Sycamore

Sycamore - Acer pseudoplatanus

Uses  Sycamore is excellent for furniture and internal joinery, particularly in kitchens where it's ideal for kitchen tables and worktops. It's also used to make musical instruments, e.g., harps and violins, and for making domestic utensils, like rolling pins, pie moulds, and chopping boards. Rippled sycamore is used for veneers and craftwork.
Scottish Sycamore  Sycamore grows really well in Scotland and could be used in larger quantities here than a present. A considerable proportion of Scottish timber is exported, and stocks of homegrown timber in Scotland are variable. It takes care and patience to dry sycamore successfully—boards must be stacked vertically during air drying to prevent sap staining. For this reason, sycamore should only be felled when the sap is down - in late autumn and early winter. Typically boards will be 2-3 metres long and 300-500mm wide.

Strength & Structure

Grain  Sycamore is usually straight grained, but it becomes more valuable when the grain is wavy, as this produces a beautiful 'fiddleback' figure, so called because it was frequently used for the backs of violins.
Strength  The timber has very low stiffness, making it ideal for steam bending; it has medium bending and crushing strength. Sycamore could be used structurally, but only indoors.
Density  Sycamore has an average density of 610kg per cubic metre, seasoned.
Structure  The timber has a diffuse porous structure, with distinct growth rings demarcated in sycamore by visible, pale bands of terminal parenchyma. The vessels are small and the rays are of medium size.
Durability and Drying  Both the sapwood and heartwood are classified as perishable, therefore the timber is unsuitable for use outdoors. Air dries well but inclined to stain as mentioned above. Kiln dries well and rapidly at low temperatures recommended to avoid darkening.
Colour and Figure  The timber is a lovely creamy colour with a natural lustre. It darkens somewhat on exposure to light, becoming golden in appearance. Sycamore has a subtle figure, with visible growth rings but few other distinguishing features. Rippled sycamore has a beautiful wavy figure, caused by varying grain direction.
Working Properties  Generally, sycamore is good to work—easy to cut in any direction, it usually planes to smooth finish (although ripple sycamore will require shallow planing angles due to the irregularity of the grain). It has only a moderate blunting effect, nails, glues, stains and polishes well,

Sycamore—The Tree

Sycamore TreeSycamore LeafLooks & Leaves  Sycamore is a lofty tree with a dense broad and round crown. It grows to a height of 30 metres, with a corresponding diameter of 1.5 metres. It will form a straight, cylindrical bole under forest conditions. The leaves have a longish stalk (10-20cm) and are typically 7-16cm wide, green with a bluish tinge, hairless with 5 pointed irregularly toothed lobes. Seed leaves are long and narrow. In autumn, sycamore leaves are often marked with dark spots. This spotting is caused by the fungus 'rhytisma acerinum' but doesn't appear to harm the tree. Sycamore flowers hang in a dense catkin-like panicle, opening between April and June. The resulting seeds are borne on wings; when they fall, they spiral slowly to the ground and are carried by the wind some distance from the parent tree. Sycamore seeds germinate readily and can be almost weed-like in their abundance.
Habitat  Sycamore has its good points and its bad. It will grow in soils of different types, but doesn't like water logging, therefore won't grow in damp areas. It creates a dense canopy, preventing any significant growth under the tree, but it is sturdy and wind resistant, growing straight on a windy hillside. It's therefore a good tree to grow for shelter.
Ecological Value  There is remarkably little direct evidence of wildlife that can be supported by sycamore trees even if appears to carry a large biomass of insects, even if of fewer species than other trees. Produces abundant seed and regenerates easily. Good for planting as shelter. Heavily infested with green fly in spring and autumn, but unattractive to birds.

Sycamore Fruit/Bark

Fruit and Bark

Sweet Chestnut

Sweet Chestnut - Castanea sativa

Sweet Chestnut SampleUses  Sweet chestnut is a durable timber, and fairly easy to split and is therefore used extensively for poles and cleft fencing. Because it is very similar in appearance to oak, although without the silver figure, it has also been used as an alternative to oak for structural work and panelling. It can be used for both furniture and turnery.
Sweet Chestnut in Scotland  The oldest tree of any kind with a known planting date is a sweet chestnut growing near Strathpeffer, Easter Ross. It was planted in 1550 at Castle Leod, the seat of the Earls of Cromartie. Chestnut can be found in fairly big sections—lengths up to 4 metres, with widths of up to 450mm, but it isn't widely available. It grows up to 35 metres with a diameter of 1.5 metres. Stocks of Scottish sweet chestnut are low and variable, as it generally requires warmer summers to produce viable seed, and it's less common here than the horse chestnut.

