Coppicing Hazel

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Paul D
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Coppicing Hazel

Postby Paul D » Mon Apr 18, 2011 8:25 pm

Can anyone please tell me when is the best time of the year for cutting hazel for hurdle making?

Many thanks.



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Mick,M
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Re: Coppicing Hazel

Postby Mick,M » Tue Apr 19, 2011 8:21 am

The best time to coppice is well after the autumn leaf fall when the sap has gone down, and certainly well before the sap rises in the spring. so JAN -FEB

Clear the leaf litter from the base of the stool and cut from the the most accessable shoots in to the center at about 2~3 inch up from the stool



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Re: Coppicing Hazel

Postby Mick,M » Tue Apr 19, 2011 8:40 am

Also be sure to cut on on an angle about 10~20 degres is best but just and angle will do, and the lowest edge should be to the out side of the stool.



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Paul D
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Re: Coppicing Hazel

Postby Paul D » Tue Apr 19, 2011 8:49 am

All makes perfect sense. Many thanks Mick



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Re: Coppicing Hazel

Postby Ranger Smith » Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:53 pm

Hello Paul D

In Midland woods at least cutting would start at the end of september/October as soon as the leaves start turning yellow (at this point the sap flow is minimal). Predominantly as the wood owners would want all the heavy work done and the timber/cordwood exstracted prior to the bad weather in order to stop the rides getting too cut up. There were fines for late removal of wood. I would dissagree with cutting the hazel at 2 to 3inches though as this promotes poor regrowth in the hazel (the new shoots appear just below the cut surface this creates an upside down triangle shape to the stool there by weakening the root system and the stool. eventualy as the stool creaps further from the floor you will end up with less usable material. You should aim to cut as low as possible even just above ground level is acceptable as this will promote shooting from the root system giving you that fairy ring shape of very old stools, increased root activity, a more stable stool, and a larger crop of usable material, I will try and post some pictures over the next few days to illustrate the point.

If you are cutting out of rotation stools, depending on their size you will have to do a bit more work to bring them back in to use. You may need to leave a stem on the stool to reduce the shock and to keep things moving.

If you can use traditional tools (axe for most stuff and a billhook for smaller diamiter rods) as they give a much better quality of cut compared to saws. The techneque is to clear around the stool and remove any debris, as you swing with the axe you are aiming to bump the poll of the axe on the floor just before the stool, this will then bounce (think barnes wallis) the blade of the axe into the stool at a low angle giving you a smooth outward facing sloped cut.

The reason for putting 20 to 30 degree cuts on high cut stools is to reduce water runoff into the centre of the stool which promotes rot which you do not want when you have just regrowth on the top of the stool. On low cut stools this doesnt matter as much as you get regrowth from the roots and when you look at old hazel stools that havent fallen out of rotation they form a ring of living wood with nothing in the middle.

I hope this is usefull appologies for the hurried post


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Mick,M
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Re: Coppicing Hazel

Postby Mick,M » Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:24 am

Yep your rite Ranger, done a bit digging around, I was tought by an old boy up our way, he mainly worked chestnut and dit the same to the hazel in the wood, oops!
any hoo if your kick starting old growth this may be of interest......

http://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/pdf/fc ... cin056.pdf



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Re: Coppicing Hazel

Postby Paul D » Thu Apr 21, 2011 10:55 am

Ranger Smith wrote:Hello Paul D
Many thanks ranger. I am brand new to this game so some of your words and phrases I do not understand (rides? stool?). Hopefully the pictures will make everything clear. I really appreciate you taking the time to give such a comprehansive answer and look forward to the pictures.
Cheers!


In Midland woods at least cutting would start at the end of september/October as soon as the leaves start turning yellow (at this point the sap flow is minimal). Predominantly as the wood owners would want all the heavy work done and the timber/cordwood exstracted prior to the bad weather in order to stop the rides getting too cut up. There were fines for late removal of wood. I would dissagree with cutting the hazel at 2 to 3inches though as this promotes poor regrowth in the hazel (the new shoots appear just below the cut surface this creates an upside down triangle shape to the stool there by weakening the root system and the stool. eventualy as the stool creaps further from the floor you will end up with less usable material. You should aim to cut as low as possible even just above ground level is acceptable as this will promote shooting from the root system giving you that fairy ring shape of very old stools, increased root activity, a more stable stool, and a larger crop of usable material, I will try and post some pictures over the next few days to illustrate the point.

If you are cutting out of rotation stools, depending on their size you will have to do a bit more work to bring them back in to use. You may need to leave a stem on the stool to reduce the shock and to keep things moving.

