Wood Centre sign takes shape

posted on April 29, 2015

We have commissioned one our tenants at the Sylva Wood Centre – Rodas Irving of Oxford Oak – to design and build a sculptural entrance sign for our newly opened-centre for innovation and enterprise.

We won’t yet reveal the design in full, but here is a sneak preview of progress so far.

Rodas has written about the commission on his own website. He talks about how he cleft the large green oak logs – read more here


Category: WOOD
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Sylva Wood Centre to feature in BBC Countryfile

posted on April 15, 2015
BBC filming at the Sylva Wood Centre

BBC crew filming at the Sylva Wood Centre

We are excited to be featuring in the BBC One programme Countryfile this coming Sunday.

The programme, which will be broadcast at 19:00 on Sunday 19th April, is on the theme of Britain’s woodlands. Sylva’s CEO Gabriel Hemery is interviewed among beautiful woodland at the Oxford University Harcourt Arborteum, while two of our first tenants moving into the Sylva Wood Centre also feature.

Rodas Irving of Oxford Oak talks about the installation of the thermally-modified hardwood cladding (read more) at the Sylva Wood Centre, which is being applied thanks to the support of Grown in Britain. Simon Clements, another of our new tenants, talks about moving from his current workshop to our exciting new venue, where we are fostering skills and innovation in home-grown wood.

Read more on the BBC Countryfile website

More about the programme from the BBC Countryfile website:

In this themed programme Ellie Harrison, John Craven and Anita Rani explore Britain’s woodlands. Ellie is high up in the canopy with the scientists collecting leaf buds to learn more about the effects of CO2 on woodland. She then helps release some hedgehogs, one of the nations’ favourite and most-threatened woodland species, back into the wild. John finds out what it takes to manage your own woodland and discovers that the return of the old craft of coppicing is proving a boom to wildlife. He also joins the conservationists using novel methods to increase the dormice populations in Shropshire’s woods. And Anita discovers how to build with baked wood – using a new technique that hardens and weatherproofs timbers making them much more durable and better for building with. Adam Henson has the third and final of the Countryfile’s Farming Heroes nominees. The biggest threat to British trees is disease – and in many cases there’s no cure. Tom Heap investigates the threats to our woodland and finds out what we can all do to defend our trees.

Wood innovation

Sylva Wood CentreAnita Rani is in Oxfordshire, with the Sylva Foundation, as they open their brand new Wood Centre for the very first time.  Anita joins Rodas as he finishes the cladding on the building, which is made from thermally treated British ash and sycamore.  This treatment makes the wood more durable, allowing it to be used more widely.  Anita meets with one of the new tenants of the Wood Centre, sculptor Simon Clements, who is taking his inspiration from the quivering leaves of the woodland canopy.

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Ted Dorey gift to Sylva Wood Centre

posted on September 29, 2014

The Sylva Foundation has been granted a legacy by Edward (Ted) Dorey, a lifelong professional woodworker, who has also gifted an immediate donation of a substantial quantity of wood together with many lathes and other woodworking machines to the Sylva Wood Centre. Ted intends to play a central role in the Sylva Wood Centre, and will be on hand to pass on his skills to the next generation. A Teaching Workshop will be created at the centre and named after Ted.

Ted Dorey  - portrait by Gabriel Hemery

Ted Dorey – portrait by Gabriel Hemery

“I’m looking forward to working with the Sylva Foundation. There are lots of youngsters out there who want to work with their hands but there aren’t many opportunities for them now. It’s very important to keep those skills alive because we’ll never get them back if they die out.”

Ted Dorey

Ted’s life story so far, including his collaboration with the Sylva Foundation, was featured in the Henley Standard in August 2014.

Read more about the Sylva Wood Centre

Category: WOOD
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Wood and Trees – War and Remembrance

posted on July 2, 2014
BBC Radio 3 - Free Thinking

BBC Radio 3 – Free Thinking

Sylva CEO Dr Gabriel Hemery joined artists Paul Gough and Gail Ritchie to discuss, with presenter Samira Ahmed, the meaning of trees and wood in war and peacetime for BBC Radio 3′s Free Thinking.

