How We Select Our Wood

Sourcing timber both native and exotic is actually probably one of the most exciting parts of our job. No two examples of wood are the same and it is up to us to select high quality pieces with character that often run with the ‘story’ behind making the saw in some way or that fits with the customer’s brief and tastes. To help us to do this we work with a number of timber merchants, who understand our exacting specifications. Furthermore, they are constantly looking out for those ‘extra special’ pieces for us.

 

We love to be able to provide customers with the story about how the wood came into our possession, and because we have a good relationship with our merchants, certainly with our native timbers we are able to pass on the location of where the tree once stood. This can be quite exciting for some customers as often the wood can be very local to them or have some sentimental attachment. 

Sustainability is at the heart of our decisions when it comes to timber, and we are always very keen to select timber from trees that have naturally come to the end of their life. Not only is this good for the environment, but for us unharvested produce tends to have the best character. 

All of our English timbers are air-dried which provides the best lasting properties for wood. This wood which is only taken from the butt of the tree is often sweeter to work and almost certainly has better character. The timber we receive will normally have been air-dried outside for a minimum of 1-2 years followed by a further 6-12 months undercover. Once transferred to our heated workshop it will sit at a constant temperature to ensure that the wood is stable for a further few months before Shane will work it. We almost always prefer and use ¼ sawn timber as this eliminates movement and makes for a more stable wood. The native woods are obviously fantastic for reproducing the look of original eighteenth century saws. It’s also quite exciting to think that some of our wood like our ‘Wimbledon Beech’ for example actually stood as a small tree back then. 

We regard our wood as precious and utilise every bit, having very little waste. Each piece is carefully selected and marked out for each individual customer so as to fit the brief and gain maximum shading and features. The customer has a choice of a wide spectrum of woods from our exclusive wood store and it is marked and cut out to fit their specific hand measurements. Some customers prefer perfectly matched saws, whereas others like to mix and match their woods often having a contrasting wood to differentiate their rip from their crosscut saws. In the end it’s all down to individual tastes and preferences. 

All of our handles are preserved and finished in our own unique handmade blend of Skelton Saws Peacock oil. This oil penetrates deep into the wood both stabilising and strengthening it as well as enhancing the woods natural features and beauty.

 

We love the idea that the wood that we use for our saw handles was once a living thing and that we are now preserving it for future generations.

The Skelton Wood Store

We have a wide selection of only the finest woods from all over the world to choose from, and are constantly on the look out for something extra special. Please find below a description and example of each wood that we offer 

‘Wimbledon’ Beech – Fagus spp  (Note spp means there’s more than one species of this timber)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We call this Beech ‘Wimbledon Beech’ because as the name suggests it originated from the famous ‘Wimbledon Common’ in London close to the Wimbledon All England Tennis Courts. Around 200-230 years old the tree had shown signs of rot and had to be removed for fear of falling on a property. All of our boards are from the main butt of the tree and are quarter sawn. The colour ranges from being a light golden hue to dark chestnut in colour and exhibiting medullary rays, which occur when the wood is directly cut on the quarter (silvery shimmering flicks that dance when moved around in the light and run in the opposite direction to the wood grain.) Beech being one of the oldest woods in our timber store, has been air-dried, is very stable and has been the number one choice for tool handles for hundreds of years. The beech tree, one of the largest trees in the UK growing to over 100ft is seen as the ‘Queen of the forest’ and is one of the only woods that has survived well from the 18th century. Maybe a great choice for fans of ‘The Wombles!’ 

Available for all saw types.

Flamed Beech – Fagus Spp

This extraordinary looking Beech comes from, The Duke of Buccleuch’s estate at Boughton House in Northamptonshire. Quarter sawn this timber ranges from golden brown with a dark flaming pattern to dark brown with flaming. Our supply comes from two sources, both storm damaged trees. One fell as a whole tree and the other was a tree that had been left as a stump after its top was felled by another falling tree. Both are between 150 and 200 years old, but the latter has darker tones because it has been left longer. 

The flaming pattern occurs due to the minerals in the soil and should not be confused with Spalted Beech which is actually fungal rot. Flamed Beech is therefore fairly rare to find because it only occurs where the soil has the correct minerals to produce the pattern. English Beech differs from the European variety as it lives longer, producing higher ring growth, whereas overseas it is more likely modified. Normally with commercial woods like Beech it would be steamed and this removes colouration. Our air-dried beech maintains the woods natural beauty and colours. Flamed Beech is a characterful English wood that often takes on the appearance of Olive Wood.

Available for all saw types.

