News


Size Matters! Limited Offer – 3L for 2.5L on Osmo Polyx Oil Satin

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Everyone likes a bargain, especially at this time of year when finances are being stretched because of the Christmas period. That’s why it’s great when a special deal comes up on one of our best selling products…

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Special Offer – 3 Litres of Osmo 3032 for the price of 2.5 Litres.

Following the success of last year’s promo, Osmo have re-launched their highly successful 3 litre tin offer, where you get 3 ltrs of Osmo Polyx Oil 3032, for the same price as the standard 2.5 litre tin. A 3L tin could do 12 interior doors, two rooms of wooden furniture or over 36m2 of flooring.

This hugely versatile product is great for a whole range of interior wood care and renovation projects including floors, doors, skirting boards, furniture and more. Its blend of natural oils and waxes enhance the natural grain and colour of the timber while protecting the wood against liquid spillages and the day to day wear and tear of a busy household. Here are just some of the Osmo Polyx Oil reviews received in the last month…

“I never use anything else now. Finished two kitchens, a bedroom, a whole house and furniture with it. Dead easy to get a perfect finish. Two coats is all you need. Putting it on with a cloth I’ve found gives the best results.”

“Beautiful finish on my old oak table.”

“This is a high quality product that is easy to apply, responds to very light sanding between coats and which dries to an excellent and durable finish. Sanded an oak topped kitchen table back to bare wood, applied a number of thin coats and have ended up with an “as new” table which has an enhanced grain and looks great.”

“A 750 ml. tin goes a long long way if applied as per instructions. Good coverage. Slapping it on is a waste of time and money. Used to re-oil part of my kitchen wooden worktops around the sink and drainer area it shows excellent water repellent capability.”

“Lovely satin finish. Used on a new oak bannister to protect the wood and enhance the finish.”

 

So whether looking to do a little pre-Christmas renovation before friends and family arrive, or perhaps already thinking about those post New Year projects, now is the time to stock up while this time limited offer is available and stocks last. Once its gone its gone.

Read more about the Osmo 25th anniversary promo from 2015 here.

Need help with your wood finishing projects?

Still unsure about which wood finishing products you need for your DIY projects? Call our friendly team of resident experts – They’re always on hand to provide free advice and guidance on the right products for your project. Lines open 7 days a week.*

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.

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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.’

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Celebrating 25 Years of Osmo UK

Friday, November 20th, 2015
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Osmo Celebration Tin – 25 Years of Osmo UK

In 2015, Osmo celebrated 25 years in the UK by releasing a special anniversary edition, 3 litre tin of Osmo Polyx Oil 3032, Clear Satin, for the same price as the standard 2.5 litre size. As you can imagine, these flew off our shelves like Christmas Cake at an Elf convention. Because of the amazing response to last year’s offer, Osmo are doing it again. For a limited time, and while stocks last, you can once again bag 3 litres for the price of 2.5. That’s 20% extra, enough to do up to 12 square meters for free.

Osmo is a brand that we here at Wood Finishes Direct have been dealing with for many years and for good reason, it’s simply one of the best producers of wood finishing products in the world! Now you don’t get a reputation like this from thin air so why are Osmo oils held with such high regard? It’s a question that can’t be simply answered as different customers praise different aspects of the Osmo brand and its products. Here are just some of the many thousands of customer reviews we’ve received over the years.

“Love this product,it gave just the effect i was looking for.”
“Good quality and the smallest amount goes a long way.”
“First rate stuff – wouldn’t buy anything else.”
“Easy to use and a very tough finish.”
“Excellent product. Easy to apply and performs extremely well.”

 

Osmo pride themselves in not only producing outstanding wood finishing products for both interior and exterior projects, but they do so with legendary German efficiency and without ever losing site of their ecological ethos of producing exceptional products that are as user and environmentally friendly as possible.

Celebrating 25 Years of Osmo UK

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Osmo – Celebrating 25 Years in the UK.

For 25 years now, Osmo have been protecting everything from wooden floors to interior doors, garden benches to garden fences. And to celebrate, Osmo have released a celebration tin of Osmo Polyx Oil 3032 with an additional 20% free, that’s three litres for the price of two and a half. Now this may not sound like much to those not familiar with the product, but in terms of coverage, that’s equivalent to an additional 12 square meters, or put another way the floor of a small room or a couple of interior doors based on 2 coats.

Why Use Osmo Hard Wax Oil

One of the questions we get asked on a regular basis is what does Polyx Oil or as it’s also known ‘hard wax oil’, offer that varnishes don’t. The main appeal with Osmo wood oils, other than their user and environmental credentials are that they are incredibly easy to apply and maintain. Although perhaps not quite as durable as a good quality varnish, a key benefit is that unlike a varnish, when the finish starts to show signs of wear and tear, it doesn’t have to be sanded back to bare wood again. It’s simply a case of ensuring that the wooden surface is clean, free from surface dirt and debris then re-applying a thin maintenance coat – Hey Presto! As good as new.

How Long Does an Oiled Finish Last?

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The maintenance duration of Osmo Oils is dependant on many factors.

Knowing how long an oiled surface will last before requiring maintenance is a little like the age old question of how long is a piece of string? It all depends on the wear and tear that the surface is subjected to. For external wood oils, this is largely down to how much wind, rain and sun the wood gets. As an example, An oiled wooden surface on an exposed coastal location will require more maintenance than a sheltered town or city one. An oiled wooden floor in a restaurant will require more maintenance than a domestic property. In general, the vast majority of a floor will be fine for many years with just the high traffic areas that take the brunt of wear and tear perhaps needing a little attention more often. But, as a very rough general guide, most surfaces treated with an Osmo Oil will be good for at least a couple of years. Low contact areas such as interior wooden doors, skirting boards, wooden bookshelves etc will require much less care, potentially lasting many, many years before requiring a spruce up.

How Do Osmo Wood Oils Work?

Osmo wood oils are formulated from a blend of natural waxes and oils that penetrate and harden in the surface of the wood once dry. The natural oils help to prevent the timber from drying out which in turn helps to prevent cracking and warping of the wood. And because the oil sits in the surface of the wood rather than producing a plastic like film on top of the wood like a paint or varnish, there is nothing to crack, peel or flake off.

A key feature of Osmo oils is that they protect the surface of the timber from within by providing a highly durable, scratch and liquid resistant finish. making them perfect for a wide range of interior and exterior wood care projects. In terms of the Polyx Oil range, it’s classified as child and food safe so can be used to protect and seal hand crafted wooden children’s toys, kitchen worktops, tabletops, chopping boards, wooden kitchen utensils, serving bowls and a whole host of wooden food preparation and storage surfaces.

Applying and Maintaining Osmo Polyx Oil

When applying Osmo Polyx Oil, you’ll be surprised at how far it goes. The standard 2.5 ltr tin covers an area of around 60 square meters based on one coat, that’s around 34 square meters based on 2 coats, this is because less is absorbed by the wood on the second coat. With the Osmo 25th anniversary promotional 3 litre tins of 3032 clear satin, that jumps to around 72 square meters based on 1 coat and around 40 square meters based on 2 coats.

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Osmo Polyx Oil Applied With An Osmo Floor Brush

Applying Osmo Polyx Oil Correctly

The correct way to apply Osmo Polyx Oil is to simply follow the very straight forward instructions on the tin. Here are our top tips on how to achieve a professional looking wood finish every time.

  • Wooden floors and other wooden surfaces must be bare wood, it simply won’t work on surfaces that have been painted, varnished or waxed as the oil cannot penetrate in to the surface of the wood.
  • Wooden floors and other surfaces shouldn’t be sanded too finely. Maximum sanding grit should be 120 to 150. Anything finer will close the surface pours of the wood, preventing the oil from penetrating into the fibres of the timber.
  • Once sanded, wooden surfaces should be cleaned to remove all traces of sanding dust, dirt and grit. wooden floors should be vacuumed thoroughly so that surface dust and dirt doesn’t contaminate the oil finish.
  • Always do a test area to make sure that you’re happy with the finish the oil produces. Applying a clear wood oil will always enhance the natural grain and colour of the timber. Many types of Pine for example can look fairly pale and colourless when freshly sanded but when wood oil is added, it can draw out the natural golden warmth of the pine.
  • It’s essential that Osmo oils are applied thinly to achieve the optimum coverage and the best possible finish. Osmo wood oils can be applied with a paint brush, lint free cloth, rag, microfibre cloth, paint pad or other floor finish applicator. The key is to spread the wood oil out as far as it will go, not overload brushes and applicators with oil and to wipe up any excess oil from the surface immediately with a clean lint free cloth.
  • Allow the first coat to dry fully before applying the second coat. The second coat requires less oil than the first so again, thin application is key.

Cleaning and Maintaining Oiled Wood

Cleaning and maintaining an oiled wooden floor or for that matter, any oiled surface, is reasonably stress free and easy to do.

The best way to protect an oiled finish on a floor is to vacuum or dry sweep with a broom on a regular basis, especially if the floor in question is near an entrance point such as a front or back door, more likely than not a hallway or kitchen. The main reason for this is that fine grit brought in on the bottom of shoes could cause minor scratches or tiny dents in the surface of the wood. Keeping the floor clean of surface debris will help to prevent this sort of damage.

