Category: Timber

Providing wood and timber for use in our daily lives is one of the most important benefits of our forests and woodlands.

Wood is a wonderful natural and completely renewable material. Every part of a tree – the roots, bark, branches and trunk – is put to use to make different products – from medicines to mulch, from paper to planks.


Based on provisional data from the Forestry Commission, the UK is estimated to have consumed just over 15½ million m3 of sawn timber and panel products in 2015. This is slightly down on the 2014 figures contained in the 2015 Forestry Commission Statistics Report which showed that the UK consumed just under 16 million m3, with the split of UK production and imports very similar. The 2014 data breaks these figures down in more detail:


  • 38% of the sawn softwood consumed was home grown, with 92% of the imported softwood coming from the EU and 6% from Russia.
  • 7% of the sawn hardwood consumed was home grown, with 55% of the imports coming from the EU, 21% from the USA, and 18% from tropical sources.
  • 68% of the particle board and OSB was produced in the UK, with 100% of the imported board coming from the EU (mainly France and Germany)
  • 100% of the plywood was imported, with 42% of this coming from China, 19% from the EU and 16% from Brazil.
  • 43% of the Fibreboard and MDF was produced in the UK, with 95% of the imported board coming from the EU (Ireland, Germany Belgium and Spain)


You will see from these figures that the UK is doing very well in the production of panel products (except for plywood). However it would be good to see more of a balance in the sawn softwood market, and with only 7% home grown, the sawn hardwood supply chain needs to be fixed.

Well-managed forests last forever and rely on the forest cycle - plant, grow, fell, plant, grow, fell. 

The cycle includes:

Preparation – in some places we need to prepare the ground before planting. To give our trees the best start, we create mounds of soil to plant them in.

Planting – planting is usually done by hand. We plant trees close together to give them protection from the wind and to encourage them to grow tall. Soil type, climate and site, can help decide which trees we plant.

Thinning – we usually plant more trees than we need. That way, we can remove the trees that aren’t doing so well to make room for the rest to grow.

Felling – we cut the trees down at 40 to 150 years of age - depending on the type of tree. Once felled, a timber lorry takes them from the forest roadside to the mill and they're turned into timber products.


Different timber products are made from different parts of the tree.

Thinnings, tops of trees and small trees

Paper and cardboard – wood broken down into pulp, mixed with water, spread in a layer then rolled and dried under pressure.

Chipboard – small particles of wood bonded together, rolled under pressure to form a sheet. Used for flooring, roofing and partitions.

Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) – like chipboard except using wood fibres. Easy to work and shape.

Oriented Strandboard (OSB) – like chipboard except using large flakes of wood. Used for flooring.

Trunks or sawlogs

Large–dimension beams for specialist construction work.

Planks and boards sawn straight from the tree - the simplest timber products.

Bark and other parts of the tree

Bark chippings, rustic poles, small logs and coppice wood.


In Scotland, we only produce a small amount (15%) of the timber we need. Most of it we get from fast growing conifers like Sitka spruce. Conifers are cone-bearing and often have needle-like leaves. Timber from conifers is known as softwood. Fir, pine, spruce and larch are other types of conifer. They do well in cold conditions and most are evergreen but some, like larch, are deciduous and drop their needles in winter.

Timber from broadleaves (such as oak, ash and beech), is known as hardwood. Broadleaved trees usually have wide leaves that are lost in the autumn, although some, like holly – are evergreen. Hardwoods are used to make high quality products including furniture. Hardwood is also used in making charcoal and basket-making.

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