 

English Bog Oak – Quercus

‘Mighty Oaks from little acorns grow’ The Oak tree is probably the most loved of all of the English trees. It is often seen as a symbol of strength, morale, resistance & knowledge. Such a robust tree many live for hundreds of years, have been seen as sacred to some people like the druids and have taken us from the cradle to the grave, being used from building furniture and battleships to coffins. Our Bog Oak is extremely rare and has been carbon dated to around 6000 years old. This wood is the result of a tsunami that took place wiping out large portions of English woodland, leaving the trees buried and preserved in essentially a shallow grave of bog water and peat which partly has fossilised the wood. The low oxygen levels of the bog protect the wood from decaying, whilst the peat is acidic and effectively fossilises the wood. The salts and minerals react together with the tannin in the wood and this eventually turns it black. The fossilising makes the grain tighter than it would be if it was freshly sawn and therefore making it a very stable wood. The UK’s only black timber, it closely resembles African Ebony, but the grain is a little more open. English timber merchants’ class this wood as ‘Black gold’ as it is highly prized and sought after. 

Available for straight handles Only + £100 & Collars for Gents saws + £50

English Olive Ash – Fraxinus

 

 

The Ash tree is seen as the ‘Venus’ of the woods due to its graceful form and beautiful foliage. Traditionally used in the making of walking sticks, hockey sticks and boat oars, this quarter sawn timber has an olive appearance, a rare phenomenon which naturally runs through the grain of the timber. A dark grain pattern against a light grain pattern that takes on an open grained appearance when oiled. Storm damaged, this tree hails from Biggin Hall- The Benefield Estate.

Available for all saw types. 

London Plane Lacewood – Platanus x acerifolia

 

 

 

London Plane is traditionally a park tree and one of the most common roadside trees found unsurprisingly in London. It is actually a hybrid of the American and Oriental Plane trees and was first discovered in Vauxhall Gardens in the mid-17th century by the botanist, John Tradescant the Younger. A tall tree growing between 70 and 130ft it is capable of shedding its bark when choked with pollutants and therefore it is highly adaptable and successful compared to other trees in cities such as London. Lacewood is effectively London Plane perfectly quarter sawn which produces an almost tiger stripe and leopard print pattern. It is rather strikingly different for an English grown tree. Coming from a storm damaged tree, this lacewood takes on a good finish which is both unusual and striking and full of chatoyance. 

Available for all saw types. 

English Oriental Cherry – Prunus avium

This is a very striking wood that is from Shane’s childhood family garden in Burniston, Scarborough. The tree had rotted and therefore it was felled and we left it to naturally season for a couple of years before retrieving it, cutting it and leaving it in our workshop for well over a year. Not to be confused with American Cherry that is a more uniform and dark shade, this oriental cherry ranges from a deep green through to having purple flicks in colour and is very tightly grained, so takes a good finish. 

Available for straight handled saws & collars only.

 

English Plum –Prunus domestica

Another beautiful example of native wood from the Skelton family garden. This tree had blown down, but was the one that Shane had a homemade swing hanging from as a child. It has an amazing and quite unusual colour contrast and is very tightly grained making it a fine example for tool handles. Not an exceptionally large tree we only have a limited selection of small pieces. 

Available for straight handled saws and collars. 

 

English Apple – Malus spp

Originating from a village called Stoke Doyle in Northamptonshire this rare sized apple tree was around 200 years old and is quarter sawn. It is unusual to find these fruit trees of such stature nowadays as modern apple trees are modified to bear more fruit. On today’s apple trees there are effectively more branches and therefore it doesn’t grow quite as tall. The apple which we have comes in a cornucopia of colours and ranges from a mild pinkish red / gold tint to green and some pieces can be quite contrasting. This wood will naturally darken over time. Apple was the wood favoured by saw maker Henry Disston born in Tewkesbury England, who took his toolmaking and industrialist knowledge to the USA. 

Available for all saw types.

 

English Walnut – Juglans regia

Introduced in Britain by the Romans and the name meaning ‘foreign nut,’ walnuts don’t actually tend to appear until the tree is about 20 years old. Premium quality walnut is very sought after by luxury makers, particularly of shotguns. As it is difficult to find the correct grade, we therefore only tend to have a very limited supply. Our premium English Walnut is both light and dark grained with excellent patterning and colour contrast. Almost like chocolate this traditional gunstock timber has an elegance, class and air of opulence. We source Walnut from all over the country, but in recent years have had some from Brompton, a few miles from us and the birthplace of aviator George Cayley. Coincidentally this wood became saws for an airline pilot. 

Available for all saw types + £100 

 

English Boxwood – Buxus sempervirens

Boxwood is extremely slow growing and for a it to be large enough to make a saw handle it would have to be at least 300 years old. Essentially it is a shrub which makes excellent hedging, but is found mostly in large country estate gardens. Our stock is very mature and has come from an estate in the south of England. Traditionally used for tool handles and chess pieces, Boxwood is one of the UK’s densest timbers and is highly sought after. Extremely hard it takes an excellent finish that is silky smooth and very tactile. With its pale-yellow milky and sometimes spalted appearance, Boxwood is the one wood on the planet that you can identify with your eyes shut due to its cold smooth feel. 