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Cleaning an oiled floor with the Osmo Spray Mop

For more thorough cleaning, oiled flooring can be mopped with a slightly damp mop or with a dedicated wood surface cleaner such as Osmo Wash and Care. These tend to be PH balanced and formulated specifically for the purpose of cleaning wooden floor finishes and are ideal for cleaning stubborn marks and shoes scuff marks, perfect for a weekly or bi-weekly clean.

Despite the many TV and magazine ads, wooden floors and other wooden surfaces should never be cleaned with a steam cleaner. These cleaners inject high pressure steam into the floor finish and the wood below degrading the integrity of the floor finish and potentially damaging the flooring itself due to absorbsion of steam which can cause the wood to swell, twist and split.

When it’s time for a maintenance coat the process is almost the same as when first applying the oil. Use a vacuum or dry mop to ensure that the wooden surface is dust and dirt free. Areas that have been scuffed, marked, scratched or worn can be lightly sanded with a scotch pad or fine grit sandpaper to remove the damage, taking care to vacuum or sweep up any new dust that this creates. Then it’s just a matter of applying one thin maintenance coat and allowing to fully dry.

What To Do If Too Much Oil Has Been Applied

A common issue we get calls from customers about is when their floors or other wooden surfaces are still tacky or sticky a day or 2 after application or has brush marks in the finish. In terms of the coloured variations of Polyx Oil, another common issue is uneven colour with swirl marks and darker patches. These situations are virtually always down to over application of the oil. These issues are usually, do we dare say, a male thing where the tin says 2 thin coats, but the thinking is that 4 thick coats must be better. Right? Unfortunately, this is not the case. Wood is like a sponge but will only absorb a small amount of oil. When it reaches its limit, surplus oil builds on the surface to form a film or skin on the wood. This causes 2 issues, firstly by extending the drying time by many hours or even days. And secondly, a poor finish that among other things, is soft and easy to mark, peel and damage because of the surplus oil that has dried on the surface of the wood.

Thankfully, over application of Polyx Oil and other oils from the Osmo range is a rarity and is normally caused by shall we say, over enthusiastic DIYers, or when people employ painters and decorators to apply wood finishing products. Although painters and decorators are undoubtedly great at painting, they sometimes apply the same principles to applying wood oils which isn’t always the best approach.

If you do find yourself in situation where the oil has been over applied, the good news is that it can often be fairly easily rectified. Wax and oil based products, including hard wax oils like Osmo Polyx Oil can be dissolved with white spirit. In most cases, simply wiping the surface with lint free cloths dampened with white spirit will dissolve the surplus oil on the surface, allowing to be ragged off to leave a good finish.

If the oil has been heavily over applied, it may be easier to remove the bulk of the surplus with a plastic scraper before using white spirit to finish the job. Avoid using a metal scrapper as this could dig in to the floor or door, damaging or splintering the wood. In the worst cases, sanding back to bare wood may be the only option but be prepared to use lots of sanding belts or disks as the wax quickly clogs them up requiring frequent changes.

Top Tip For Applying Osmo Polyx Oil On Wooden Floors

When applying Polyx Oil in a large room which may need to be done in 2 or 3 stages, always work along the full length of the boards stopping on a board edge rather than across the floor boards. This will prevent joint, tide or overlapping marks when coming back to finish the job. So if the room is 20 floor boards wide, oil the full length of the room across 10 board widths, taking care not to get any on the next set of boards, then come back and finish the next 10 board widths later.

What Next

So there you have it, follow these simple processes and you should be able to transform a neglected wooden floor into something very special. And don’t forget, it’s not just wooden floors that can be transformed. Polyx oil can be used on most types or real wood including wooden staircases, furniture, wood crafts and more. If you’ve been pondering and procrastinating over a wood care project in your home, now’s the time to do something about it. Join in with the Osmo 25th anniversary celebrations and get an extra half a litre for free.

If you have any questions about Osmo Polyx Oil or any of the products from the Osmo Oil range, feel free to call or email our team of resident experts who are always on hand to answer any questions you have. And don’t forget we love to hear about and see your projects here at Wood Finishes Direct so if you’re thinking about renovating a wooden floor, staircase, kitchen worktop or other project, and happy to share your experience with us and our community of followers, please take some before and after pictures and send them in.

Little Known Facts About UK’s Ancient Woodlands and Forests

Friday, November 6th, 2015

When we hear about ancient woodlands and forests disappearing here in the UK, thoughts immediately conjure up images of urban sprawl and swathes of forests being cut down for new Motorway and rail routes. No one likes to see beautiful forests and woodlands that have stood for centuries or even thousands of years, slowly vanish from our landscape. But, are the bleak pictures of woodlands and forests being decimated by mankind, routinely portrayed on TV, completely accurate?

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A common picture of UK forests and woodlands being cut down for development..

Although there’s no disputing that mankind have been the main cause of worldwide deforestation, certainly in the last couple of centuries, science is fast proving that the creation and disappearance of huge forests throughout history are also part of the Earth’s natural life cycle.

The Changing Face of UK Woodlands & Forests

Here are some interesting facts about the ever changing face of UK forests and woodlands, past and present.

It’s estimated that in around 1086 around 15% of the UK’s landmass was covered by forests and woodland. By 1905, this number had dwindled to as low as 5%. One of the biggest demands put on UK forests was the British Navy that had for many years, depended on Oak and other native tree species for their ships. An interesting twist to this story is that According to legend, the Spanish asked one of their ambassadors, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, to sneak up and set fire to the Forest of Dean, hoping it would give the Spanish Armada an advantage.

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UK Warships were reliant on UK forests and woodlands

In 1919, the Forestry Commission was established and tasked with the job of replenishing depleted woodlands and forests. Since its formation, less than 100 years ago, the percentage of forest and woodland across the UK has increased to around 13%, not far off the level last seen almost a thousand years ago.

Forests Under The Oceans

Most people have heard the Teddy Bears Picnic song ‘If you go down to the woods today’ and for many, actually doing this is just a case of putting on wellington boots and perhaps a raincoat to avoid getting wet. For others, going ‘down’ to the woods today is a literal thing and ‘getting wet’ is unavoidable.

In early 2015, after heavy winter storms, a prehistoric forest of trees was discovered on the seabed off the Norfolk coast. Oak trees with branches measuring up to 8 meters are believed to be the remnants of a huge forest that existed some 10,000 years ago, before the last Ice Age. It’s now believed that the forest may well have stretched from the Norfolk coast all the way to Germany, before the melting ice raised water levels, creating or expanding what is now the North Sea, separating the UK from the rest of Europe.

Another example of this was recently discovered on stretches of beach between Borth and Ynyslas on the North coast of Wales when another severe storm uncovered the remains of a forest estimated to be around five thousand years old.

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Parts of Borth Forest uncovered after severe storms

Conservation and Preservation of Woodlands

With an increasing focus on World Wide deforestation and the scientific evidence proving that plants and trees are effectively the lungs of the earth, capturing carbon and replenishing the Earths Oxygen supply, groups and organisations committed to the protection of trees, woodlands and forests across the globe are gaining momentum.

Initiatives to curb illegal logging, set up huge wildlife reserves and parks and to actively plant more trees are becoming more popular. Many businesses are now doing their part and working closely with the Woodland Trust. ‘Nicky’ a UK producer of tissues and other tissue paper products have committed to planting at least 20,000 native trees every year and in fact, in their first 2 years, have helped the Woodland Trust plant over 70,000 trees in the UK.

Consumers are also becoming far more aware and savvy when buying wood and paper related products, including everything from printer paper to furniture, rough sawn construction timber to top quality flooring by looking for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) stamp.

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The Forest Stewardship council (FSC ) mark

Making Wood Last Longer

It’s also worth remembering that once you’ve bought your timber, be it for interior or exterior use, you can do your bit by giving it the best possible protection to maximise its useable life as the longer it lasts, the less strain it places on the worlds natural wood resources. After all, if it lasts decades instead of just a couple of years, it gives the organisations dedicated to protecting and replanting new trees more time and a head start to deal with the demands of a growing population.

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Ancient Wooden Door That Has Been Treated and Preserved

The Future of The UK’s Woodlands And Forests

Although the UK’s tree population is now heading in the right direction, back to the 15% level last seen a thousand years ago, we’re still lagging far behind the European average of 37% coverage. Perhaps levels like this may not be unachievable in a country so densely populated. But, with so many people depending on this incredible natural resource for business, pleasure and the day to day necessities of everyday life, it’s in the interest of everyone to do their bit, no matter how big or small, to protect the future of woodlands and forests around the world for future generations.

Do you have a question or query on how best to protect and preserve your interior and exterior wood? Our team of experts are always on hand to provide friendly advice on how to get the most out of your wood care projects. Feel free to contact us by phone, email or through our blog.

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.

The Wood Finishes Direct Story (Part 1)

Friday, October 16th, 2015

One of the questions we sometimes get asked, especially from enthusiastic people who are passionate about wood, and react like they’ve just found a sweet shop that sells their favourite childhood sweets is ‘Where did we come from?’ And ‘How long have we been around for?’

The second question is easy as we are currently busy planning our 10th anniversary celebration party meaning that our journey started back in October 2005.

