finished but there are some more things to do to finish it off. It’s taken me 2 years to build (largely on my own at weekends). I’m an Architect during the day.

garden-shed-designed-and-built-by-andrew

The timber on the interior walls is from used pallets – around 70 of them to be exact. The garden shed was built from scratch, insulated and the inside clad in OSB board before being over-clad in the reclaimed boards from the wooden pallets.

Reclaiming the pallet boards is time consuming pulling out the nails is almost impossible so the pallets need to be sawn up chopping off the nailed ends. The boards then need to be stacked to dry. Squaring the ends and then sorting into bundles of the same width then follow. The benefit of fixing them to a board and not directly to the framework is two fold: 1. That you don’t need to worry about starting and ending on a stud (which would give a less than random effect). 2. The gaps which you inevitably get (the boards aren’t millimetre perfect) are blocked and you don’t end up seeing through to the insulation in the wall. Also the boards do help to brace the structure. (That’s three fold)

recycled-pallets-used-for-interior-walls

Every so often I put in a line of batten and check with a laser that the bands of timber are level. It proved to be helpful that I hand nailed the boards in place using simple 40mm panel pins as they sometimes needed removing and adjusting or replacing. In the end I re-nailed the boards with annular nails which hold the boards much better.

The battens have been dyed with Manns wood stain (driftwood colour). This helped to blend the battens in with the pallet boards. Finally the boards were lightly sanded to remove the worst rough parts but this also removed some of the dirt off some of the dirtiest boards. It also helped to accentuate some of the saw marks on the boards which can be quite interesting. I found about 10 pallets but ended up buying a mixed load for about £1 each (which really covered the cost of having them delivered).

My shed also has a high level shelf running around three sides, just under the eaves. This was made from old scaffold boards. It blends in perfectly with the pallet wood, so you hardly know it’s there.

The ceiling was made with Softwood T&G. This shrank quite a lot and the joints opened up but I quite like that. It was primed (along with the roofing timbers) with a Zinzer primer and then lightly sanded. I like the contrast between the clean roof and floor with the walls.

The windows and doors were purchased on eBay over a period of time they are 1930’s Crittall steel windows. They were painted and quite crummy looking but the paint can be scraped off quite easily which takes you back to the galvanising which is perfect. There is little to no rust. I’ve had to replace a couple of panes of glass but that was mainly because they got broken in storage.

1930s-crittall-steel-windows-and-doors

Externally the shed is clad in Siberian Spruce bandsawn feather edged boards. And was painted with RUST-OLEUM PEGAPRIM ISOFIX – SHELLAC STAIN BLOCKER primer and then top coated with Tikkurila Valtti Ultra which was colour matched to a Farrow and Ball colour. The paint is very expensive but should last a long time. The primer acted as undercoat and was tinted as dark as possible which saved a lot of time.

We did look at using reclaimed corrugated iron for the roof but it would have been challenging to find the right amounts and also getting the right accessories. In the end we picked a heavier gauge new product and got the lengths cut to size. One of our inspirations for the shed was Derek Jarman’s Primrose Cottage in Dungerness. This has a tin roof which is painted black to match the walls. This was our original intention but you can’t paint freshly galvanised steel as it has a coating that prevents the paint from sticking. So we left it to wear off. We actually liked the galvanised roof in the end so we are leaving it. I finished off the roof with Galvanised guttering by Lindab to the front and standard black plastic to the back (which is never seen). There is a large water butt on the rear for harvesting rainwater.

We wanted to reuse and recycle much more but the availability of sufficient quantities of appropriate material can be difficult to find and often the transport, time and hassle can out-weigh buying new. Some of the OSB on the inside was second hand. But some proved to be so wet it was impractical to use (difficult to dry and twice as heavy as dry boards). As a result I purchased some new sheets to complete the job.

Externally we built a deck around the shed. I don’t like grooved decking board which is pretty ubiquitous, and originally wanted to use used scaffold boards. But in the end found heavy decking boards that were smooth and wide. Just need to let the sun and elements weather them in. We are just finishing off an external seating area with a cantilevered bench and a table both made from used scaffold boards. The frame to the bench is a (new) galvanised workshop bench was that I found on eBay and made to my own dimensions. At £160 it’s pretty inexpensive and will survive being left outside.

recycled-scaffold-boards-used-for-decking

Back on the inside the floor of the shed was made from new untreated scaffold boards. These are rejected scaffold boards as they have structural defects. They were untreated and suitable for all sorts of applications. These were screwed to the sub floor, sanded and oiled with one coat of Fiddes Hard Wax Oil Tints in White followed by one coat of the same product in clear. The boards are all single lengths which gives a great look. Not dissimilar to a Dinesen for floors but for a fraction of the cost.

fiddes-hard-wax-oil-tints-white-on-recycled-scaffold-boards

A massive thank you to Andrew for sharing his experience and allowing us to share it on our blog.

If you’ve been inspired by Andrew’s project, or even ‘Shed of the Year’ which is currently on Channel 4, and are now thinking about how to build a shed of your own, with its own unique character and charm, there has never been a better time to do so.

For many businesses, the summer season is their busiest meaning lots of deliveries and lots of surplus pallets. And, for the remainder of this week, we also have 15% off all our Shed and Fence products (Expired), meaning that even if you’re not likely to finish your shed build this week, this month or even the next couple of months, when you do, you’ll have everything to hand to finish you’re shed build project. All you need to do is enter the discount code SHEDLOADS on the checkout screen of our site and you could potentially save, well ‘shed loads’ on all the things you need.

If you need help on deciding which products you need for your shed building or restoration project, our team of helpful advisors are always on hand to answer any questions you may have. Feel free to give us a call or drop us a line by email and we’ll get back to you shortly.

8 Unlikely Things Made of Wood

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Wood is remarkable stuff. Before it’s cut down, it’s a living material not unlike flesh. It’s incredibly strong but at the same time it’s flexible. It can be extremely dense and hard, for example Quebracho, named for the Spanish quebrar hacha, which means axe breaker. Or incredibly soft and light like balsa wood, so insubstantial it’s used to make simple toy aeroplanes that actually fly, powered by nothing more sophisticated than a rubber band.

We use wood to make paper, one of the human race’s most ephemeral yet game-changing materials. Wood can be carved into intricate and delicate patterns. It can be steamed, pressed and bent into unlikely shapes for unexpected uses. Without it the human race would probably not have developed the way it did, and we’ve used it to build shelters and tools since we first stood on two feet, millions of years ago.

In the intervening millennia we’ve discovered other handy substances like metals and plastics. But wood still stands firm at the heart of human culture and probably always will.

Wonderful wood still rules the roost

Through history and pre-history we’ve sailed vast and mysterious distances in wooden boats, worshipped trees and made forests sacred, lived in trees themselves, and we’ve built and made an extraordinary variety of useful and beautiful things from wood. We’ve even used wood to create deadly weapons of war – witness the horrific machines of war and torture created by the Romans and the Spanish Inquisition respectively.

We’re still at it today, using wood to make a vast and often eccentric variety of useful, beautiful and highly functional objects and artworks. Here’s to wonderful wood and all the amazing things we can do with it. And here are 8 of the weirdest, most eccentric and – oddly – often wholly practical items made from it.

More precious than gold – It’s African art

Despite the fact that it’s everywhere, growing all around us, wood isn’t always a cheap material. Take Africa, famous for its huge variety of exotic hardwoods, which tribes have used since the dawn of time to create physical representations of gods, people, animals and the world around them.

African art is highly symbolic and rich in meaning, and every tribe has its own unique style. And these days it’s extremely collectible and highly desirable, especially tribal pieces, which cost more than carvings made for and sold to the tourist industry. This lovely little carved hardwood stool, for example, is from the Cameroon, carved from a single piece of wood rather than several bits stuck together and, as such, the real deal rather than a tourist item.

Some pieces of African art are so rare and valuable they’re museum-quality and sell for an absolute fortune. Take the infamous Senufo Female Statue, carved by an artist from the Cote d’Ivoire. It sold for a monster $12 million at Sotheby’s in New York a few years ago. Which just goes to show, wood can be equally as precious or even more precious than gold, gram for gram.

Gottlieb Daimler’s brilliant wooden motorbike

In comparison, a wooden bicycle is a piece of cake. Bring automation into the equation and building a working wooden machine is a whole lot more complex. But Gottlieb Daimler – who must have been a very interesting man indeed – did exactly that way back in 1895, creating a bike made almost exclusively from wood. This one, a replica, was made in Hungary and even has wooden wheels.

The wooden Vespa – A quirky take on a design classic

Amazing as it might seem, Daimler’s 1895 wooden masterpiece isn’t the only wooden motorbike on the planet. Any self-respecting Mod will adore this beautiful wooden Vespa scooter, a particularly gorgeous version of the quirky, affordable, simple little Italian runabout.

The Vespa was a world-changer. Thanks to its invention after WW2, thousands of young people who couldn’t afford a car could enjoy their very own two-wheeled transport for the first time. The Mod movement wouldn’t have been the same without it and the classic Mod movie, Quadrophenia, probably wouldn’t have existed.

This wooden Vespa version was made with love, care and extraordinary craftsmanship by the Portuguese craftsman Carlos Alberto, and even the package tray and seat are made from wood.

