The London Hardwood Club Celebrating 80 years
The London Hardwood ClubCelebrating 80 years

Archive

14th May 2015 LHC meeting proved to be another very successful gathering, with an excellent members’ turnout and a brilliant speaker, Sean Sutcliffe, MD of wooden furniture manufacturer, Benchmark Furniture. 

The company is very well known in the hardwood industry, from which it has purchased top quality wood for 32 years, contributing to the creation of some of the most outstanding and talked-about wood crafted examples of designer furniture in the UK.  Sean showed some of the most prominent and skilful examples of furniture that he and his team designed for commercial and public offices as well as private residencies, highlighting the sense of craftsmanship and the natural element that these creations aim to achieve, a rising tendency often requested by the commission.  Most creations have been often made out of American species, such as walnut and cherry. He then went on to point out the increasing relevance that the environmental logic has in driving architectural design, even more so with recent developments in the drawing up of the full life cycle assessment of a product or construction project. He easily foresees this process going even further in the near future, by becoming a mandatory government policy and hinting that the LCA could become linked to the rate of VAT, an indication of how much the impact on the environment will weigh on our daily purchasing decisions.  As a supporter of sustainability and of the low environmental footprint of his products, he endorses the Grown in Britain campaign, although he remains a bit cautious of labels such as PEFC and FSC due to the schemes’ high level of competitiveness which defies from the main environmental purpose.  He firmly believes in the talent of future generations, embracing training for young members of staff and competitions such as the Wood Awards as a way of educating and celebrating the passion for wood amongst ‘woodies’.

Julia Young from WWF UK was the guest speaker to our 12th March meeting, when she talked about WWF’s Sustainable Forest Campaign. 

After a general introduction on some of the main campaigning activities of the WWF on many environmental fronts, she explained in more depth the aim of the charity’s Forest Campaign, which is of gaining the government and businesses’ backing on enabling a market of 100% sustainable and legal timber by 2020. 

The campaign, launched in December has already gained support from 34 influential businesses, such as major supermarkets Tesco, M&S and Sainsbury’s and DIY chain store B&Q. The EUTR’s uniform implementation across all EU member states and the legislation's wider coverage to include 100% of timber products are the main imminent challenges that the organisation is tackling in Brussels as the legislation goes under review, in order to reach its ambitious 2020 target. Julia went then on emphasising that this campaign will support both FSC and PEFC certification schemes and is thus not aimed at promoting FSC only. 

The Q&A session was brief and focused on the issue of forest management certification. 

Overall the speech, which was the first coming from an NGO representative in the history of the Hardwood Club, was well received by industry members, opening up new opportunities of engagement between the two sectors. 

 

The London Hardwood Club’s New Year Luncheon of 23rd January 2015 took place at the Club’s home, being the premises of the Honourable Artillery Company in Central London. The wood clad and warmly decorated Long Room was stretched to allow us to accommodate a near capacity attendance of 167 members and their guests.

The event began with a drinks reception, giving plenty of time for talk and meeting. Those in attendance included visitors from Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany and the USA, reflecting the Club’s long professed intentions for international scope and mutual learning. In a radical break from tradition, the lunch featured roast chicken, and while it was delicious and widely appreciated, good order will be restored in 2016 with the return of steak and kidney pudding. Lunch was followed by the President’s speech, during which Robert Morgan thanked guests and committee members for their support in securing the Club’s current level of success, gave a brief overview of the previous year, talked about the huge strides our industry has made tackling the dangers of being associated with illegal logging, and predicted that after a long and difficult five or so years we can look forward to sustained improvement in our fortunes. Then our guest, Ivan Savage, General Manager of the Timber Trades Benevolent Society, addressed the Club and outlined the excellent work being undertaken by the charity. This year’s entertainment was provided by a talented barber-shop quartet, who at one point sang from the Long Room gallery.

The after-lunch raffle raised a remarkable £2,412 for the President’s charities, this year being The Timber Trades Benevolent Society and Alzheimer's Society. A great collection of prizes were arranged this year, courtesy of the many donors, including a Samsung Galaxy Tab4 and Kindle, a helicopter ride over London, tickets to watch Crystal Palace football team, a hamper and malt whisky. Mr Jack Furtado again generously donated a hand-turned wood candle holder, of extraordinarily rich colour heartwood, finally identified by one guest as being made of laburnum.

Proceedings were followed by a great deal of socialising at the Medal Room bar, which became extended until the casks of real-ale were finally run dry, and guests finally made their way to the local ale house

It was sad not to share the event with Ray Brown, a great supporter of the Club and its traditions, who died unexpectedly in December 2014, age 88.

 

November 5th  2014– Guest speaker: Dr. Nigel Straw of the Forestry Commission’s Forest Research establishment at Alice Holt.

Presentation download - click here

Dr Straw came to talk to the Club about recently introduced European plant health import regulations. Such was the interest in the topic that the event attracted some 45 members and guests that included visitors from the USA and France. The speaker’s presentation followed a meeting of the Timber Trade Federation’s National Hardwood Division in the morning, a period of refreshment, and a sumptuous three-course meal served with wine.

The presentation began with a very convincing explanation of the seriousness with which plant-health matters should be treated, particularly in relation to the Emerald Ash Borer beetle infestation that has caused 100% mortality to ash in the USA and for which all eradication attempts have failed. The beetle was shown to have already colonised large areas of the USA and Canada, to be expanding its territory in North America, and even now spreading westwards from Russia.

The amended Plant Health (Forestry) Order which came into force on 3rd October 2014 was explained in relation to its European Union context and scientific rationale. It was made clear why the removal of 2.5cm of outer sapwood was a necessary condition, and why heat-treatment alone could not be relied on to kill the pest. Members were told about a temporary derogation that is soon to apply to American imports, and warned of its expiry at the end of 2015. The meeting gave members the opportunity to question the very knowledgeable and eloquent speaker, and resulted in a solid understanding of the issues.


Members retired to the pub down the road, where the once called Master Gunner has returned to its previous name Finch's.

September 10th 2014- Guest speaker: David Pattenden of the BWF and Westgate Joinery

The Club’s September meeting proved popular; thirty-one members that included visitors from Belgium and France stretched the Medal Room to near its capacity. The excellent three-course meal, wines and opportunity to catch-up with colleagues helped, but it was David Pattenden, President of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) that people came to see. This not least because of topical interest in the proposed merger between The UK Timber Trade Federation (TTF) and British Woodworking Federation (BWF) and imminent announcement of an interim single chief executive.

 David began speaking about his company’s use of Accoya and hardwood species for high-end projects, and then went on to describe the services that BWF provide to members. David made clear during his presentation and the extensive questions and answers session that he believes there is a need for greater cooperation in the industry, and an increasing inclination among trade organisations to work together that is so-far characterised by the timber industry Accord. Members present at the meeting were asked by the Club’s President whether they were in broad agreement that the TTF/BWF merger was a good idea, one which our membership would support, and it seemed that they were unanimously in favour. Discussion extended to consideration of the role of secondary species, engineered and modified wood in a future where the availability of traditional species in familiar grades appears destined to become increasingly restricted.

The Club particularly welcomed Peter Latham’s attendance at the meeting, appearing well on the road to recovery further to his recent accident and hospitalisation.

