An explanation of why Tranquility floors are different from other suppliers and how we source the timber
All Tranquility flooring is offered ‘as available’ from trees that for a variety of reasons have had to be felled. ALL the trees have been grown in the UK and ALL are honestly sustainably grown. They come from what we believe are the best possible sources and the provenance (source of each timber offered) is known and given. These are the National Arboretums which include the Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire, but National Trust properties, Stately Homes, major estates and Forestry Commission woodland can all be sources.
No trees are ever felled for Tranquility.
Other Flooring is offered for sale simply by timber species (and finish). This means that trees are being felled somewhere in the world to meet this demand. The more products ordered – the more trees are felled. Almost none of this timber is home grown, and most of the so called ‘exotics’ are from the world’s rainforests. Other hardwoods are mostly from Europe, the US or Canada.
The timber species offered are consequently often going to be extremely rare; frequently just a single large log may be taken. Only a limited volume of timber will therefore be available for sale at any time, and when this has been sold it will have gone. If another log of the same species becomes obtainable later it will again become available, but we should bear in mind that as the UK led the world in collecting foreign tree species from the early 1800s, we have over 1000 species, in addition to more than 1000 species variations called ‘cultivars’. Timbers are therefore not necessarily indigenous to the UK.
There is one point of particular note. Trees grow in the natural environment and as such each is different. If you want a totally homogenous floor, where every part is like every other part, then please do not read on. A tree growing in a dense wood will look different inside from one growing on the edge of a wood, and one in a parkland setting very different again. When the soils change so can the internal colourings; and many species are attacked by fungi which further change and intensify the colours.
Tranquility floors demonstrate the infinite beauty of a growing tree, complete with all its natural features. So knots are a welcome feature rather than to be discarded.
Most flooring on the market is also selected to be extremely uniform with the features cut out – wasting not just a valuable resource but also throwing away what we believe are the most beautiful parts of the tree. Tranquility flooring therefore presents all these features with only the unusable being discarded (for flooring). Much of this is used for other purposes and hopefully everything is used. Various features you may find include:
- Knots: These form where a branch was growing out of the tree. Both rainforest and plantation trees have few of these or few of any size, whereas our variably grown trees may have many. Visitors who see these floors usually spend time looking downwards!
- Pip: These are really tiny knots which grow where a tree has had small branches removed – maybe by an animal. This is the remains of that tiny branch. It is quite common in parkland grown trees and prized by those who work with timber
- Burr: Greatly prized and very valuable. Sometimes big growths occur usually low down on trees, again often on those grown in parkland or where the lower trunk is kept clear of branches. It starts as pip but as the tree keeps trying to re-grow the branches, which keep being removed, it gradually produces a bulbous and irregular growth. When sawn open there doesn’t appear to be any grain direction and the figure can be stunning. Birr walnut car fascias have been a good example.
- Ripple: Can be described but we are still not sure why a tree produces this feature. The tree seems to have slightly collapsed on itself so there are some horizontal corrugations in the trunk, so when the wood is machined there is some cross grain banding. It is again very beautiful and rare and greatly to be enjoyed.
- Spalting: Several species naturally attract certain funguses particularly when older or if they are damaged in any way (storm, lightening etc), and these are what cause the timber to take on what are often beautiful & stunning colourings. The colours are always either through the heart or directly from the damaged area. Oak goes dark brown and is then called ‘brown oak’ – again highly prized by the industry. The normal white ash goes a browny olive colour then called ‘olive ash’. Liriodendron (Tulip Tree) adopts a strikingly green colour, and others take on various hues from the reds through oranges to browns, greys and even black
We currently fell about 160% of the world’s sustainable annual harvest. This cannot continue for much longer or we will suffer the fate of the Easter Islanders. So Tranquility rejects only timber we absolutely cannot use.
Inside a tree is the old structural part, the heartwood, which is usually darker in colour than the outer sapwood. When we refer to the colour of a timber we mean the heartwood, which is harder than the paler sapwood. But many trees, particularly younger ones, can have up to 30% of the whole tree as sapwood, which it is not necessary to discard: indeed it is unsustainable to do so. And anyway, the sapwood increases the colours and the vibrancy shown within a floor, so such timber is included in Tranquility floors. To a limited extent worm-marked wood can also be included, as again it is vital that all resources are as fully utilised as possible. This should not be cut out when laying, as fillers will have to be used, and by selecting matching coloured fillers worm-holes will never be seen – though they are part of what proves timber to be 100% natural.
Happily, using as much of the timber as possible enhances the visual effect, so Tranquility floors are usually supplied in about 3 different board widths. This allows us when milling (sawing the logs) to make the best use of the available tree width, and multi-width floors when laid will just look impressive and natural, as the eye cannot confuse them with the homogeneous man-made competitor. Not a competitor at all, in fact. One is real and natural and the other is at best managed, and at worst made to look as if factory-produced.
Tranquility floors show the full beauty of the growing trees in all their natural glory. These are very much not factory-made products and do not look like them. They are to be loved and admired (by all). (back to top)
Softwood versus hardwood
This can be a confusing situation because the definition is botanical rather than practical. To give two examples: Yew is a softwood, yet extremely hard and hugely valuable, while Balsa is a hardwood and surely the softest timber there is. Tranquility is built almost exclusively using softwoods, with only some ‘Tranquility’ hardwood floors, for the reasons exemplified in this comparison between Oak and Larch:
- An oak tree reaches mature felling age between 120 and 180 years old.
- Larch is mature in 60 to 80 years.
- Oaks require to be grown at significant spacings (say 20m) whereas Larch can be grown to maturity much closer (say 8m).
- Taking the total amount of ‘wood’ the tree has grown when felled, only about 5% of an oak will end up being used, while for Larch the figure is about 25%N.B. the rootstock can never be used; neither can the branches – or for an oak anything above the main trunk; the bark is discarded (yet the tree grew it); the sapwood on Oak is discarded; only the straight timber from bent planks can be used; after drying, much of the irregular boards must be machined off to finish with flat boards; any board splitting from the drying process must be eliminated, and the end shakes must also be removed.
- So taking all this into account the usable softwood timber yield from a given land area per year is about 60 times as much as for oak. That is 5 times the log yield x 6 times tree density x ½ the time to grow. Astonishing it may be, but this is the reality.
It is therefore crucial that in a world short of timber the softwoods should provide most of what is needed, with the hardwoods being used only when trees have to come down to provide essential ecological habitats.
Finally, the softwoods produce some truly remarkable timbers, often much more amazing than the hardwoods. But the choice is yours as all timbers sold under the Tranquility Brand are sustainable by our definition.
Please also note thewhich covers all products carrying the Tranquility Brand.