Posted on

FAQ’s About Wood: Characteristics & Care

Wood comes from trees. Yes I know you knew that but just think about it for a minute. That means it is a material that was once alive. It was part of a tree and so subject to the seasons and weather that tree experienced through its lifetime. You may know that the rings inside a tree mark each year’s growth. In good growing years the ring is wider, as the tree grows more. In bad growing years the ring is narrow as it grows less. Thus the tree’s history can be seen in its unique ring pattern. The trees location effects its growth, the number and position of branches and its eventual shape. It can also be marked by disease, bugs or fungus. This means each tree is completely unique and by extension so is each piece of wood. Your wood has its life story written right through it. Much like the wrinkles on an old face, this is where its character is.

Oak

When new and unfinished, oak will naturally appear quite light with a slightly yellowed hue. All woods however can have significant colour variation from one piece to another, as with any natural product. Over time, sunlight will cause the wood to darken and mellow throughout its life. Oils in the skin will accelerate this process with any areas that are regularly touched, gaining a noticeably darker tint.

 

Walnut

Compared to oak, walnut is quite dark when first cut, especially the American black walnut varieties. Sunlight will cause walnut to lighten overtime, often bleaching into a light brown, with perhaps a slightly red tint to it.

In all other respects, walnut behaves much in the same way as oak (see above).

 

European Ash

Ash behaves in all respects nearly identically to oak, the main difference is ash has a slightly narrower grain. It starts off very pale and again, as with oak, ash will darken over time. The grain also becomes more pronounced.

 

 

European Beech

The colour can vary from creamy white to a very pale tan; it may darken to a pale pink or pale brown. It has a straight grain with a fine even texture and a characteristic fleck.

 

 

 

Boxwood

Colour tends to be a light cream to yellow, which tends to darken slightly with prolonged exposure to light. Boxwood has a fine, even texture with a natural lustre. The grain tends to be straight or slightly irregular. Boxwood’s ability to hold crisp details, in combination with its colour and silky-fine texture truly make it a classic.

 

 

Spalted Silver Birch

The wood has a silky lustrous appearance and delicate grain pattern. The ‘spalting’ is caused by invading fungi. These fungi are stopped when the wood is dried. This creates dramatic colouring and patterning effects. It mellows to a light tan after a while, but retains its natural lustre.

 

 

Yew

Sapwood is usually a thin band of pale yellow or tan colour, while the heartwood is an orangish brown, sometimes with a darker brown or purplish hue. Colour tends to darken with age. Grain is straight, with a fine uniform texture. Good natural lustre.

 

 

 

Stained Wood

Some of my collections include stained versions of the woods described above, usually in Ash or Beech, adding colour and a little more protection.

Staining also adds a greater level of colour control, however, there will still be some level of natural variation between pieces.

 

General Care

Finish: My pieces are either finished:

  1. by sanding silky smooth and leaving completely natural,
  2. with a protective nourishing, food safe, eco-friendly hemp oil or
  3. with a more durable eco-friendly wax oil.

These are all healthy, easy to care for finishes that don’t compromise the natural beauty of the wood grain.

Care: solid wood may expand and shrink with differences in temperature and humidity. Take care not to place your wooden item on top of, above or next to radiators or anywhere subject to excessive changes in temperature or moisture content.  Avoid the dishwasher.

In the event of any spillages, wipe up all liquids as soon as possible before the liquid has the opportunity to soak into the wood.

Cleaning: to clean, wipe with a damp cloth before buffing with a dry cloth. Silicone based polishes should not be used on the wood as they will build up and leave a sticky residue on the surface.

Treat your wooden item with care and respect and it will grow old as gracefully as I hope you will.

Posted on

Sustainability: What, How and Why

Sustainability: What, How and Why

I describe my products as sustainable. But what does that mean and why does it matter?

Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.1

In 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development met to discuss and develop a set of goals to work towards; they grew out of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that claimed success in reducing global poverty while acknowledging there was still much more to do. The SDG eventually came up with a list of 17 items which included amongst other things:

  • The end of poverty and hunger
  • Better standards of education and healthcare – particularly as it pertains to water quality and better sanitation
  • To achieve gender equality
  • Sustainable economic growth while promoting jobs and stronger economies
  • All of the above and more while tackling the effects of climate change, pollution and other environmental factors that can harm and do harm people’s health, livelihoods and lives.
  • Sustainability to include health of the land, air and sea.

Finally, it acknowledged the concept of nature having certain rights – that people have stewardship of the world and the importance of putting people at the forefront of solving the above global issues through management of the environment and of consumption (for example, reducing packaging and discouraging food waste as well as promoting the use of recyclable materials).2

Clearly sustainability is a complex issue which touches almost every aspect of human life not just the environment. Sustainable development is carried out on a global, national and local level.

So how does Love HeartWood tackle sustainability?

As I developed my hobby into a business I’ve had to make many decisions. Deciding what type of wood to turn? Where I would get it from? What sort of finishes I would use? What sort of presentation boxes I should order and who from? How would I package items? Through the process of making these decisions it became clear that I was subconsciously making sustainable choices.

Sustainable Wood

To me it just makes sense to choose that which is most beneficial to myself, my home and the wider world. In consequence I have chosen to turn local wood from tree surgeons or recycled wood. This is for the following reasons:

– I hate waste. If I didn’t use the wood it would be thrown in the chipper or burnt. By using it, it can become useful.

– I could use exotic timbers such as Iroko, Ebony, Rosewood and Mango wood, bought from a wood blank supplier. However I would have no way of knowing if that timber had been harvested in a sustainable way. Sourcing close to home means I know where my wood comes from and the supply chain it’s been through.

– Why ship timber half way round the world creating a large carbon footprint when I have perfectly good wood on my doorstep?

– From a health point of view it is safer for me to turn native wood. Exotic timber is often more hazardous to the turner’s health. Although I have to wear protective clothes and guard against dust inhalation to turn any type of wood. Exotic woods have more risk of skin and eye irritation, sensitization, and poisoning.

Sustainable Finishes

Many waxes and oils currently used for sealing wood are usually labelled hazardous. I have spent a fair amount of time finding healthy alternatives. I do not want to be compromising my health or anyone else’s. This has meant going back to more traditional, natural finishes which do not have modern chemicals added to them. These chemicals are added to speed up drying and curing times. I take this extra time into account in my production schedule because I believe the benefits outweigh the saving in time.

Eco-friendly Packaging

Once I realised I was making sustainable choices I continued this ethos throughout the whole business. For example, I reuse shipping boxes and packing material but when I have to use a new one it is 100% recyclable. I also use paper tape, not plastic, to seal boxes. When selecting a packaging supplier I chose one whose cardboard boxes contain a minimum of 75% recycled contents.

This is just a few of the ways Love HeartWood attempts to reduce, reuse and recycle to ensure it operates in a sustainable way.

Love HeartWood’s Sustainable Future

The more I research about running a sustainable business the more opportunities I find.

For example, I am planning to switch my website hosting to a server powered by 100% clean wind energy from UK wind farms. You might wonder what impact this change can have. But the powering of data centres and cloud computing run on fossil fuels is coming close to rivalling the aviation industry as a major contributor to global carbon emissions.3

There is also the possibility of switching to a green, ethical insurer.

I hope after reading this piece you understand why sustainability is so crucial to us and the planet. It matters because sustainable solutions help us manage the balance between the environment and consumption. In conclusion, the issues might seem global and out of our reach but I believe the simple choices we make, day in and day out, can have an effect. The choices we make collectively have a huge impact. Moreover, from a personal standpoint I am happier knowing that what I do had a positive effect on the world, not a negative one.