In The Beginning…

As with any good story, there’s always a point in time where a defining moment, an act of sorts, starts the proverbial snow ball effect. So, like any great Hollywood epic, we start our story with a booming voice from the heavens – IN THE BEGINNING…

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Well to be more specific 1989, a young man named Laurence Mann, that’s right, it’s not a typo, started work in a shop selling Traditional Furniture, which was also coincidentally called ‘Traditional Furniture’, (I see a pattern forming here) located in the small seaside town of Seabrook, on the South East Kent coast. It wasn’t long before Laurence became inspired by how old, sometimes tatty furniture, could be restored and transformed to be given a whole new lease of life. Furniture that might have otherwise landed up on the scrap heap was instead being snapped up almost as soon as the restoration was complete to take pride of place in someone’s home.

Laurence was so impressed with the skills of the trade (taught to him by the passionate Michael Hannant) and the beauty of the end result,, that he took it on himself to learn all the tricks of the trade, particularly with Pine furniture which was hugely fashionable in the 90’s. And let’s face it, there’s not many of us who or who’s parents didn’t own a ‘lovely’ piece of ‘orange’ pine furniture!

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The most popular product in the 80’s and 90’s for finishing Pine furniture, that didn’t turn it a ghastly orange, was Briwax, a traditional wax that was available in clear and coloured variations. Today, Briwax remains a popular product with many in the trade because of its versatility, speedy drying time of just a few minutes and the quality of the final finish, perfect for commercial production lines. Briwax however has always contained toluene, is incredibly smelly and for many using it in confined spaces, caused headaches, watery eyes and in some cases dizziness and nausea. Having worked with and experienced the effects of traditional waxes. Laurence and Michael Hannant began to search for a purer, more user friendly alternative to Briwax and after a while managed to find exactly what he was looking for.

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As the business thrived, Laurence become a partner with Mike Hannant who he describes as a ‘wood genius’. In their time working together, they experimented and improved the formula of the wax that they had found and began supplying pine shops under the name of ‘Traditional Furniture Wax’ via an aptly named publication – ‘Pine News’! Within their first year of becoming furniture wax suppliers, their client base had grown to around 400 shops and within 7 years, they were supplying around 2000 pine shops across the country with their own formula of wood and furniture waxes and other products.

In 2002 Laurence became a distributor for Ciranova products and by 2004 the ‘Pine’ bubble’ had burst and demand for pine furniture and therefore wood waxes was in sharp decline. A re-think was required and in 2005 Laurence went solo and began Wood Finishes Direct Ltd.

In 2005, Laurence went solo and began Wood Finishes Direct Ltd. The change of name meant that the business was no longer limited to selling just wood and furniture waxes and could offer a wider range of wood finishing products, mainly to trade, and the wider wood finishing industries. From very early on, Laurence decided that one of the most important aspects of the business was to provide not only the best products at great prices, but also expert advice on what to use, when, how and why. Laurence sought to learn everything he possibly could about each and every product that he supplied, not only which was best for what project, but also why. Laurence’s customer service and care skills learnt in the early days with ‘Traditional Furniture’ (later Hannants Traditional Furniture Wax) were equally as important in earning the reputation and respect for the new business. To this day, Wood Finishes Direct still focuses heavily on strong customer service values.

In September 2005, the new company moved to a 1,800 square foot, 16th century barn on scenic farm land near Sellindge just outside Ashford, Kent. The whole operation including warehouse, goods in, packaging, distribution, storage, manufacturing and office functions were carried out under one roof. Farmer John’s ever handy forklift was invaluable and those early cost effective days helped Wood Finishes Direct enormously to attract new business and a loyal following of regular customers.

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2007 was a key year for Wood Finishes Direct when Laurence partnered with long time friends James Burrows and Tim Hagger, both of whom brought their proven internet marketing knowledge and business skills to the company. The new found bond forged stronger relationships with suppliers which helped the company grow while James’ skills as a computer programmer, with speedy technical support and business know how from Tim meant that the first version of the website was up and running by May 2007. Within the first month of business, the new Wood Finishes Direct website had attracted around 172 online orders, a first for the new company which had until that time only operated offline. This gave a strong Indication of the potential that a business dedicated to the supply of wood finishing products had in the modern digital age.

2007 was also the year that the ‘MANNS Brand’ was born, with aspirations to create a brand that was as well known and recognisable as many of the already established wood care and finishing brands. ‘MANNS started out with just a couple of core products, namely a range of water based wood stains and waxes. Today, the range contains over 50 products, including waxes, wood varnish, wood stains & dyes, oils, primers and an array of application equipment.

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by 2012, just 5 years after the business went online, it was clear that the company had outgrown the barn. It was a bitter sweet decision because although the old barn was set in the beautiful Kentish countryside with views across fields and hills, during the high heat of summer, the tin roof turned some parts of the building into an oven and in the depths of winter, it was sometimes so cold that the fridge temperature was actually warmer than the office first thing in the morning. It was a common joke that we should leave the fridge door open to warm the office up. With joking aside, you knew it was cold when the office toilet and water in the kitchen taps froze. Needless to say constant measures had to be taken to protect the products from the heat and cold which was far from ideal.

In July 2013 the business moved from the picturesque farm to another type of farm, Park Farm Industrial estate in Folkestone, which was double the size at 3,700 square feet and just 2 minutes driving from the M20 motorway. Although the feeling was that our new location would see us good for a number of years, no one had predicted what was about to happen.

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In part 2 of our Wood Finishes Direct story we’ll show you how things have developed at our new home in the short time that we’ve been here, share images from our 10th anniversary party and look at what we have planned for the future.

3 Trillion Trees on Earth, 15 Billion Cut Down Per Year

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

According to a report in The Independent, and another in Science Daily, our planet has around 46% fewer trees than it did before the human race started its destructive shenanigans. At the same time we currently have around 3 trillion trees on earth, more than seven times the number scientists had previously estimated. And we’re cutting down a monster 15 billion of them every year.

Deforestation

Deforestation

What’s going on? It’s an important question, since international, national and local forest conservation initiatives need to be based on the most accurate and current data.

The results provide the most comprehensive assessment of tree populations ever undertaken, and they deliver a host of fresh insight into the organism we love so much. As wood finishing experts, without them we wouldn’t have a business. So we thought it’d be interesting to take a look at both reports. First, the Independent.

We’ve lost ‘more than half’ our trees through human activity

A study reported by The Independent reveals the earth is currently home to an eye-watering 3 trillion trees, around 45% of the number we had before humans started chopping them down.

The research is a collaborative effort by forty or so experts from fifteen countries, who harnessed images from satellites, forest research data, verified ground-level tree counts and forest inventories. The scientists crunched information on a vast scale to estimate accurately how many trees grow on each continent. And the results were surprising, blowing previous estimates out of the water.

What’s new?

We used to think there were around 400 billion trees on the planet, 61 for every human being. But this study is much more accurate and ups the ante dramatically, with a whopping 422 trees per person growing on earth right now. It’s good news because there are about 8 times more trees around than we’d predicted. On the downside we’re felling them at an alarming rate, chopping down about 15 billion a year with the greatest losses in the tropics.

Places where the most trees grow

Apparently around 1.39 trillion trees grow in tropical and sub-tropical forests alone, and 0.61 trillion in cooler places like the USA and Europe. Another 0.74 trillion trees live in the beautiful, high altitude forests of far-northern areas like Canada and Siberia. The densest areas of forest are in Russia, Scandinavia and North America, where the trees there are younger and smaller than species that grow in rainforests. But the biggest forests are found in the tropics. They’re home to a massive 43% or so of the world’s trees.

Brazil Deforestation Statistics

Brazil Deforestation Statistics

Trees are essential to human survival, health and wellbeing

Thomas Crowther of Yale University, the lead author of the study, confirms that trees are one of the most ‘prominent and critical’ living beings on our planet, but we’re only just starting to appreciate their importance to our survival, their extent and distribution. Trees store vast amounts of carbon, so they play a crucial part in mitigating climate change. They’re vital for good quality air and water, and we use wood in a vast array of circumstances: artistic, domestic and industrial.

The overall picture is this: more humans = fewer trees. The study highlighted how human population increases almost always lead to more trees being felled, which is exactly what has happened in Europe since the last ice age.

Second, the Science Daily report

The Science daily report adds some fine detail.

The research was inspired by Plant for the Planet, a worldwide initiative for young people which leads the UN’s special Environment Programme’s ‘Billion Tree’ campaign. They found they couldn’t identify baseline estimates of tree numbers at a regional or global scale, an essential piece of information when you want to set targets and evaluate where best to focus your tree planting efforts.

Taking a square kilometre-level view

The international team of researchers apparently mapped tree populations at square kilometre level, an impressively fine-tuned and granular effort. It’s the ‘most comprehensive assessment’ of tree populations ever, examining the impact of a living being that shapes most of the land-based biomes we’re familiar with, a biome being ‘a large, naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat’.

Fresh insight into modelling other large and complex systems

The results of the study are set to deliver fresh insight into modelling other large-scale systems, whether it’s carbon cycling and climate change models or the real-life distribution of various animal species. Scientists will also be able to draw better conclusions about the structure of forest ecosystems in different places, improving predictions about carbon storage and biodiversity. It’s all great news because until now planet-wide environmental data has been pretty coarse, without the essential fine detail needed to draw reliable conclusions.

The human effect

The study also illustrates the way tree density changes according to the type of forest. It looks like the climate can help predict tree density in most areas. If it’s wetter than average, for example, more trees grow. But this effect is mitigated by the fact that humans prefer damp, productive areas because they make great farmland. The result is tension, a struggle between humanity’s needs and nature’s requirements.