Barend Hemmes’ remarkable wooden lightbulb

The things we’ve looked at so far are unique, one-offs. But this little beauty is available to buy. How about a laser-cut plywood lamp in the shape of a light bulb? It’s just one of a growing range of unusual and often very beautiful items laser cut from wood which, before laser tech came along, would have been impossible to make by hand, far too complex to be financially viable in a commercial context. Designed by the talented Barend Hemmes, it’s available from Suck UK and features the technology’s typical and very attractive crisp, burned edge.

Wooden wedding rings

So you thought wedding rings had to be made from precious materials? Think again. This beautiful wooden wedding ring is hand made in Massachussets, USA, from turquoise, resin, Koa wood and titanium.

Koa wood itself is an amazing material. It’s one of the planet’s most prized cabinet and furniture woods, grown in Hawaii. It comes in a wide range of colours, everything from light browns to rich, deep reds plus a gorgeous ‘figured’ (AKA patterned) version. And it’s used for a huge variety of things including fine furniture, musical instruments, gun stocks and knife handles.

This ring follows a long and illustrious trend for using cheap materials in jewellery, from our ancient ancestors. to the Arts and Crafts movement. to 1970s costume jewellery, and right up to this day.

The sheer delicacy and precision of this ring is testament to the wide variety of things you can do with the material, potentially one of the most versatile materials on the planet.

Stunning speakers made of wood

If you love music you’ll fall for this stunning item, a wooden speaker that doubles as a cool, minimalist work of art on your wall. It’s the JMC Soundboard and it’s a real, functioning loudspeaker made from ‘Tonewood’, which is actually old spruce. Combining 350 year old spruce wood with traditional luthier techniques – usually used to make guitars – and cutting edge audio tech, the results are apparently ‘exceptional’.

Interestingly, spruce wood has long been valued for its resonant properties, used by luthiers for centuries to create the lovely true and clear sound you only get from a seriously good hand-made instrument. Because the sound waves the wood creates are omni-directional you only need a single speaker, which throws the sound around the entire space.

Mystery wooden exoskeleton – Can you solve it?

Forget toy Transformers. How about this full-size human ‘exoskeleton’ made from wood? Exoskeleton tech is moving ahead in leaps and bounds, useful for military purposes as well as to help people with spinal injuries walk again. This amazing image is too good to miss, found on the izismile website, but sadly we can’t tell you a thing about it since there’s no source or reference and we can’t find it on Google.

How about you? If you know anything about this extraordinary wooden suit, we’d love to know about it!

Wooden cars to die for…

Are you a dedicated petrol head? If you think a wooden car would be, by nature, a bit clunky and silly, there’s a treat in store for you. Some of them are just as classy, shiny and stylish as any mainstream sporty metal, carbon fibre or fibreglass model. The finish is quite simply superb, a masterpiece in the woodworker’s art and a triumph in top class artisan skills.

Here’s a photo of the breathtaking Tryane II Wooden Car, a glorious machine we’re just dying to get our hands on to buff it to an even higher sheen… if that’s even possible. What an absolute beauty.

More fantastic and unusual wood items

As you can see, there’s a lot more to wood than meets the eye. What’s the most unusual wooden item you’ve come across? Let us know by leaving a comment – we’d love to share it.

Pallet Decking Without The Spending

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

The versatility of pallets is endless, we’ve already blogged about using pallets to make garden furniture, but there are so many more things that can be created and designed using this free or very cheap resource. Pallet decking is a great way of enhancing your garden space without requiring a second Mortgage. And as pallets are very strong and come in standard sizes, building a modular deck, depending on size and complexity, that is totally unique, could be done in a relatively short time.

Wooden Pallets For The Taking?

As mentioned in our previous ‘pallet’ blog post, you should always ask before taking pallets. Large businesses are bound to have pallets stacked up but be aware that some businesses sell their pallets on – so always ask. If they’re happy for you to take them they may ask for a small token payment of a pound or so per pallet or may be happy for you to take them off their hands for free.

Did You Know? – Some Little Known Pallet Facts

A standard pallet is 40 x 48 inches (that’s roughly 100cm x 120cm) but there are many variations available that have been designed to suit different manufacturing purposes. But ultimately, pallets, also known as Skids, are designed with forklifts and pallet jacks in mind and make automated warehouses work to maximum efficiency. Pallets have played a massive role in the growth of transportation of goods over the last century and nearly 500 million new pallets are made every year and there can be anywhere up to three billion wood pallets in circulation within the European Union. For more interesting facts and figures on pallets, check out the Pallet Central – Did You Know? page or the good old Wikpedia’s Pallet Page that suggests that pallets go back as far as Egyptian times.

So what else can you make with wooden pallets? How about a decked area for your garden, either a highly professional looking deck created through a lot of precise cutting, sanding and hard work, one that that no one would know was made from pallets, or a more quirky, rustic style that shows the different and unique tones of the wood collected from multiple pallets.

Starting with a design and plan for what you want to achieve is the first step to getting that perfect deck. If you are going for quirky and unique, go for a selection of different pallets, ideally the same size, but in range of colours, tones and woods. Pallet identification marks, stamps and writing on the timber can add to the character too.

Check Your Pallet Decking Ideas And Design

It’s always worth laying out your pallet decking ideas in accordance with your original pallet decking design / plans. This will give you an idea of how the overall deck will look in terms of size and dimension within your garden. It’s a good time to decide if your original decking plan is going to fit in the space available and see if any changes are required to adjust the overall size, design or appearance before things are bolted together and screwed down. If you’re anything like me you’ll change your mind at this point and redesign.

There are a couple of different ways to create decking using pallets, the first may be the easiest but can still give a really interesting appearance. At this point it may be worth considering re enforcing the pallet framework with some 2 x 4 pieces of timber, fitted to the underside of the framework. If you are going to have furniture, groups of people or other heavy objects on the deck it’ll make it much stronger. Before creating your decking masterpiece it’s worth treating the pallets with wood preservative and decking oil on all sides and before attaching to the framework as once it’s secured and all the pallets are in place, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get to the underside to treat. This will protect the timber for longer and prevent the early onset of wood rot and decay.

Pallet Decking – Where To Start

The principles of laying a decking made from pallets is similar to that of bought decking tiles or planks from a DIY store. You need posts that are securely cemented into the ground, in all corners and some central ones too, how many depends on the overall decking size and shape. If you’re going for a basic square design you can use whole pallets for this, so no cutting or adjusting required. Of course if you’re being a little more adventurous, then things will be more complicated, and there are plenty of tips online and in our previous Pallet themed Blog on how to take Pallets apart safely. Once the posts are in you can begin attaching the pallets securely with decking screws. Many pallets have gaps between each plank and some people like to fill these with an appropriate size piece of wood. This can give a great contrasting striped effect finish to the deck.

Decking Preservation

The final thing to consider is making sure that your deck lasts as long as possible, using the best products and keeping up regular maintenance will ensure that your unique handmade deck will endure. If you’ve already put a wood treatment on like a wood preservative, then the Top coat is the next consideration. For this you can use a wide range of decking oils, exterior wood stain or paints to give the finished deck dramatic effect. One rule to keep in mind is that if using a spirit based wood preserver that contains wax, you need to use an oil based top coat as a water based one will just bead and run off the preserved pallets. If you prefer to use water based paints or decking stains, opt for a water based wood preservative or a spirit based preservative that doesn’t contain wax.

The Final Finish – Decking Colours

If you love the look of the differing woods and colours then a clear Decking Oil is the way to go, this will darken the wood, given it an almost damp appearance, that will enhance the natural grain of the timber and overall finish. Wiping a damp cloth over a section of the pallet surface first will give a good indication of how the timber will look once oiled.

We have a number of clear decking oils from different manufacturer’s and ranges and although each manufacturer has their own unique decking oil formulation, they all work to protect your decking in much the same way. If you are willing to pay out a little more, then Ronseal Ultimate Protection Decking Oil is a longer lasting treatment and is advertised as giving twice the resistance as some other decking oils.

 

If you want to add a little bit of colour or tone to your unique, home made decking then Osmo’s Natural Oil Woodstain has a great range of colours from Basalt Grey to Ebony that will give a great translucent finish to your wooden deck. Although there is a great choice of off the shelf colours you also have the option to adjust the colour and shade by intermixing colours or by adding Osmo clear UV Protection Oil Extra 420 to lighten the colour. And of course if you are worried that your decking will be slippery when wet, then you may want to consider using Anti Slip decking Oil from Osmo.

Once your decking treatment is done and you’re lovely home made deck is being used on a regular basis, it’s important to keep it maintained and clean. Sweeping regularly through the year and particularly in the autumn when leaves fall on the surface will help to prevent staining on the wood and the onset of rot and decay. Plus wet leaves that turn to a sort of organic mulch are a breeding ground for mould, moss and fungi which equals slippery deck which in turn equal accident waiting to happen.

Garden Decking Finished – Time for a BBQ

And so you’ve finished your masterpiece and its time to show it off to friends, family and neighbours so they can ‘ooohhh and aaahhh’ over your handy work, that is of course if we get a correctly forecast, rain free weekend during the great British summer time.

If you’ve made your own decking out of reclaimed wooden pallets and wish to share some photos, we would love to hear from you. Why not share your experiences, the good and bad from decking design through to completion.

13 Quick and Easy Ways to Spruce up Your Garden

Friday, June 19th, 2015

June hasn’t exactly delivered the best summer weather so far. But in the great British tradition millions of us are gearing up for the BBQ season regardless. If you’re keen to get going it’s time to get your garden sorted out, looking its best for friends and family. You might even be planning a Father’s Day barbecue or outdoor bash, in which case there isn’t much time left. That’s why we thought it’d be interesting to look at a few sure-fire, quick ‘n’ dirty ways to beautify your outdoor space in preparation for a party.