June 26th 2014 - Guest speaker: Dougal Driver of the Grown in Britain Campaign

The London Hardwood Club was on this occasion  addressed by Dougal Driver, Chief Executive of the Grown in Britain Campaign. He explained the history and rationale for the initiative, emphasising the underlying political support in favour of a sustainable future for the nation’s forests and woodlands. Various activities are being undertaken to increase levels of woodland management, production, wood utilisation and demand - including investigation into the feasibility of thermally modifying British hardwoods - with a view to restoring a wood-culture in Britain. We may in future see ‘British’ labelled hardwoods targeted at the UK market, and perhaps one-day beyond our shores. The luncheon was supported by the  23 club members and guests in attendance, who then engaged the speaker in an in-depth questions and answers session that reflected a sincere level of interest in the initiative.

 

   May 7th 2014 - London Hardwood Club AGM and Meeting

The London Hardwood Club’s AGM took place at the Master Gunner on City Road. The previous year’s activities were declared a great success overall, Eva Lamorgese of the Malaysian Timber Council was elected to the Committee, and the Club Rules were amended – a momentous occasion given that the outmoded edition of the Rules had stood for 20 years without change. The Treasurer returned a healthy financial report.  It was decided that membership fees would be maintained at their current level, and ways would be sought to spend any funds considered surplus on charitable causes and/or social events consistent with the Rules. The Committee encourages Members to continue their participation and help ensure that our Club returns real value by addressing trade issues of topical concern whilst serving as a friendly forum for discussion.

The Club Meeting took place subsequently at Artillery House, where 23 members enjoyed a lunch that featured steak and kidney pie. Guest presenter John White, outgoing Chief Executive Officer of the Timber Trade Federation (TTF), spoke generally about trade associations’ roles and importance lobbying in support of constituent members’ particular interests, while being of the opinion that there remains ample opportunity for coordination and rationalisation among the many bodies that currently represent sectors comprising the timber industry. Of the TTF’s many achievements over the past decade John highlighted his organisation’s success in preventing impractical obstacles to trade being imposed from elsewhere, whilst removing many of those that existed previously, and now leaving the way open for our industry to focus on promotion.  The event provided an opportunity for members to say good-bye to John, and thank him for his achievements and positive impact made on our industry over the past nine years spent in charge of the TTF.

March 11th - London Hardwood Club Market Meeting

The London Hardwood Club held a Market Meeting on Tuesday 11th March 2014. The event was attended by 17 members, three of whom presented briefly on matters of topical concern, thus providing a basis for subsequent discussion.

Points of view were expressed initially by Sheam Satkuru-Granzella (Malaysian Timber Council – London), Ken Walsh (Danzer UK) and Robert Morgan (Morgan Timber) providing the insightful and global perspectives of hardwood producers, international traders and UK importers. It was made apparent that the market is in a state of change, resulting from gradual and uneven economic recovery, adjustments in global patterns of supply and demand, and implementation of European regulation. The prevalent underlying messages conveyed were that recovery in the market is taking place but remains fragile, and that members will need to concentrate on securing long-term and sustainable supplies of hardwood in the face of global competition for wood fibre, procurement affected by recent legislation and market expectations.

On adjournment of the meeting there was a good turnout at the Master Gunner, where the real business of the day took place.

New Year Luncheon 2014

The London Hardwood Club’s New Year Luncheon took place on 17th January 2014 at the premises of the Honourable Artillery Company in Central London. The historic venue, appropriately furnished almost entirely in wood, most ably accommodated the near sell-out attendance achieved again this year with the sale of 145 tickets.

Members and guests, including visitors from mainland Europe, Canada and the USA, enjoyed the Club’s traditional fare, featuring steak and kidney pie washed down with cask-ale. Lunch was followed by the President’s speech, during which Robert Morgan thanked guests and committee members for their support in securing the Club’s current level of success, briefly reviewed issues addressed by the Club in 2013, and encouraged participation at future meetings in furtherance of mutual learning. This year’s entertainment was provided by stand-up comedian Paul Boardman, who offered a distinctly “Scouse” view on life.

The after-lunch raffle raised £1,875 for the President’s charities, this year being The Timber Trades Benevolent Society and Alzheimer's Society. In an extraordinary turn-of-events, each of the five raffle winners chose to donate their cash-prizes to the chosen charities, thus boosting the total sum gifted to an astonishing £2,675! Special thanks go to prize winners Rob Toy, Mark Sanz, Nick Taylor, John Phippen, and Martin Harrison, sponsors Associated Timber Services, Brooks Bros (UK), Danzer UK, LDT, Morgan Timber, Norman Global Logistics, Timbmet and Tradelink Wood Products, and to Mr Jack Furtado who generously donated a hand-turned wood gift as an additional prize.

Proceedings were followed by a great deal of socialising at the Medal Room bar, which became extended as guests finally made their way to the local hostelry.

6th November 2013 – Guest Speaker Michael Kearney of the National Measurement Office
The London Hardwood Club relocated temporarily to the Victory Services Club at Marble Arch on 6th November 2013, to accommodate the 53 members attending an update on implementation of and compliance with the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) provided by the National Measurement Office (NMO), the UK’s Enforcement Authority /Competent Authority.

Representing the NMO, Michael Kearney explained the approach being taken to implementation of the EUTR, the gradual development of his organisation’s capacity and its findings so-far. The NMO clearly appreciates and is impressed by the efforts that have been made by the majority of our trade, and is keen to maintain open-communications with those who have queries and concerns with a view to sharing information and expertise.

Mention was made of several key issues found to be arising so-far, including that some Operators are: a) misunderstanding the role of independent third-party certification schemes; b)  placing too much emphasis on obtaining documentation without questioning its relevance or credibility, and c) failing to make truly informed and rational assessments of risk, partly as a result of not applying due-diligence to all parameters. The NMO made clear that it would be helpful if those involved with risk assessment presented their documentation in such a way as to make clear their decision making processes, and then gave suggestions as to how this clarity might be achieved.

Michael’s presentation titled Promoting Compliance with the EU Timber Regulation can be viewed here


4th September 2013 - Guest Speaker Dave Hopkins of the TTF and Wood for Good
Dave gave a presentation to more than 20 LHC members on recent developments at Wood for Good and in particular the Wood First Plus project.

Wood First Plus grew out of the Wood First campaign which calls for a rule in planning guidance requiring that wood should be considered, where feasible, as the primary construction material in all publicly funded building projects. This campaign ran into some trouble with the lack of industry data it could produce to support its claims about timber’s environmental credentials.

The main focus of Wood First Plus is the gathering of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) information for a wide range of timber products. The database will be free to use, made available to all, serve as a tool for architects and specifiers and assist them in their selection and use of timber products.

Environmental Product Declarations incorporate the results of Life Cycle Analysis of various timber products, including the energy used in converting, kilning and transporting timber in preparation for end use. Dave said that Wood for Good was looking to collect more data on hardwood production and asked for members’ assistance in passing this information to him.

Two members present at the meeting, Andy Lodowski and Roger East have already offered to assist and are in an excellent position to do so as they both run substantial kiln drying plants.

Please see Dave’s request below:

The Wood First Plus project is progressing well. We are, however, looking to collect more data on hardwood production – in the UK and globally. All information we are collecting will be treated in confidence, with data entered only in order to obtain a generic average without reference to specific companies or organisations.