It looks like human activity is the biggest driver of tree numbers all over the planet. Tree densities usually plummet as the human population increases, with deforestation, change of land use and forest management tipped as responsible for the 15 billion trees we lose every year. It all goes to show just how much hard work we have to do to protect our forests and restore damaged and deforested areas to good health.

Love our trees

Trees are essential for human life. Ultimately if they go, we go. And somewhere along the line, at a juncture we really don’t want to reach, there’s a tipping point. Next time you’re tempted to laugh at a tree-hugger, join in and plant a tree instead!

Planting Trees

Planting Trees

Tree planting charities in Britain – Go plant a tree

Some people scurry outdoors in the dead of night on guerilla tree planting sessions. They either simply bury seeds like acorns and conkers along verges and roadsides, or grow proto-trees in pots to transfer to the wild.

Others prefer to do things in a more organised fashion. There are plenty of British organisations and charities that support, encourage and facilitate the planting of trees. We featured some of them in last week’s post, and a Google search will deliver more. They’re a great source of tree planting wisdom, so go explore and do your bit.

Planting trees in your garden

There’s no reason why you can’t plant trees in your garden at home. But there are a few important things to consider:

  • The root system – if the species you want to plant has a large and extensive root system, the roots could eventually cause damage to your drains and underground pipework
  • The same goes for your home’s foundations, and some home insurers won’t cover you for damage by subsidence or heave caused by tree roots
  • Search Google to find out which trees are the best for a small space – you might be best off planting something comparatively neat, like a holly, or something that grows very slowly, like a yew
  • It’s almost always possible to ‘bonsai’ a tree so it doesn’t grow too big. Just trim the branches regularly to keep the above-ground parts of the tree small and neat, and the roots ought to stay smaller, too

You could also read this excellent article in The Guardian about growing small trees for the garden.

Back next week with more about wood and wood finishes

Come back next week for more insight into the wonderful world of trees, wood and wood finishing products.

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For more on the incredible story of Jadav Payeng and his amazing forest.

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Have You Bought Timber Products from Illegal Sources?

Friday, May 29th, 2015

Every time you buy raw timber or a wooden product in the UK, whether it’s at a big brand DIY store, wood furniture warehouse or your local timber shop, you’re guaranteed it comes from renewable sources… right? Not so. It appears British consumers are in the dark about the origin of the timber products they buy, and illegal timber logging is a scandal in the making.

illegal logging

Illegal Logging – Deforestation

Got wood? Do you know where it came from?

We thought you’d appreciate finding out how little you actually know about the source of timber and wooden goods in this country, if there’s a way to tell you really are buying legal, sustainable wood and what’s being done about the issue.

Illegal timber logging – Your right to know the origin of wood

These days we expect to know the origin of the things we buy, and whether or not their production causes damage to the environment, people’s livelihoods and so on. But right now we can’t identify the sources used by some of the nation’s biggest timber consumers. And the Worldwide Fund for Nature is on the warpath.

The charity carried out extensive research into 26 products from 17 companies, not one of whom could give any evidence they’d acted with ‘sufficient due diligence’ to confirm the timber was from sustainable sources. The exception was Cargo, although the information was supplied in Chinese so wasn’t much use to UK consumers.

A shocking seven of the businesses analysed were selling wood products from ‘high-risk species’ of tree, and eight products weren’t made of the wood the labelling claimed… they didn’t do exactly what it said on the tin.

The WWF is disgusted, claiming Britain can’t “continue to have a market where customers cannot be sure the product they buy is made from the wood declared. In the absence of better information from companies that their wood has come from a legally or sustainably logged forest, customers are in the dark.”

illegal forest logging

Illegal Forest Logging

The resulting WWF report demands EU Timber Regulation reforms. The scheme, which is supposed to mean companies ensure the wood their goods are made from comes from legal sources, is flawed and currently only covers 59% of the wood products imported into the EU. The WWF is also calling for “far more transparency on sourcing practices and performance.”

Right now a whole lot of British companies are legally selling products made from illegally logged wood. Your business might be one of them, but you won’t know a thing about it. Nor will your customers.

Luckily plenty of businesses are on the WWF’s side and forty or so have already signed up for a new, hard-hitting campaign to help businesses take their responsibilities seriously.

The facts about illegal timber logging

The worldwide trade in roundwood, paper, furniture, and other products originating from illegal timber is a multi-million pound behemoth. There are plenty of laws to control logging and stop sales of wood products from illegal sources. But they’re often broken, and they could be amended to work a lot harder in protecting the future of the planet’s forests.

Illegal logging puts enormous pressure on the forests themselves as well as the creatures and people who live there. Deforestation contributes to climate change, which in turn threatens a host of creatures – including us – with extinction. Illegal logging undercuts legitimate timber companies’ prices, putting them at risk when we need more sustainable businesses, not fewer. It diverts essential income earmarked for sustainable development and causes conflict. It’s even linked to nasty things like organised crime, corruption and money laundering.

The EU has gone so far to deal with the issue, now it’s stuck. More needs to be done. It looks like anything between 15-30% of all wood traded globally is illegally logged. The UK is the EU’s second-biggest importer of illegal timber, which means a considerable part of the total buck stops with us.

If you’d like to know more about the havoc wreaked by illegal forest clearance, here’s a video.

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Read the WWF Timber Testing Report

If you’d like to read the WWF report for yourself, follow this link.

Discover the Global Forest and Trade Network

The Global Forest & Trade Network was set up way back in 1999. It’s a major WWF initiative to combat illegal logging and improve the forest products sector, helping businesses overcome forest management challenges. As part of the campaign WWF promotes forest certification through the Forest Stewardship Council.

Join the WWF Forest Campaign

The Forest Campaign wants to make responsible forest trade the norm. Working alongside business, they want to transform UK and EU timber markets so businesses will benefit from secure long-term supplies, and people and animals will thrive in the forests they depend on.

Companies in the wood business that wish to sign up to the Forest Campaign can do it here – click this link.

illegally logged timber

Illegally Logged Timber?

Illegal deforestation and contraband goods in the EU

The illegal wood scandal is one thing. Here’s a closely-related issue, revealing how a joined-up approach is the only way to protect the world’s forests from the multiple risks they face. It looks like wood isn’t the only illegally produced stuff causing ructions… which means the world’s precious forests – the planet’s lungs – are under threat from more than one direction.

Did you know there’s also a chance you’ve been eating contraband food and buying illegal goods without even realising it? The European NGO FERN claims Europeans frequently and innocently buy produce from illegally cleared tropical forests, and it appears Europe is the world’s biggest importer of illegal agricultural goods. In the EU a shocking 15% of imported beef is from illegally cleared land, 25% of EU soy imports are grown on illegally deforested plots, 18% of the palm oil and 31% of the leather.

Strangely, the EU’s governments are already capable of outlawing the illicit clearance of forests for farming. How do we know? It’s because the current EU ban on importing illegal timber is already helping stamp out illegal forest clearance. Which makes today’s news about illegal timber in the UK even more shocking.

Loopholes the size of Wales

There we have it: a couple of loopholes, each at least the size of Wales, which need to be blocked. Otherwise knowing the source of wooden goods and raw timber – while a wholly worthy cause – isn’t going to make as much difference to illegal deforestation as it could. And buying many of the other products we take for granted will never be a properly-informed decision. We’ll remain in the dark.

WWF move on timber from illegal sources

Because wood sits at the very heart of our business we have a vested interest in a sustainable timber industry.

We like to think that our customers make informed choices when they buy wooden products, the same way we do when choosing which wood finishing products to sell.

Whether you want to bring a beautiful piece of contemporary hardwood furniture back to magnificent life or maintain your garden decking, you deserve good wood from the moral high ground. That’s why it’s good to hear that the WWF is taking action to help everyone understand the source of timber and close those exploited loopholes. Here’s to the forests.

How can you tell if the wooden goods you buy are legal?

Tough laws are important if the world’s governments want to win the battle against the illegal timber trade. At the moment it’s hard to pin down the origin of wood and things made from it. With good fortune and hard work, things should soon become clearer.

In the meantime you can help by buying wood and wood products you know for sure are from responsible sources, in other words those displaying the FSC logo. Here’s a link to their list of certified suppliers.

If you want to delve deeper into the subject, you’ll find the UK Government’s Timber Procurement Policy here.

Here’s some information about sourcing sustainable wood, from the Forestry Commission.

And here’s a link to our blog post, Everything You Should Know About Sustainable Wood.

Express your opinion

This is important stuff. Do you have any insights into how to know if wood is legal, or tips about other useful and interesting resources? If so we’d love it if you shared them with our readers.

2014 Wood Finishing Review

Monday, January 5th, 2015

It’s been an incredibly busy year for us in the wood finishing world. How come we’ve been in such high demand? It’s mostly down to the trend for recycling / re-purposing / reclaiming, which has been bubbling under for ages and finally went mainstream this year. The same goes for the hot French décor and shabby chic trends, huge in 2014. As a result demand for wood finishing products sky-rocketed. And it shows no signs of slowing down.

Shabby Chic

Shabby Chic – from kitchenandresidentialdesign.com

Everyone and his dog seems to be getting to grips with DIY garden shed and decking maintenance, bringing stunning old wooden floors back to life, getting busy with reclaimed parquet and buying up old wooden furniture like there’s no tomorrow.

We thought it’d be fun to take a retrospective view of 2014 as it draws to a close. Next time we’ll be making some expert predictions for 2015. But for now, here’s what 2014 looked like for us.

