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thatcher's supplies from coppice woodland

 
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dpack



Joined: 02 Jul 2005
Posts: 43418
Location: yes
PostPosted: Sun Feb 26, 23 10:48 am    Post subject: thatcher's supplies from coppice woodland Reply with quote
    

reported on here

and here as well ?

Mistress Rose



Joined: 21 Jul 2011
Posts: 14631

PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 23 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
    

This is something that coppice workers are more than aware of. In fact we had 8 apprentice thatchers come to our wood to cut coppice, make gads out of the produce (the blanks from which spars are cut) and split the spars in our wood just over a week ago. They were taught by two coppice workers in our coppice group, aided and abetted by us.

The major problem with spars is the price. Until recently the price was something like £125 per 1000. That means that to cut the rods, cut 30" lengths from them and split them a coppice worker got £125 per 1000. It is quite possible for a good spar maker to make 1000 spars a day, but that doesn't include cutting the coppice and then making the gads, so our spar maker thinks that perhaps 4000-5000 per week is reasonable for a good spar maker working on his own. The price was kept down to a great extent by cheap imported spars.

The coppice industry has been discussing this with the thatchers for well over a year now. Representatives from the National Society of Master Thatchers, who asked for our course, were at the National Coppice Federation Gathering in 2021, and indicated that they realised the price had to go up to encourage people into spar making.

Our coppice group is running a spar making day in April, and if spars are priced economically, I think that coppice workers will probably be making a lot more. There is no point in making them if you can sell the rods for far more as other things.

I would like to also point out that thatchers are required as part of their apprenticeship to be able to make spars. Liggers are a different thing altogether and must be long and straight; usually what we call 'sun shoots', where the canopy is thick and they grow very fast and long to reach for the sun.

dpack



Joined: 02 Jul 2005
Posts: 43418
Location: yes
PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 23 11:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
    

the two trades do have a common interest, materials need to be realistically priced to make both of them sustainable

the thatchers do tend to have clients with money, and a thatched roof which has an expensive 20 or 50 yr replacement regime (or sooner if the expensive insurance pays out after the fire )

if the price only covers making sticks and does not cover growing and cutting rods from the woods etc it creates a problem

how much does it cost to make the sizes they need? add a decent profit
that is what it needs to cost them

between the lack of supply they were enjoying and a quality product that could be produced if they pay for it, i recon they would make acceptable deals

i have paid another nought and double it above the price of a modern moulding to ask the folk with the family machines and loads of original profiles to "could you please make me 20 yards of this", this being a surviving sample of the stuff that needs to be replaced
end client has to cover that sort of thing when they agree the contract price

there is no way to make hand made cheap, thatching is about as hand made as it gets and has a rather well banked market, the sticks are a minor part of the cost of the job, but they need to be good and available

i recon there is an open goal if you could create a reliable supply of excellent quality materials at a realistically sustainable yard gate price


the end user is usually listed or conservation area, insurance claim or enough cash to buy "an idyllic country home"
whatever they are a captive market and sustainable sticks need to be fed into that market

PS between tt and me we know 2 different folk who decided to move rather than enjoy repairing and verminating their "idyllic home"

Mistress Rose



Joined: 21 Jul 2011
Posts: 14631

PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 23 9:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
    

Yes, all of that is right. The minimum a roof will cost to rethatch is £20k, so not for those with tight budgets. There are 10s of 1000s of spars in a roof as each bundle of straw or reed has to be pinned down. In many cases it is only the top few layers that are replaced if all is well underneath. A complete strip and rethatch will be needed if there is any problem with the underlying woodwork, but otherwise the bottom layers are left for several cycles, and I have seen some that had tar on them from the smoke from the original hall house of the medieval period.

The National Society of Mater Thatchers is quite willing to pay an economic price for a reliable supply of British spars, but some of their members are not so keen. They have been paying far too low a price for too long, but it either means they will have to increase their prices to thatch a roof, or take a financial hit themselves if the spar price rises.

The tutor we had for our course charges over £200 per 1000 at the moment, so his prices are higher than the norm a few years ago, but some people are talking of doubling that to attract younger workers into spar making. It is also a job that people who can no longer scramble around on roofs do of course.

As with all land based industries, there are more older people than younger ones in coppice work. Schools rarely teach students, or learners as they seem to call them these days, about that sort of thing and push them towards office or factory work, however unsuitable. The experience of our coppice group is that a lot of people come into it having had another profession/job/trade beforehand, but want to really be outside. We have anything from ex rocket scientists, air frame fitters, social workers, chemists and electricians in our circle. We have one or two younger members who have come in from the forestry sector. Our son trained in forestry and wildlife management, but he is a rarity among coppice workers.

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