We were hoping that you would be able to help us build an accurate picture of the energy used in kilning and the values of sawn timber and its’ co-products. Specifically we are looking to get data on:

1. The energy sources used for kiln drying (your fuel mix) – biomass, natural gas, other (please specify)
2. The amount of fuel used for kilning
3. The energy demand per species
4. The volume of material produced per species (please provide as much of a break down as possible)
5. The economic values of sawn timber and the co-products produced from saw milling (please provide as much of a break down as possible)

In each case please specify in which country this is taking place.

We do realize that not all of these questions will be relevant to all members of the LHC but please do provide as much data as you can where possible. Any other information which you think relevant will also be gratefully received. If you also have company specific LCA data which you would be willing to share with us – publically or in confidence – this would be gratefully received and improve the accuracy of the data set and the project outcomes.

4th July 2013 – Guest speaker John Park of Canada Wood UK

Discussion on the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) held during the  4th July 2013 meeting, led and guided by John Park of Canada Wood UK, showed exemplary fulfilment of The Club’s first listed objective (a): …to hold… ‘luncheon for the purpose of exchanging information of common interest, and to assist, by open discussion, or other means, in providing a solution to difficulties or problems encountered by any individual member or number of members.’

Held three days after the enactment of the legislation surrounding the CPR, and just over a year after John’s initial presentation to the Club on the same subject, the meeting proved highly informative and of great interest to the 25 Members in attendance. Initially, Members were reminded of their statutory responsibilities under the CPR, focussing minds on the severe consequences associated with non-compliance. The relevance of the legislation to Members was then made clear, given that duties and responsibilities are allocated not solely to manufacturers but to traders and distributors also, and that the list of products covered by European Harmonised Standards  includes wood flooring, panelling and cladding, structural timber and engineered wood products.

With Members being variously informed on the subject, discussion covered a great deal of ground and involved the sharing of knowledge and experiences. John provided clarification on several key points,  including where apparent  ‘grey-areas’ had been highlighted. Attention was given to subjects that included levels of attestation, initial type testing, product marking and the contents of Declarations of Performance (DoP). Discussion on the Environmental Product Declaration, a document contained within the DoP and which may be expected to become of increasing importance to specifiers, was saved for the Club’s next meeting arranged for 4 September 2013.

May 16th - Guest Speaker Alan Sarling of Coastal Credit Insurance Brokers Ltd 

Alan Sarling of Coastal Credit Insurance Brokers Ltd presented to the London Hardwood Club on 16 May 2013, describing current trends and drivers in the credit insurance industry in relation to the timber trade. Alan’s career has spanned both the timber and finance industries, and in-fact he presented to the Club some 30 years ago, making him uniquely qualified to speak to members’ interests.

It was made apparent that the recession has caused difficulties for credit insurers. Plagued by insolvencies and increased prevalence of corruption, many underwriters had become very wary of certain sectors, including the construction industry. Nevertheless, members were informed that some credit insurers, smaller ones in particular, welcome new business, are prepared to take the time to assess individual risks and adopt a flexible approach. The risks associated with the timber and joinery industries can be considered as being lower than those for the construction sector overall, a fact that appears now to be appreciated by some providers. The assurances were not enough to quell lively debate generated by the 22 members who attended the meeting, and while the importance of credit insurance was clearly shown to be understood and appreciated, some concern was expressed at the perceived value of credit insurance further to a comparison of the costs and  frequency of claims.

New Year Luncheon 2013

The London Hardwood Club’s biggest event of the year took place on 18th January 2013 at the premises of the Honourable Artillery Company in central London. The fixture is recognised as being the premier annual gathering of the hardwood industry, a claim substantiated by another near sell-out attendance, despite atrocious weather conditions.

Nearly 140 members and guests, including those from European and North American countries enjoyed traditional English hospitality that featured steak and kidney pudding and cask-ale. Lunch was followed by entertainment provided by comedian Alfie Moore and the President’s speech, in which Andy Lodowski pleaded with the timber trade to unite in the face of challenges from competing materials.

This year’s raffle raised £1,250 for the President’s charities: ‘Cardiac Risk in the Young’ and ‘Daybreak (Oxford)’, and proceeding were completed with a great deal of socialising that became extended as guest finally made their way to the local hostelry.

November 7th - Guest Speaker Stephen Lowe Head of the DEFRA International Forestry Team

The London Hardwood Club’s November 2012 meeting served to update members on the EU Timber Regulation, ahead of its coming into force on 3rd March 2013. Given the availability of Stephen Lowe from Defra’s EU and International Forestry Team, and the extra-ordinary interest expressed in this topic, the meeting was made open to members and their guests and held at The Building Centre in London, home of the Timber Trade Federation. In fact, the meeting attracted an audience of more than 85 (!), and refreshment provided by courtesy. Mr Lowe began with a recap for the benefit of those new to the matter, explaining who the EUTR applies to, its purpose, and the due-diligence and traceability requirements applicable to those at different points within a supply chain. Outline was provided describing the regulatory process, regulations and implementing bodies, and an update on the measures currently being considered and consulted on – which include enforcement measures. A prolonged question time allowed members to obtain guidance on points of detail and express their concerns, such as over the ability of both EU and overseas trading nations to participate in accordance with the EUTR, and the importance that UK traders are acting on a level European playing field.


September 6th - Guest Speaker Armand Stockmans.

The London Hardwood Club’s 7th September 2012 meeting was attended by some 25 members who came to listen to an insightful presentation delivered by our Belgian guest speaker Armand Stockmans, Director of Somex N.V. and Hardwood Section Chairman of the European Timber Trade Federation.
 
An overview of the current market was provided, showing that while trade was holding-up in most major importing countries in Europe, the situation in The Netherlands has become difficult.

The impact of European initiatives to encourage responsible sourcing and reduce carbon emissions were also discussed, and an explanation was given about how two key factors in particular can be expected to affect the market.
 
The EU Timber Regulation appears likely to make it difficult to purchase from certain suppliers in some countries, depending partly on progress made by those entities and the evidence eventually considered to amount to reasonable proof of legality. Clearly, the European timber industry takes forthcoming implementation of the regulation very seriously, and would prefer to work with existing suppliers rather than lose them to less discerning buyers from elsewhere. Compliance can be expected to be a focus of attention by NGOs.

The EU has established a ‘Nearly Zero-Energy Building’ (nZEB) objective that includes ambitious targets to ensure that from 2020 all new buildings consume very little energy. Wood appears well placed to cater to the needs of joiners required to produce doors and windows with high insulation values, and in particular lower density woods available in larger section sizes. Lesser-known species may well substitute in place of traditional heavy woods, where they are known to be stable, and laminates used where large sections are required, perhaps incorporating insulating layers (e.g. cork).

It is in the tradition of The London Hardwood Club to embrace international participation, and Mr Stockmans’ contribution was very well appreciated.

 

July 4th - Do modified and engineered wood products pose a threat the hardwood trade?

More than 20 members attended the London Hardwood Club’s 4th July 2012 meeting, focussing this time on a topic that has crept-up over time. Andy Pitman, of both TRADA and The Wood Technology Society, spoke to the club on current and forecast developments related to wood engineering and modification, and then discussed their implications for the hardwood trade. Explanation was made showing that many of the technologies we see emerging now were first explored early in the last century, and that their recent commercialisation has been made possible largely by means of modern production techniques.

