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ASHS Services

Alan-and-Harvey-horse-logging-mediumHardwood Contract Milling Services in Scotland

Most ASHS members will saw hardwood logs for customers if asked.

Milled Scottish Hardwood Customers requiring this service usually need a considerable quantity of homegrown hardwood and figure that its more economical for them to have their own logs sawn to specification than it is for them to buy the finished product, whether thats a beam, fencing rail, or kiln dried board. Or maybe they just like the idea of using the trees that grow on their own land.

Its important, if you do have hardwood logs, to have them milled by someone who has experience of working with hardwood. You cant just send them to your local softwood mill, which wont have the machinery set up to deal with hardwoods. Also use only skilled hardwood cutters for harvesting.

Technical Information on Contract Sawmilling

When considering using contract sawmilling services there are a number of things to you should know:

1. Log Quality, Conversion, Specification and Grading The logs will be sawn to your specification, so its important to make sure that you know what you want. If youre unsure about your specification, talk to the sawmiller.

Hardwood logs vary in quality. Generally, hardwood in Scotland is classified as First Grade (veneer and planking quality), Second Grade (fencing and poorer quality planking), Beam Logs (straight oak or elm more than 3 metres long and reasonably free of knots) and Chockwood (everything else).

Know Your Logs - the Forestry Commission has produced a guide to hardwood timber grading. Its called Technical Note 1/97, Scottish Hardwood Timber Grading: A Brief Guide, and is downloadable from their website

Hardwood logs, depending on their quality, can be converted into:

Beams - for house building and other types of construction;

Planking - for interior joinery, furniture making or woodworking;

Cladding and sarking - for covering roofs and exterior walls on all types of building; and

Fencing etc. - for, generally, agricultural, heavy engineering and domestic work.

Make sure, if you plan to use the wood for structural purposes, that you have consulted a structural engineer, as well as relevant British Standards and Building Regulations.

If your engineer stipulates that your logs must be a certain grade, e.g., TH1, you will have to hire the services of a hardwood grader. This is not cheap, and there are not very many qualified hardwood graders around.

2. Sawmill or Mobile Saw? Some ASHS members have mills with static saws, with you responsible for transport of the logs to the mill, and others have mobile sawmills that they will bring to your site.

If you have logs that you need sawn, the first thing to consider is whether you have sufficient volume to justify the costs of haulage to a mill. This will generally only be economical if you have enough logs for one lorry load - around 20-25 tons for hardwood butts.

Static mills generally will have one or more bandsaws and saws for cross cutting to length. They may also be willing to stack and air dry your timber, and some may offer kilning and machining services.

Hiring a mobile sawmill may be a better way of maximizing the returns for a smaller quantity of sawlogs.

There are several types of mobile sawmill. The Woodmizer is one of the most popular; both Bechtel On-Site Sawmilling and Woodschool have this type of mobile saw. (You'll find more information on mobile sawmilling at Highland Birchwoods).

3. Costs Costs will vary and youll have to contact your local mill for details. The maximum size - length and diameter - of log that each mill can cut will also vary. See the ASHS Member Directory for organisations whch either do contract milling at their mills or have mobile mills for hire.

Technical Information on Machining

1. Dimensioning  Cutting rough sawn hardwood (planks, beams, cladding etc) to size: Useful for jobs where a rough finish is required, e.g., exterior cladding, or where dimensioned pieces are going to be worked with hand tools to make turned articles, carvings or small items of furniture.

2. Thicknessing and/or Planing  Reducing the thickness of a board to the required size and taking the rough surface off before sanding and finishing. Hardwood is cut in certain thicknesses. Common thicknesses include 1/2", 1", 1 1/4" 1 1/2", 2", 2 1/2", 3" and 4". If you need a board of wood measuring, for example, 6' long by 8" wide by 3/4" thick, when it's finished, you will have to start with a board measuring 1" thick and reduce the thickness as required. Thicknessing is also used to straighten boards that are uneven on one or both faces. Planing will remove the rough sawn surface including saw marks from a piece of sawn hardwood; the resulting surface will - depending on the quality of the planer - be much smoother, but not as smooth as a sanded surface. Planers also sometimes leave marks on the wood, slightly raised areas, especially if there's a chink out of the planer blade (which there shouldn't be).

(Less there be any confusion, the length of a piece of wood is measured along the grain, the width is measured across the grain, and the thickness is the measure between the two largest surfaces of a plank or board.)

3. Moulding  Manufacturing cladding, panelling, flooring, skirting, architraves, beads etc.

Useful for architects or builders who are working on projects that require particular specifications on cladding, flooring etc. Moulding is usually done to order from the mill's own stock; but most mills will run hardwood from other sources through their machines.

