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Sparmaking

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Hi folks,

 

I'm fortunate enough to work in lots of well managed mixed woodland here in the Cotswolds. I come across a lot of hazel that would be excellent for making thatching spars, but it most often ends up getting burnt along with the brash from harvesting ops. My plan was to start collecting the best stuff and start having a bash at sparmaking. I've got a few questions if anyone can help.

Would an introductory course be worthwhile? Does anyone provide them and if so who's the best to go with?

Is the market for quality spars reasonable, as in could I expect to sell them quickly or will they be sitting around for ages?

Is it something I could do part time? I already work full time in the woods but sometimes have the odd few days in between jobs that I'd like to fill.

And finally do spars need to be seasoned after cutting, before or at all?

 

Cheers

Lewis

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Hi Lewis 

 

I supply reed for thatchers probably your best bet is to speak to a couple of local thatchers and get them to tell you the specs they work to, I know that some of them around me have despaired of getting any good quality local ones and have started using softwood from Travis Perkins. I'm in Norfolk the only Thatcher I know vaguely near you is kit Davis if you want his details pm me

 

 

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48 minutes ago, Marsh Monkey said:

Hi Lewis 

 

I supply reed for thatchers probably your best bet is to speak to a couple of local thatchers and get them to tell you the specs they work to, I know that some of them around me have despaired of getting any good quality local ones and have started using softwood from Travis Perkins. I'm in Norfolk the only Thatcher I know vaguely near you is kit Davis if you want his details pm me

 

 

That's great thanks. I'll get on the blower to some local thatchers, there's a fair bit of heritage maintenance & listed buildings in my area so there should be a few working I'd expect. Cheers for the info

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Webby,

I'm in Kent and have recently made a few spars - the first I've done for @ 20 years! - having like you some hazel that would otherwise get burnt.  I've done plenty in the past in W.Sussex.  The problem you might have is the Polish competition.  They provide an excellent service with a quality product at a price that I'd not be working for; £110/thousand or £120/thousand pre-twisted.  The thatchers I know just phone up and next day a van turns up with exactly what they want.  That said, I have built a good working relationship with a thatcher who will buy my spars.  That is just a case of good business networking.  But I can do things that are out of the ordinary like making some trial spars in chestnut, which the Poles don't.

 

Intro course?  No, not necessary if you have some experience of woodland work and can "talk the right language".  The thatchers will just point you in the right direction if you make a few samples.  Obviously, you need to be quick and efficient.  You need a small, light spar hook, not a meaty billhook if you want to spare your wrists....

Market?  See above.

Part-time?  Definitely.  Indeed, I'm not sure there's another way!  (To my mind it gets WAY too repetitive.)  I used it as bad weather work in the shed where I had previously stacked the gads ready. 

Seasoning not specifically needed and I've never had issues moving spars from summer cut wood.

Also, there are liggers that can be supplied.

 

Hope that is helpful.

BUCHERON

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I quite often pick up thatching supplies when doing some lorry driving work  from several businesses in Winkleigh ( Devon ) and there are  huge stacks of spars all imported from Poland , Latvia etc and i guess they are good and cheap as they sell masses of them !!! Have in the past known a stonewaller who did them between jobs and when weather is bad  , but he gave up as working for nothing doing them ...

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Local thatcher here doesn't like eastern European spars, regardless of price. He says a lot of them are summer cut which rot rapidly and the pre-twisted ones have no spring in them and tend to slide out. He'll use them under the coat if he has to but he only wants quality local winter-cut, spars and liggers for finishing ridges.

 

If you can store the gads suitably you cut them in winter and make spars to order right through to next season.

He does have a regular spar maker he buys from and they look after each other so the spar maker has a ready customer and the thatcher has a reliable supply. He might take a few from someone else if his regular spar maker runs short, but once he's got a supplier he likes they tend to stick together. 

Thatchers are fussy too. They like their spars just so. You need to make some and take them round to some thatchers and get a verdict before you start piling up thousands of them.

 

Some thatchers make their own as well. There's a local family firm who have their own coppice and they make thousands in the winter to keep their thatching going through the rest of the year and sell the surplus.

Edited by Gimlet
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