It was made apparent that while processes are capable of greatly enhancing many of the properties of some species, the costs involved cause the resulting products to be competitive only in limited circumstances, and frequently for higher-value end-uses such as cladding, joinery and construction. And while modified and engineered softwoods have the potential to substitute for hardwoods in some instances, maple, beech and ash may themselves be transformed by such technologies and find new markets.

 

May 2nd - Post-AGM Luncheon Meeting

On Wednesday 2nd May 2012 the London Hardwood Club Luncheon Meeting featured a presentation by guest speaker John Park of Canada Wood UK, titled ‘Everything (almost) you never knew you needed to know about European standardisation!’. More than twenty members were given an outline description of the implications for our trade further to developments with European standardisation and forthcoming adoption of Construction Products Regulation, particularly in relation to strength-graded hardwoods, wood flooring, solid wood panelling and cladding. With the Construction Products Regulation coming into effect from 1st July 2013, the meeting was timely and gave members the opportunity to seek clarity on actions that may be required of businesses at different parts of the supply chain. Further to some valuable questioning and involved discussion, members were advised to follow the link http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/construction/legislation/index_en.htm   and read the detail themselves.

Following the London Hardwood Club AGM held earlier the same day, it was announced that the Club President has agreed to serve for another year, that the Committee would remain unchanged, and that the price of luncheon with wine included would be increased to £30 henceforth - still representing exceptional value, we believe. The Committee would welcome approaches made by anyone interested to join-in and help with running the Club going forward, at any level.

 

March 13th - London Hardwood Club Market Meeting

The London Hardwood Club held a traditional style Market Meeting on Tuesday 13th March 2012. Lunch was attended by 22 members, three of whom went on to present briefly on matters of topical concern, and thus provide a basis for subsequent group discussion and comment.

Hank Marchal of Robinson Lumber Europe, Richard Carter of RJC Agencies and Paul Mitchard of Morgans Timber spoke insightfully on their respective market sectors. It was made clear that the UK remains an important market for the US, particularly given low the levels of activity being seen currently in many of the eurozone countries; and while the trading outlook appears to be reasonably stable, supply-side price pressures exist. While UK trade in white oak remains hugely predominant, it is apparent that recent trade in Walnut, Maple and Ash has proved satisfactory for many. Reports from Ghana suggest that decreasing wood products output combined with increasing demand placed by emerging markets is creating a very different trading climate in which traditional loyalties are breaking down, making it harder to satisfy the UK’s relatively onerous production requirements. Comments were made that suggest stocking FSC and PEFC certified wood products had become a minimum standard and a norm for many, where such products are available, and that they no longer attract a price premium in many cases. It was therefore of some consolation to hear several members say that they had experienced an upturn of demand for certified product in recent months and overall more consistent levels of business over the past three to four months had lead to cause for optimism for the hardwood trade with "light now more visible at the end of the tunnel".

And of course lunch was then followed by a good turnout at the Master Gunner – strictly for “networking” purposes only!

 

London Hardwood Club – New Year Luncheon 2012

This edition of our New Year Luncheon marked the 75th Anniversary of the London Hardwood Club, founded at an informal gathering held at The Great Eastern Hotel near to Liverpool Street railway station on the 21st April 1937.

Members and guests arrived at around midday, from which time cask ale and bar drinks were enjoyed prior to lunch. There were 130 people in attendance, including those from as far-away as Belgium, The Netherlands and USA; though Jim Parks and Brian Lewis who had long been members and regular attendees prior to their passing-away in recent months were sadly missed.

An official welcome was followed by grace and a delicious meal, featuring what has become a time-honoured tradition, steak and kidney pudding. The Club President spoke after the meal, highlighting the value of our product and the opportunities to realise its market potential.

After lunch entertainment was provided by comedian Ian Irving, with a routine that kept everyone in hysterics from beginning to end. This was followed by a great deal of time spent ‘networking’ and finishing the cask ale prior to adjournment to a local hostelry. Those present took with them a London Hardwood Club 75th Year Anniversary memento, a glass paperweight set on a plinth made from Norfolk grown brown oak.

This year’s luncheon raised over £1,570, thanks to raffle sponsors Associated Timber Services Ltd, Brooks Bros (UK) Ltd, Danzer UK Ltd, International Timber, and James Latham plc, to Jack Furtado who donated a home-turned English hardwood candlestick for auction, and to John Robinson who generously donated his raffle prize winnings. The sum was gifted equally to charities Cardiac Risk in the Young (C-R-Y) and Teenage Cancer Trust.

Feedback suggests the event was an overwhelming success!

 

2011 Meetings

November 2nd  - Guest Speaker: Nicola Sale from the DEFRA International Forestry Team

The London Hardwood Club, for its meeting held on 2nd November arranged a timely presentation describing new EU Regulations that are being developed for the timber and wood products industries. The topic is of profound interest to all members trading in hardwood, reflected by a turnout of more than 50 members and guests, including representatives from The Netherlands, Germany and USA.

Nicola Sale of Defra’s International Forestry Team delivered an excellent presentation titled ‘An overview of new EU Regulations in the timber sector’ explaining how new legislation will prohibit first placing of illegal timber on the EU market, and oblige operators placing timber on the EU market to implement due diligence procedures and those trading in timber and timber products to comply with traceability requirements. Outline detail was also given on how FLEGT Regulation makes it illegal to import certain types of timber into the EU from countries with whom the EU has concluded a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), unless that timber has been licensed by the exporting country as being legally harvested, and the relationship that FLEGT will have with the forthcoming EU Timber Regulation.

Drafting and adoption of the systems and legislation covering delivery of the EU Timber Regulation will be finalised by June 2012. The meeting provided a genuine and timely opportunity for London Hardwood Club members to update themselves and express concerns within a forum contributing to Defra’s ongoing engagement and consultation with stakeholders. The London Hardwood Club intends to invite Nicola back in the autumn of 2012, to update us in advance of 3rd March 2013 when the regulation becomes applicable. 

 

September 7th - MALAYSIAN TIMBER COUNCIL.

Sheam Satkuru-Granzella of the Malaysian Timber Council in London, kindly presented to the London Hardwood Club meeting on 7 September.  An informed insight was provided on forest management, certification and trade issues currently relevant to Malaysia and the country's overseas customers. 

 

July 6th - Hardwood Flooring Industry meeting

The London Hardwood Club’s 6th July 2011 meeting focused on the UK hardwood flooring industry, with insight provided by John Mitchell, sales and marketing director of Ted Todd Hardwood Floors.

Pointing to the relative dearth of accurate and useful data available to the sector, John proceeded to share the benefit of his observations as an insider and market actor in solid and engineered wood floors sales and distribution

The current market was portrayed as one of subdued trading conditions and indifferent short-term prospects, but dynamic nevertheless. The predominant demand for wide-plank medium-tone oak floors appears to be evolving, with new trends emerging such as for mosaics, lighter woods and narrower-boards.’. Furthermore, reason was given to believe that quality wood floors are becoming increasingly well-placed to hold and even capture market share in competition with low-cost floors, vinyl and carpet.

Some time was spent talking about specification, installation and maintenance, particularly in the light of greatly increased use of under-floor heating and the availability of floor-care products that make wood floors an increasingly attractive prospect for consumers - the affect is not surprising because results of market research presented by the speaker showed that the biggest influence effecting consumers’ decision to buy a particular floor lay in its ease of cleaning.