Make your garden look beautiful in 13 easy steps

1. Simple ideas for unusual planting

It’s a great time of year to pick up annuals, many of which are available already in flower. And you don’t have to try too hard to create a splendidly colourful effect. You don’t even need to buy planters, although low cost plain terracotta plant pots take a lick of paint beautifully.

How about planting flowers out in old shoes, for example? It sounds odd but it looks amazing: colourful outgrown kids’ wellies planted with California poppies, old types painted bright colours, filled with potting compost and planted with geraniums, or wooden crates lined with scraps of fabric to keep the moisture in. Old buckets, trugs and watering cans also make stylish planters.

You can hang ordinary plant pots from your fences and walls with wire, making perfect little pockets for flowers and plants. What about old handbags, again attached to a fence or wall with wire? Or used metal paint pots, drawers from unwanted furniture painted bright colours and stacked, even one of those hanging fabric things with lots of little pockets, sold as shoe storage? And finally… why not stack up some painted breezeblocks, the ones with two square holes per block, and plant them up?

Ivy is a tough customer and looks glorious hanging gracefully from a planter, and it isn’t prone to snail and slug attacks like many annuals are. No time for planting? Silk flowers, artfully arranged, do a lovely job instantly without the hassle.

2. Instant garden lighting

Create instant atmosphere at dusk and late into the balmy summer night with solar lights, available all over the place in a huge range of colours and styles including silk flower lighting and beautiful strings of pearly mini-lights to hang amongst the greenery.

Got spare jam jars, coffee jars or pickle jars? Tie garden wire around the rim, pop a tea light in and you’ve created instant hand-crafted glamour, or simply stand them on the ground, for example to mark a pathway. You can use glass paints to decorate them to stained glass-like effect.

3. Get busy with the topiary

Topiary is a great way to smarten up straggling bushes and shrubs, and most respond well to a trim even at this time of year. There’s no need to go mad trying to create birds, butterflies or anything else complicated and artistic. Simply clip out-of-control bushes and shrubs into neat globes or cubes for a quirky yet neat look.

4. Achieving lawn perfection… or not!

It takes time and effort to create a perfect, striped lawn free of weeds and moss. It’s a labour of love. But a good trim makes even the most weed-choked lawn look better, and the more you mow those weeds the smaller they get. You eventually get a lovely natural bonsai effect complete with tiny flowers, much more interesting and wildlife-friendly than a traditionally-perfect lawn.

If your lawn’s looking less than green, scrubby and yellow, a quick treatment with a special lawn-greening product will deliver a healthier, more inviting look within a few days.

5. Hide the ugly stuff

Most of us have all sorts practical bits and bobs we need for gardening, but they’re rarely pretty. Compost bins and heaps, greenhouses and water butts, tools, stacks of bamboo stakes and so on. If they’re causing an eyesore, pot up a few tall plants – evergreens are brilliant – and stick them in front of the offending article to create an instant screen of green.

6. The power of fabric

Striped deckchair fabric is great value for money, perfect for outdoors and ideal for adding texture and interest to a dull outdoor space. Woolly picnic blankets and car rugs are great too, adding big splashes of colour. And a big, bright swatch of fabric can hide a multitude of garden sins.

There’s floaty, sophisticated voile, semi-opaque and also remarkably good value for money, available by the metre in a host of gorgeous shades and prints, many of flowers. You could drape it over an ordinary windbreak or hang it over a string – your washing line might do just fine – to hide the less-than-attractive back end of your garden from view.

Last but not least, there’s nothing quite like a collection of bright cushions to add interest and verve to your garden, either regular sized or great big floor cushions. For unique and quirky cushion we recommend that you visit Poppykins.  You can even make your own floor cushions from unwanted bedding, sewing old duvet covers or sheets together and stuffing them with unwanted duvets or quilts… even sleeping bags. Then it doesn’t matter too much if they get mucky.

7. They’re tents Jim, but not as we know it…

Put up a tent in your garden and what do you get? Instant shelter. Fill it with cushions and blankets and you create a gorgeous space to relax with drinks, read, chat or play. If you don’t have a tent, string a rope between two suitable points and throw a sheet of voile over it to make an attractive mosquito net-like shelter to sit under, simplicity itself.

If you’re lucky enough to have mature trees in your garden, hammocks are huge fun and practical as well as an instant way to make the outdoors both comfortable and stylish.

8. Magical chimineas

A chiminea is a free-standing fireplace or oven with a bulbous body and a vertical chimney. They look great, are remarkably warm and practical too. Good looks, safety and lovely warmth combine to make them a modern-day garden décor essential.

9. Clean that decking

There’s a world of difference between a knackered, slimy, grubby deck and beautiful, gleaming decking. Well-maintained garden decking is safer too, much less slippery. If you’d like to know how to get your decking in shape for summer we’ve written a post about garden decking maintenance – just click this link.

The same goes if you’re lucky enough to have garden steps and decks made of railway sleepers, which also benefit from a good seeing to.

If your garden walls are real stone, they’re probably beautiful enough on their own. If they’re rendered or plain brick, could they stand a coat of water-based exterior eggshell to cheer them up and add spice? Concrete patios and old-school crazy paving also look instantly better when cleaned, either with a special high pressure washer or plenty of good, old fashioned elbow grease.

10. Water, water everywhere

No garden is complete without a water feature, but there’s no need to make a meal of it. A basic bird bath will do the trick, and the birds and insects will love you for it. You can also create an instant garden pond with a large planter, one without holes in the bottom. Why not place it on top of a cube of wood for extra artistic effect and to add height? You can even buy a large plastic bowl in deep green, grey or black and sink it into the ground before filling it with water, then plant turf, flowers or any other kind of instant greenery around the edges to blend it in.

11. Ditch the clutter

One of the simplest tips to spruce up your garden? Broken and discarded toys, old tools, piles of leaves, bits of wood, rocks, and rubble, garden waste… clear it all away for a satisfyingly instant improvement.

12. Paint your garden shed and fencing

Giving a tatty garden shed a facelift is painless enough, takes no time with a big brush or roller and adds instant sparkle to tired, winter-worn exterior woodwork. Coloured shed paint is popular, especially sophisticated, subtle heritage colours. Alternatively pick up one of our many and varied shed products, all designed to make exterior wood look good. Here’s a link to our blog post about wood preservation and getting your garden shed shipshape.

If your fencing is a total nightmare, on its last legs and about to fall down, you can temporarily cover it up with bamboo or willow screening, cheap and cheerful, available from most good garden centres, easy to fit with a few judicious tacks and great to look at.

13. Add space and increase volume with mirrors

Who says you can’t hang mirrors outdoors? You can bring them out from indoors or pick up low cost mirrors at Ikea or your nearest charity shop, even at your local pound shop. Hang them with ribbon or wire on a simple nail to trick your eyes into thinking your outdoor space is bigger, lighter and brighter. This works especially well if all you have is a small patio, or your fences are a bit high and forbidding. Breaking up the fence makes it look much more interesting, less of an all-consuming, in-your-face block.

What about your ideas for instant garden improvement?

We’d love to hear your ideas for making a sad, tired garden look better. Feel free to leave a comment.

Colourful Outdoor Decor Ideas

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Who says your garden shed has to be plain brown wood? Can you paint your garden fence like a rainbow? Can you paint decking? With summer knocking on the door, we thought it’d be fun to take a look at what things like coloured wood stain, painted garden furniture, coloured paint for sheds and more can do for you, and how to use them to make your outdoor spaces simply sing.

Using colour outdoors

More of us are getting comfortable with using colour indoors. We’ve thrown out the brilliant white and rejected magnolia in favour of rich, jewel-like interiors full of personality and charm. But what about your garden?

If you’re bored of brown and fed up with the natural look, the brilliantly creative world of outdoor colour awaits you. From coloured fence paint to garden furniture paint and everything in between, here’s some inspiration.

Outdoor decor ideas for a big creative impact

First, where on earth do you start? Which colours do you choose for your outdoor spaces? It depends whether you want to achieve drama or a subtle look, contrasting or toning effects. Here’s the science bit.

  • So-called analogous colours, which match beautifully and subtly, are any three colours sitting next to each other on a 12 part colour wheel, for example a yellowy-green, yellow and a yellowy-orange
  • Complementary colours, on the other hand, are opposite one another on the colour wheel and they’re tailor made for drama. Red, for example, is the diametric opposite of green and blue is the diametric opposite of yellow.

The predominant colour in most outdoor spaces is green: grass, plants and trees. To create drama and interest you’d pick a complementary colour or two. The contrast between a multitude of gorgeous natural greens with, say, a vivid magenta pink, vibrant scarlet or a deep, rich purple is quite extraordinary, making the greens look even greener.

If you prefer something quieter, choosing a colour or two which sit close together on the spectrum delivers a subtler look. Painting your garden fence in a lovely duck-egg blue, for instance, a colour not so far from green, creates a lovely, lyrical, gentle feel.

Using fabrics and wallpapers for colour scheme inspiration

If you’re lost in space, how about choosing two or three colours from a piece of fabric you love, or from your favourite wallpaper, a painting, a beach towel or even a postcard? If someone clever and creative has designed it using those colours, you know for sure they work together.

Outdoor colour inspiration – Choosing your weapons

Sometimes it’s obvious. If you’re creating a gypsy caravan look outdoors, you can mix and match multiple bright, cheery colours to your heart’s content. A seaside-inspired colour scheme, on the other hand, might involve a collection of three different blues: a green-blue, a purple-blue and glorious summer sky blue used with crisp white for contrast and light.

