The French collection

The European nation’s unique bio-diversity, scientific forest management yield rich Oak and Beech harvests

Oak sleepers for landscaping, or to be re-sawn to a customer’s specifications.

In France, timber resources are exceptionally abundant: with a standing volume of more than 2 billion cubic metres, increasing by 88 million cubic metres a year. French forests are in good health, and out of 126 different species, some 30 are used for sawn timber.

This bio-diversity, unique in Europe, is caused by the great variety of soils and climates. It also explains the country’s farming and wine-making traditions. Hardwood species account for more than 60% of the available volume: pediculate and sessile Oak and Beech are the predominant species.

Thanks to management principles which have stood the test of time, France is now the leading producer of top quality Oak and Beech. The success of French hardwood can be explained by the constant quality of the supplied wood: long length, straight grain and fine texture are characteristics of French Beech and Oak.

Also, the knowhow of French saw millers is recognised worldwide: they can cut boules and boards from thin to very thick. Perfect drying is also very important: French saw mills have made enormous investments in the past years to offer their customers the best in kiln-dried timber.

Sustainable supply

Furthermore, French suppliers offer their customers the possibility of purchasing wood certified by PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification). With rising concerns about ecological sustainability nowadays, this certification is especially important to the end consumer.

French saw millers participate in sustainable management of resources through PEFC programmes, which guarantee the origin of the products French saw mills offer their customers.

The future prospects on export markets are looking rather promising for the actors of the French wood industry. Asia is one of the most interesting, dynamical and fastest growing markets in the industry, and India is one of the most promising markets for superior quality French Beech and Oak.

The development of demanding, quality oriented industries, such as furniture manufacturing and interior decoration, will ensure a steady and promising flow of business between France and India for years to come.

French Oak

Oak is a broadleaf tree found in all French forests. Its sapwood is light and narrow. Its heartwood ranges from whitish-brown to dark brown. The wood is

straight-grained, regular, coarse-textured with porous areas.

Quarter-sawn Oak has distinctive bright rays, termed silver-grain. The colour of the wood darkens over time. For furniture, cabinet-makers particularly value the aesthetic qualities of white Oak.

Oak is a dense wood, moderately hard and moderately heavy, with a good level

of stability (expansion/contraction is minimal). The wood is regular, with short fibres offering a good level of compression resistance.

Drying of Oak is a slow and very delicate process to avoid the risk of splitting and collapse. However sawing and shaping offer no difficulties, and abrasive resistance is minimal.

Gluing the dense, acidic wood also presents no specific problems, but use of alkaline glues carries a high risk of staining. Since the wood is acidic, it can be finished with a lime wash.

Oak is certainly the most widely used wood in France. It is used in timber frame carpentry, interior and exterior joinery, stairways and flooring, and also for solid wood and veneer furniture.

Oak is commonly known among coopers as “stave wood”, and is good for barrel making because it contains tannin. Oak is also highly valued by sculptors.

Oak heartwood is naturally durable. It can be used at risk level 3 without preservative treatment. After impregnation, Oak can be used at risk level 4.

French Beech

Beech is also a broadleaf and the second most widespread broadleaf species in France. It has a light white wood, cream to pinkish in colour, with no distinct

sapwood. Beech is homogeneous and is distinguished by its scattered and prominent rays.

Beech is a hardwood with a fine texture and straight grain, moderately heavy and solid, with good mechanical properties. It has particularly high resistance to compression, though less so to bending or tension because of its short fibres.

Because of its very fine texture, it has a tendency to warp substantially when exposed to changes in humidity. This inconvenience can be countered by way of a steam treatment, which turns it to a pink to reddish colour.

Drying is easy, but must be carried out carefully because of a risk of splitting. Sawing and shaping offer very good detail definition. It also accepts stain easily.

Beech is an easy wood to work with, and offers a wide range of possibilities.

Its fine, even texture and short fibres make it a natural choice for machining to very good levels of definition. It bends very well after steaming.

Beech is an excellent wood for joinery, cabinet-making and interior fittings. It is

also often found in flooring, staircases, paneling and everyday objects: kitchen utensils, clothes pegs, broom handles and toys.

Beech is frequently used for all types of chairs. It is very commonly used for curved furniture pieces in two forms: as a rotary-cut veneer for moulded plywood (chair shells), and as bent solid wood after steaming (furniture).

Beech has poor resistance outdoors and is not durable when exposed to bad weather. However, it is easy to impregnate, and after treatment it can be used in

risk level 4 situations (in contact with water).

Besides these, France also exports Chestnut, Ash, Poplar, Sycamore Maple, Cherry and Walnut. Its softwood exports include European Spruce, Maritime Pine, Scots Pine and Douglas Fir.

In order to promote export of lumber sales, the French wood industry is represented on international markets by a trade association called ‘French Timber’. Created by the National Wood Federation and a group of French saw millers, French Timber has two main goals:

•   To promote, on a national as well as international basis, the use of different sawn timber species and processed wood products, coming from sustainable managed French forests.

•   To ease supplies of sawn timber to foreign companies by increasing the visibility of the French saw mills’ offers and expertise.

French Timber is a tool created especially to facilitate search of quality sawn timber by distributing technical and economic information to international purchasers (importers, wholesalers, industrial consumers) and trade consultants.

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