If you can use traditional tools (axe for most stuff and a billhook for smaller diamiter rods) as they give a much better quality of cut compared to saws. The techneque is to clear around the stool and remove any debris, as you swing with the axe you are aiming to bump the poll of the axe on the floor just before the stool, this will then bounce (think barnes wallis) the blade of the axe into the stool at a low angle giving you a smooth outward facing sloped cut.

The reason for putting 20 to 30 degree cuts on high cut stools is to reduce water runoff into the centre of the stool which promotes rot which you do not want when you have just regrowth on the top of the stool. On low cut stools this doesnt matter as much as you get regrowth from the roots and when you look at old hazel stools that havent fallen out of rotation they form a ring of living wood with nothing in the middle.

I hope this is usefull appologies for the hurried post



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Re: Coppicing Hazel

Postby Ranger Smith » Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:36 am

Finaly got round to sorting the pictures out.

You are right Mick Sweet Chestnut behaves differently and forms a bol rather than a stool and should there fore be cut higher. It probably wasnt the fault of the person who taught you to cut hazel high but rather the Forestry Commissions. As part of their studdy into the woodland economy in the 30's and 40's their experts advised higher cutting as a way of increasing yeald which it does initialy. What they didnt take into account was the long term loss of viggur as the study was only conducted over a couple of years despite the warnings of others (a case of my scientist is more qualified than a yokal who's family has only being making a living from it for the past x amount of years).

Unfortunatly as this was written down in pamphlets cutting high became the excepted wisdom and with the resurgance in the interest of copicing this has been adopted by groups such as BTCV and the wildlife trusts after all the Forestry Commission are the leading authorities and they couldnt be wrong could they?

Any way please see the pictures below as they should ilustrate the point clearly.


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Re: Coppicing Hazel

Postby Ranger Smith » Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:46 am

p 040 a.jpg


High cut hazel stool (yes I realise it is a little more than 3inches high)

p 041 b.jpg


p 009 a.jpg


Low cut stool


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Re: Coppicing Hazel

Postby Ranger Smith » Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:51 am

p 040 b.jpg


Low cut stool from the inside

p 041 a.jpg


Growth from root system

p 044 b.jpg


Ideal angle/height required with the axe


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Re: Coppicing Hazel

Postby Ranger Smith » Mon Apr 25, 2011 12:53 am

p 039 c.jpg


The ideal cut stem

I hope this has been of help


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Re: Coppicing Hazel

Postby Billhook » Thu Apr 28, 2011 8:53 pm

Although coppice should be cut as outlined above, most of the spar makers and hurdle makers that I know of who split hazel prefer to have it reasonably fresh, and cut their gads as and when they need them.... Fresh green wood tends to split far easier than that which has started to dry out.... It was common practice for the working week to be to cut for one or two days, and make for three or four..(Comments from the experts please....)



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Re: Coppicing Hazel

Postby Ranger Smith » Sat Apr 30, 2011 10:29 pm

Hi Billhook

Pleas esee below on my thoughts and responce to your posting

Billhook wrote:Fresh green wood tends to split far easier than that which has started to dry out


Fresh green hazel doesnt spit well at all it is carroty and prone to running out and cracking if you are not carefull. It splits much easier if it has been stood in the shade for a week or two allowing it to slightly dry out it is far more easier to controll the split. Try it honestly the difference is noticable it is much easier to steer the split after a couple of weeks of standing that you won't bother with fresh cut again and you will only be dissapointed with the results if you do. Let me know if you have chance to try this and what you think of the results.

Billhook wrote:Although coppice should be cut as outlined above, most of the spar makers and hurdle makers that I know of who split hazel prefer to have it reasonably fresh, and cut their gads as and when they need them....


Unfortunatly robbing from stools (only cutting what you want when you need) is poor practice and leads to the degredation of the stool. To get good streight growth with minimum pith from a hazel stool you need all the growth to come up together. As the new stems race for the light they draw their neighbours up ensuring good streight growth of a good length with minimal pith. Robbing from a stool (only taking what you want and leaving the rest) leaves bigger material still on the stool. At this point the stool goes in to crisis management mode (as it does when you coppice the stool completley) and it will throw out new shoots (as above) The problem now is that they are over shadowed by the remaining stems forcing the new shoots to bolt for the light. These sun shoots are poor and weak (they have a larger percentage of pith) and are of no use for most products.

