How Timber Is Harvested, Processed & Managed

Published Thursday 04th May 2017

Whenever we’re creating a timber frame house or buying some lovely new wooden furniture, we don’t tend to think about how the wood got to where it is now. Where does it come from? How has it changed from a big tree in a forest to a beautifully sculpted timber structure taking pride of place in your home?

Here, we’re going to give you an insight into how timber is harvested, processed and managed, so you’ll always know just how your kitchen table came to be.


There are two main ways to tackle timber harvesting:

Commercial clear cutting: This approach is focused around economic gain, in which trees in a heavily forested area are removed by loggers down to their stumps. This is not seen as sustainable forestry, which asks for constant growth and regrowth in a balance with harvesting.

Silviculture: This approach is much more sustainable and focuses on growing trees specifically for harvesting for a more sustained yield. One method used in silviculture is shelterwood cutting, which cuts trees partially, over time, in a gradual and sustained way. Once the last trees are cut, the first trees will have grown again and so on.  This process can last up to 20 years for a single forest.

Once the trees are cut down, they’re bucked (remove branches or ‘limbs’ and cut into logs) and skidded (the process of moving the logs from the forest to the sawmill). Pre-planned skid routes are taken to limit any damage to the forest floor.


Time to process the timber and create boards, beams and paper. A debarked log may be sent straight to the chipper if it's destined to become paper, however a higher-grade log doesn't go to the chipper, but to the sawmill.

One log can make up many different boards, planks and beams. The main saw in the mill, the head rig, breaks down and separates the logs into all of their rough-cut sections, for example, sapwood normally becomes boards and planks due to having fewer knots, whilst heartwood is used to create heavy planks and beams.

After the head rig has its go, each piece of wood is edged, removing all defects and then they’re pushed through a trimmer which squares of the ends. They’re then sorted, stacked and dried.


In the UK, we have a Government Timber Procurement Policy, which ensures that all timber and wood derived products procured originate from a legal and sustainable source, or a FLEGT licensed or equivalent source. Equally, recycled products are acceptable to use.

The policy is mandatory for all central government departments, executive agencies and non-departmental bodies. Universities and publicly funded organisations are encouraged to adopt sustainable timber procurement policies.

As part of Saint-Gobain Building Distribution, International Timber operates within its Policy for Sustainability. This policy is designed to continually improve our position as a sustainable provider of building materials by reducing environmental impact, being committed to the well-being of stakeholders and always considering the economic effect of our operations.

To download our Sustainability Statement in a PDF format, please click here.

There you have it

Now you know how timber is harvested, how it’s processed and modified, and how it’s regulated and managed in the UK. If you have any questions feel free to tweet us! If you need some timber supplies for your own build, contact us and find out how we can help.