We’ve included links to some of our most popular posts.

How customer queries drive our wood finishing blog

We take great care to write about the subjects our customers are most interested in. As a result, all you need to do is trawl through our blog to get an idea of our customers’ priorities throughout 2014. Here are a few of the most popular subjects we covered.

Getting garden decking shipshape – No more neglect!

Rather than let their decking go to wrack and ruin then simply replacing it, more people seem to be taking decking maintenance seriously… presumably their decking is lasting an awful lot longer as a result. Our post about How to clean decking and those about Garden Decking Stains, Treatments & Oils, our three part series about decking maintenance preparation, product application, protection and troubleshooting, helped numerous people learn how to get their decking in order.

garden decking

Impressive Garden Decking

Removing paint from wood

The popularity of our post about How to remove paint from wood indicated that more people than ever are getting really excited about what might lie in wait underneath layers and layers of ancient paint and varnish. There’s no guarantee that the old floorboards, furniture, interior doors, banisters or whatever else you strip down will be beautiful once you’ve taken all the rubbish off. But there’s always a chance you’ll reveal something quite simply spectacular, which makes it very like hunting for treasure. It’s easy to see how people get hooked!

Making the most of interior and exterior wood

Posts like How to stain wood, Types of wood finish – making your wood look beautiful and How to varnish wood… so it looks really good all reveal a growing number of enthusiastic amateurs wanting to make the most of their interior and exterior wood. You can leave it to gently rot away. But there’s a great deal you can do to exterior wood to keep it in brilliant shape. Our guide to how Your Wooden Garden Furniture Can Outlive You proved very popular in today’s cost-conscious, waste-conscious and conservation conscious Zeitgeist. In fact our ‘how to’ guides have proved particularly popular and we’re looking forward to delving deeper into a host of niggly wood finishing subjects in 2015.

The same goes for our post about Wood Preservation – Getting Your Garden Shed Shipshape. The humble garden shed is enjoying a massive revival, in part thanks to the TV series George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, and we’ve helped all sorts of people achieve the look and functionality they want through top quality wood finishing products plus friendly, common sense advice.

STOP… don’t throw away those kitchen cabinets!

These days it seems strange that so many of us used to throw perfectly good kitchen units and doors away just because we fancied a change. It seems so wasteful!

white shabby chic kitchen

White Shabby Chic Kitchen – from er-interiordesign.com

Through 2014 we noticed a lot of customers wanting to know about maintaining fitted kitchen furniture, which made our post Knackered Kitchen Worktops and Cupboards? Here’s How to Maintain Them a big hit, along with our posts about Beautiful White Wood Finishes for Dreamy Interiors, How to Shabby Chic Furniture for a Stunning Contemporary Look, Black Wood Finishes – Sophisticated Decor Inside and Out, Brilliant French Interior Design Ideas and Brilliant Wood Finishes for Kitchens particularly useful.

Going off-piste to support hobbyists and interior décor fans

We’ve also gone slightly off-piste now and again to fulfil the more unusual wood finish queries. Posts like The Art of Aging Guitars – How to Achieve the Road Worn Look brought a flurry of happy guitar lovers to our store. And after many years of super-slick, hotel-style interior design our post about Decorating with Colour – What You Need to Know went down really well with people who’d lost their colour confidence as a result of the long, dull minimalist trend, or never had any in the first place!

Weather-related advice

From a practical perspective, advice about maintaining exterior wood also went down a storm. No surprise when the British weather seems to be more extreme every year. Exterior doors – What Does Your Front Door Say About You? and What are Wood Oils and Where are They Best Used? were both popular subjects.

Wooden flooring has been bigger than ever

hard wood flooring

Beautiful Hard Wood Flooring – from creativity103.com

One of the biggest winners for 2014 was wooden floors. But, unlike recent years, more people seemed to be more interested in maintaining an old wood floor, reclaiming old floorboards and buying beautiful solid wood flooring than they were in brand new laminate floors. We responded with a suite of relevant blog posts including:

  1. Oak Floor Maintenance – Top Tips for a Stunning Finish
  2. How to Varnish a Wooden Floor?
  3. Wood Flooring Varnish Repair
  4. How to Clean Wooden Floors
  5. 8 Cool Wood Flooring Trends To Watch

Last but never least, bearing conservation in mind, our post called Everything You Should Know About Sustainable Wood was a hit, designed to help people find their way through the sustainable wood maze and buy wood products that don’t involve harming the environment. With climate change bigger on the agenda than ever before in 2014, we’re delighted to oblige.

What’s on the cards for 2015?

Wood trends come and go. But it looks like we’ll be seeing more of shabby chic and French-inspired decorative styles. We reckon colour will stay high on the décor agenda and recycling, re-purposing and so on will become more and more popular. Come back next time and check out our wood finish predictions for 2015.

tree section

Tree Section Rings

Any wood finish questions we haven’t answered?

This is your blog. Is there anything you’d like to know about wood, wood finishing products, DIY wood projects or wood maintenance? If so let us know and we’ll be delighted to explore it for you in 2015.

In the meantime, we’d like to wish all our customers, suppliers and staff a splendid festive break and a very happy New Year.

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Everything You Should Know About Sustainable Wood

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Once upon a time you simply went out and bought wood, wherever it came from and however it was harvested. These days preserving the planet’s trees, woodlands and forests is an imperative, essential for the future survival of the human race and something we absolutely have to get a grip on. As a result, buying wood has become quite a complex matter.

All about sustainable wood

If you don’t want to support illegal logging or encourage deforestation, you need to be aware of how to buy sustainable wood. We thought it’d be useful to take a look at the subject to help you avoid buying the ‘wrong’ stuff.

What is sustainable wood?

Sustainable wood comes from sustainably managed forests. It’s renewable because the forest stewards manage the landscape to prevent damage to eco-systems, watersheds, wildlife and the trees themselves, taking a long term rather than short term view of the resource.

Sustainability in this context means the forest should still be there for your grandchildren and great grand-kids, able to soak up carbon emissions and keep our air clean for generations to come as well as a haven for wildlife.

Wood from unsustainable sources, on the other hand, is chopped down willy nilly leaving bare areas that, unless they’re carefully treated, never really recover to their former glory. The effects are clear – illegal logging leads to wholesale destruction.

Why bother buying sustainable wood?

Brazilian Amazon deforestation might not seem very relevant. It happens thousands of miles from home, exotic and remote. You might not realise the harm that buying new mahogany flooring or teak garden furniture does. But buying unsustainable wood has a profound effect on the areas where it’s harvested, including human rights abuses, hunting of endangered species, threatening the lifestyles and even the lives of indigenous tribespeople as well as making countless rare and threatened creatures homeless.

Just 8% of the world’s forest is properly protected from destruction. The timber industry is insatiable, as is our demand for wood. And much of the time it’s harvested unsustainably despite the best efforts of conservationists, governments and lawmakers. Sadly, money often speaks louder than common sense and today is often more important than the future. In Malaysia, for example, timber production demands more trees than there are in existence. In some areas there are no trees left and wood is being smuggled in from Indonesia to meet demand.

In a nutshell, buying sustainable wood is one way you can support the future of the planet’s forests and, at the same time, protect the future of our children.

Which woods are most sustainable?

Timber is usually classified as either hardwood, from broad leafed trees like beech and oak, or softwood from conifers like pine and fir. Simply because they’re replaceable, fast-growing species like pine trees tend to be more sustainable than slow-growing trees like oak. Oak forests have to be managed carefully to make them sustainable, grown and harvested in the right way, but it can be done.

The EU has introduced legal measures to protect its woodlands and forests, and these days more trees are planted than felled. It’s great news for the future, with EU forests actually growing instead of diminishing. Because the law places a minimum requirement on replacing harvested trees as well as limiting annual harvests, buying European wood is usually a safe choice.

What about wood from outside the EU?

Wood sourced from Asia, Africa, South America and even the USA and Canada comes with fewer guarantees. These sources can be made sustainable through hard work, determination and dedication to the environmental cause. Several international organisations are involved in assessing forests across these regions. But they have a long way to go.

Wood is big money, forest clearance is big money, illegal logging is big money. If you’re buying non-EU wood, take care not to buy wood from an endangered tree species. You’ll find an up to date list of threatened trees on the United Nations website and also on the Friends of the Earth website.

Exotic woods to avoid

All these wood types are particularly endangered and should be avoided:

  • Murbau
  • Sapelee
  • Wenge
  • Ebony
  • Brazilian Mahogany
  • Burmese teak, and teak in general

How to identify sustainable wood – The FSC

Always look for official certification of the wood’s sustainable source, even if it says it’s from the EU. There have been questions about wood from some EU sources, for example illegal logging has long been suspected in Russian and Siberian forests.

The Forest Stewardship Council – FSC – is an independent not for profit organisation promoting responsible management of the world’s forests. Their certification system provides internationally recognised standard-setting and trademark assurance to anyone, business or individual, who is interested in supporting responsible forestry.

The FSC logo is something you can rely on, and there’s also the PEFC logo, a sign that the Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification has been involved.  Together they help guarantee wood comes from sustainable sources, replaced after harvesting, taken without harming the environment and neighbouring ecosystems.

