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    Modified Future

    Thursday, 27 November 2008 06:02 by Simon Fineman

    Modified timber featured a great deal in my diary last week.  It is probably more than just a coincidence that this complex subject somehow cropped up on my agenda just about every day. 

    What is modified timber then?  Well, it seems that by either heating it or altering it with chemicals timber can be made more stable, durable and resistant to decay.  The science is not new by any means but it has come on at a pace in the past few years.  Combined with timber engineering, modified timbers can be applied in all sorts of previously unthought-of timber applications, such as, windows made from beech, cladding from whitewood, decking from ash.  The list is along as your imagination will stretch.

    Although the products can have downsides - cost, waste disposal, strength and colour can all weaken the offering - rapid scientific development is beating away the critics.  For many applications it's only a matter of time before modified timbers will take hold.  Especially for the hardwood market this promises to be a development of internet scale proportions that will reshape the industry.

    While there will always be a market for top quality hardwoods, there are sectors of the industry that are ripe for change, especially outdoor hardwood joinery, which is still far too attached to often dubious tropical species that it would be better to avoid.

    I think the most interesting technologies are the heat treated products.  Baking timber at 190° Celsius does remarkable things to it.   Timbmet will soon be introducing several modified products to market that take the breath away.  There is a little further to go on the testing and performance verification front but it's only a question of time. 
    But don't just take my word for it.  Take a look at the pre finished, modified beech windows that are now a regular feature in the Dutch market.  There, see, I told you.  My advice: don't worry about it, join it!


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    I'm really not complaining but....

    Monday, 10 November 2008 10:36 by Simon Fineman

    Business just seems to be getting harder at the moment.  In addition to a shocking industrial downturn our latest blight is the exchange rate.  Over the years we have gotten used to calm and stability where the pound sterling is concerned.  When movements have come they have been relatively gentle and manageable. 

    Not now they ain’t!  Over the past few weeks we have watched the pound yoyo, not just against the headline grabbing American dollar, but against a host of other timber trading currencies as well.  Over a few weeks the fluctuations have been greater than some of our bulk trading margins.  It's a nightmare for a stock carrying importer, with prices having to be adjusted literally daily.

    For slow moving stocks like hardwoods the maths becomes impossible with new stock bought when the pound was down being mixed with old stock bought spending higher value pounds.  When the variation pings by 20% what does one do?  Today we decided to just give up being scientific about it and just price as competitively as we can for the current market – not the most profitable way to run a business perhaps but better for our customers and less of a headache for us.

    Customers are calling me up asking me what I think of the current situation.  Not good I suppose, but hey, we are still here.  I don't like to complain because on the whole I have been dealt good cards.  Times like this are a challenge to all of us and with a bit of luck, and a surge of hard work, one just has to fathom out the new rules for the trade and apply them as best as one can.  Not for the faint hearted.

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