How about this? I painted our garden shed purple using water-based exterior eggshell paint and the contrast with the surrounding greenery is just gorgeous.

Create an exotic jungle or an incredibly bright, sunny space

If you want to create a garden like a jungle, dark greens and deep blues might do the trick, accented with bright scarlet to suggest jungle flora – how about green fencing with bright red garden furniture for an exotic feel?

If you want to create a bright and sunny space that looks inviting even when the weather’s diabolical, you could choose three fabulous yellows: a pale lemony one, a rich egg-yolk one and a golden tone full of warmth.

Here’s a hot colour fashion tip: orange. It’s a brilliant colour for adding punch to a dull space and reflecting the light beautifully for warmth and depth all year round. It also contrasts superbly with green grass and planting, again making those already-sumptuous natural greens look even greener.

There’s more to life than vivid colours…

Don’t want to use bright colours? Today’s ‘heritage’ shades are incredibly popular: sage, olive and duck egg greens, warm and cool browns and a wide variety of pretty French-style greys.

Outdoor decorating – How to avoid nasty clashes

Whatever route you take, if you want to avoid a horrible, clashing mess simply pick either two or three toning or contrasting colours and you’ll find it pretty hard to go wrong. But the main thing is the way you feel. If it makes you feel happy and you love the effect, you’ve done the right thing. There’s no such thing as bad taste… just taste.

Paint those plant pots! More ideas for colourful outdoor spaces

There’s no need to stop at painted garden fencing, sheds, outbuildings and decking. You can gild the garden lily to perfection by painting your terracotta plant pots, too. I’ve even tried painting plastic plant pots. Ordinary household emulsion is no good – it cracks and peels more or less straight away – but water based exterior eggshell does a splendid job, it just needs a fresh lick of paint now and again to keep it that way.

You can even paint old baskets, boots and wooden boxes to use as planters, unifying your display to brilliant effect. Then there’s mirror. There’s no reason why you can’t hang ordinary household mirrors on your garden fences to throw the light around, creating mysterious new vistas and optical illusions. And how about flowers themselves? Once you’ve cracked your outdoor colour scheme, you can add annuals to tone and contrast with it.

Then there’s soft furnishings – cushions, throws, voile and even rugs – more cool ways to accent your outdoor colour choices to dramatic or subtle effect. And how about painting your children’s wooden Wendy house or den? Talking of which…

Garden fence mural magic

You might want to get your kids involved, especially if they’re the ones who use your garden most. First, prepare your garden fence properly and if looking for a blank canvas, give it a base coat to paint over, an undercoat. Then let your little ones go wild with acrylic paints, creating their own design.

Because kids grow up fast, last year’s mural might not have the same appeal a year later, but you can easily paint over it with another layer of undercoat and let them do it all over again the following summer. If you get bored of it, paint over the lot with exterior fence paint for a cool, calm, grown-up appearance.

Fun with stripy garden fencing and sheds

Garden fencing lends itself perfectly to painting simple alternating stripes of colour, for example cream and sky blue for a summery seaside feel. Because the fence is made from strips of wood, it’s easy to achieve even if you’re rubbish at art. The same goes for garden sheds, which are also often made from planks or strips of wood.

Shabby is OK

What if it gets shabby, which it eventually will? The shabby look is still hugely popular and a worn, ageing painted fence or shed can actually look just as gorgeous as a smartly-painted fresh one, full of personality, quirky and fun. So there’s no real need for total perfection. You can let things slide and your garden fencing, shed and decking will still look cool.

What about the technical bit?

You’ll need to prepare your wooden surfaces before painting them, otherwise the effect won’t last and the underlying wood won’t be adequately protected against the ravages of the weather. Explore this blog to find expert advice about how to prepare fences, decking and wooden furniture for a professional finish that protects the wood as well as making it look beautiful.

You’ll also find a good choice of top class paint for wood on our site. Take a look at our exterior finishes page for inspiration.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UC8j8QZqkJk[/youtube]

Pallet Recycling – From Scrap Heap to Furniture on the Cheap

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

It’s nothing new, people have been producing furniture made from pallets for years, You name it, a garden pallet table, chairs, garden benches, gazebos and what’s more, it doesn’t require the skill of a trained craftsman or carpenter to produce some truly remarkable pieces of functional art.

Are we Bored with Pallet Recycling Yet?

From what we hear at ‘Wood Finishes Direct’, the answer to the above question is a resounding ‘No’. We’re apparently still very much in love with pallet recycling and re-purposing to make anything from pallet furniture to sheds, kitchen units to wall art, the possibilities are endless. If you type ‘Pallets’ into the search bar of Pinterest for example you could waste a complete day looking at amazing ideas and reading Blogs on how to make a whole array of things, so don’t go yet, stay and finish reading this blog before you venture over and lose yourself in Pinterest.

 

Why are we so fascinated with this great form of recycling? Well mostly because wooden pallets can be found very easily for free. Nearly all of us live within easy reach of an industrial estate of some sort and as long as you ask before you take, most places will be happy to get rid of old pallets that are taking up space or will have pallets for sale. And what better to make with your pallets than an outdoor dining set, with a Garden furniture set costing from £50 for 2 chairs and a table to a full dining set that could be in the hundreds, then free pallets and a bit of imagination can be quite an appealing alternative.

 

 

The first thing to know when upcycling a pallet is the different types that you can get and how you can use them. For example you can get a four way entry with a closed or open boarded top or a two way entry with Winged edges. And you can also get what are called Euro pallets, these can be popular amongst recyclers but beware some companies sell these back to suppliers or out to other trades, so always check before taking.

 

How Much Do Wooden Pallets Cost?

The question of how much does a wooden pallet cost largely depends on the type and condition. Many companies offer wooden pallets for sale at just a pound or two per pallet. Others are happy to give away free wooden pallets on request. Getting a wooden pallet for free because it’s damaged is a bonus because it can either be easily repaired, re-shaped or taken apart and the individual pieces of timber used for any part of your wood pallet projects.

Your Pallet Projects – Where To Start?

Its a good idea to have a firm plan or design for any wooden pallet projects before you start. Knowing how many pallets you need and exactly how you’re going to cut them up or take them apart, to ensure that you don’t fall short half way through your build is essential.

The next step is to work out what tools you will need, firstly to take the pallet apart without damaging it or yourself and secondly to create your new masterpiece. A Reciprocal Saw with a blade for cutting through nails seems to be one of the easier and most popular ways to get going and a longer blade is recommended for ease of use. There are a number of other tools available for this specific job and a brief search on the internet will bring up lots of alternative options for you. Many people try using a crow bar of some sort to pull each plank of wood away from the frame but this can result in broken pieces of wood and extreme frustration.

Safety is paramount, taking pallets apart can be a tough and time consuming job, and you can become complacent or impatient with your pallet and that is when accidents happen. Safety Goggles and thick protective gloves are must haves. But you probably want to wear old or protective clothing as well , as some pallets can have glue or residue that will not wash out. ( worth protecting your car too if you end up transporting any )

There is of course the option of keeping it simple and just stacking and attaching full size pallets together, in order to keep the shapes simple, but the size of your furniture will be quite large.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CarJ4jnABnY[/youtube]

So now for the fun bit, making your wooden pallet furniture, the possibilities are endless! From making individual chairs to large benches and matching tables. This is where your pallet design ideas and research come in to play and are imperative. And then there is the question about putting upholstery and/or cushions on the furniture and what colour you are going to use for the finish. Getting foam cushions cut to size can be a costly way to complete your set, so its worth considering repurposing some settee cushions or reusing some garden furniture upholstery that you may have lying around to complete your look. More often than not you can find Sofas being given away on local freebie websites or sold cheaply on Ebay. Most items can be easily recovered with some heavy duty fabric, such as old curtains if you wanted to continue with the recycling theme and if you aren’t a dab hand at sewing then chances are you know someone who is.

 

Wood Finishes for your Wooden Pallet Furniture

The final question is how and what you want to use to protect the wood of your new pallet furniture. Doing a test area of whatever products you choose is important because you are unlikely to know if there has been any previous treatment used on the pallets. A high quality, coloured or clear wood preservative is the place to start, this will protect against mould, mildew, wood boring insects and rot, so definitely worth investing in. Then a top coat to give the piece a final finish and make the wood water repellent. If you just want to enhance the natural colour of the wood then the excellent Osmo UV protection Oil Extra 420 will not only protect but help reduce the greying effect of the sun. But any Oil based product such as a Decking Oil would be suitable. Oil based products dry completely in the wood and don’t leave any greasy residue on cushions or clothing. If you want to jazz the furniture up and add some colour, try Osmo Natural Oil Woodstain for a translucent colour finish or perhaps Osmo Country Colour for a solid, opaque, colour finish. The bonus of using wood oils is that they do not crack, peel or flake off. Maintenance is simply a case of applying a fresh coat of oil every couple of years or so – Easy.

If looking for a vibrant interesting colours, there are some excellent exterior wood stains and paints that are specifically designed for smooth and rough sawn exterior wood. Barrettine Country Cottage Shades, Ronseal Garden Paint and Cuprinol Garden Shades could be just the ticket.

One thing to keep in mind however is that if your using a water based paint or stain, its better to use a water based preservative, one that doesn’t contain any wax. Oil based products are fine with most types of preservers including spirit based and those that contain wax.