Strength & Structure

Grain  Generally straight grained but can be spiral in older trees.
Strength  The timber has low bending strength—it's not good for bending, although it also has low stiffness—and low resistance to shock. Chestnut is similar in crushing strength to European beech.
Density  Sweet chestnut has a density of around 560kg per cubic metre.
Structure  The timber has a similar structure to oak—it's ring porous, with distinct growth rings, demarcated by pore ring of large early wood vessels. Late wood vessels are small and the parenchyma are indistinct and diffuse. Unlike oak, whose broad rays account for the silver figure on quarter sawn planks, chestnut has fine rays that are not particularly obvious.
Durability & Drying  Durable, occasionally damaged by pin hole borers; sapwood susceptible to lyctus and common furniture beetle. Sapwood and heartwood can be attacked by death watch beetle. Seasons slowly, liable to collapse and honeycombing.
Colour and Figure  Cream to yellowish brown, resembling oak, with pale sapwood. The contrast between early and late wood growth in the annual rings account for sweet chestnut's appearance. It has no other obvious and consistent distinguishing marks.
Working Properties  In most respects, chestnut is easy to work and has only a slight blunting effect on tools. It saws, machines, nails and glues satisfactorily. Chestnut also takes all finishing treatments satisfactorily.

Sweet Chestnut—The Tree

sweet chestnut tree 2020sweet chestnut leaves 2020Looks and Leaves  Chestnut is a large broad crowned tree with fissured grey brown bark that in older trees often has fissures running spirally down the trunk. Its twigs are olive brown, and its buds in winter are 4-5mm long, plump and blunt. Chestnut has oblong, eliptical leaves that are between 10 and 25cm long, with a long-pointed tip, large regular sharply pointed marginal teeth, and a short leaf stalk. The leaves are hairless. The flowers are quite different from the spectacular flowers of the horse chestnut. Both male and female flowers are borne on the same tree. The male flowers are long and golden, obliquely erect and open in July. The female flowers are small green rosettes found at the base of unopen male flowers; the latter often open later and have a different aspect to earlier males.
Habitat  Sweet chestnut is uncommon in Scotland, as it prefers the warmer climate of southern England or continental Europe. It is found in rich, damp soils in sheltered places and is almost entirely from planted stock. It is quite shade tolerant and grows well as coppice understorey, although this type of woodland is rare in Scotland.
Ecological Value  The flowers provide an important source of nectar an pollen to bees and other insects, and red squirrels and jays eat the nuts. The leaves and nuts are fed on by many moth caterpillars.

sweet chestnut comp 2020

Fruit and Bark

Larch

Larch SampleLatch TreeLarch is a wood valued for its tough, waterproof and durable qualities; top quality knot-free timber is in great demand for building yachts and other small boats, for exterior cladding of buildings and interior panelling. The timber is resistant to rot when in contact with the ground, and is suitable for use as posts and in fencing. The hybrid Dunkeld Larch is widely grown as a timber crop in northern Europe, valued for its fast growth and disease resistance.

Larch LeafLarch has also been used in herbal medicine; see Bach flower remedies for details.

In central Europe larch is viewed as one of the best wood materials for the building of residences. Planted on borders with birch, both tree species were used in pagan "sagged" cremations. One "sąg" (pronounced song) of wood was required for a cremation stack. Sąg is sometimes used today as a Polish forestry unit measuring approximately 4 × 1 × 1 m.

Larches are often used in bonsai culture, where their knobby bark, small needles, fresh spring foliage and especially autumn colour are appreciated. European Larch, Japanese Larch and Tamarack Larch are the species most commonly trained as bonsai.