The well attended and lively meeting once again attracted international participation.

 

May 11th – London Hardwood Club AGM and Market Meeting

The London Hardwood Club convened over coffee at the Master Gunner, re-elected its committee members for another year of service, confirmed that its finances are in sound and good order, and congratulated itself on an excellent year gone-by that was distinguished by continued growth. For the club’s 75th Anniversary New Year Lunch - 21st January 2012 was cited as being a favoured day for an occasion not to be missed.

The Market Meeting was held over luncheon at Armoury House with 26 people in attendance. The format is in the best tradition of the club, with members sharing information on concerns that are of common interest. A timber importer, agent and shipper took turns to speak briefly on their particular sectors, followed by discussion, questions and answers surrounding the themes raised. Geoff Stentiford of Brooks Bros presented a list of issues that point to the inevitability of price rises, particularly in the event of an upturn in demand. It was made apparent that financial stresses exist throughout the supply chain, and challenges remain associated with implementation of the forthcoming EU Timber Regulation. Guy Goodwin of NHG Timber focussed on procurement from African countries, steeped in difficulties caused by instability, European environmental requirements and chronic delays. Furthermore, Far-Eastern supplies have been adversely affected by heavy rains and appear likely to be increasingly diverted to Japan. Roland Feit of Abalon also talked of a tightening situation in regard to supplies of medium and lower grades of beech available from the company’s mills in Germany and Austria where increasing volumes are being diverted to China and a subsidised bio-fuel market. The speakers did convey some good news too! UK hardwood traders have evidently had a quite reasonable start to the year, supplies from Cameroon and Gabon are relatively secure, and the UK has proved to be a valued outlet for higher grades of beech. Overall, the clear message is that wood supplies are tight and that increasing global demand will result in rising prices.

 

March 9th – Guest Speaker: Graham Taylor, Director of Pryor & Rickett Silviculture.
"The Market for Homegrown Hardwoods"

 

Graham informed members that British hardwoods have a bright future, but that forests need to be better managed.

In his opinion the management of public forestland is poor - "The French know how to grow Oak: they've stuck to their guns for over 750 years".
Unfortunately, it appears the same cannot be said for our forests.

Britain has 971,000ha of hardwood forest and timber production has fallen from 910,000m3 in 1980 to 73,000m3 in 2009.

Bureaucracy did not encourage small forest owners to manage their land, said Graham.
There were also few outlets for what was inevitably low grade timber. “So why fell when you won’t get much for it?” he said.
However, Graham said low grade woods could make money and could have a role in providing energy as the price of oil continues to rise.
“We will have a major energy crisis within half a rotation [of timber]. Historically woods have kept people warm [through firewood] and I think we will revert to that,” he said.
Better silviculture would also improve the quality of hardwoods and softwoods. “If you grow quality, you will sell,” said Mr Taylor.
He added that productive woodlands were also needed “because they’re great for soaking up carbon”.

 

28th January 2011 - London Hardwood Club New Year Lunch 2011

Armoury House, decked in hardwood throughout, home to the oldest regiment in the British Army, once again provided the perfect setting for The London Hardwood Club’s New Year Lunch.

The event has finally been restored to its best form. As well as being a great occasion, it serves as an ideal opportunity to catch-up with old friends, meet and make new contacts within the hardwood industry. This year the club welcomed 125 members and guests that included visitors from Belgium, France, Germany, Ghana, Holland and USA!

Guests were first greeted and directed to the bar, where gravity-fed cask ale featured as a relative newcomer to the event’s format. Speeches were kept to a minimum, allowing guests to be left in peace to enjoy their three course meal crowned with time-honored and perfectly formed steak and kidney pudding.

The comedian Russ Williams followed-up with his highly entertaining routine. The raffle-draw ended the proceedings, having raised an outstanding total of £1,365 for The National Autistic Society and Teenage Cancer Trust, a sum that included a generous donation of £200 made by our President further to his winning second-prize in the draw.

Guests then lingered at the bar before moving on to a nearby hostelry - as is the tradition.

 

November 3rd - Guest Speaker: Ulrich Grauert (Chief Operating Officer Danzer Group Africa).
"African Hardwoods from a global perspective".

Another "full house" of members were given an overview of the logistics involved in the production of African hardwoods together with the ongoing dynamics of the global market.

Ulli explained that the day to day costs of production and transportation in Africa remain high. This, together with the cost of achieving and maintaining FSC certification/third party legality verification status, will dictate the need for continued firm pricing from producers over the coming years.

Over recent times the various European markets (including the UK), whilst remaining significant, have become less influential drivers of the market for African hardwoods. China, Russia, USA and "emerging" markets such as North Africa have become major players. The market for African hardwoods is today more diverse than ever before.

Many suppliers are developing markets for new species. This is aided by the fact that these new species carry the usual legality assurances and in many cases the FSC logo if required.

Some progress is also being made in the availability of added value products at source, although there is still much work that can be done in this area.

Africa has made giant steps forward over recent years to demonstrate the legality and sustainability of its timber products and is well positioned to ensure that the requirements of the Lacey Act in the USA, together with the new EU Illegal Timber Law are met.

From Ulli's perspective the future for African hardwoods as a major supplier to the worldwide timber consuming industry looks to be secure.

 

September 9th – Market Meeting.

The London Hardwood Club arranged a traditional-style market meeting for 9th September 2010, an event that attracted some forty members, filling the Honourable Artillery Company’s Medal Room.

Proceedings began with brief presentations given by Guy Goodwin of NHG Timber, John May of James Latham, and special-guest Toto Robinson of Robinson Lumber Company, New Orleans. The speakers and subsequent discussion dealt comprehensively with matters of current interest and concern, with subject matter ranging from temperate and tropical hardwood price trends and availability, trade dynamics, freight rates, credit conditions and EU due diligence regulation. It was apparent that many in the hardwood trade experienced good first-half year trading results but view the second half of the year with uncertainty.

 

July 7th – Guest Speaker– Alex Gray.

The London Hardwood Club’s 7th July 2010 meeting was attended by 25 members and provided focus on the topic of container freight.

Alex Gray, CEO of Clarkson Securities Ltd. explained how freight rates were linked closely to supply and demand, and that shipping capacity had struggled to match the 9.4% average growth in container trade recorded during period 1997-2008, which included 6 years of consecutive double-digit growth during the period 2002-2007. However, growth slowed to 4.4% in 2008, further to the global downturn and financial climate, and 2009 marked the first ever contraction; though by first quarter of 2010 the industry had returned to positive growth again.

Throughout, prices tracked the availability of freight in relation to demand, and so rates dropped steeply in 2008 as demand - notably from China - slumped at a time when new ships continued to come into service, causing some ship operators to go out of business and container surpluses to be been taken out of commission. Now that demand is beginning to recover at a time when capacity is somewhat stalled, prices are firming and expected to rise to a peak in the 3rd quarter of 2010 before the pressures of oversupply come to the surface once again. From this high rates are expected to soften.

Clarkson Securities is developing a futures market for container freight, allowing clients the opportunity to protect themselves against the vagaries of price fluctuations. Exchangeable swaps are being made available to traders interested in securing around five or more containers.