Mobile Sawmilling

Many ASHS members have mobile sawmills and so can come to your site to saw logs, reducing your transport costs. See under Contract Sawmilling for more details.

Pressure Treatment

Pressure treatment involves putting timber into a pressure vessel and immersing it in perservative at high pressure to ensure that thechemicals penetrate deep into the timber. This can considerably extend the useful life of timber, especially in locations prone to fungal or insect attack (eg fenceposts, cladding). The logistics of pressure-treating your ready-cut timber are considerable, and you will need to discuss this with the ASHS member concerned. ASHS members offering this service will also sell their own timber which has been pressure treated.

Bespoke Buildings

Some ASHS members will undertake building of complete oak frame houses, conservatories and or cruck houses. They can take a project through from your initial ideas, working up designs to your specifications, or build-only, from architect's drawings. When constructiing a building for you, they will use their own timber, or obtain supplies from other ASHS members if necessary.

Most ASHS members can supply not only joists and purlins (in some cases roof trusses), but also sarking boards and exterior cladding for a complete timber house or building. Some can also supply pre-fabricated roof trusses. Other structural timbers can be supplied (see under Structural Timber)

Product Design

Many ASHS members will work with a customer to create exactly what is needed to fulfil a particular function, such as joinery components or finished products. One company, for example, has designed and produced innovative wooden lamp-posts for a local authority.


Some ASHS members offer consultancy services such as valuing and marketing logs and standing timber, visual grading of oak structural timber as well as advice on milling and machinery.

Valuing and Marketing Logs and standing timber—

Visual grading of oak structural timber—

Visual grading of softwoods—

ASHS Strength Graded Timber – A New Service for Construction in Scotland

Sawmills across Scotland that are ASHS members can now offer Strength Graded Timber for construction.

Grading uses Visual Strength Grading methods, and timber is graded to internationally-recognised standards:
EN 14081-1:2005+A1:2011, and BS 4978:2007+ A1:2011 (Softwood)
EN 14081-1:2005+A1:2011, and BS 5756:2007+ A1:2011 (Hardwood)

All graders are trained and certified by accredited certifying bodies.

Main structural timber species are:
Douglas fir, Larch, Sitka spruce, Scots pine (Softwood)
Oak (Hardwood)

Some sawmills have in-house expertise in Visual Strength Grading, while other call on the services of the ASHS Visual Strength Graders Network which covers all Scotland.

If you have timber to be graded, we can put you in touch with a Visual Strength Grader in your region.

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See below for more details:

Due to increased demand for formal certification of timber in construction and the difficulty of getting small amounts of timber machine graded, especially hardwoods and high-quality softwoods (Douglas fir, larch, etc), ASHS has set up the ASHS Visual Strength Graders Network. There are trained and accredited graders in all parts of Scotland who work in sawmills but will also travel to other sawmills and other sites to carry out visual strength grading of structural timber.

We have produced booklets on Visual Strength Grading for sawmillers (currently only available to ASHS members). These are introductory booklets, aimed at helping sawmillers cut timber that should achieve the required grading, so that when the certified grader visits, there is less risk of a batch being rejected, wasting a journey and a fee. (They don't tell you how to grade timber yourself.)

If you need to have some timber strength graded, check whether the grader is certified for hardwood, softwood or both. Try to have a good quantity of sawn timber ready for the grader, to make their travel costs and fee worthwhile, and in case some of the pieces fail to achieve the required grade. And, most importantly, don’t argue with the grader – their job is on the line with every piece of timber graded and they really don’t want to be held responsible for a structural failure.

We are very grateful to Scottish Forestry for their support for this VSG project, which we expect will significantly increase the amount of Scottish timber from ASHS members going into the construction sector. We hope that, as demand rises, we will see more contract graders across Scotland so that all areas will have their local grader, enabling local building firms and local sawmills to compete more effectively with the large companies that dominate these industries.

Current members of the network are:

Softwood Only
Iva Usalj, Abbey Timber, Duns
T: 01361 840251 E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. W:

Chris Houston, Caledonia Log Homes, Jedburgh
T: 07801 584 136 E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. W:

Hardwood & Softwood
David Smith, Logsfife, Glenrothes
T: 07968 120 331 E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. W:

Dave Haldane, Feeds & Stoves, Callander
T: 01877 330 643 E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Nick Canning, Fasque Timber Products, Fettercairn
M: 07388 105 909 E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ross Howie & Thomas Ardern, Logie Timber, Forres
T: 01309 611769 E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. W:

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