5 sustainable woods… but only when you buy wisely

Bamboo

While you can’t buy FSC certified bamboo, the wood can be sustainable. It depends on its origin. Bamboo grows across vast areas of the earth in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, north Australia and the Americas. It’s amazingly light and strong and grows like mad, so can be naturally sustainable. It’s used for furniture and floors, scaffolding, fences, bridges and even bricks. With about 1500 species it’s very versatile, harvestable in 3-5 years compared with 10-20 years for most softwoods.

On the other hand you need to source it carefully. A billion people depend on bamboo for their living and if it’s harvested unwisely they suffer. As do the wild creatures who also depend on it, including giant pandas and west African mountain gorillas, whose favourite type of bamboo is already under threat. How do you know it’s sustainable? Check the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan website.

Oak

Most newly-harvested oak originates in Britain, Europe, the USA and Australia, used for a wide range of joinery, furniture and wood flooring projects. Take care buying oak from Poland, Russia and the Ukraine, all linked with illegal logging and the destruction of ancient forests. French oak is also poorly-regulated and oak from Estonia may even be illegal. Oak forests in Spain and Portugal are still in need of much better management, too.

Keep your eyes open for FSC oak and make the best use of reclaimed and recycled oak wherever it’s possible.

Teak

Usually from Burma and Africa, teak is used in building as well as furniture. It’s common enough – many people’s garden furniture is teak – but it’s a challenge to find environmentally sound teak. Burma still exports teak illegally, harvested from ancient forests, and the alternative, African teak, is so scarce these days it’s not far off the endangered list.

FSC teak is your best bet, but good substitutes include FSC favinha, guariuba and tatajuba woods.

Mahogany

Mahogany originates in Brazil, Asia and Africa, commonly used for garden furniture and in building. Asia is home to more than 70 species of mahogany, more than 50% of which are either endangered or critically endangered. Brazilian mahogany is also vulnerable and at least five species of African mahogany are either endangered or vulnerable.

There isn’t an alternative to Asian mahogany but FSC mahogany, andiroba and jatoba are all good alternatives to African and Brazilian mahogany.

Douglas Fir

Usually from Europe and North America, good old Douglas Fir is used in building, for panelling and to make furniture. Sustainable Douglas Fir from Europe comes from well-managed plantations but North American imports are usually from temperate coastal rainforests where irresponsible logging is rife, despite it being some of the planet’s biggest intact rainforests. Canada is also a sinner, engaged in the unethical logging of the Great Bear Rainforest.

You can buy sustainable Douglas via the FSC.

What about sustainable wooden flooring?

Wood flooring looks fantastic, but it’s always a good idea to make sure the flooring you’re buying comes from sustainable sources. The thing is, there are so many tree species and wood types out there, it’s a minefield.

Your best bet is to buy from a supplier with FSC accreditation, someone like Flooring Supplies, a UK-based firm that has made great efforts to achieve accreditation from the FSC and is proud if its green credentials. You can read more about their sustainability here. As they say:

“In order to achieve FSC accreditation, retailers, suppliers and manufacturers have to meet rigorous standards relating to the management of the forests from which the wood is taken. FSC flooring products are internationally recognised as meeting these exacting standards and treating the environment responsibly. An extensive audit process was undertaken before FlooringSupplies.co.uk was allowed to sell FSC flooring, but now approximately half of our Natura range of engineered wood floors is certified by the FSC, as well as a number of Kahrs engineered products. FSC flooring will feature the organisation’s logo, so you can quickly tell if the product you are considering is environmentally friendly.”

Here’s an interesting little video about British grown sustainable wood.

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Is Your Wood Ready for the Ravages of Winter?

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Autumn seems to have come early this year in Britain, with much of August windy, wet and gloomy. Is your wood ready for winter? We thought now was a good time to look at why you should protect and preserve your wood from the coming season’s ravages… including cracks, blistering, peeling, rotting, flaking and warping.

Exterior Wood Preservative – Why bother?

You might think summer is a good time for exterior wood. But after a long, hot season of bright sunshine and powerful UV rays, occasional high humidity, heavy showers and summer thunder storms, wood left in the outdoors has already taken a hammering. Which means it really needs some TLC before winter sets in and makes things even worse.

What is wood’s worst enemy? It’s water. Water causes wood to swell, damages buildings and furniture and even shortens their useful lives. Which means letting it all go to hell in a handbasket can be an expensive business.

Mould is another big nasty, and it can take hold of wood remarkably fast. All it takes is a light frost and any areas exposed by mould will soon be in big trouble.

How can you mitigate the effects of all this potentially disastrous British weather? Waterproofing is the bunny. As you’d expect we stock all manner of proven products to protect exterior wood throughout the dark winter months, including clever waterproof coatings that inhibit fungus and mould while letting the wood breathe.

What’s the weather forecast for winter 2014/15?

Last winter the UK didn’t get much snow. In some places in the south east the temperatures stayed above freezing for the entire season, although it was the stormiest winter for a couple of decades. The year before, 2012/13, was one of the coldest winters for decades. So there’s no place for wood treatment complacency.

While it’s still impossible to predict what the winter will be like with any real accuracy, or to any level of detail, the weather boffins can make educated guesses. So what’s it going to be like this winter?

According to the UK weather forecast website, which is sensibly vague:

“We have a devolving El Nino, which won’t guarantee a cold winter, but our winters during an El Niño tend to be drier than average. The last El Nino winter we experienced was 2009/10, which turned out to be a very cold winter, so the chances are that a repeat of 2013/14 will be very unlikely. There are some signals that this winter will possibly have some colder periods, however this is not a given with this time frame.”

In other words, nobody really knows! Which means there’s no getting away from it… ideally, you need to get busy with the preparation in readiness for wood preservatives before the clocks go back. How come? The later you leave it, the colder and wetter it’ll be and the longer it’ll take for the wood to dry so you can add a good wood preserving product.

What’s the best way to prepare exterior wood for wood preserver?

There’s no getting away from it. Preparation is everything. Wood treatment and wood preservative products will only penetrate into the surface of the wood if the wood is both clean and dry.

Almost all exterior wood will respond beautifully to a simple, thorough clean with warm, soapy water and a soft brush or cloth, and you can’t go far wrong with a little squirt of washing up liquid. Just make sure you thoroughly rinse the surface and let it dry completely before applying your chosen wood treatment.

What does mildew look like?

Mildew often looks like little black specks on the surface of the wood. But then again, so does dirt and soot. How can you tell if it’s mildew? Apply a tiny amount of household bleach with a cloth. If the spots lighten quickly, it’s mildew. If they stay dark, it’s something else.

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What about dry rot?

If, like last winter, it pees down for what feels like months on end, you might find you’re the unhappy owner of a home riddled with dry rot, which is actually far from dry. It loves moisture and totally destroys wood.

The experts recommend you do an annual inspection, checking for leaks, cracks, gaps and unpainted areas on the outside of your home. Find the places where water gets in, caulk or seal them, paint them with preserver or wood paint and you could save yourself an absolute fortune in the long run.

How can you tell your exterior wood is wet?

Easy: it will look and feel wet.

What about vertical wood surfaces?

Horizontal and vertical wood surfaces both suffer in winter. But as a rule, horizontal surfaces need more maintenance than vertical, especially high traffic areas like garden decks.

What about old wood stain?

When an old layer of wood stain starts to break down, the fibres of the wood surface can become loose. You can take the fibres off the surface by lightly sanding, leaving it all fresh and lovely, ready for a new coat of stain or whatever.

Which wood preserving product to choose?

There’s such a wide choice, everything from tough exterior wood paint in a huge variety of colours to specialist wood stain, decking paint, shed and fence paint. It depends on the type of wood, its purpose and your taste. You might pick an outdoor wood paint in a jewel-like colour to give your outdoor space a beautiful boost when it’s all dim and dark outside. Or go natural and use a product designed to enhance the material’s considerable natural beauty.

If you want expert advice from someone who knows our products inside out we’re always happy to help, and because you can reach us on a Freephone number it’ll cost nothing except your time.

7 more handy wood-related tips to make your home ready for winter

  1. Check wood window frames for rot or decay, and repair it to maintain the windows’ structural integrity
  2. Check for draughts around exterior doors – and caulk it inside and out if you find a gap
  3. If your home is under trees, can you get them trimmed to ensure water drips off them onto the ground instead of deluging your house?
  4. Clean and dry wooden patio furniture and either store and cover it or use a wood preserver so it’s in good nick for next summer. As a rule it’s best not to leave garden furniture outdoors over the winter unless you absolutely have to
  5. Inspect your decking. Check for splinters, decay, warping, insect damage and dirt that collects between the planks. The more dirty your deck, the worse it’ll suffer in the winter and the higher the risk of funguses and moulds
  6. If you have exterior stairs or steps, check any wooden handrails to make sure they’re secure and in good shape. If your steps are wooden, check them carefully too
  7. A sensible guide: if it’s made of wood and it’s outdoors, it will need looking after

Specific guidance about decking, sheds and other exterior wood preservation projects

We’ve already written in detail about how to tackle a whole suite of wood-related projects. If you need specific guidance for decking maintenance, sanding wood or wooden floor maintenance, for example, there’s a specialist post waiting for you in our blog. Why not explore it?

If you have any questions you can always call our experts on Freephone 0800 7818 123.

51 Weird and Wonderful Facts About Wood

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Wood must be one of humanity’s oldest natural resources. It has helped keep us safe, comfortable and warm for millions of years. But trees graced our beautiful blue planet long before our ancestors were a twinkle in the universe’s eye. Imagine a world with absolutely no human-generated noise, mess or disruption, just endless seas of gently-waving trees and plants as far as the eye can see. It would be a splendid and moving sight.