 

May 11th – AGM & Guest Speaker – Nicolas Tarteret
Oak Barrels Market 

London Hardwood Club members were treated to a presentation by a guest speaker from France on 11th May 2010. Nicholas Tarteret explained to an audience of more than 20 how forest management, sawmilling, stave production and cooperage worked together to produce a variety of barrels suited to the specialist requirements of the wine industry.  

A truly fascinating description was given of oak and it’s relation to barrel making and wine production. Further to declines in the market for wood barrels seen in the 1950’s and 1960’s, supply and demand has returned to balance. Now only about 2% of the worlds wine production is aged in oak, comprising the best wines and some Champagnes. Oak staves are quarter-sawn for American oak and split for French oak from fine, straight grain, light-pink coloured wood, that is frequently obtained from the first length of a logs cut from trees grown sandy and well drained soils; in fact wood that is not well suited for many other end uses. While US oak converts better into staves and results in less leakage, French oak is widely considered to impart better flavour to wines. Dark brown English oak grown on clay soils is not usually acceptable for wine barrels because of its high tannin content and the undesirable flavours it contains, described as “muddy”. Wines do not always benefit from exposure to oak’s tannins, and so even the lightest coloured oak may need to be aged to fix them. Finally, barrel staves are scorched to varying degrees to impart additional flavours to the beverages they will contain within barrels.  

In all, the presentation provided an insight into another world, and an unexpected education in wine and oak. Finally, members were informed that Bourbon differs from other whiskies because of the fresh oak barrels it is matured in, which give it its fuller flavour and darker colour. Now who knew that?

 

March 10th – Guest Speakers – Ian Purkis and Pauline Kelly

 

The London Hardwood Club Market Meeting on 10th March featured two guest speakers, Pauline Kelly, director of specialist joiner and stairmaker E. A. Higginson & Co Limited, and Ian Purkis, Technical Director of joinery manufacturer Jeld-Wen UK Limited, respectively past and current presidents of the British Woodworking Federation. The speakers provided valuable insight to an audience of almost 30 London Hardwood Club members, covering issues perceived by the joinery industry to be important to the future well-being of all of us involved in the hardwood supply chain.

It was made clear that forest with chain of custody certification is becoming a regular requirement of joinery manufacturers’ UK mass-market customers, and that interest expressed by European buyers is growing. In addition, suppliers of wood products are increasingly being invited to express the environmental credentials of those products in terms of whole-life costing, enabling comparison to be made with competing products. While wood can undoubtedly make impeccable front-end (upstream) environmental claims, further progress can be achieved by focusing efforts on improving back-end (downstream) elements of the life-cycle of wood.

A practical perspective was given from the point of view of the joinery industry, where manufacturers are anxious to reduce waste which is costly to dispose of, and if any unavoidable waste was to be re-cycled more effectively it would further enhance their products’ environmental profiles. Mention was made of how hardwood suppliers can assist in several ways, such as by supplying materials that are more sensitive to joiners’ size requirements and offering to collect their customers waste. Furthermore, suppliers were invited to note that joiners can be expected to increasingly adopt methods that improve the profile of the wood they use, such as by specifying engineered wood products in specific dimensions, making use of smaller pieces of wood for component parts (e.g. for furniture), and re-using wood products where possible.

Suggestion was made that solid hardwood could become an increasingly niche and high-value material, continuing to be required in all its variety for the manufacture of prestige products. In turn, engineered wood products may gradually become mainstream, as market acceptance grows with increased availability, familiarity, confidence and development of more sophisticated production techniques. Wood in all its forms is gaining status as material-of-choice, but expectations of quality and environmental performance must be upheld by actors throughout the supply chain.

 

15th January 2010 - The London Hardwood Club’s New Year Luncheon

The London Hardwood Club’s New Year Luncheon took place on 15th January 2010 at The Honourable Artillery Company’s premises in London. The event attracted 119 members and guests, including hardwood and flooring agents, importers, furniture makers, architects and trade associations – even from as far away as Belgium! The attendance was spectacular, to say the least, and the club remains extremely grateful for the tremendous support expressed by its members.

The pre-lunch gathering was made special with the provision of three barrels of gravity-fed cask ale, which perfectly complemented the traditional meal that followed. This year’s steak and kidney pudding truly surpassed expectations!

Toasts were proposed by our Joint Hon Sec, Robin Learmount, and club President, Andy Lodowski, with a response by David Francis, President of the Plywood Luncheon Club and Timber Trade Benevolent Society. Formalities were followed with a presentation delivered by our guest speaker, Roger Southee of Foresbec UK, which combined some highly amusing stories with references that will have connected with most in the room who have had any involvement in our industry, and included some poignant food for thought. The lunch finished further to a few words provided by Lewis Scott, who reminded us of the opportunities to become involved with Woodland Heritage www.woodlandheritage.org .

Club raffle prizes were provided courtesy of generous support given by Associated Timber Services, Danzer UK, Gerry Lynch Woodworking Machinery, International Timber, James Latham, and Parker Kislingbury. The raffle raised £1400 - including £300 that was generously donated by the first-prize winner Rupert Walker of Timberlink - with the final sum donated to The National Autistic Society and the Teenage Cancer Trust, who each received cheques for £700.

Carrying on with tradition, the end of the luncheon was followed by mass migration down the road to a nearby drinking hole!

4th November 2009 - "Woodland to Workshop" - Woodland Heritage

Woodland Heritage (www.woodlandheritage.org) presented from ‘Woodland to Workshop’ to a packed audience of over thirty London Hardwood Club members. Guests from the charity attending the Market Meeting included Roger Venables, Lewis Scott and Geraint Richards.

Roger Venables of Woodland Heritage explained how it came to be founded by a group of traditional cabinet makers who wanted to improve the way in which trees were grown, maintained and harvested. Now with the support of approximately 650 members, the organisation works to show that with proper management British woodlands are capable of producing high quality timber whilst simultaneously delivering a multitude of social and environmental benefits.

Woodland Heritage promotes its goals by spreading the word and co-operating with like-minded initiatives, while funding projects, travel bursaries, research and education. London Hardwood Club members were encouraged to have staff participate on the organisation’s three-day "From Woodland to Workshop" courses, which give a practical overview of the issues surrounding UK woodland management, timber production, harvesting and processing. In fact, a LHC member testified to having already participated on the course, and spoke highly of it at the meeting. Woodland Heritage also manages a forum on its website, with a facility available to members seeking to buy and sell woodland products.

Club members expressed disappointment with the low level of government support made available to the UK home-grown hardwood sector, and praised Woodland
Heritage’s initiative for the enthusiasm it generated.4th November 2009 - "Woodland to Workshop" - Woodland Heritage

Woodland Heritage (www.woodlandheritage.org) presented from ‘Woodland to Workshop’ to a packed audience of over thirty London Hardwood Club members. Guests from the charity attending the Market Meeting included Roger Venables, Lewis Scott and Geraint Richards.

Roger Venables of Woodland Heritage explained how it came to be founded by a group of traditional cabinet makers who wanted to improve the way in which trees were grown, maintained and harvested. Now with the support of approximately 650 members, the organisation works to show that with proper management British woodlands are capable of producing high quality timber whilst simultaneously delivering a multitude of social and environmental benefits.