Available for all saws types (when in stock) + £100 

 

English Hornbeam – Carpinus betulus

One of Shane’s favourite trees he believes that Hornbeam is the ‘forgotten timber’ It really is quite elegant in its simplicity. The colour ranges from pale to dark contrasts and resembles horn found on animals. It is very dense and takes a lovely smooth finish. Sadly, the reason that people don’t tend to use it anymore is because it burns the hottest and the longest and therefore is more often cut into logs and used for firewood. Our stock is from The Duke of Buccleuch’s estate in Northamptonshire and is grey and white in appearance with dark speckled flicks.

Available for all saw types. 

 

Purpleheart – Peltogyne spp

Originating from South America, purpleheart was one of Thomas Chippendale’s favourite woods and can be found on many of his famous marquetry pieces. It is tight-grained, strong and stable and takes a good finish. Deep purple / pink in colour our stock exhibits chatoyance with the interlocking grain dancing in the light. Slowly the purple colour fades over many years turning a more chestnut brown colour.

Available for all saw types. 

 

Castello Boxwood – calycophyllum multiflorum

 

Pale yellow in colour this Brazilian wood is one of Shane’s favourite woods to work due to the crisp lines and glass like finish that can be produced. It has one of the best grain memories of any wood species and therefore can often be impervious to knocks and dents. A strong, stable and tightly-grained wood it looks fantastic when oiled. It is highly favoured by bow makers and very closely resembles English Boxwood albeit slightly paler in colour. 

Available for all saw types. 

 

Bubinga – Guibourtia spp

Belonging to the Dalbergia family and hailing from Africa, bubinga is one of the toughest rosewoods due to its interlocking grain. It is quarter sawn bright red and gold in colour and extremely stable. It’s colour closely resembles that of 18th century Cuban Mahogany and has fantastic chatoyance. 

Available for all saw types.

 

 Ebony – Diospyrus crassiflora

Classed as ‘Black Gold’ in Africa our Gaboon Ebony is extremely hard, tight-grained and takes an excellent glass like finish. The luxurious quarter sawn timber that we have is more of a coloured Ebony being black in colour to having grey / black streaks running through it. Looking almost like chocolate, this wood emits a distinctive sweet almost chocolatey like smell too when worked. It is extremely expensive to purchase and as such we only ever have limited stocks and often buy specific boards in consultation with the individual customer. Although this timber is a traditional tool handle wood it does have some faults. It is brittle when dropped and is prone to crack if left in extreme temperatures and direct sunlight. Shane, over the last year has become sensitised to Ebony, so is trying to reduce the usage of this wood. Whilst a luxurious timber it is extremely difficult to work and can take twice as long to make a saw handle from this material. 

Available for straight handles only + £100 and Collars + £50

 

Padauk – Pterocarpus dalbergiodes

This is some very old stock that came from a special sale and which we acquired through Bill Carter (Plane Maker) and a Swiss friend and loyal customer, Bruno. Bright crimson red to purple in colour, this wood was favoured by the famous furniture maker Alan Peters. In the past we have made saws from Padauk which came from Alan Peter’s own stock for Plane Maker and woodworking teacher, David Barron. Our stock is quarter sawn and has a thorny open grain texture and appearance. The colour changes to a deep brown over time and is similar to Purpleheart in that respect. This wood only demands a light oil and then a wax as it is already an oily wood. Originating from the Andaman Islands…Something a little different to the norm. 

Available for all saws types.

 

American Black Walnut – Juglans nigra

From the East of the US, American Black Walnut has a rather classy look and closely resembles Rosewood in appearance. It is lightweight, yet very stable and is dark brown with black streaks. 

Available for all saws types.  

 

Rippled Swiss Pear – Pyrus communis

This is quarter sawn wild Swiss Pear with rippling. Found in central Europe, this kind of chatoyance and rippling in the light that is evident in this timber is only found in about 1 in 19 trees. It is a light pink to tan and gold in colour. A great choice for a saw handle as it is very tight-grained, stable and takes a great smooth glass like finish

Available for all saw types. 

 

Rosewood – Dalbergia latifolia

 

Our East Indian Rosewood has been sustainably sourced and was our initial ‘Signature Wood’ if you like, as originally, we set about our business making only Rosewood handles. Traditionally Rosewood was seen as an upgrade for an 18th century tool handle. It is hardwearing and strong and stands the test of time. It is quarter sawn and the colour spans from brown to purple in shade with a slightly open grained structure. It is a very sumptuous looking wood and is already an oily wood, so is best finished with only a very light oil and then wax. This wood will darken over time, but also like some other woods will lighten too if left in the sunlight. 

Available for all saw types.

Due to strict rules governed by CITES in January 2017 it became virtually impossible for makers to move their goods made from Rosewood around the World. This was due to illegal logging and violence that was occurring in Rosewood growing countries as a result of the high demand and premium prices being paid by China. These restrictions began being lifted slightly in 2019, much to the delight of instrument makers around the world. 

Now in 2021 we too are once again able to post saws across the globe that are classed as coming from the Rosewood (Dalbergia family) 

‘Other finished articles such as carpentry tools or small items of furniture where the Dalbergia or Guibourtia element does not exceed 10kg within one consignment no longer require CITES import or export permits to be issued.’

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