Show Us Your Recycled Pallet Wood Projects

We would love to see your recycled pallet wood projects, big or small, from garden fence to chicken shed, pallet coffee table to full pallet garden furniture set fit for a king. If you’ve been inspired by this Blog to make something amazing, show us some photos of how you did it and if you’re happy for us to do so, we’ll share them with our followers.

All About Fence Paint – And How to Create Something Special

Friday, April 24th, 2015

A fence is just a fence. Or is it? When you paint your fence there’s suddenly plenty of potential for transforming a boring yet essential structure from something entirely practical into something that also visually enhances your outdoor space. And now is the perfect time of year to get busy painting your garden fence.

If you’re searching for fence décor inspiration, here’s a follow-up article to our special shed paint feature.

Why paint your fence in the first place?

You might adore that lovely silvery sheen you get on worn fences. It’s subtle and beautiful, if you like that kind of thing. But to some people’s eyes it just looks knackered! If you’d rather keep your fence looking in tip top condition and keep weathering at bay, fence paints provide a wealth or creative and practical choices.

Using coloured fence paint in your garden

When green foliage sits against a coloured background, all the different greens appear even more vivid. Paint your fence a dark shade of purple or blue and the contrast is simply stunning. Paint your fence raspberry red or magenta pink and, because pinks and reds are the diametric opposite of green and offer the most brilliant contrast, the effect is even more dramatic.

If you feel bright colours are a bit too ‘out there’ for your taste, dark browns and blacks also form a beautiful contrast with plants and flowers. And – an old interior decorator’s trick – the darker the colour you paint your fence, the larger your garden will look.

In contrast, painting a fence a pale colour makes the space inside look smaller. Paler colours also tend to look grubby sooner then darker shades, something it’s wise to remember if you’re painting a front garden fence near a road and it’s vulnerable to dirt and pollution.

Do your preparation first…

If your fence is in good nick you can paint straight onto the surface. But it’s best to do a proper job and get busy with the preparation. We recommend Barrettine Premier Universal All in One Treatment, a special spirit-based wood preserver for preventing and treating dry rot, fungi and mould. It even protects wooden fences from the ravages of woodworm. And because it doesn’t contain wax, you can paint right over it. It’s easy to apply with an ordinary brush or roller and it’s safe for plants and animals once it’s dry.

Recommended coloured fence paints

Heritage colours are still very popular for interiors and they also translate beautifully outdoors, delivering a subtler look. Take our Barrettine Country Cottage range, designed to help you transform wooden sheds, fences, summerhouses, garden furniture and decking. It’s brilliant stuff, also being suitable for use on terracotta, stone and weathered concrete. It’s safe, water-based and protects the wood as well as looking beautiful, with its attractive paint-like matt finish. It repels water and resists fading, and comes in six cool ‘natural’ colours including a couple of stunning blues and a gorgeous mellow sage green, bang on trend.

We also rate Ronseal Garden Paint highly, which comes in 24 brilliant shades including vivid pinks and purples. Like the Barrettine product Ronseal’s garden paint waterproofs, colours and protects a wide range of garden and exterior materials including wood, metal, terracotta, brick and stone. It’s crack resistant and rainproof within an hour.

Sneaky amateur tip – Using exterior eggshell paint on wood fences

Special garden paint does a fantastic job. But so does water-based exterior eggshell paint. And it comes in a massive range of colours. How do I know? I’ve been experimenting with it extensively for decades, using it on wood, metal, stone, plastic and all sorts of other surfaces, and it works like a dream.

I tend to buy Dulux Trade water based exterior eggshell, available at major decorating outlets and mixed on the premises to match a choice of literally hundreds of different colours. It’s more expensive than regular paint but it sticks fast to almost any surface including glass, which has absolutely no texture for the paint to adhere to, and seems to last for years. Remarkable stuff.

The peculiar beauty of naturally-occuring shabby chic

Isn’t life strange. A few years ago there’s no way you’d put up with a shabby-looking, distressed garden fence. Now, with several years of shabby chic prominence under the nation’s interior design belt, tatty, faded fencing with multicoloured paint jobs showing through have acquired an eccentric beauty of their own. Can you maintain the look while keeping your fence in good physical order? It’s a tricky compromise between condition and looks, and protecting and maintaining a natural shabby finish might be a bit too much of a challenge. But there’s another way.

Instead of trying to preserve a naturally-occuring shabby paint finish, prepare and protect your fence as normal then create the shabby chic look yourself using fence paints, giving it the rustic, worn look by sanding down some areas and perhaps even using more than one shade of paint, either toning or contrasting.

What about adding designs and patterns to your garden fence?

There’s no law saying you can’t use fence paints to create a mural, designs or patterns. It might be as simple as choosing three toning shades and creating a regular or irregular pattern by painting the individual fence slats a different colour, working either vertically or horizontally.

If you feel bold you could paint the top, middle and bottom thirds of your garden fence different shades, or cover a single-colour background with huge circles (or heart shapes, or flower shapes) in toning or contrasting colours. You could paint the fence posts a different colour from the panels, or paint each side of your fence a different colour depending where the sunlight falls at different times of day, for example making a shady side look sunnier or a sunny area look cooler and richer.

There’s also no reason why you can’t get busy with ordinary interior décor or craft stencils, using a contrasting or toning colour to create, for example, a sinuous ivy vine around the top of your fence, flowers, butterflies, fruit… you name it.

Making your own recycled painted garden fence

It’s perfectly possible to cobble together a sturdy, solid garden fence from odd bits of wood, creating an attractive and rugged look. I’ve seen several of them recently, and they look fabulous. Painting the finished DIY fence pulls everything together to create a beautiful visual whole, making it look uniquely stylish. You could even add little recesses into the fence, or bolt on little shelves, painting them and using them to display seashells, driftwood, interesting stones and other found objects. You could even hang framed paintings, photos or mirrors on your fence during the summer. Less fence, more artwork… why not?

Making your fence painting life easier – Using a fence paint sprayer

You could paint your fence by hand. It’s easy enough, but slow. Or you could grab yourself a professional-style fence sprayer system like Manns Shed and Fence Spray System and get the job done much faster.

Manns fence paint spray system works with compatible wood fence treatments and lets you cover an average fence panel in around four minutes. All you do is pour your chosen fence treatment product into the container, pump the special handle to build up enough pressure and you’re off. The resulting fine spray ensures the product goes on evenly. And the special long arm means you can easily reach areas as much as two feet above head height.

Protecting plants and creatures from exterior wood paint

Even though most exterior wood paint products are plant-friendly and harmless to animals and people when dry, it isn’t a good idea to cover living greenery with fence paint, so carefully cover them first with an old sheet, newspapers or a cheap plastic tarpaulin.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmZKL2JfXpc[/youtube]

Always happy to help with professional advice

If you’re not sure whether your garden fence renovation project makes sense or you’re unsure which product to use, our friendly, expert team are always happy to help and advise. Just give us a call.

Is Shabby Chic Finally Dead?

Friday, April 10th, 2015

Just when ordinary folk have got used to the ‘new’ decorative style, with shabby chic sweeping out the old, pre-recession hotel-style décor, it’s all change again. Surf the net and you’d be forgiven for thinking shabby chic is already dead. But that’s only if you’re a fashion-driven interior designer, constantly chasing the next big thing.

The Spectator was going on about the death of shabby chic in 2010, before most of us had even heard of it. The same goes for The Independent, which joined The Spectator in 2010 proclaiming the look’s death. Several other respected publications, both here and abroad, also decided the style was as dead as a dodo in 2010, when it had only just started to go properly mainstream. On the other hand an article on Zuffahome sends out a rallying cry, inspiring shabby chic fans to gird their loins and prepare for another year of tatty loveliness, tipping the style as hot through 2015 and beyond.

Many of us have only just broken out of minimalism, never mind taken our interiors in brave new directions. So what’s going on out there in the world of home décor? Have you missed the shabby chic boat and if so, does it matter?

Has the trend for shabby chic ended?

Some say it’s dead, others are just discovering it. Who to believe? It’s a tricky one.

While the relatively few people who slavishly follow interior décor trends have probably already ditched shabby chic years ago, the rest of us tend to tail behind. As a hot trend shabby chic’s prime time may have come and gone five years ago, but all you need to do is visit your nearest antique and collector’s emporium and you’ll find it’s more than likely still stuffed to the gills with DIY shabby chic masterpieces. The same goes for high street furniture stores, where French interior décor often still rules the fashion roost.

Shabby chic décor grows up

Rather than coming and going quickly and obviously, with a beginning, middle and end, the trend for shabby chic seems to have gradually changed over the years. At first the most fashionable, cutting edge interiors were pale and interesting in misty greys and warm creams, clean white and watery old rose, the palest sage greens and quirky eggshell blues.

As time passed the colours became more definite, less pastel cool and more funky fun, and the style moved towards, then through, French country house style and out of the other end. Black, deep sage green, aubergine, magenta and scarlet shabby interiors eventually took the interiors high ground, but shabby was still the name of the game.

Is interior décor a fashion thing or a comfort thing?

The thing is, for most people interior décor is a personal thing, a comfort thing, a practical thing, a feeling at home thing. It isn’t a fashion thing. We don’t tend to change our homes every year or two or every season in line with changing trends, like we do with clothes. We find stuff we like, whether it’s old or new, then we live with it until we fancy a change or it falls to bits.

While many of us get ready to dip our toes in the shabby chic waters for the first time, the trend setters are busy creating something new and exciting. So what’s next on the interiors menu?

