Welsh timber pioneers flying high

Wales’s first timber laminating plant has created 10 new jobs at a Denbighshire company – with the help of a high tech glue used in the aircraft industry.

Clifford Jones Timber have invested more than £1 million in the new state of the art equipment at their eco-friendly 13-acre headquarters site in Ruthin.

It gives them the capacity to supply high quality, durable laminated timber for the leisure and construction industries and has increased the workforce at Ruthin to 67.

The project was backed by a Welsh Economic Growth Fund grant of £157,000 from the Welsh Government and means that a process that used to take days is now carried out in minutes.

Company Chairman Alan Jones said: “We were reacting to requests from existing customers, particularly in the leisure sector where we supply timber products for playgrounds and parks.

“They wanted material that was tougher, more durable and more stable – so that it didn’t crack or splinter – and laminated timber provides all those qualities.

“But we also believe that we can find new markets in the construction industry where laminated timber is strong enough to be used for lintels and beams and much more attractive than concrete as well as being much lighter.

“We saw an opportunity and we took advantage of the grant that was available though it meant we had to work fast to produce and application and a business plan in just three weeks but we managed it and were successful.”

Previously Clifford Jones Timber had either made their own laminated timber by gluing together lengths of sawn timber and then clamping them together for three days, or imported it in batches from Finland.

The new equipment can create moulded timber which is then passed through a £260,000 laminator in just six minutes.

The process is powered by a 987 kilowatt biomass boiler which is fed with wood chippings taken from the 100,000 tons of timber which is processed on the Ruthin site every year.

The imported batches of pre-laminated timber took three weeks to arrive and were of various lengths, some of which might be unsuitable for an order, and had to be prepaid.

Alan Jones said: “We are now able to produce laminated timber to order more cheaply and much more quickly than we could before and we believe this will open up new markets for us.

“The glue we use is the same as British Aerospace use for the wings for the Airbus and it produces a product that is four times stronger than a conventional wooden beam.

“For the building industry it also has the advantage of being attractive. People like the feel and the look of wood – it’s a tactile material and of course it’s sustainable and stores carbon.”

Clifford Jones Timber was founded by Alan Jones’s father in 1948 and has been at its Ruthin base for 25 years: “When we started here there were two people employed here and now there are 67,” he said.

“Every piece of timber that comes through these gates is used. There isn’t any wasted and there aren’t many industries that can say that.”

The range of products they supply includes fence posts – they are Britain’s biggest producer of round timber posts – and gates, bedding for horses and even cat litter, and a range of wood fuels from dried logs and wood briquettes to wood pellets for biomass boilers.

They use timber from forests all over the UK and also have a second site at Gretna in Scotland where they employ a further ten staff.

The wood fuel side of the business was launched in 2008 after the construction of a a £5 million 20,000 square foot factory at the Ruthin site on Brickfield Lane and it now produces 30,000 tons of fuel pellets every year.

Managing Director Keith Corbett said: “By its nature much of your output is seasonal with the peak time for fence posts in the spring and early summer and for wood fuel in the winter and we’re looking to the laminated wood products to bridge the gap in the summer with sales to the building industry.”

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