I now have a year’s source of wood for making fan birds – actually, it is probably more than ayears worth – it depends on how many I make and how many workshops I run.
The Forestry Commission at Haldon, Exeter let me have a Scots Pine tree. Ian Parsons (one of the rangers) and I choose the tree, straight grained and slow grown. This particular area was planted with Scots pine, and unfortunately the soil is not good so the trees never grew very fast, and do not have any real commercial value. They were planted in 1926ish, the biggest trees are about 14 inch diameter and the smallest are 5 to 6 inch diameter.
I like Scots pine, a native to this country; and not too resinous, unlike some of the other softwoods. It works very well green or dry and I have made small spoons from it in the past. I will also give it a go on the pole lathe and see if it makes a decent bowl.
The tree was felled at about 9.30am and by 11 am I had made my first fan bird from it. Some woods need to be mellowed or dried out a bit before use, but not this one.
I think this one tree could potentially make around 400 fan birds, and at an average of £20 each – that is good value from a tree that has a commercial value of £0 to £2 a cubic foot. It is interesting that for a maker, one tree might yield so much potential income.
Before you start rushing out booking onto my courses or just learning how to make fan birds, so you can make your fortune, there are a few things to remember. It is fine to make a whole batch of items but then you will need to sell them and that takes time and money. A certain amount of the stock can and will get damaged, especially with fan birds; and some will just fail as you make them – but that can be less with the more experience you have. Then there’s all the fixed costs: workshop rent, insurance, van, etc. And the value of the time that it takes.
I would be interested in how other people can add value to trees. Unfortunately it is not the grower who gets much money for the wood as our forestry industry is depressed. The green woodworker is not a great consumer of wood and can make a little go quite a long way. We also can use wood that would be considered fire wood, thereby adding value to it. However, a lot of foresters do not really want to sell odd bits of wood to the occasional green woody: they want to sell it by the lorry load.