 

Resources

  1. https://www.epa.gov/sustainability/learn-about-sustainability#what
  2. https://www.environmentalscience.org/sustainability
  3. https://www.green-hosting.co.uk/
  4. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/4538pressowg13.pdf
Posted on

World Wildlife Day 3 March 2018 – #DoOneThingToday

World Wildlife Day 3 March 2018

The United Nations World Wildlife Day is the global celebration of the many beautiful and varied forms of wild animals and plants on our planet as well as an occasion to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits that conservation provides to both wildlife and people and the plight of many threatened or endangered species.
World Wildlife Day 2018, celebrated under the theme “Big cats: predators under threat.” They are facing many threats to their survival in the wild, be it loss of habitat and prey, poaching and smuggling, human-wildlife conflict or climate change”.

The official website http://www.wildlifeday.org’s suggested tweets to help raise awareness are pretty worrying.

“We’ve lost 95% of wild tigers since the beginning of 20th century, and lion populations have decreased by 40% in 3 generations.”

“3 of 9 tiger subspecies have become extinct due to human activities.”

“Cheetah populations have decreased so much that in Africa they are now only found in 10% of their historic range!”

I used the social media kit and tweeted on the day. I also took a picture with an ‘action card’ and posted that on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I agree that raising awareness is important, as is educating ourselves and the generations to come about the Big cats. But I felt that wasn’t enough to satisfy the #DoOneThingToday call to action.

Then I read “The challenges that wildlife are facing are often large and complex- it’s normal for individuals to feel powerless. However, every person’s small actions add up to a much larger solution – making the difference between a species surviving or disappearing forever.” I kept reading to find out what I could actively do to help Big cats. The suggested ways to help everyday with wildlife protection are:

Just #DoOneThingToday to make a difference and help wildlife conservation.

Set a Goal – Live your daily life with the smallest negative impact on the environment, wildlife and their habitats.

Mobilise – Encourage local schools, clubs, governments and businesses to discuss wildlife conservation and what you and your community can do to help.

Visit – Aquariums, botanical gardens, national parks and nature reserves. Research holiday destinations and countries that work hard to protect wildlife and habitats.

Consume Responsibly– By not purchasing products made from illegally sourced protected wildlife or their parts and products, you can stop wildlife trafficking from being a profitable enterprise. More information can be found through your national or local wildlife authorities or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or Wild fauna and Flora (CITES).

Volunteer – we cannot always give money, but we can donate our time. Often wildlife organisations and zoos  have volunteer programs. You could also help clean beaches, rescue wild animals or teach tourists about your local habitat.

Stay informed – Learn more about our planet’s flora and fauna, including those that are in danger of extinction. Research ways that you or your community can conserve and protect wildlife. Inform yourself on current environmental matters and be aware of your individual impact on ecosystems and wildlife. Think globally, act locally.

Speak up – share your knowledge, passion and questions about wildlife conservation with your friends, family and community – either in person or online.

Reach out– inform authorities if you have information on illegal logging, fishing and wildlife trafficking; whistle-blowers play a critical role in detecting wildlife crimes and holding criminal smugglers accountable.

I have felt powerless, as the website suggested, for a long time. I didn’t believe the actions of a single person could make a difference when what was needed was a change in Government Legislation and Big Business’ Attitudes. Surprisingly the connections I have made through social media have opened my eyes to the good that many individuals and small businesses are doing. Since starting my sustainable business last Autumn I have joined ethical and sustainable groups on Facebook. I am also following inspiring individuals on Instagram and Twitter who are always giving me ideas on how to live more responsibly. Because I am virtually surrounded by this support I now believe in the snowball effect. By our actions we can #DoOneThingToday to help make this world a better place for wildlife and people.

“Set a Goal – Live your daily life with the smallest negative impact on the environment, wildlife and their habitats.”

This suggestion from the WWD website may seem overwhelming but my advice is to KISS, Keep It Simple Stupid. Deal with what’s in front of you. Choose the best option available in the situation you’re in. We can’t save the planet single handed in one fell swoop but small positive actions accumulate, over time, like a snowball. Not only that but your actions can influence other people.

My #DoOneThingToday was to write this blog post. If, now that you’ve read it, you feel you can make a small change to help our world then the snowball is rolling.