About vintage-style home interior décor

Turn on the telly and it’s everywhere. Trot down to your nearest fabric shop and you’ll notice a dramatic resurgence of 1950s patterns and colours. The shape of furniture is changing too, with new items taking on a vintage edge. Cutting edge interior designers everywhere are creating uber-funky retro interiors stuffed with mid-twentieth century almost-antiques and 1950s-1970s vintage delights. New furniture and decorative items are being inspired by post war, post rationing, post-shabby style.

As an interior décor style it’s colourful. It’s optimistic. And it’s also great fun, since it’s eclectic enough for everyone to enjoy. Very few of us can afford a stylish 1970s living room cabinet from a top London vintage store, something by G Plan, Ercol or similar, a piece that was excellent quality when it was first made and now retails at more than £1000. But most of us can swing to something equally stylish from a local charity shop, vintage emporium or furniture recycling outlet for a few tens of pounds or, worst case scenario, a couple of hundred.

Just like shabby chic, 1950s-1970s style is taking its time going mainstream. It might feel and look very different but it actually continues the recycling and re-purposing ethic that shabby chic is so famous for. It’s all about bringing vintage and retro stuff – until very recently regarded as tat – back to vibrant life. It’s all about appreciating recent styles and giving semi-old, non-antique items a new lease of life. While a lot us still look at a piece of 1970s G Plan furniture and wince, it’s actually hot interior design property.

Are you there yet? If you’re feeling the first stirrings of pleasure in a decorative style you either despised the first time around or are too young to remember, it’s time to learn the wood veneer basics, a staple of the era.

The joy of wood veneer – Vintage style hits home

We’re in the business of making wood look good, so we’re always happy to talk veneer. An awful lot of lower-end and high end vintage and retro furniture features veneer instead of being made from 100% solid wood. Wood veneer is a thin sheet of real wood fixed over a cheaper wood structure, often intended to make the piece of furniture look like an expensive hardwood. Its strength depends on the type of wood it’s made from, but all veneer should be treated with care.

If you’ve just bought a vintage piece and the veneer’s a bit iffy, how do you clean and maintain it? Here’s some useful advice for you to refer to if and when you ditch your shabby chic habit and go retro!

  • Keep veneered furniture out of direct sunlight to prevent fading
  • Clean the veneered surface with a cotton or slightly damp microfiber cloth. Wipe the surface gently, following the direction of the grain, to get rid of light dirt and dust
  • Get rid of tough dirt with a mixture of a teaspoon of oil soap or mild soap flakes and 2 cups of warm water, also using a microfiber cloth
  • Dry the surface carefully with a dry cloth, since damp veneer can easily warp

Here’s a link to an excellent resource  about wood veneer maintenance. And if you need to repair and renovate a piece of veneer furniture, here’s a good YouTube video showing you how to restore warped wood veneer:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwHkwSBgiMg[/youtube]

What about your next interior décor move?

Have you just decided retro is the way to go? Are you still mulling over whether to go French country house style? We’d love to know about your next wood-led interior décor project.

From Dingy Den To Craft Shed Heaven

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

The Garden Shed – Traditionally a refuge for men and their tools but times are changing! Women are taking over garden sheds across the land and transforming them into their own private spaces, affectionately known as the ‘She Shed’.

That little building at the end of your garden can serve so many purposes these days. Not just your ordinary storage shed for garden furniture and tools, a place where everything gets chucked in at the end of summer, but a place of haven for men and women who want some quiet time. Time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday jobs and family life. So, whether looking for a craft shed to let those creative juices flow or perhaps a space to set up a permanent model railway, there are literally thousands of possibilities.

Turning the Garden Shed in to an Extension of the Home

Using your Shed or Summerhouse as an extension of your home has become increasingly popular, if you don’t have a spare room to turn in to your work studio or games room, then a large shed in the back garden with all the mod cons could be the answer. Many people are also turning to Log Cabins as a back garden alternative because they give a more stylish and cosy feel.
In this Blog we focus on the growing trend of women who are transforming unused garden sheds into craft sheds and more with bright colours, wallpaper and other home comforts that you would normally find in the house.

Little Tea Wagon

Jane from LittleTeaWagon has done just that, turning her 6 x 8 garden shed into a beautiful space, and stamped with her own unique style, her shed has been filmed for George Clarks Amazing Spaces and in a number of magazines including Mollie Makes and Handmade Living. The story of the Little Tea Wagon and Jane’s other creative projects make inspirational reading.

collage2

Where Do You Start?

Its not as simple as just putting up your shed and then filling it with all your paraphernalia. With a bit of forward planning and a budget in mind you can achieve something quite beautiful. From Shabby Chic in design to retro and funky, pastels or bright and bold colours, the design choices are endless.

Its a good idea to insulate and board inside the shed in order to keep it warm, comfortable and cosy, but also taking into consideration that you will need to allow for some ventilation to avoid damp. So if you don’t have the know how for doing this then budget for a workmen to come in and complete it for you. For a crafting space light is vital, so large windows are a must but if you don’t have that option then good lighting is the alternative and if you need an electricity supply ( which you probably will ) then getting a qualified electrician in is a must as all electrical work to an out building has to be certificated by law.

When all the necessities are done then you can decorate, a lick of paint or wallpaper, pictures on the wall and of course the all important craft table and storage for all those craft bits and bobs. This can be as basic or extravagant as you like, depending on your budget and the type of Craft you are doing. The craft table should be smooth so to avoid any snagging or damage to work in progress from rough edges, old nails or screws. A length of kitchen work top could be the perfect solution. There are thousands of craft storage ideas that can be found online and by browsing sites like Pinterest. How about old wooden apple or wine boxes, lightly sanded, painted or stained and sealed, either stacked under the bench or screwed on to the interior walls of the shed?

Here are a few handy links that specialise in craft storage ideas:-

Essentials For Work

Hobbycraft

Etsy Recycled Wine Boxes

Getting it Right on the Outside Too

As much as you need to get the inside right, you also need to make sure the exterior is well protected from the elements. If its a new shed that you have put up for this specific purpose and you have the advantage of a blank canvas. The first thing to do is check if your shed already has a protective treatment on it, if not then Barrettine Premier Preservative will give a protective coat that will defend against rot, mould, mildew and wood boring insects, all of the things that could turn your shed of dreams into a shed of horrors!!

Depending on the shed that you have bought you may need to seal around windows or fill any gaps to stop any drafts and then you are ready to complete with a top coat of colour or natural finish depending on what look you are going for. Using a good quality, water resistant product and regular maintenance will keep your shed looking tip top!!

If its an existing garden shed that you are going to convert then we have a great Blog written last year on How to Make Your Garden Shed Shipshape and what products we would recommend to use. And don’t forget that we have regular promotions on with great discounts on many of our products. Our ‘Shed and Fence Spectacular’ is running from the 5th of April to the 12th and gives an amazing 15% off all our shed and fence treatments (OFFER NOW EXPIRED) when using the promo code SHEDLOADS on the checkout screen. And of course, if you have any questions you can call one of our expert advisers on 0800 781 8123 or 01303 213830.

Join The Vintage Retro Furniture Revival – Recycle To Recreate

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

In 2014 the word ‘Vintage’ became the ‘it’ word for design styles, not just in terms of vintage retro furniture and Interior design, but in fashion, hair, makeup and kitchenalia as a way of life. Reminiscing back to a time when we knew our neighbours and what they were up to, a time when we had a sense of community and the only way to talk to each other was…..well to actually talk to each other. Vintage Fairs and Shows have grown in popularity, allowing people to dress up and dance to the music of their favourite era, and show off their Vintage wares, whether that be their retro style furniture, cars, costumes or music collection.

The Vintage Era

Vintage can cover anything from 1920’s right through to the 1980’s but one of my favourite era’s was definitely the fifties. A post war period when austerity came to an end, meant that people were able to invest in Interior designs for their home, new and unique designed furniture and keeping up with the Jones caused trends to grow rapidly and more and more Televisions in peoples homes meant that advertising started to have a massive impact on peoples purchases. Furniture style became bold in design, but also had to be practical. Houses were being re built smaller so storage space became vital. Open plan living was introduced and the use of alternative materials such as polyurethane, vinyl and wood.

When the economic climate changed in 2008 and people found themselves tightening their belts, a ‘Make Do and Mend’ attitude that originated in the 2nd World War resurfaced. Instead of throwing things away people used the internet for ways to fix or improve the things that they had. Growing your own fruit and veg, learning to sew and re-purposing things that would otherwise have been disposed of. And because of this, furniture that would have been sent to the dump or charity shop is now being snatched up and re-invented into something modern but still with that retro vintage furniture feel.

Creating Your Own Unique Retro Style Furniture

Fiddes-Supreme-Wax-Polish-1

So where to start with your own furniture? If you already have what you want that’s great but if not there is an abundance of funky retro furniture to be found in local charity shops or Auctions. When you know what you want to do for the design, the first step is to prepare the surface. If you have a typical veneered piece of furniture then it is not advisable to sand other than with a very fine grit or some fine wire wool, if necessary. This will depend both on the wood you are treating and also what you are using to treat with. If you just want to revive and rejuvenate then a Supreme Wax Polish from Fiddes will not only make you furniture look good but also helps to cover dull patches and marks. If you want to add a touch of colour to your furniture, Chalk Paint can work well as they can be used without any preparation or primer and will stick to almost any material. For tips on both these products check out our blogs posts on how to seal chalk paint and using Supreme Wax Polish for furniture to bring out the best of your restored retro vintage furniture.