Discussions ranged from Paul Nash’s paintings of blasted tree stumps in the first world war and the army’s amazing periscope trees, to today’s commemorative planting initiatives. James Taylor from the Imperial War Museum also shared some fascinating insights into the role of wood in the Great War.

The programme was broadcast on 1st July but is available on the BBC website to listen again.

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A major gift to Sylva to develop a centre for innovation in home-grown wood

posted on November 15, 2013

The Sylva Foundation has been gifted land and buildings to develop a centre for innovation in home-grown wood.

The generous gift from a private donor was given to help the charity develop its fourth object: advancing education and business enterprise in the design and production of home-grown wood products for the public benefit.

Chair of trustees Dr Nick Brown said: “this incredibly generous donation will help secure a sustainable future for the Sylva Foundation.” He continued, “Our plan is to develop the property as a hothouse for new and innovative businesses using home-grown wood. Oxfordshire has a wealth of skills and ideas and many young entrepreneurs just need a little practical support to get off the ground.” Dr Brown added that “We are very lucky to have received a generous gift to help us set up our wood innovation centre, but we will need other like-minded investors who share our vision to match-fund.”

Sylva's land and buildings in south Oxfordshire

Sylva’s land and buildings in south Oxfordshire

The property in south Oxfordshire, just one mile from our current offices, consists of 8 hectares (20 acres) of land and several large farm buildings. Many of the buildings are in various stages of dereliction, while two large agricultural buildings are in a condition that will allow them to be converted to new use, to support wood-based industry.

The trustees are now looking for partners and funders who share Sylva’s vision to promote excellence and innovation with home-grown wood by:

  • promoting the use of home-grown wood sourced from well-managed British forests to stimulate sustainable forest management and the rural economy;
  • providing skills & enterprise education in designing and making in wood to create successful home-grown wood businesses across Britain;
  • stimulate an innovative culture in the design and use of home-grown wood.

The trustees welcome expressions of interest from partners and funders. Please contact our Chief Executive Dr Gabriel Hemery for further information: or 01865 408016.


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The Hereford Bull naming ceremony

posted on May 14, 2012
The Hereford Bull

The Hereford Bull

The Hereford Bull, a new boat built by T Nielsen in the traditional style of a Wye Trow, was named at a ceremony in Hereford City centre on 12th May.

The Trow included timber from our OneOak project, which was used to make the Transom Beam.

A plaque on the transom beam

A plaque on the transom beam acknowledges to the OneOak timber

Watch a short film showing the naming ceremony:

Read more posts about the trow

Category: OneOak project, Wood
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OneOak fine furniture competition winners

posted on April 13, 2012

We announced recently that the judging had taken place of entries by Rycotewood students into the OneOak fine furniture competition – read more. We are delighted to announce the two winners. They are Matt Wakeham (18) and Harry Friday (19). We asked Matt and Harry to tell us more about themselves and their entries into the competition. Along with their words below, we include photos of their models.

Matt Wakeham, 18, has just finished a furniture and cabinet making course at Warwickshire College’s School of Arts. He said: “My idea for the OneOak competition is designed around the pure shape of the rough sawn, waney-edged boards that were curving and tapering from one end to the other. My design incorporates the timber’s honest and natural beauty by using all the character and knots where possible. I aim to give the piece a contemporary arts and crafts feel through the construction shown on display – these will be through dovetails. I am very grateful to be part of this unique project and look forward to making the tables and exhibiting them at Art in Action this summer.”

OneOak fine furniture competition winner entry

OneOak fine furniture competition winner entry by Matt Wakeham. Model and concept design.

Harry Friday, 19, spent three years at Moulton College in Northampton studying furniture design and make. “I am now in my first year at Rycotewood which is going very well. I’m designing my own work, which is all new to me but is fulfilling my talent. The piece I designed is a console table, based on the way that the tree grows. The legs give a splitting branches effect, making the piece look like is growing.”