Woodland Heritage promotes its goals by spreading the word and co-operating with like-minded initiatives, while funding projects, travel bursaries, research and education. London Hardwood Club members were encouraged to have staff participate on the organisation’s three-day "From Woodland to Workshop" courses, which give a practical overview of the issues surrounding UK woodland management, timber production, harvesting and processing. In fact, a LHC member testified to having already participated on the course, and spoke highly of it at the meeting. Woodland Heritage also manages a forum on its website, with a facility available to members seeking to buy and sell woodland products.

Club members expressed disappointment with the low level of government support made available to the UK home-grown hardwood sector, and praised Woodland
Heritage’s initiative for the enthusiasm it generated.

 

9th September 2009 "The Challenges of Legal and Sustainable Hardwood Procurement" - a talk led by David Venables of the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) and Rupert Oliver of Forest Industries Intelligence Ltd.

The London Hardwood Club meeting held on 9th September 2009 featured a talk led by David Venables of the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) and Rupert Oliver of Forest Industries Intelligence Ltd. titled ‘The Challenges of Legal and Sustainable Hardwood Procurement’. Thirty members attended the meeting, whose contributions resulted in valuable discussion from a variety of informed perspectives.

The guest speakers placed emphasis on the changing environmental requirements being placed on our industry, and stressed the importance of continuing to act to ensure that green procurement initiatives serve not as a threat but only to the advantage of trade in hardwoods. Mention was made of the fact that the timber industry has become increasingly able to demonstrate its sustainability credentials, and is now well-positioned to satisfy and supply customers who have shared concerns over matters such as legality, sustainability and carbon capture. In fact, much of the resurgence of interest in wood is underpinned by the material’s environmental credentials, and increasing focus on the carbon budget of buildings should serve only to boost the popularity of wood and increase demand when the economy returns to growth.

AHEC view industry collaboration on addressing sustainability issues as being valuable, but not without limitations because each sector has individual circumstances that need to be addressed in particular ways. It was made clear that hardwood supply networks within the USA are complex and difficult to certify under the commonly accepted third-party forest certification and chain-of-custody schemes; while there are good reasons to believe that wood products purchased from mills are in any-case at low risk of originating from anything other than legal and “sustainable” sources.

The UK’s timber industry is being put under increasing pressure to comply with due-diligence requirements, and it was suggested that greater weight be placed on risk-assessment techniques rather than reliance on certification schemes as means to fulfil these requirements, particularly if we intend to continue and import US hardwoods in the quantities we have become accustomed to, because the availability of US hardwood products sourced from forests certified under widely accepted third-party audit schemes is unlikely to increase significantly in the near future.

Club members, with a diverse range of expertise and experience, commented that EU due-diligence procedure is likely to increase the demand for certified products, because credible third-party sustainable forest management certification serves as a clear and effective tool for demonstrating compliance with legal requirements, and that it would be hard to make exceptions for individual countries.

The talk provided valuable perspective, provoked thought, and stimulated informative debate that will have resulted in some clarification of important and topical issues for most who attended.
9th September 2009 "The Challenges of Legal and Sustainable Hardwood Procurement" - a talk led by David Venables of the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) and Rupert Oliver of Forest Industries Intelligence Ltd.

The London Hardwood Club meeting held on 9th September 2009 featured a talk led by David Venables of the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) and Rupert Oliver of Forest Industries Intelligence Ltd. titled ‘The Challenges of Legal and Sustainable Hardwood Procurement’. Thirty members attended the meeting, whose contributions resulted in valuable discussion from a variety of informed perspectives.

The guest speakers placed emphasis on the changing environmental requirements being placed on our industry, and stressed the importance of continuing to act to ensure that green procurement initiatives serve not as a threat but only to the advantage of trade in hardwoods. Mention was made of the fact that the timber industry has become increasingly able to demonstrate its sustainability credentials, and is now well-positioned to satisfy and supply customers who have shared concerns over matters such as legality, sustainability and carbon capture. In fact, much of the resurgence of interest in wood is underpinned by the material’s environmental credentials, and increasing focus on the carbon budget of buildings should serve only to boost the popularity of wood and increase demand when the economy returns to growth.

AHEC view industry collaboration on addressing sustainability issues as being valuable, but not without limitations because each sector has individual circumstances that need to be addressed in particular ways. It was made clear that hardwood supply networks within the USA are complex and difficult to certify under the commonly accepted third-party forest certification and chain-of-custody schemes; while there are good reasons to believe that wood products purchased from mills are in any-case at low risk of originating from anything other than legal and “sustainable” sources.

The UK’s timber industry is being put under increasing pressure to comply with due-diligence requirements, and it was suggested that greater weight be placed on risk-assessment techniques rather than reliance on certification schemes as means to fulfil these requirements, particularly if we intend to continue and import US hardwoods in the quantities we have become accustomed to, because the availability of US hardwood products sourced from forests certified under widely accepted third-party audit schemes is unlikely to increase significantly in the near future.

Club members, with a diverse range of expertise and experience, commented that EU due-diligence procedure is likely to increase the demand for certified products, because credible third-party sustainable forest management certification serves as a clear and effective tool for demonstrating compliance with legal requirements, and that it would be hard to make exceptions for individual countries.

The talk provided valuable perspective, provoked thought, and stimulated informative debate that will have resulted in some clarification of important and topical issues for most who attended.

 

1st July 2009 - "What Future for Education in the Timber Trade ?"

Our guest speaker for the day was Geoff Taylor from the Institute of Wood Science (IWSc).

Geoff advised us that the IWSc had undergone a major change in its status recently. Whilst remaining loyal to its core value of education for all those in the timber industry, the need had been identified to form a closer bond with like minded institutions where timber could be promoted, under a wider umbrella with greater impact. To this end the IWSc has become part of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3). Under its new banner of the Wood Technology Society it is felt the organisation will be stronger and more vibrant. Individual Wood Technology Society membership currently stands at 800 with around 45 corporate members.

Education of the whole supply chain is a primary target, with the four "P"s playing a vital part in widening the role of timber in today's society. Production, Price, Position in the supply chain and Promotion being all important. Geoff Taylor said "key learning areas must be appropriate to both companies and individuals and change had to be keenly anticipated," with the industry being more proactive and not simply lagging behind the success of other competing materials. Existing/new markets can be actively developed via the use of modern technology with timber products capable of being used in applications previously not considered.

None of the above can be seriously tackled without education, hence the important role the newly formed Wood Technology Society can play.

 

12th May 2009 -The London Hardwood Club AGM and Meeting

Annual General Meeting

Representatives of the London Hardwood Club’s committee voted unanimously to elect Andy Lodowski as club President, on the basis of an agreed two-year term. Ken Walsh, who has done so much to revive the club’s fortunes as immediate past-President is to become Vice President, and Robin Learmount, Frank Cosentino, and Patrick Cooper were re-elected to continue to serve as Hon. Secretary, Treasurer and PR & Communications officer respectively. The arrangement will put the club on a sound and stable course into the future, building on the success of last year during which company membership increased to 53 - a level of support not seen since 1983 - and club finances firmed.

It was decided that membership subscriptions would remain unchanged for the next 12 months, at £55. Company members will continue to be entitled to affix their logo to the club website, with a hyperlink to their own company website, for the lifespan of their club membership, in return for a one-off fee of £50. An alternative option will be made available, allowing members to pay for the same facility at a rate of £10 per annum.

