by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
Today the majority can barely think as what to make from the timber of our woodlands but our ancestors made almost everything for their daily lives and needs – as long as it was not something metal, pottery, or other – from the wood of the coppice woodlands.
Those coppice woodlands were, predominately, coppice with standards and all of the wood that could be harvested had a use. They even made their weapons for defense from them, such as cudgels. Even the longbows for hunting and warfare came from the coppice woods, whether they were made from Yew (later) or from Elm (before).
For thousands of years, until very recently, wood was one of the predominate materials for so many things of daily living. In fact for all things of daily living aside from metal and ceramics. However, even plates and bowls in the homes of the poor were from wood as earthenware and ceramics were way too expensive.
The houses of old were built – more often than not from wood or timber-framed – and most of the time it was greenwood that was being used, and this, predominately, came from woodlands that were coppice with standards.
Since about the first quarter of the twentieth century this began to change. To some degree this was due to the advent of the first plastics and this continued in that much of what was made of wood back then is today made of plastic, derived from oil and not very good for the Planet.
Tool handles made from various different hardwoods, and most of those case from coppice operations. Ash was the predominate wood choice for tool handles in the British Isles and also much of Europe. This is because of its strength and also the ability to absorb shock, important in hammer and ax handles, for instance.
The Scandinavians often used and still use Northern Birch for ax handles which is not far removed in its properties to that of Ash when it comes to the use for tool handles and also for some other products.
Other woods had and has other uses and we must relearn the properties of all those woods that can be grown in the age-old and proven method of coppicing and bring wood back into use, not just for the odd beanpole, pea stick, walking stick, for fire wood, charcoal and such, but for much, much more.
It is time that we rediscovered wood and its uses and thus breathed life back into our woodlands by bringing them back into production proper.
One thing that is often overlooked and that is that many different woods have antibacterial qualities, some more than others, and are thus the idea choice, despite what we were taught some years, back, for use in the kitchen, the butcher's shop, etc. it is for that reason that many professional chef will but entertain wooden spoons and other treen goods in his or her kitchen. Should we not take a leaf out of their books.
Wood in our homes and in our hands also connects us to the Creator and to Mother Earth and we need this connection today more than ever.