Unfortunatly this is lazy practice which has become more prevelant as our hazel woods have become deralict (most hazel woods are now deralict coppice there are verry few good quality hazel woods left. A good coppice wood should be like looking at a field of bamboo). As the stools become over grown our natural reaction (being the lazy creatures we are) is to only select and take what we need as no one realy wants to be bothered to cut the other stuff. The large estate woods had the same problem and had penalties and fines in place to deal with any offenders even down to banning someone from the following years cut. Unlike now where we cut to a management plans year cycle (7 years) in the past they would of waited for a stand to reach the required diamiter for the product required then cut.

Billhook wrote:It was common practice for the working week to be to cut for one or two days, and make for three or four


Not sure with this one as there isnt enough information.....are you talking about the period from September to March? is this a quote relating to a specific trade or group of woodsmen?

I would of thought it would of left them with no material to see them through the later months and that they wouldnt have gained the maximum from the cutting season. I know from immages (Shell collection and others) that these tend to show large stacks of material cut and stored (one immage of a besom maker shows a pile of material larger than the barn they are working from). I know from records from some of the estates in worcestershire that the material had to be removed before a certain date..they were then taken and stacked on the vilage green for later use thus maximising the amount of material cut in the minimum available time allowing the estates men time to carry out the other tasks required. I would of thought that your quote may fit for land owners (farmers) cutting in their own small woods but most large woods belonged to large estates and that access would of been tightly controlled. Cut hazel if kept in the shade can still be split and used to make a hurdle 6 months later so the need to cut and make as you go wouldnt necessarily be the driving force behind your statement.

I hope this is of interest I would like to hear your thoughts


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Re: Coppicing Hazel

Postby Billhook » Thu May 05, 2011 2:10 pm

Many thanks for your detailed response - it emphasises the value of forums of this type - to be able to discuss good and bad practice - I am not a coppice worker, so my information is second hand, and either incorrect, or more likely reflects bad management of the coppice.... However, one does not need to rob the stool before it regrows.... A good spar maker can make 3000 spars in a day, using say 1000 metres of hazel, or a hurdle maker 4 to 6 woven hurdles - say 250 metres of hazel.... How does this equate to stools?? Say 60 to 250 shoots - looking at the images with 20 + shoots at 4m per stool - a hurdle makers would use 2 to 3 stools and a spar maker up to 12....

If the wood is best used a couple of weeks to a couple of months old, and the worker prepares one day a week, and makes the other 4 days, or cuts one week a month - he would need to cut say 15 to 40 stools per week, or 60 to 160 per month.... Just ball park figures, but it gives an indication that the usage would allow working across or through a coppice without having to rob young stools, and also allow sufficient light in for regrowth...

Maybe there is not just one good method of coppice management, but several alternatives...... Sadly most of the coppices in my part of Wiltshire are long overdue some work - the best falls within the danger area of Salisbury Plain miltary training area - Defence Estates were trying to put a managemernt policy in place - but this involved leaving most of the cut timber in windrows, rather than taking it out for use...



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Re: Coppicing Hazel

Postby Ranger Smith » Thu May 12, 2011 11:15 pm

Hello Billhook

Where to start

In your origional post you made no distnction on which part of the year the people making spars gads and hurdles are working. If you were saying that material for spars and gads was required fresh green then they could be cutting at any part of the year as and when the product was required by the thatcher, which could mean cutting at unsuitable times of the year.

To get good quality re growth the whole stool must be cleared of stems. Any material left on will cause the regrowth to come back uneven and misshaped. You want to draw the stems up at the same time as the race for the light this will draw the stems up even and streight, anything else altimatly robs the stool of vitality lessening the amount of usable wood for future years.

Your estimates for materials gleaned from hazel stools is a little on the optemistic side. There will always be some odd sized stuff that will not meet the requirments for the product you are producing. The material needs to be cut, ridded (removal of the side shoots), sorted and bundled and then transported to where you will be producing your given product. You then need to burn the trouse and this is even before you have started upon the other jobs requred of you within your right to cut. This could envolve the felling of timber trees, pealing of Oak bark for tanning, repairing the ditches, hedges or rides, all of which could be exspected of you from the land owner.

Then there is the weather, the prime cutting months are from September to December, after this the ability to cut becomes infrequent to say the least. You can't cut stools when they are frozen, extracting timber in the wet destroys the rides it realy isn't plesant. Therefore I would suggest that maximising the amount of raw product you can get your hands on in the narrow window of opportunity may well be your prime goal. This will then give you the opportunity to produce the finished product when you are unable to work within the wood itself and would also mean that with judicious husbandry of you raw timber stocks could mean that you have finished products to sell well into the late spring /summer when demand could well be high. I have no doubt if someone wanted a rush job and the money was good that you would interupt your harvesting to fufill the request but i think that interupting your opportunity to harvest on a regular basis may be counterproductive.

