Sourcing and Manufacture of Solid Wood Worktops: A Worktop Express® Nutshell Guide
At Worktop Express® we pride ourselves on supplying the highest-quality solid wood worktops for the best possible prices. An essential facet of this process is the sourcing of the timber itself and manufacture of the worktops.
Years of experience have made us experts in this field and both the origin and subsequent handling of our timber is something that we take very seriously. As such, we are involved at every step of the process.
Some key facts about our sourcing and manufacturing ‘ethos’:
- Our supply chain is very short – no middlemen are involved. This makes it easy to maintain and control.
- From the moment at which the timber is felled to the moment it reaches the customer, it only passes through two sets of hands.
- The timber from the forest goes to our selected worktop manufacturer – who we vet – to our warehouse and then directly to the customer (using our own transport in most cases).
- We spend a great deal of time visiting forests and suppliers ourselves. Inspections are carried out every three months (at least). Each visit is lengthy and sometimes will be spread over several days.
- We do not use agents or wholesalers.
The majority of Worktop Express® timbers are sourced from Eastern Europe, as we have found that the forests there are both sustainable and extremely well-managed (and most are under tight governmental control). There has been an unwritten rule in these countries for many years that if a tree is felled, another tree is planted: one reason that there are still vast areas of lush forest throughout the region. Unfortunately the UK has not been so sensible and our forests are rather depleted (in Elizabethan times we plundered many of our forests for ship-building materials, for example).
When it comes to our African or exotic woods, all of these timbers come in under EUTR regulations – without exception. For geographic purposes in these countries we employ consultants who visit regularly and carry out inspections on our behalf; as a result, we can confidently declare that we could take someone to the tree stump from which our wood was cut. And these ‘stumps’ would also not be many in number – for all of the zebrano wood worktops and wenge wood worktops that we supplied for the entire year of 2013, for example, only 8 trees were felled: a tiny figure. We strive to keep this number as small as it can be through our efficient processes and zero wastage policies. Read our environmental policy to learn more.
No matter where Worktop Express® timber is sourced from, we either visit the forest site ourselves or our appointed consultant for the country (who is employed by us) or our selected manufacturer (under our guidance) visits to ensure our supply is from legal and well-managed forests. In some cases all three parties will go together, meet the managers of the forest, and inspect.
By adhering to this rigorous process we are confident that our timber is of the highest quality, that it is handled to our own specifications (which we insist on), and that it is ethically sourced.
Unfortunately – as in most trades – there is some corruption. Our expertise in this field means that we are aware of this and can bypass it completely. We have never engaged with the black market or any officials who have asked for a bribe and will never do so.
Over the last 5-10 years we have engaged with 20 or 30 different manufacturers of timber worktops and wood panels. Our investigations of the industry have allowed us to narrow this down to approximately half a dozen manufacturers whom we believe deliver the best results in Europe.
Every single supplier we have ever used has been subject to frequent visits, inspections and processes by our team – in person. As such our purchasing team have gained extensive knowledge and probably know more than anyone in Europe about worktop manufacture! This acumen has proved invaluable as it has allowed us to develop specifications and standards by which to benchmark and select suppliers.
There are timber industry standards set out by the EU (formally DIN standards), which we have expanded and improved upon to create our own. One example of this relates to our sanding practices: though the industry standard is to sand to 120 grit, we demand that all Worktop Express® worktops are sanded to 150 grit. We also demand that worktops are packaged to our specification so that these reach the customer in optimum condition.
Our specifications are issued to every manufacturer and translated into the local language so that there can be no misinterpretation. We then discuss each aspect in detail with the manufacturer to ensure that these are understood. Finally, a member of our purchasing team travels to site and inspects at least every three months to ensure that our standards are being adhered to – even to those premises owned by manufacturers that we have long-standing relationships with.
No Worktop Express® products are manufactured in the Far East except for those which make use of the region’s native materials (bamboo); again, these items are made to our strict specification. Many other worktop retailers will offer lower-grade worktops – that are often not even competitively-priced -and which have been put together in China, using unsustainable timber from Russia and Africa, to no particular specification, through labour that is in breach of human rights. We abhor these practices and urge anyone who is purchasing solid timber worktops to research their retailer thoroughly.
Wood is a natural material so – no matter how rigorous we are – there may be the odd ‘flaw’. However out of the hundreds of thousands of worktops that we receive we would typically find one or two that contained defects (at the most). As a result, the Worktop Express® team are more confident than ever that our attention to detail really does make a difference, and that the product we supply is the best on the market as a result.
Simply put, we take care from the moment the tree is planted until it reaches your doorstep.
We hope that this has answered any queries you might have had about the origin and manufacture of our worktops; but if you’d like to learn more about Worktop Express® products, please take advantage of our full sample service – our team firmly believes that the quality on offer speaks for itself. We hope that you will think so too – try us out and see!