OneOak fine furniture competition winner entry by Harry Friday. Model and concept design.

OneOak fine furniture competition winner entry by Harry Friday. Model and concept design.

We will be following up on Matt and Harry’s progress with their pieces here on this blog and as Matt says, they will be on display at Art in Action from 19-22 July.

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OneOak sawn timber catalogue

posted on March 9, 2010

Following the recent sawing of the OneOak tree at Deep in Wood sawmill, we have catalogued all 35 of the boards cut from the tree’s three main lengths.  Future users of the timber can now browse and select their wood based on its dimensions and qualities.  To view the online catalogue click here.

You can also view our film of the sawing process at Deep in Wood sawmill below and see all our films on our new film page.

Category: OneOak project, Wood

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OneOak at the sawmill

posted on February 26, 2010

Today we reached a major milestone in the OneOak project as the OneOak tree was sawn at Deep in Wood sawmill.

Owner and sawmiller James Binning invited some of the future users of the wood to watch the sawing.  Guests included Joe Bray and 13 students from Rycotewood Furniture Centre, green wood furniture designer-maker Rodas Irving, timber framer Norman Guiver, and Chris Mills from Upton Smokery.  The foresters from Blenheim also came to watch their tree being milled.

Our main advisor in the wood aspect of the project, Philip Koomen, was on hand to advise on how best to cut each of the tree’s three timber sections.  We all waited anxiously as the first 4.5m long section was cut into for the first time.  It is never possible to know how good the timber in a tree will be until it is sawn.  It could be that after 160 years of growing in the woodland at Blenheim, and a year of planning in our project, that the timber may have been of poor quality!

We were delighted and relieved that, as board by board was sliced off the giant logs by the super powerful bandsaw, the quality of the boards was excellent.  In the trade they would be called “low grade character timber“.  Expert Philip Koomen was surprised by the quantity of usuable timber and delighted by some of the figuring and colouring in the boards.  For many of the potential uses of the tree this will help in bringing extra value and beauty to the objects.

Now begins a patient waiting game.  The boards were put back together one by one to reform the log with sticks in between.  They will now be kept this way and allowed to air dry.  The usual rule of thumb is one year for every one inch (26mm) of board thickness.  We will need to wait until 2012 for the larger boards to air dry, although the thinner boards will be ready for use in 2011.  Other boards will be used sooner still – by green wood workers – and we look forward to seeing our first manufactured products later this year.

Category: OneOak project, Wood

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OneOak timber is extracted

posted on February 19, 2010

Sawmillers James and John Binning from Deep in Wood sawmill brought their forwarder and heavy lifting equipment to extract the OneOak timber today.

In contrast to the weather on the day of the felling, Blenheim’s woodland was bathed in glorious winter sunshine. They lifted the three main lengths of timber from the OneOak tree onto the trailer.  A large bent branch that we hope will become the brace for a timber-framed building was also taken away.  The branches that remain in the woodland will be used by craftspeople, who will come to select what they need to make dozens of small items.  A sculptor, a firewood merchant and a bioenergy company will also be selecting what they need from the remains of the tree’s crown.

The woodland looked so different than before, now that the OneOak tree is absent.  The eye was drawn to the space at its centre.  But nature was already visibly repairing itself.  The leaf tips of bluebells were emerging, and woodland birds were in full song. The sight of the laden forwarder disappearing down the rutted forest ride was very poignant.  The end of one chapter and the beginning of another.  Any thoughts of sadness at the loss of the tree will now turn to joy as we start to celebrate the creation and beauty of wood. Gabriel Hemery, Project Leader

The timber was transported to Deep in Wood sawmill, just 12 miles away from the woodland.  On the journey, the trailer was taken to a weighbridge where the massive logs were weighed – just over five and a half tonnes.  The weight of the main stem was the last piece in the jigsaw for scientists from Forest Research, who spent two days after the felling weighing every branch and twig, in a massive effort to calculate the total tree’s weight.

Milling is scheduled for next week.

Category: OneOak project, Wood

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