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Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions that we receive from our customers - along with the answers that we supply.
What is Green Willow?
Any variety of willow that is freshly cut and flexible.
What is Brown Willow?
Any variety of willow that is dried with the bark on.
What is Buff Willow?
Usually Black Maul, a variety of willow that has been boiled and stripped of its bark and dried. Black Maul, despite it's name, is not black in colour.
What is White Willow?
This willow (Black Maul) is harvested but kept alive and when in full leaf during the summer, stripped of leaf and bark to reveal the white rod underneath. The willow is then dried the same day it is stripped and stored in the dark to prevent yellowing. This process is lengthy and expensive but does produce the highest quality product and is much sought after. If you wish us to supply White Willow then we strongly recommend that you order it 12 months in advance. Although we do produce this product, stock is always limited.
What is Steamed Willow?
Brown Willow (dried) that has been placed in the boiler for a few hours to colour the bark of the willow a chocolate/black. The willow is then removed from the boiler and dried outside. We recommend the following varieties for steaming, Black Maul or Noir De Villaine. Steamed willow is used for adding colour and texture to baskets , it is also used for outdoor sculptures and hurdles. Steamed willow has to be resoaked to make the rods pliable.
Why are bundles sold in foot lengths?
The old fashioned method of grading by hand is still done today. Unsorted bundles are placed in a barrel sunk into the floor and rods are then pulled out from the longest at 9ft in foot graduations down to the smallest ones left - the 3ft.
Will I get all 6 foot long rods in a 6 foot bundle, 5 foot long rods in a 5 foot, etc.?
No, because there is a foot graduation in the sorting process. For example, in a 6 foot bundle you will have rods of varying lengths between 6 foot and 5 foot; so the longest rods will be 6 foot and the shortest in the bundle would be 5 foot and so forth.
Why has my willow got marks on its skin?
We try as best we can to manage the pests and diseases that some of our varieties of willow are susceptible to without damaging the environment. Sometimes we are unable to prevent insect, snail or fungal damage to the rod or leaf of the willow. Sometimes a hailstorm or wind at a crucial growing point can also affect the rods growth and appearance. We aim to produce the highest quality rod as environmentally friendly as possible.
What are the size of Willow Bundles?
Traditional Somerset bundles measure 1 foot in diameter and 3 foot 1 inch to 3 foot 2 inches in circumference around the butt end, the base of the rod.
How long should willow be soaked to gain flexibility?
I would like to encourage more wildlife? Which willow?
Willow is increasingly being used to provide ground cover for birds and animals. For many years we have noticed that there is an abundance of animal and bird activity in our withy beds in comparison to the grass fields that neighbour them. Choose a variety that is disease resistant, pleasing to the eye and of a slow to medium growth rate. Ask our advice, we are happy to supply small or large-scale ground cover projects.
Are all rods the same thickness?
No, because willow is a living thing it can grow differently from year to year. A heavily cropping bed of good quality may have slender rods for its length; an older bed may grow less thickly and produce stouter rods. Mother Nature has the final say; we just manage and look after the beds as best we can, as environmentally friendly as we can.
Which willow do I need to make indoor sculptures, lanterns or simply to attach paper tissue and masking tape to?
Buff Willow is the perfect willow for these projects. The smoothness of the rod enables you to stick paper tissue and masking tape to it easily. It is incredibly lightweight, flexible and strong enabling you to make quite large-scale structures and sculptures. We recommend lengths of 5 to 6 foot upwards, so you will have some thicknesses of rod at the butt end for stability.
Which willow is suitable for outdoor work and sculptures?
We recommend Green, Brown or Steamed Willow. These all still have their bark on to give protection against the elements. Willow products should still be treated when left outdoors for long periods of time, unless of course they are growing.
How should I treat my outdoor hurdle/sculpture, etc.?
We recommend a mixture of 50% linseed oil and 50% turps. Alternatively a breathable preservative from your local DIY store should suffice. Please treat your hurdles as you would a wooden panel fence to prolong their lives.
Why do you boil willow?
To produce Buff Willow, green or brown willow needs to be immersed in water and boiled for approximately 8 hours. This is to release the tannins, which colour the willow rod a golden brown shade and soften the bark to enable it to be removed or stripped off by machine or by hand through a brake.
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