Building with Round Wood

I am passionate about building with round wood because it simply makes so much sense. There are few things I know that make so much sense to me in so many ways, most of all practically and ecologically - which really, in the end, is the same - but also financially, aesthetically and in terms of resilience and woodland management.     
 
 
Mostly we are not directly in touch with the origin or the production of the things we use. In the case of wood as a building material, it mostly comes milled how we need it from the building store or woodyard. Often that means it comes from rather far away or at least was transported long distances and processed in a very industrialised way involving heavy machinery. 
 
If one wants to use one's own timber from one's own land then many things need to be considered that are not obvious if one buys wood ready-to-use. Which trees should be cut? How will the logs be extracted? Does the wood need to dry? How does the felling of trees impact the woodland? etc. 
 
After making a plan the work starts with going into the woods to find and select the right trees. However, it is not just about cutting the trees with the right specifications it is also about managing the woods while taking what is needed. Sometimes that means that plans need to be adjusted according to what is locally available, more easily accessible or where it is of advantage to take out trees. Working this way has shown me it is really possible to care for the forest while at the same time extracting the resources I need to live. 
 
The process of building our own house has simultaneously transformed the previously neglected woods around us where I have cut trees we needed. I find it very compelling to work in a way that to a large degree is sustainable, deeply integrated into the local surrounding and goes hand in hand with wholesome forest management.
 
I want to say a bit more about advantages of building with, predominantly, round wood (clearly, in some places a square piece of wood simply makes more sense):
 
In contrast to building with milled timber, when using round timber, the trees can be a lot thinner, simply because one uses the whole tree instead of just a square section of it. This has enormous advantages in terms of extraction and handling of the logs but most of all it means that one does not need a lot of big trees to build with. One simply uses fewer resources and the bigger trees can stay in the forest, grow larger and gain value. 
 
Thin long poles, as are often found in copses or woodlands that have been neglected and not thinned, where the trees have grown too close to each other, can be ideal for this kind of building. Such wood has very little other timber value and is usually is only used as fuel.
 
In relationship to its crosscut surface, roundwood is a lot stronger than square wood. In a round pole that has not been milled there are fewer weak spots because the fibres flow around knots and anomalies without being cut. 
 
In my experience roundwood also does not twist and move like sawn beams because the tensions that develop when the wood dries remain balanced in a whole log. It might split and crack but it will not bend the way it does when milled. Eucalyptus for example - which is great because it is so hard and strong - bends and twists terribly when milled but in the round, it stays straight.  
 
 
To give a fuller picture it must be said that in some ways it is also trickier to work with round and not perfectly straight pieces too. In terms of joinery, measuring, levelling and cutting, working with material straight from the woods is, literally, not so straightforward as working with rectangular and straight wood. 
 
However, because one is engaging in the process starting at the beginning - in the woods - one does get a really broad, down-to-earth, highly practical knowledge, that is very empowering. This kind of understanding is strikingly different to highly specialised and compartmentalised knowledge which tends to be the way we learn in our mainstream education systems.
 
Realistically, building with roundwood can also take more work hours: logs need to be debarked and nothing is normed so components need to be fitted. However appropriate design and some experience of how to go about this best can reduce this time. 
 
 
In the end, it means less use of heavy machinery, less industrialised processes, less use of environmental resources and money, more skilled hands-on work, more relationship to the end product, more independence and more resilience. But what seems most important to me is, that building with roundwood and the woodland management it is connected to can be a step to a more integrated way of living, where human activities are more symbiotically integrated with the ecological web of life that we are a part of. 
 
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Benfeita, May 1st 2017
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Quinta da Floresta, Benfeita October 21st 10 - 5pm

I am very happy to announce another opportunity to begin to learn the art and science of foraging in our beautiful valley in the Serra do Açor.

Quinta da Floresta, Benfeita 12 - 15 October 2017

In our times crafts such as green woodwork are something truly revolutionary. We find making a useful product with ones own hands straight from the forest is totally inspiring.  Not only is such work simply sustainable it is also deeply...

Quinta da Floresta, Benfeita - Date TBC 2018

People have retreated to wild places for millennia to find inner peace and a greater perspective on life. Nature, in it’s simplicity and beauty, supports a profound relaxation in body, mind and soul.

LATEST BLOG POSTS

Many people have asked us how they can help in the wake of the fires and all we have lost. We are very touched and grateful for these offers of support. Here are some ways you can help:

 
We have started building the second floor of the workshop!! This will be our last major build here and will provide a dormitory and meditation/workshop room which will increase our capacities for events and hosting people, especially outside of the summer months.
I am passionate about building with round wood because it simply makes so much sense.
It’s autumn again and the abundance is obvious. The forest and land is heaving with food and we know of no greater joy than getting out into the hills and foraging this freely given resource.
 

So we have some systems and facilities coming online this month - very exciting!!

Davi and Hazel have been working hard on the bathroom tiling, building glass brick walls and crafting mosaics. It looks beautiful!