We’ve used wood for so long that most of us don’t really ‘see’ it any more. It’s part of the cultural scenery. But in the same way the starry night sky blows your mind with its eternal vastness, looking at a tree with fresh eyes brings its miraculous nature back into focus: enormous, powerful plants whose origins lie way back in the depths of geological time, some of which live literally thousands of years. If trees could tell a story, what would they say?

In May 2014 the Weird and Wonderful wood festival took place in Haughley Park in Suffolk, a celebration of wood in all its glory. More than a hundred artists, craftspeople and musicians gathered to reveal their skills and passions to a keen-to-learn and fascinated public, a sign that our relationship with the planet’s biggest plants still means a great deal to us.

We thought it’d be interesting to hook out a bunch of fascinating, weird and wonderful facts about wood and the trees it comes from. Enjoy!

51 facts about trees – Weird and wonderful wood

  1. Wood is made up of a combination of living, dying, and dead cells.
  2. The world’s shortest tree is the dwarf willow, which lives in northerly and Arctic Tundra regions and rarely grows more than a couple of inches high.
  3. The tallest trees can grow as high as 100m, more than 320 feet. They include the Coast Redwood, Giant Sequoia, Sitka Spruce and Australian Mountain Ash.
  4. The world’s tallest living standing hardwood tree is a mountain ash called Centurion in Tasmania. It’s about 329 feet 8 3/4 inches high.
  5. Trees never die of old age. Insects, diseases and people are usually the killers.
  6. The mighty Giant Sequoia is thought by many to be the biggest living organism in the world, although a 2,400 acre fungus mycelium in eastern Oregon – almost ten square kilometres of it – is a strong if less-visible contender.
  7. The world is home to more than 23,000 different kinds of trees.
  8. The terms softwood and hardwood describe the leaves, seeds and structure of the trees rather than the type of wood they produce.
  9. Redwood bark can be as much as two feet thick.
  10. City trees tend to live for an average of 13 years less than country trees.
  11. The Amazon Basin is the biggest area of tropical forest on earth, a whopping eight and a half million acres.
  12. The plane tree, common in London’s streets, is excellent at absorbing pollution and sheds its bark regularly so it can absorb more.
  13. Just one tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide a year and can sequester a ton of CO2 safely by the time it’s 40 years old, which is why they’re so important in the battle against climate change.
  14. Balsa is actually a hardwood!
  15. Every US state has its own official tree.
  16. Softwoods are not always softer than hardwoods.
  17. White oak is the easiest wood to bend using steam.
  18. Buddha experienced enlightenment under the wisdom tree. And ancient British graveyards often contain a yew tree, planted by pagan worshippers before the Christians took over and built churches on the same plots.
  19. The Osage Orange tree’s wood generates the most heat when burned.
  20. The tree with the widest diameter trunk is the African Baobab, just under 50 feet across with a 155 foot circumference.
  21. Kingley Vale in West Sussex contains a host of ancient yew trees, some of which are more than 2000 years old.
  22. The tree called “General Sherman” is not only the biggest giant sequoia, but it is also the biggest tree in the world. He is 83.8 m (274.9 feet) tall, his girth at breast height is 24,10 m (79 feet) (near the ground it is 31,3 m or 102,6 feet).
  23. Oak woodland was the most common vegetation in Britain before humans got their hands on it.
  24. British oak trees can live for 500 years. We’d have a lot more of them if Henry VIII hadn’t cut almost all of down to build warships.
  25. The world’s heaviest wood is Australian Bauhinia Red.
  26. The bark of the Cork oak is used for bottle corks and cork flooring.
  27.  Some bristlecone pines are thought to be more than 5000 years old. But the famous lime tree at Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire is probably nearer 6000 years old, and The Fortingall Yew in Perthshire could be as old as 9000.
  28. Softwoods come from gymnosperm trees (evergreens), while hardwoods come from angiosperm trees (deciduous types).
  29. Softwoods don’t have vessels like harder woods. Their cells are open, and are used to feed water and bring nutrients to the tree.
  30. Because softwoods take wood finishes so well, they were responsible for the pine furniture boom of the early 80’s to late 90’s.
  31. Trees trap 50% of all the sun’s energy caught by living organisms.
  32. All wood is biodegradable.
  33. Wet wood, unlike dry wood, can conduct electricity.
  34. The world’s blackest wood is ebony, the world’s whitest wood is holly.
  35. Lignin is what makes a wood hard. Softwoods have less of it, hardwoods contain more.
  36. The heaviest American wood is Lignum Vitae Holywood, particularly rich in Lignin.
  37. Softwoods are usually a lighter colour than hardwoods.
  38. Pine is denser than some hardwoods so is an affordable alternative.
  39. Softwoods account for about 80% of the world’s timber production.
  40. Well-maintained trees can increase a property’s value… some say by as much as 27%, others hang their hat on 14%.
  41. Place trees in the right way near a property and they can cut air conditioning by 30%
  42. Hardwood is denser than softwood and burns for longer, with more heat, as long as it’s properly seasoned.
  43. Softwood is not as dense and doesn’t burn for quite as long, but it can still give off as much as 75% of the heat than hardwood.
  44. As long as forests are properly managed, wood fuel is renewable. Modern appliances can achieve a 90% burning efficiency, and the net carbon emissions from wood tend to be less than for fossil fuels.
  45. Trees get 90% of their nutrition from the atmosphere and only 10% from soil.
  46. Trees grow from the top, not the bottom. Watch for 100 years and you’ll notice the branches only move a few inches up the trunk as the tree grows.
  47. Insects hate the taste of tannin, the tea-coloured chemical trees contain in varying amounts.
  48. Some trees talk to one another. When willows are threatened by insect pests, they emit a chemical warning to nearby trees, who secrete more tannin to put the invaders off.
  49. Trees mean rain. Every day, just one acre of maple trees emits as much as 20,000 gallons of water into the air.
  50. In the USA the shade and wind-proofing that trees deliver reduce annual heating and cooling costs by $2.1 billion.
  51. Some ironwoods are so dense, with a specific gravity of more than 1, that they sink in water.

Do you have any fascinating wood facts?

Whether it’s hardwood and softwood facts or a remarkable piece of information about a particularly amazing tree, we’d love to hear it. Feel free to leave a comment.

Wood Colours – When Is Medium Oak Not Medium Oak?

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

When looking to colour real wood flooring, wood veneers, furniture, decking or for that matter, any sort of interior or exterior wood, getting the right colour is always an important factor. From rich teak to medium oak, stripped pine to mahogany, there are an amazing array of wood stains, wood waxes, coloured varnishes and wood oils for any project.

One of the difficulties with wood specific colours is that every manufacturer of wood finishing products and indeed most people’s interpretation of what particular wood colours should be called differs. A classic example of this is demonstrated by going to Google Search, typing in ‘medium oak wood‘ then clicking on the ‘images’ link beneath the search box. Google will display literally thousands of images that companies and individuals have tagged on their websites as ‘medium oak wood’, it becomes immediately obvious that a lot of these websites have a very different idea of what a ‘medium oak’ colour should be. The same can be said for pretty much any type or colour of wood when searching in Google Images.

A common approach we take at Wood Finishes Direct when customers call to discuss the staining of wood is to ask them to ignore the colour names and to focus more on the actual colour swatch. It’s often the case that although they come to us initially looking for a medium oak wood stain, they may very well feel that our medium oak stain is too light, too dark, too warm or not warm enough but then see another colour which exactly matches their expectation such as our dark pine or teak wood stain.

Oak Wood Stain Colours

Another major consideration with wood finishing products is that the coloured product, be it a wax, oil, stain or varnish, is designed to be translucent i.e. allowing the wood grain to show through the colour. As the natural colour of the wood will always have a major influence on the colour of the applied wood finish. There will always be a differenT result if the same product is used on a piece of pine, oak, larch, beech or any other type of wood. The same is true even if sticking with the same type of wood. Taking pine as an example with hundreds of pine species, all will give a different final tone to the colour in one way or another. This can be an issue with old floors where the majority of the boards are original but some have been replaced over the years. The replaced boards will react differently with the applied finish and will probably give a different look to the original boards when coloured, even if they are the same species. The difference in colour can usually be made less obvious but may take some experimentation and testing to get it right.

So what is the best approach when looking to colour wood with a coloured or pigmented wood finishing product? In short, trust your eyes and go with the colour that looks right rather than by the name of a colour. Always keep in mind that the colour of the product on your floor or furniture will likely differ to the example colour swatch on the tin. Another thing to take into account is that when viewing wood finishing and indeed paint colours online, everyone’s monitor is set to different contrast and colour setting similar to when you see the same TV programme on many TV’s when you walk into a TV shop.

With so many factors to take into account when choosing a colour for a wood finishing project, our advice is to always do a test area first on the actual wood to be stained and finished. If you find that the colour is either too light or too dark on the test patch, there are probably things that can be done to fine tune the final colour. For example a water based stain can be diluted with water to lighten the shade. This is by far better than completing a major project to then be faced with the prospect of having to sand it all off and start again.