Luncheon Meeting

The club’s AGM was followed by a luncheon meeting at the Honourable Artillery Company’s premises. On this occasion, Mr Mark Fletcher, Relationship Director of Barclays Commercial Banking ‘Retail and Wholesale Team’, with specific responsibility for the timber industry, delivered a topical and informative presentation titled ‘Where do we go from here…..?’.

It was made clear that the prospects for the UK economy depend largely on confidence, but the bank considers likely the prospect that UK GDP will contract by 3.7% in 2009, and return to growth of approximately 0.3% in 2010. While disposable income has increased in recent months, and finance is gradually becoming more available, people remain inclined to save and pay-back debt rather than spend in the current climate of uncertainty. Nevertheless, even with unemployment rising and expected to peak at around 3 million by the end of this year, there are early signs of recovery in retail sales, and from the deep lows probed in the housing market. With people seeking to borrow less money, finance is becoming gradually more available, and loan costs are not expected to increase anytime soon.

Barclays appear to view the pound sterling as having become overly devalued, largely owing to lack of confidence in the currency, and are bullish on the currency’s prospects. Given that UK base rates are unlikely to fall lower, exchange rates of USD1.8/GBP and EUR1.25/GBP are considered realistic within 12 months time.

Various government programmes are being introduced, mainly to benefit viable, small to medium sized incorporated companies operating in the UK. Commercial banks can advise on the availability of assistance under initiatives that include Enterprise Finance Guarantee, Capital Enterprise Fund, Working Capital Scheme, and the European Investment Bank Cash Back Scheme. They can also advise on managing late payments and bad debts.

The message to the timber industry is to err on the side of caution, hedge against currency volatility, and carefully manage stock levels, staffing and cash flow. It is important that the industry does not reduce capacity to the extent that it becomes incapable of responding to any market upturn.

 

4th March 2009 - "Recession Proof - Prosper in Harder Times - Is your business fit enough to cope" Members were given a presentation by Nick Mayhew, founder and Chair of the UK200Group Business Strategy Panel. Nick is a very accomplished public speaker who presents regularly at international conferences, often as a keynote speaker, on the strategy agenda. Some bullet points from Nick's presentation are as follows: • The need to be sharp when the market is volatile - volatility meaning not necessarily just bad trading conditions but a market subject to extremes (both good and bad). • Face up to problems - they won't go away unless you confront them. • Confidence can be hit in difficult times but a positive outlook needs to be maintained - manage your sales team accordingly. • Nothing builds confidence more than spreading your own company's gospel - a positive approach to problem solving is essential. • Identify your strengths and weaknesses and deal with them clinically. Remove any fat - leave your muscle in tact ! • Bad market conditions do not reduce skill levels - these remain and should not be compromised. • Resession cannot be overcome by saving at all costs - controlled spending will eventually lead to an increased demand. Nick's relaxed style encouraged a lot of audience participation and members agreed it was a very interesting and thought provoking meeting.

 

14th January 2009 - The London Hardwood Club New Year Luncheon 2009

In time honoured fashion the London Hardwood Club held its annual New Year Luncheon at the fine premises of the Honourable Artillery Company in London on 14th January 2009.

Robin Learmount, Joint Hon. Sec. to the London Hardwood Club, began proceedings by paying tribute to Geoff Osborne, who passed away in 2008 after a prolonged battle against cancer. Geoff was known to many in the trade as a dear friend and colleague, and is sadly missed.

Ken Walsh, President of the London Hardwood Club, followed by announcing that more than one hundred people were in attendance at this year’s event, affectionately known as the London hardwood trade’s annual steak and kidney pie fest, 30% up on attendance figures familiar in the previous three years! Over 65 companies and organisations were represented at the lunch, including from as far away as Belgium and Lancashire, so that the occasion has reclaimed its status as the key venue for the hardwood trade at the start of each year.

Guests of the club included Kevin Hayes, President of The Timber Trade Federation (TTF) and Managing Director of Nelss UK Limited, Danny O’Connell, President of The London Softwood Club and sales manager for Stora Enso, and David Francis, President of The Plywood Club of London and a director of DHH Timber Products. As guest speaker, Kevin Hayes called on the trade not to talk itself down into a state of “doom and gloom” in this harsh economic climate, but to remain realistic. He encouraged the hardwood industry to think positively and creatively, to look for opportunities that would surely emerge, and return to basic values such as buying best, wasting less and offering genuine value. Mention was made of the TTF, which clearly has a particularly important role in rallying and supporting the timber industry in these difficult times.

Robin Learmount highlighted the difficulties companies were facing obtaining finance and credit insurance, and expressed hope that the TTF’s representation at government level would help push for the urgent action required.

Dan Jakens and Ray Brown were presented with wooden orbs, set on wood plinths, in recognition of the support they have given to the London Hardwood Club over many years. Both Dan and Ray continued as committee members long after their retirement from the hardwood trade, and their efforts have greatly contributed to the wellbeing of the Club.

In memory of Geoff Osborne the proceeds of the raffle were donated to the charity that he and his wife Sue started “Osbornes for Orphans”, in support of COSO Orphanage in Cambodia. The generosity of those in attendance, including the winner of the raffle who donated his prize, allowed us to gift the organisation the sum of £1657.50.

5th November 2008 - The London Hardwood Club given a new perspective on going ‘Green’

 

London Hardwood Club members were given a refreshingly new perspective on going ‘green’ at the luncheon meeting held on 5th November 2008, when Mr Ross delivered an inspiring presentation titled ‘Art of oak – Why season timber?’

Peter Ross, of Ove Arup (and President of TRADA), delivered an informative slide-show explaining how inherited knowledge accumulated over centuries can be used to offer release from widespread and mainstream reliance on seasoned wood, and give ‘green’ timber relevance as a building material capable of enhancing design and construction today.

Emphasis was placed on the value in understanding the properties and characteristics of unseasoned oak, knowledge that can enable architects and engineers to work with the natural material to realise design aspirations, while benefiting from the workability, character and cost-savings associated with going ‘green’.

The presentation was greatly appreciated by the audience of over 40 members, inspired by Peter’s enthusiasm for the subject, the research he had undertaken, and courage in putting theory into practice to create and deliver outstanding buildings and structures

 

9th September 2008 - PEFC; a solution or problem?

 

The London Hardwood Club attracted a capacity audience to its 9th September meeting, continuing the club’s revival as a rendezvous for the London and Home Counties hardwood trade. Peter Latham of Lathams Limited, serving as Chairman of PEFC UK Ltd, presented ‘PEFC – a solution or problem?’ describing benefits that had accrued from healthy competition between independent forest certification schemes, resulting in their increased credibility and commercial viability. It was also made evident that a unified system of chain of custody still needs to be agreed to eliminate costly duplication.

Since the early 1990’s, the supply of certified temperate wood products has increased to the point where it exceeds apparent consumer demand. PEFC sees itself well placed to help increase the supply of certified timber from tropical regions, and hope soon to be in a position to endorse evolving African schemes. LHC members expressed their disappointment with government bodies that continued to pay scant attention to guidance provided by central government’s Central Point of Expertise on Timber, though comments suggested that demand for certified wood products is increasingly underpinned by organisations that view credible forest certification schemes as means of providing evidence to investors and customers that they are adopting accepted best practice and taking due care in regards wood procurement.

 

 

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The Honourable Artillery Company 
Armoury House 
City Road 
London 
EC1Y 2BQ 
Tel: 020 7382 1537

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