Retro Furniture Shops – Buy instead of DIY

Retro Furniture Finish - Steven Harkin

And if you are not into ‘Doing It Yourself’ or you just don’t have the time then there is probably a business local to you that specialises in Vintage Retro Furniture. Like Anecdotes Design, one of the thriving retro furniture shops local to us, based here in Folkestone, that have taken the vintage style and made it contemporary and stylish. Resident Artist Steven Harkins, who also designs Handbags has a wonderful way of using bright and bold colours to create beautiful, modern pieces of Furniture. Like this Sideboard from a recent collection.

If you decide to create a unique piece of vintage retro furniture for yourself, we have everything you need to get the project off to a flying start. Unsure about which products you should use? Our team of experts are always available to help on our UK landline freephone number.

The Wood Store – Brighton

Friday, March 6th, 2015

Do you have a local reclaimed wood store? We do, down on the south coast, and it’s an Aladdin’s Cave of beautiful wooden objects, everything from recycled wood to reclaimed wood furniture, salvaged timber of every imaginable kind, wood gifts and wooden homewares.

We thought it’d be useful to take a quick tour of The Wood Store, Brighton, with the aim of inspiring you to find your nearest re-used wood outlet and get busy with the reclamation!

Wood Arts at the Wood Store

Wood Arts at the Wood Store – Brighton

Brighton Wood Store is just a few minutes’ walk from the pier and seafront, and they’ve been reducing waste and re-using wood since 1998. It was the first ever UK scheme dedicated to re-using unwanted timber, a trailblazer. These days they’re a completely self-funding social enterprise.

Their Collections team works closely with local and national building firms and other organisations to collect wood waste for re-use. They also have a group of keen volunteers on hand who learn new wood-related skills on the premises, creating new wood furniture from reclaimed timber and preparing the wood for sale as well as offering buyers a warm welcome. It’s a really friendly place.

Reclaimed Timber at the Wood Store

Reclaimed Timber at the Wood Store’

Wood recycling sits at the heart of everything they do. Any salvaged timber collected that can’t be re-used is either chopped into firewood or chipped off-site, and the chips are used to produce electricity for a small power plant. Nothing gets wasted, which is brilliant since wood – despite being wholly renewable – is a precious resource.

Wood Furniture

Wood Furniture and more at the Wood Store

Where else could you buy gorgeous old, wide, thick reclaimed floorboards for £4.50 per metre? If you bought the same quality of wood brand new it would cost you a fortune. And this comes with built-in personality, unlike raw new floorboards. The made to measure wood furniture and garden furniture the talented workers produce in the Wood Store is gorgeous too, lovely and chunky, generously sized and beautifully designed.

  • All sorts of sturdy reclaimed construction timber
  • Plywood, MDF and OSB at ridiculously good prices
  • Lovely old pier decking, recycled wood with a fascinating history
  • Used scaffold boards, floorboards and more, all top quality stuff
Reclaimed Floorboards

Reclaimed Floorboards at the Wood Store

Whatever your reclaimed wood requirements, a local wood store like ours has everything you could possibly need. They also sell firewood and kindling, both conveniently bundled up, plus massive pieces of sculptural driftwood, wooden sea defences and old worn out seaside groynes complete with seashells, barnacles and rusty iron fittings. Plus all manner of fascinating architectural wood.

Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed Wood at the Wood Store

The home and garden furniture made by the carpenters on-site is lovely. How about the shabby chic dresser below, hand crafted with skill and care from gorgeous salvaged timber, which has been cleaned and smartened up without spoiling its unique personality?

With shabby chic décor as popular as it is right now and the wood recycling revolution at an all-time high, you can understand why they were doing a roaring trade when we popped in a couple of weeks ago to buy a big chunk of reclaimed sea defence for our front garden. More about that later…

Shabby Chic Wood Furniture

Shabby Chic Wood Furniture

As well as big stuff, the wood store carries a nice line in wood arts and small decorative pieces, also carefully and creatively crafted from a wide variety of stunning wood types, from ancient oak to fruitwoods and exotic hardwoods, all of which would otherwise have been chucked away to moulder in a landfill site. Which would have been absolutely tragic.

Their beautiful little cabinets and shelving units, boxes and crates, bowls and sculptural pieces are all made with love and care, and priced very reasonably.

Homewares

Homewares at the Wood Store

It’s all fabulous. But my personal favourite is the driftwood, including spectacularly worn sea defences: bits of groynes, whole groynes, tree root systems and exotic-looking sculptural pieces that have been washed smooth and worn into amazing art nouveau-like swirly shapes by the wind, sand, pebbles and tides, many from along the south coast.

Because the weather and waves transform the wood from its rich natural colour to a lovely, delicate silvery grey, it looks wonderful used outdoors and indoors as a decorative feature.

 

Architectural Driftwood Pieces

Architectural Driftwood Pieces

The architectural driftwood pieces above illustrate what I mean, as do the two photos below. The smaller chunk sits on a set of shelves made from reclaimed wood, complete with ghostly original lettering, its original meaning and purpose long lost. It has been washed smooth by the sea and the holes all over it are made by shellfish, who use the wood as their anchor and home, burrowing deep into it while it lay in the water.

Isn’t it beautiful? You could leave it as it is, propping it up somewhere suitable, or set it on a stone, glass or wooden plinth to create something even more sculptural.

Artistic Driftwood

Artistic Driftwood on Reclaimed Wooden Shelf

And what about this bit? Wow. I believe this is a chunk of water-weathered root system rather than branches, another of nature’s Art Nouveau masterpieces and standing an impressive four feet tall. It’s slightly skeletal too, lending it a wonderfully eerie feel.

Imagine this in your garden, fixed on top of a stone stand or propped against a wall? And it’s unique, a one-off. You won’t find another one of these anywhere in the world.

Outstanding Architectural Driftwood

Outstanding Architectural Driftwood

Our front garden is inspired by Derek Jarman’s garden at Prospect Cottage, Dungeness. We’ve included lots of smaller bits of driftwood but the piece we bought at our local wood store was the final creative touch.

Fixed firmly into a foot-deep hole with Postcrete, it’s a piece of from Pevensey Bay, where the old sea defences are steadily being replaced with new. It’s about 40 years old, stands more than six feet tall and is studded with ironwork; old nails, fixings and rings, all red and rusty, contrasting perfectly with the deep reddish brown hardwood.

Reclaimed Sea Defence Sculpture

Reclaimed Sea Defence Sculpture

If you fancy a poke around, the Wood Store Brighton is open 9am to half five Monday to Saturday and there’s free parking on site. It’s inside the old fruit and veg market building on Circus Street, Brighton BN2 9QF, telephone 01273 570500. You can follow them on Twitter using @Woodrecycling and their website is www.woodrecycling.org.uk.

What if you’re nowhere near Brighton? No problem. If there isn’t a wood reclamation yard or architectural salvage place in your town or city, there’s probably one not far away. Recycling wood is a big deal these days and outlets are springing up all over the place. A quick search on Google delivers recycled wood yards in all these places… and lots more:

It  goes without saying that if you buy or make something made from recycled or salvaged wood, we sell a massive range of wood finishing products to keep it in great condition for longer.

Creative Ideas, Arts and Crafts

Friday, February 13th, 2015

We have a craft supplies section on our website for a very good reason. Creativity, arts and crafts materials are some of the most popular buys amongst our vast collection of wood finishing products.

Wood Arts

Wood Arts

While the USA is the home of obsessive ‘crafting’, us Brits are pretty good at it too. But there’s much more to arts and crafts than simple pleasure and leisure. As it turns out, creativity has a profound effect on human beings, whether we’re grown ups or only little.

We thought it’d be fun to take a look at the benefits of arts and crafts for kids and provide a few inspirational art and crafts ideas while we’re at it.

The benefits of arts and crafts for kids

According to the Early Childhood News website, getting crafty and arty comes with all sorts of vital developmental benefits. It helps children learn about the world, cope with life and gain confidence in their abilities. In fact kids who are regularly involved in arty and crafty stuff tend to be better at:

  • Using their imaginations
  • Expressing themselves
  • Developing self-confidence and self-discipline
  • Interpreting and reflecting upon life
  • Enjoying different cultures and understanding different values
  • Being more open to new learning across every subject
  • Thinking critically and solving problems
  • Making informed judgments
  • Working cooperatively with others and in groups
  • Appreciating different opinions and points of view

So, it looks like art and craft helps kids reach development goals, achieve better thinking skills (AKA cognitive development), feeling skills (emotional development), relating skills (social development) and co-ordination skills (sensory motor development). And, of course, creativity is also great fun. As the Early Childhood News site says:

The potential for creativity “the act of making something new” lives in each of us. Most of us act less and less upon this potential with each passing year. Our own creativity becomes a memory, something we outgrow or lose along the way. If children grow up believing they are creative, they will have a better chance of finding constructive outlets for creative energy in later years. A child’s creativity will not be just a memory; it will be a valuable, personal resource to use every day.

Halloween wood block silhouettes

Wood Block Silhouettes for Halloween

Humans have always been creative

How come arts and crafts are such developmental powerhouses with such profound effects on the people who get involved? When you think about it you realise creativity is more or less embedded in our DNA. It wasn’t that long ago, before the industrial revolution, that we had to hand-make almost everything we used in everyday life, from pottery and metalwares to rugs, blankets, clothing, jewellery and shelter. And it went on for hundreds of thousands of years as our primitive primate ancestors gradually evolved into what we are today.