Odd, Weird and Wonderful Wood Finishes News

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

It’s amazing how often subjects like wood finishes, wood preservative and wood varnish appear in the news. We’ve grabbed a handful of the most strange, weird and wonderful wood finishing and related stories for you. Here goes. Enjoy the ride. I bet you never realised wood maintenance was so interesting!

Fascinating wood maintenance facts

Fancy a stunning wooden finish on your VW Beetle?

People love VW Beetles. The cute little car has won millions of hearts and minds the world over with its quirky, organic shape and friendly ‘face’. Some of us even become a little bit obsessive. Take Bosnian Beetle-lover Momir Bojic, as recently reported in the New York Daily News, who spent two years transforming his beloved Beetle into something incredibly special.

Wooden Volkswagen Beetle

Photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic.

His beautiful, lizard scale-like custom wooden finish even takes the windscreen wipers and side mirrors into account. The end result must be one of the most aesthetically pleasing vehicles in the known universe. And perhaps even the unknown universe, too. What a little stunner… as The Sun might say.

Bojic made literally thousands of lovely semi-circular oak ’tiles’, which he them attached to the car, inspired by the traditional wooden roof tiles of his homeland. He has even hand-crafted an oak VW logo for the bonnet, plus a steering wheel, control knobs and gear stick.  Oh, and an oak hat to wear while driving.

We’re curious about what wood finishing products he uses on the completed masterpiece of a car. What does he polish it with? On the off chance you end up reading this, Momir, we would love to know. And by the way, you’re a genius!

Think yourself lucky we don’t live in Formosan termite territory

We might have the notoriously unpredictable British weather to contend with. But compared to New Orleans, we’re living in clover. They’re constantly plagued by millions – if not billions – of destructive mini-beasts who love nothing better than to chomp on wood. They’re called Formosan termites, and they’re a nightmare. As one sufferer said:

“People have leaned up against walls and found they were hollow because the wood had been eaten up inside. To say it’s a nightmare is really putting it mildly. I actually got sick from all of this. It was a stress-type thing with Jazzfest going on and such a busy time of year and all I could do was talk about termites. It was a horror to me.

”When I held that light out of my apartment window, birds would sit there on the edge and just eat them. The birds wouldn’t even have to fly because the termites were just swarming out at them. I still have nightmares about it.”

Apparently a US wood protection product called  TimberSaver Wood Treatment provides protection against attack from Formosan termites. We are very lucky indeed not to need it. Thank goodness we don’t have the insects over here.

Formosan Termites

Having said that, climate change and the associated warmer, wetter weather we are due to get could make Britain a suitable home for all sorts of wood destroying creatures, even those for whom our weather has always been too chilly.

When ‘old growth’ pine is the only solution

Vermontville, Michigan, USA is the home of a landmark chapel. In US terms it’s very old indeed, at 171 years. And every one of its twenty two twelve-pane windows was crafted carefully from old-growth pine, something that just isn’t used by modern builders. In fact you can’t even get it any more.

Vermontville Chapel

Photo: Rachel Greco / lansingstatejournal.com

The wood used to build the chapel windows was harvested in the 1850s. Despite being a soft wood, the old-growth pine has proved remarkably rot resistant. It seems it is naturally hardy.

Thankfully the restoration project was awarded a grant. So far more than 100 unemployed or under-employed people have been taught vital traditional window restoration skills and several important historic sites have been transformed by their efforts, one of which is in the marvellously-named town of Kalamazoo. As one trainee said, “It’s kind of a lost art skill and I’m hoping a second career for me.”

Trainees learn all sorts of wood maintenance essentials, including how to remove lead-based paint safely and how to make and use replacement wooden period parts. Once they finish the course they have all the knowledge they need to start their own window restoration business.

So far eight of the chapel’s historic windows have been restored. But the initiative has inspired local people, who hope to continue the restoration work themselves.

Bristol or Africa? The cradle of civilisation inspires West Country chic

The Telegraph reports on a gorgeous wooden garden lodge built by a couple whose love for Africa runs much more than skin deep.

Africa Inspired Lodge - Bristol

Photo: Jan Baldwin / telegraph.co.uk

The lodge was built by a skilled local carpenter, with wood fittings created from reclaimed materials. There’s a double bed, kitchen, wood-burning stove, loo and shower, and the couple have also furnished the building with African furniture, decorative items and accessories. There’s even a pair of carved stools and two beaded armchairs, very like traditional Yoruba tribal thrones.

Chinese Zikan wood pot makes its owner £150,000

An old, neglected wooden pot has attracted a whopping £150,000 price tag at auction, the stuff dreams are made of. The carved pot, which was used as a doorstop for forty years, was originally valued at an impressive £20,000 but eventually sold for more than seven times the estimated amount at a specialist Chinese Asian Arts Sale at Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex.

Chinese Pot - Door Stop

Photo: Mercury Press & Media Ltd / telegraph.co.uk

The pot is carved with the story of The Hundred Boys, a popular Chinese folk tale, and the 200 year old piece’s selling price highlights the robust health of the Chinese antiques market right now. If you have a carved wooden object that may be Chinese, it might be worth getting it valued. You never know…

How to spot dry rot?

Apparently more Johannesburg properties are suffering from dry rot than ever before, and it’s all down to too much moisture. Wood with a moisture content of 20% plus is at particularly risk.

It’s pretty damn damp in Britain a lot of the time, and we suffer dry rot too. But how do you spot the signs? As reported on the IOL website, here’s what to watch out for:

  • The wood shrinks, darkens and cracks
  • You often find get a nasty mushroom-coloured, lilac and yellow skin in less humid conditions, which you can actually peel off.
  • You sometimes find a fluffy white mycelium, a bit like cotton wool.
  • The rot’s fruiting bodies are soft and fleshy, rather like a pancake, with wide pores and dark orange colouring
  • You may spot rusty red spore dust, and the decay process gives off a damp, musty smell

How do you prevent dry rot? It’s vital to deal with it asap because if you don’t, dry rot can weaken wood so much it simply falls apart. Your best defence is to stop the rot developing in the first place, which means sealing the timber with a good quality water sealer. If using a silicon or oil based product, maintaining the finish on a semi-regular basis will keep the wood healthy.

More wood maintenance stories on the way

Watch this space for more wonderful wood stories. In the meantime if you’re lost in DIY space and need help or advice about how to maintain your wood, whether it’s a fence or shed,  furniture or flooring, or even the entire structure of a building, you can call us FREEPHONE for a chat.

You can rely on us – we really do know our wood preservation, wood maintenance and wood finishing stuff inside out. Just call  0800 7818 123.

If you’ve got wood, use protection!

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

exterior-garden-woodworkSummer’s coming, the BBQ’s on standby and you’ve given the garden a mini-make over, but lurking in the background you’re let down by some tired looking garden furniture and winter worn decking. So what do you do?

Fear not! With a little knowledge and the right products, your weathered sheds, fences and exterior wood can be brought back to life in an instant.

Here at Wood-Finishes-Direct.com, we have a wide range of quality wood finishes, wood stains and treatments to help you protect and restore your exterior wood to its former natural beauty. So here’s our advice on some top selling products that stand up to the job.

Shed and Fence Stains

Normally the summer air is filled with the smell of creosote but today, there’s a much better choice of low odour shed and fence stain alternatives. No longer limited to the traditional brown that creosote used to offer, new safer and more environmentally friendly exterior stains and treatments have emerged in colours such as Harvest Gold, Country Pine and Rosewood. If you have large areas to stain, such as a garden fence or shed, we recommend our simple hand operated spray system. These easy to use hand operated pumps don’t require a compressor or electricity to build up air pressure, they are light, portable and at under £20 are great value saving on the much more expensive elbow grease.

Garden Furniture

The British climate can be quite ruthless on our wooden garden furniture, even brand new tables and chairs can look second hand by the end of the year. There are a reasonable number of products available but if you wish to enhance and maintain the natural colour of your garden furniture, the best protective wood finishes are the products that penetrate deep in to the wood grain to replace essential natural oils.

coloured-wood-stains

Coloured wood stains used to colour and protect exterior wood

Our Exterior wood oil, Garden Furniture Oil and Osmo wood stain protector all offer superior protection whilst enhancing the natural wood grain and warmth. If you fancy changing the character of your wood, then there are some great exterior oil based paints available in a range of colours through our online shop. We have had very good feedback with our Osmo Country Colour range, which blocks out the wood grain, and the equally popular Osmo Wood Stain Protector which allows the wood grain to show through.

Decking Oils and Stains

Wooden decking presents the toughest challenge for any product as it is a high-traffic area and is normally always exposed to the elements. For those of you that want to preserve the wood’s original appearance, we recommend choosing a decking oil that has mostly pure natural ingredients, such as our Tung oil or Decking oil. From the decking stains that are available, our Barrettine Decking Stain and Treatment offers an all-in-one solution for decking that is harmless to pets and specially formulated to help prevent timber from splitting and cracking.

Protect don’t replace

Finally, it needn’t just be the old wood in the garden that needs looking after. Although the majority of new garden furniture, sheds, fences and decking come pre-treated, it doesn’t take long for the effects of the weather to start taking its toll. Even during summer, the ultraviolet rays of the sun can bleach wood stains and strip away the natural oils leaving them jaded, greying and vulnerable to wind and rain.

By using the right treatments with the right tools, decking, sheds, fences and garden furniture can be quickly and easily treated so they can be enjoyed again and again for many years to come.

As with any product always apply to a test area first as different wood types and ages will greatly influence the overall finish.