BRIMSTONE – The Future of British Timber


Tom Barnes of Vastern Timber discusses the many advantages of the first commercially available thermally modified British timber.

weathered-thermo-poplar-claddingBrimstone is the latest offering from Vastern Timber – one of the UK’s largest British hardwood sawmills and timber merchants.

First unveiled at Ecobuild 2016, Brimstone is the first commercially available thermally modified range sourced exclusively from English and Welsh woodlands. The sustainable choice, Brimstone is ideally suited to cladding, decking, external joinery and furniture, and is available in ash, sycamore and poplar.

The thermal modification process does not rely on impregnating the timber with chemicals and instead involves using intense heat between 160o and 210o to reconfigure the wood to deliver a material of exceptional stability, durability and aesthetic uniformity that is resistant to water and fungus.

With its exotic appearance and beautiful walnut colour, Brimstone is similar to tropical species such as Teak and Ipe, but without any of the environmental concerns that accompany these species. The dark colours and sharp lines compliment contemporary designs as the boards are relatively free of knots and they will stay straight and true.

Of the Brimstone range, Brimstone Ash is the most popular and is an alternative to tropical hardwoods with its strong grain and rich dark chocolate colour. Brimstone Ash logs are sourced from woodlands which are within 100 miles of the Vastern Timber sawmill. Being the hardest and strongest of the Brimstone range, ash is suited to the widest variety of uses and is ideal for cladding and decking.

For a more textured and silky finish, Brimstone Sycamore makes use of British sycamore as a base timber and is ideal for cladding and external furniture. Being both durable and stable, Brimstone sycamore is attractive and functional, and as a bonus the natural ripple often found in the grain of sycamore is accentuated by the thermal process, resulting in a stunning visual affect when the sun catches the surface of the boards.

A few shades lighter in colour than Brimstone Ash, Brimstone Sycamore is the perfect choice when a less grainy appearance is desired. The durability and colour of thermally modified sycamore makes it an ideal alternative to Canadian western red cedar and other tropical cladding species.

Brimstone Poplar completes the thermally modified range and is produced from the clean butt of the tree where the wood is straight grained and relatively knot free. The overall appearance is silky and the colouring is a medium chocolate brown.

Being the softest of the three Brimstone products, poplar is not suitable for decking and may not be suitable for all joinery and furniture applications. However, Brimstone Poplar is the most cost effective of the three options and is lower in price than Canadian cedar, oak and sweet chestnut, making it a great choice for contemporary cladding installations.

While Brimstone products incorporate all the benefits of locally grown natural timber, the modification process dramatically improves the performance of the timber. An innovative proven technology, thermally modified timber is typically more stable than non-modified timbers, and similar products reach the equivalent of Class 2 durability rating and even Class 1, giving minimum service life of between 30 – 50 years.

Currently tested by the BRE for its durability, stability, strength and hardness, thermal modification is already known to reduce instability by 60% – 80%. In use, this means significantly less expansion and contraction when faced with changes in ambient temperature and humidity, making thermally modified timber a superior solution for a range of exterior uses.

Due to its performance advantages, thermally modified timber is becoming more widely appreciated and used. However, Brimstone sets itself apart by offering even higher levels of sustainability as the raw timber is sourced from underused English and Welsh woodlands, and consequently has a lower carbon footprint through transport, and it helps to support native woodland, and the British timber industry. Attractive and reliable, Brimstone represents a real opportunity for our mixed native woodlands by creating demand for lesser-user white hardwoods.

Brimstone enjoyed an enthusiastic reception at Ecobuild 2016, with visitors and media clearly excited about a product that closes the sustainability loop and which addresses growing concerns about sustainable, local sourcing.

Established in 1904, and with two sawmills in Wiltshire, Vastern Timber specialises in cutting and manufacturing native grown timbers including English oak, sweet chestnut, ash, sycamore and larch. A family business, Vastern Timber is owned and run by three members of the Barnes family; Peter, Jon and Tom, who represent the third and fourth generations of family working in the company.

Cutting and processing its own logs allows Vastern Timber to offer a range of species, grades and specifications that are not widely available from other merchants.

In February 2016 Vastern Timber secured the new Grown In Britain license, which indicates that all wood sold under the license originates from well managed woodlands in Great Britain. This accreditation is similar to the FSC license but is only applicable to native woodlands.

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