WoodPoint is one of a decreasing number of woodland businesses able to produce hand cut special orders from the broadleaved woodlands or conifer
forests. These products are cut to order as part of approved thinning operation in young conifer plantations or hardwood coppices here in the UK. Average order completion time is 2 week unpeeled
& 3 weeks peeled, but this can vary throughout the year.
Choosing Wooden Poles
We understand that you may not know what you need, and that natural wood may be a bit of a unknown for you - hopefully the below can act as a bit of a guide to inform and
help you make those decisions. The information supplied is guidance only and does not form part of the contract of supply or a guarantee that any particular poles are suitable for any particular end
use or structure. The information is offered from obervations based on thirty years of experience as help and advice in choosing natural wooden poles where, due to their inherent variation in
properties and appearance, description and specification can be hard to define. Its the beauty of nature!
When choosing timber type it is best to think about how it will last as well as how it looks when it is bought. What does it need
to provide and for how long? Take a look below to find out more!
Information when ordering - things to consider:
- Length and Diameter (at the top and at the bottom)
- Natural poles all have taper and this varies according to species but also from tree to tree. For
example, a Pine pole 5.0m long with a diameter of 75mm in the middle may have a taper rate of approximately 5.0mm per metre; this would make it 88mm at the butt and 62mm at the top. Further advice
can be given at the quoting stage though it should be noted that all poles are slightly different.
- What finish are you looking for?
- Natural - Bark will usually peel off after weathering over a number of years. The time this takes will depend on the species and the local environment. It is not uncommon
for bark to be still in place after 5 years and this may be enhanced by application of timber protection products.
- The properties of natural wooden poles:
- Sizes are nominal and may vary slightly
- Poles are natural (not machined - these are often referred to as "machine rounds" in the timber industry) so they may vary in straightness and finish (which is the beauty of
them) but will be as straight as possible unless you want something a bit different then do let us know.
Peeled poles will start to season as soon as the bark is removed. When felled all green timber is said to have a moisture content of
100%. This means that there is approximately as much weight in the water in a pole as the weight of the wood! Drying outside can take as little as 5 weeks in the summer or as long as 3 months in the
winter and once completed the air dried poles will stabilise at approximately 30% moisture contact (by contrast kiln dried timber eg window frames are taken down to 15%). In practice an air dried
pole will lose about half its weight compared with the fresh felled green weight. However, air dried poles left outside , particularly in the winter will reabsorb some water from moisture in the air
Peeled poles may develop various surface moulds depending on how you store your wood, time of year and species; softwoods like Pine are more prone to these surface changes. This problem is most pronounced
before the poles are seasoned (air dry) and when the weather is warm, still and humid. However, bringing unseasoned poles into a closed building can also make the problem worse if the air is moist
and still (e.g. a storage container or closed garage).
- The properties of different species:
- At Woodpoint our most frequently used species are Softwood (Scots Pine, Douglas Fir, Norway Spruce) as well as Sweet Chestnut when required. Although we don't currently fell Sweet Chestnut
ourselves, we can supply this subject to availability. Coniferous poles, for example Pine are available all year round however, Chestnut is a seasonally
cut timber and availability reduces between June and October.
- The conifer poles are quite straight and uniform and once seasoned have a density of approximately 0.6kg/litre. Natural durability is limited to approximately 3 years in the ground and up to 10
years out of the ground if treated and looked after.
- Sweet Chestnut is a broadleaved tree (hardwood) with smooth green- grey bark and creamy/ light-brown wood. It is less straight than the Pine and hence looks more rustic. There are usually slight
bends in a pole every 85cm to 120cm. Density is slightly more than Pine and the wood is harder to drill and nail into. It has far superior natural durability when compared with coniferous softwoods,
being up to 10 years in the ground and 15 years plus, out of the ground if treated and looked after.
- The use:
- Poles not in ground contact will remain reasonably sound where rainwater can run off them. Therefore in a built structure ,such as for example a pergola, the only places where
decay is likely is at the joints where water can sit on flat surfaces like mortises, tenons or butt joints.
- Poles in ground contact are prone to decay in the zone from approximately 50mm above ground level to 200mm below ground level. Longevity can be increased by application of
preservative to this zone to prevent decay. The bark should be peeled off and the exposed wood dried before application of preservative. Alternatively or in addition ground contact
poles can be bolted to concrete or steel ground anchors so that the timber is above the zone of maximum decay. Alternatively application of PostSaver sleeves to the
vulnerable area of the post will also greatly extend the service life.
- Tipi poles vary according to Tipi design and size. Lengths usually need to be 1.5m greater than the tipi diameter. Check with Tipi suppliers for the pole specification which can
broadly be categorised as follows: a.Small Tipis; pole tops 25-35mm and butts 60-75mm b.Medium Tipis: pole tops 35-50mm and butts 75-100mmc.Large Tipis; poles tops 50-70mm and butts 100-150mm
Coniferous softwoods like Douglas For, Norway Spruce or Scots Pine are preferred due to their superior straightness compared with hardwoods like Chestnut. Poles are supplied both with the bark on or
more usually fully peeled and sanded smooth. In both cases the branches are fully removed and machined to a smooth snag free finish at the knots.
- Pioneering Poles are used by the Scouts and other outdoor groups for making structural
projects. Sizes range according to the age groups of the participants and are typically from 1.5m to 6.0m long. Diameters range from
50mm to 70mm at the thin end with 120mm at the butt end usually a maximum. The most common Pioneering poles are 65-70mm at the top, 75-90mm at the butt and 3.0m to 5.0m long. Conifers are preferred
due to their straightness and are supplied both with the bark on or fully peeled and sanded smooth. In both cases the branches are fully removed and machined to a smooth snag free finish at the
Aftercare - how you will look after them.
As you are buying a natural product, rather than something that has been mass produced and pressure treated - the aftercare is really important if you
want to get as many years out of your purchase as possible and reduce the risks of mould or early decay. The necessary steps to look after your
poles is dependant on how green the wood is when you recieve it and what your intended use is, but all poles will need care and attention after purchasing. If you are interested in purchasing poles
from us, we will send you more information that is relevant to your order. This will include - the best ways to store your poles if you intend to store them and use them again and suggested wood