Larch Bark

Bark

Common Lime

Lime SampleUses  Widely used for carving as well as the manufacture of small articles such as brushes. Can be used for interior joinery, e.g., panelling. Is also widely used in turnery. The renowned wood carvings of Grinling Gibbons were always done in lime.
Scottish Lime  You can get reasonably large boards in lime; lime boles can be up to 15 metres, with diameters up to 1.2 metres. Scottish lime is available but in relatively small quantities of varying colour and quality.

Strength & Structure

Grain  Straight grained.
Strength  Low stiffness and shock resistance - hence its fame as a timber that doesn't split very easily - but medium bending and crushing strength. Not as strong as the benchmark European beech.
Density  Lime has a density around 540kg per cubic metre at 12% moisture content, making it less dense than European larch, but slightly denser than Douglas fir.
Structure  Texture of lime is fine, indicating diffuse porous structure, with few visible features.
Durability and Drying  Heartwood perishable; sapwood liable to attack by common furniture beetle. Dries well and fairly quickly with some tendency to distort.
Colour & Figure  Lime is a creamy colour, but will become browner on exposure to light.
Working Properties  Blunting slight as lime is a soft timber. Sawing is generally satisfactory. Machines well, but a reduced cutting angle is recommended and cutters should be kept sharp. Gluing is good, nailing satisfactory, and bending moderately good. Stains and polishes reasonably well.

Common Lime—The Tree

Lime TreeLime LeafLooks and Leaves  The common lime tree reaches a good height, normally around 30 metres but can grow as high as 46 metres. The ascending branches form a high rounded crown, but the lower branches droop down. In winter the tree can be easily recognised by the shape of its crown. In summer lime trees are thickly leaved and very shady. Vigorous sprouting often occurs from the base particularly in trees standing alone. Bark is smooth and grey on young trees, becoming fissured as the tree matures. Leaves are similar to small leaved lime, 6-10cm long, arranged alternately in two rows with long stalks, being heart shaped with a toothed margin. The undersides of the leaves are green. Leaves unfold at the end of April; but the tree doesn't flower until June. Small white flowers grow in cymes of 7-11 blooms. Fruits have thick shells with indistinct ribs.
Habitat  Seeds of the common lime - a hybrid between the small leaf and broadleaf limes, are not very fertile, hence the tree is found little in the wild. It's generally found in avenues along drives.
Ecological Value  Sprouty growth is good for some nesting birds, and fragrant flowers are much loved by bees. The tree also hosts large numbers of a leaf aphid responsible for the sticky honey dew secretions on the leaves in summer. Large numbers of other associated insects, help make lime trees an important part of the food chain. Tops may be loaded with mistletoe.

Lime Fruit/Bark

Fruit and Bark

Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir SampleDouglas Fir TreeDouglas-fir wood is used for structural applications that are required to withstand high loads. It is used extensively in the construction industry. Other examples include its use for homebuilt aircraft such as the RJ.03 IBIS canard. Very often, these aircraft were designed to utilize Sitka spruce, which is becoming increasingly difficult to source in aviation quality grades. Oregon pine is also used in boat building when it is available in long, fairly knot-free lengths. Most timber now comes from plantation forests in North America which are managed to produce faster growing timber with fewer knots. This timber is generally lighter but weaker. Traditionally, Oregon pine was used in mast building due to its ablilty to resist bending loads without fracturing. This was based on using older native forest wood with a high number of growth rings per inch. This sort of wood is seldom available new but can be sourced fron merchants dealing in recycled timber. Native Oregon pine is considerably heavier than Sitka spruce, which is about the same weight as Western red cedar, but with far better bending characteristics than cedar. Large-sized Oregon pine, as used in beams, is inclined to split as it dries, like oak, but this does not reduce its strength.

Douglas-fir is one of the most commonly marketed Christmas tree species in the United States, where they are sold alongside firs like Noble Fir and Grand Fir. Douglas-fir Christmas trees are usually trimmed to a near perfect cone instead of left to grow naturally like Noble and Grand firs.

Douglas Fir Trees Douglas Fir Fruit/Bark

Fruit and Bark

More Articles ...

  1. Oak
  2. Elm
  3. Cherry—Gean
  4. Birch

scottish forestry logo