The pleasure almost every child gets from creativity mirrors this. To this day ‘doing’ art and craft encourages kids to use their imaginations and create their own entertainment. Making something delivers a child more confidence in their abilities, which in turn helps them make better individual decisions and better-informed life choices.

Painted wooden tray

Painted wooden tray

12 cool arts and crafts ideas for kids

How can you encourage your child to get creative? It helps to put together a list of creative arts and crafts ideas for kids, which you can dip into next time the weather’s dreadful and they’re trapped indoors, they’re on school holidays or bored and restless for whatever reason. Here are just a few simple ideas.

  1. Make hand print birthday cards, party invites or wrapping paper
  2. Print out these fabulous free colouring pages for kids
  3. Make edible finger paints
  4. Paint a portrait of you, the dog, the cat, the grandparents…
  5. Grow mustard and cress indoors – you can grow it anywhere: in an old shoe, a paper bag, a matchbox, a hat…
  6. Get busy drawing on the pavement or the driveway with colourful chalks – you can always wash it off
  7. Make your own Play Dough
  8. Learn finger-knitting – hours of fun
  9. Find out how to sand wood, playing safely with basic sandpaper
  10. Decorate an old hat
  11. Do papier mache – wonderfully messy and it dries as hard as wood
  12. Click through to this amazing page jammed full of craft and art ideas for kids
Wood animals

Wood Animals – Ready for Painting

Staying safe versus having fun

Craft materials and equipment can be dangerous, sharp or even poisonous. It’s your job to teach your child not to do crazy things like eat paint, sandpaper their eyebrows off or poke craft tools up their noses. It’s a great way to help them learn what’s safe and what isn’t, part and parcel of the maturing process. If they’re really little, join in or supervise them until they’ve learned not to do silly things. It won’t take long since children are like miniature sponges, programmed by nature to learn.

Things to avoid – Don’t spoil the creative experience!

The problem with grown-ups is that we have a strong drive to get things ‘right’. Children are less set in stone, which is why their creativity outstrips most adults’ so dramatically. It’s important to let your kids get creative without peeing on their fireworks, if you’ll pardon my French! Here’s how to help your children get the most out of the art experience:

  • If your kids don’t fancy it, don’t force it – there’s nothing more likely to put them off for life than making them do something they just aren’t interested in. It’s your job to encourage them in whatever they want to create… and reward them when they finish it
  • Keep it simple –  It’s easy to overestimate your own abilities, never mind those of your children. Make sure your child can actually achieve the creative projects you set up for them. If the project is relatively easy, your child will soon gain confidence and get excited about trying something more challenging next time
  • There’s no need to rush – You need time to do things right, and so does your child. Allow your child plenty of time to think, mull things over and enjoy themselves to the full
  • Let them experiment – You might know that throwing paint on a wooden floor has a certain effect. A small child doesn’t know, and experimentation is a brilliant way to learn, so don’t get too uptight about mess. Clear a space where they can get as messy as they like
Woodburning pyrography

Woodburning – Pyrography – from ajsartsanddesigns.com

Cheap craft supplies

There are plenty of places online where you can buy cheap craft supplies. Pound Shops are often really good sources, too. And you might have a lot of the stuff you need at home anyway, just lying around. You don’t need posh art paper, kids are happy drawing on more or less anything including old envelopes.

If you’ve saved scraps of fabric, old clothing, newspapers and glossy magazines, string, wool, wire, tights and stockings, tissue paper, old wrapping paper, Christmas and birthday cards, let your children loose on it all and watch their natural, in-built creativity grow!

Wood beads

Beautiful Wooden Beads

Creativity is for grown-ups, too

There’s no reason why creativity should be the exclusive territory of children. It’s just as good for grown ups. As an adult you can use any and all of the excellent, tried and tested products in our crafts department to bring old, knackered wood back to its former glory,  renovate furniture, create shabby chic masterpieces, stunning wood floors and more. Go play!

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQ_9KwzTOPA[/youtube]

Exploring Wood Textures – Brown is Beautiful!

Friday, January 30th, 2015

It’s one of the planet’s biggest interior design myths. And it’s probably why, during the long years when interior design meant bland hotel-style interiors, fewer and fewer people were using wood inside their homes. Yes, wood is brown. But brown is beautiful. It’s subtle, and it lets you create a quiet, calm backdrop against which to add plenty of vivid colour and vibrant decorative pizazz.

Gorgeous wood textures to brighten up your interior design

Most people think dark colours make a room look smaller. But that’s nonsense. As any interior design professional will tell you, using darker colours on your walls – and even the ceiling – actually makes a room look much bigger.

This is great news for those of us who adore the look, colour and feel of real wood. It’s heartening for people who prefer richly coloured, textures and personality-filled rooms over pale, light interiors. And it’s bang on trend as far as today’s recycling and re-purposing Zeitgeist is concerned.

All of which probably explains why so many contemporary interior design styles are using wood to create texture as well as deliver an illusion of space. If, like most of us ordinary folk, you need to make the most of the small-ish amount of space you have, decorating with wooden accents is a great way to do it.

How to create space with textured wooden flooring

Most wooden floors feature the same pattern running through the entire floor. There’s the texture of the wood itself, i.e. the grain and the knots, plus the pattern the floorboards, wooden tiles or parquet pieces make when they’re laid – two lots of beautiful texture in one. But there’s another design advantage: because the same or a similar pattern runs through the entire floor, it creates a real feeling of continuity, which in turn helps open up the space.

Engineered oak flooring might be your best bet, expensive but long lasting and particularly beautiful. Laminate flooring is cheaper, although you can buy top quality stuff with a 25 year guarantee. It comes in all sorts of stunning textures and a huge range of colours and textures, smooth and rough, from pale oak to deep, dramatic ebony black.

What about a wooden ceiling or wood panelled walls?

Now that shabby chic, Shaker style, traditional French decoration and eccentric, eclectic mixes are back in fashion with a vengeance, you can take wood much farther.

How about using rustic wooden elements in your home? You could even go as far as cladding your walls – or just a feature wall – with a combination of pale and dark woods, creating a stunning, warm, dramatic textured finish. Wood is also a good sound and heat insulator so you might even save a bit of cash on your energy bills while you’re at it.

Going off-piste with clashing textures and furniture styles

What a relief! Instead of feeling we have to make every piece of furniture in the room match, mixing and matching is the name of the game for 2015. Which means you can have a splendid time combining furniture made from dark and light woods – and everything in between – with creative abandon.

How about an old English oak chest from the 1800s, so dark it’s almost black, combined with a light oak French country sideboard and a modern hardwood coffee table in a gorgeous reddish wood, all wax-polished to a high sheen?

Interior design – Wood accessories

Do you live near the coast? If so the beach could provide a thrilling resource in the guise of driftwood. The best bits are smoothed and shaped by the sea, salt-bleached to a lovely silvery grey. You can use smaller chunks of driftwood to create a frame around a mirror, for example. Just glue it direct onto the glass with No More Nails glue, or onto an ordinary wooden mirror frame.

Then there’s sculpture. A large piece of textured driftwood can stand in a corner of your room, simply leaning against the wall. You could ‘pot’ it in an attractive container filled with beach pebbles or garden centre-bought slate chunks. Or even hang it from the ceiling using a section of old rusty chain for an ultra-modern impact.

Wonderful wooden wall panels

Wood wall panelling is a big design hit right now because it reflects the Shaker trend so well. You can buy brand new wood panels for bathrooms, kitchens, lounges and dining rooms, more or less any room in your home. They come in all sorts of colours and textures, some traditional and some hyper-modern. You can even buy genuine antique wood panelling… at a price. Here are three handy resources to inspire you:

  1. The Wall Panelling Company
  2. Antique wood panelling

Textured wood wallpaper – Talk about chic!

Wallpaper manufacturers have stepped into the breach, responding to the trend for funky wood textures.  You could decorate an entire room with wood textured wallpaper panels or just one feature wall. These cool new wallpapers deliver an outdoorsy feel, mixing industrial style with country home décor and about as far from traditional floral wallpapers as it gets.

Think muted colours and strong outdoor textures: rust, wood and even concrete. If you’re wary of going too far, grab some wallpaper samples and test-drive the look. Remember there’s much more to wallpaper than walls. You can use it on furniture, to line bookcases, decorate your staircase risers, as a funky border around a room, on the panels of your interior doors, on the ceiling, the bed head, or even the fireplace. The rule is this: there are no rules.

Which wood texture wallpaper to choose? You could try the innovative designs of Suzanne Yates or Graham & Brown, whose gorgeously innovative papers bring the outdoors indoors with earthy textures and natural colours, both calming and elegant.

You can also buy these, all absolutely stunning:

  • Wallpaper printed with a fabulous silver birch trees design
  • Wood panel wallpaper in a selection of pale to dark shades
  • Wooden logs wallpaper, featuring piles of rustic cut logs photographed end-on
  • Wooden plank textured wallpaper in a choice of fab colours
  • Realistic shabby chic pastel distressed wood panel effect wallpaper, plus a beautiful, more brightly coloured version
  • Wood plank wallpaper in all sort of lovely shabby chic textures and finishes

Here’s some wood textures wallpaper inspiration

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vz_-92jKy9E[/youtube]

What’s the wood interiors project you’re most proud of?

We’d love to hear about your favourite interior wood triumph. Alternatively, if you have any questions about wood finishes and the products we recommend to achieve them, we’ll be delighted to help.