The use of Endgrain timber for tiles and cobbles is centuries old. They were primarily used as a surface for paving and roads with the first blocks being round or hexagon. Many town and city streets and pavements in Europe, America and Russia, were paved with wooden Endgrain cobbles especially in the 19th and early 20th century. This provided a better surface for horses and wagons with their iron rims. In the late 1900's the City of London Surveyor, Mr Hayward, having made daily observations "over a long period" concluded that "A horse would travel before falling - 132 miles on granite set paving, 192 miles on asphalt and 446 miles on wood."
A variety of species of timber were used, with creosoted blocks of Norway pine proving satisfactory in many large cities. The decrease in noise levels from the use of timber cobbles was of great benefit especially around the entrances of Victorian train stations in London with their high vaulted ceilings.
At the beginning of the 1920s endgrain block flooring was used in major European and American engineering factories providing a more forgiving surface for metal components if dropped. This industrial flooring is still being used today.
In recent years, endgrain tile flooring has become more widely used in many public buildings and private homes. As well as being attractive and striking, it is highly durable compared to long grain timber. However, it is very labour intensive to manufacture making it an expensive product and out of reach of most people's budgets. Sycamore and beech endgrain timber has also been used for butcher’s blocks due to its tough, durable and hygienic surface, capable of withstanding repeated blows from cleavers without dulling the blade.
- Durable and attractive product
- Faster to season than long grain timber
- Ideally suited to a variety of small dimension timber that is relatively abundant in Wales
- Unique process to Wales
- Uses most species of Welsh timber
- Not just limited to internal flooring
Endgrain History at Coed Cymru
Trials on Endgrain tiles have been conducted at Coed Cymru over the last fifteen years. Products ranging from cobbles and drains to chopping blocks and flooring have been made from small diameter, low grade timber. A process was developed to dry the endgrain tiles without them cracking and splitting using a high temperature heat treatment oven.
Supply Chain Project
Endgrain flooring at present is an expensive product outside of most people’s budget. A high wastage factor (up to 30%) due to splitting at the drying stage as well as lengthy manufacturing process contributes to this cost.
The Supply Chain Project (funded by the Welsh Assembly and the European Agricultural Fund) will look at the whole process from tree to finished product and highlight the weaknesses there in. By working with Woodland owners, Primary and Secondary manufacturers’ better links and working practices will be developed through:-
- Woodland inventory to evaluate quantity of relevant timber for Endgrain tiles in Powys woodlands
- Time trials and automation of cutting logs into tile blanks
- Development of drying process through Heat Treatment and special drying racks
- Research and develop fully automated machining system with process engineers
- Prototype cutting machine
The project will result in a significantly faster production process through the supply chain, delivering a more competitive product that will enable a larger market to be developed. Increase in utilisation of undervalued timber and co-products should provide value added opportunities to primary producers and growers. A more competitive product will enable a larger market to be developed displacing timber imports into Wales. In the long term, jobs should be safeguarded and created through decreased reliance on strip flooring.
Full information on the project results and technologies will be available at the end of the project to enable transfer of technology across the rest of Wales If you are a manufacturer interested in producing this unique product please contact Dylan Jones at Coed Cymru on (01686 650777) or email Dylanj@coedcymru.org.uk