I hope this is usefull


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Re: Coppicing Hazel

Postby Ranger Smith » Thu May 12, 2011 11:35 pm

As an adendum

Here is a reference from your neck of the woods of a wiltshire thatcher in 1879 by Richard Jefferies (although this is willow rather than hazel it illustrates the properties they were looking for in their wood(please bare in mind that willow retains its sap longer than other woods))

" splitting his stakes'....of willowcut from the pollard trees by the brook..." "like woodmen thatchers prefer their wood sap drained - December to February - since then it contains least water and hence lasts longer and works more easily......".

"each spring most thatchers purchase sufficient round wood to last a full twelve months working it up themselves into liggers sways and broches whe bad weather prevents work upon the roof. Specialist broche makers also buy rods and then sell what they have made to the thatchers. That the broches dry out matters little since a good dousing in a tub of water restores sufficient suppleness to allow them to be twisted to the neccessary hairpin. Finaly meny woodsmen seeking to keep themselves employed beyond the cutting season without resort to labouring, work upon their own rods to meet the summer demand, swelled in dog days past by the need of rick pegs for haysel (hay making) and harvest".

Richard Jeffries "Wild life in a southern County" Smith elder a co 1879


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Re: Coppicing Hazel

Postby Billhook » Fri May 13, 2011 7:40 am

Thanks once again for a detailed response and the quotes from Jefrries:

A couple more quotes from Jefrries - Chronicles of the Hedges:

The billhook cuts chiefly with the incurved part, not the tip nor the straight edge, but between the two—the bend which holds the bough like a fish-hook. The tip answers, too, as an actual hook with which to pull the bush or branch towards you, to reach it as with a crooked stick, so that it may be brought near enough for chopping. This tip, and the power it confers of dragging anything towards the wielder of the weapon, shows in a moment how handy the bill of the ancient foot-soldier was for the destruction of horsemen. The knight, if the bill stuck in any chink of his armour, must topple and clang on the ground, when the three-cornered, file-like misericorde could be thrust through an opening, perhaps only in the arm—a mere prick, as with a needle, but from which, being unable to rise, he must die, while otherwise safe in his plate mail. His bridle was of steel links that it might not be cut with these bills.

The hedge-tool, with its short handle, slices off hard thorn and stout ash, and nut-tree and crab, as if they were straws; now add to it the leverage of a long handle, and the furious descent of such a weapon swung with weather-hardened sinews must have been irresistible. Being easily made by the village blacksmiths, and the poles cut from the copses close by there was not a man who had not a weapon; and thus armies—the armies of those days—sprang from the sward like a flock of starlings at a sound. The village muster-roll is forgotten, the trumpet no longer blows in the hamlet, nor do the haymakers or the reapers gather at the forge, where, perchance, some messenger, waiting for his horse to be shod, has brought news of Bosworth and the crown of England thrown into a hawthorn bush, as you may see the torn rim of a straw hat hanging on the hedges in summer. Now the bill, the long handle shortened and the spike removed, slashes ash and nut-tree and crab, clears away growth of bramble, and sharpens stakes for the intertwining of the fence.

and

The billhook is the national weapon of the English labourer. As the lance to the ancient knight, the rapier to the cavalier, the bowie to the backwoodsman, so the billhook to the man of the hedges. It is never far from his side; it is always somewhere within reach; the sword of the cottage. When he was a boy, while his father sat on a faggot on the lee side of the hedge eating his luncheon he used to pick up the crooked tool and slice off the smaller branches of the cut bushes to fit them for binding together. He learned to strike away so that the incurved point, if the bough was severed with unexpected ease, might not bury itself in his knee. He learned to judge the exact degree of strength to infuse into the blow, proportioning the force to the size of the stick, and whether it was soft willow, stout hazel, or hard thorn. The blade slips through the one with its own impetus; in the other it stays where the power of the arm ceases........



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Re: Coppicing Hazel

Postby Mark Griffin » Sun Mar 24, 2013 6:29 pm

Anyone got any pictures/plans for the various handy gimmicks used in bundling up faggots?

I've made many hundreds, mainly for art dept use (the maid of orleans gets through a fair few) and I've always done it in a slow and amateurish way. But hey, they are paying me by the hour! :-)

Now i have tons of scrub i want to bundle up for faggots for my own firewood in ovens, stoves etc so am looking for plans of jigs/horses, handy tips etc to make faggots and pimps (the smaller faggots).

Ta!

Griff


http://www.griffinhistorical.com. A delicious decadent historical trifle. Thick performance jelly topped with lashings of imaginative creamy custard. You may also get a soggy event management sponge finger but it won't cost you hundreds and thousands.


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