A top North Wales timber company has helped develop a revolutionary new machine to produce extra-long lasting fence posts which defy the worst the weather can throw at them.
Ruthin-based Clifford Jones Timber, the UK’s largest producer of wooden fence posts, is now stepping up production to over a million of the new breed of fence post thanks to a major investment in a new production line.
They have worked with chemical giants Lonza, who produce the chemical preservative and Carlisle-based engineering company Tweddle on the new machine to help them land major orders from top farm suppliers.
The key is the new advanced Excalibur machine which incises a network of slits into the timber fence posts as they pass along the line at a rate of up to 40 metres a minute.
Thanks to the work done by experts at Clifford Jones Timber the new fence posts have a guaranteed life of 15 years in the ground and the company is the first to have the new machines installed on their production lines at Ruthin and at Gretna on the Scottish border.
They have enabled Clifford Jones Timber to win major contracts with two of the UK’s largest agricultural suppliers, Devon-based Mole Valley Farmers, who are taking 900,000 Shield posts annually, over £2 million worth, while Wynnstay Farmers, of Oswestry, are taking a further 300,000, marketed under the Platinum label.
Clifford Jones Timber’s Managing Director Keith Corbett said: “The new machines and the development to the production lines at Ruthin and at our other factory at Gretna in Scotland add up to half a million pounds.
“We have played a vital role in developing the machines, working on the prototypes and ensuring they can do the job we and our customers want them to do.
“We see it as a major investment guaranteeing jobs and responding to our customers who ask for more durable fence posts.
“We cut these in the forests from sustainable timber, transport them here, strip the bark and process them and ship them out and they’ll last in the ground for 15 years.”
The posts made so far have a special nail inserted with the year of production inscribed into the head – they ordered 600,000 nails with 16 on them – but in future they will be using another method to date stamp the product.
They have developed a special patented induction branding machine for the production line which will in future stamp each individual post with its year of production.
Keith Corbett added: “The kiln-dried fence posts pass down the line through Excalibur which incises them and they go into a vacuum autoclave so that the preservative is forced deep into the timber at high pressure through the slits.
“The kiln-drying is important as it reduces the moisture level of the timber and means the posts can really absorb the maximum amount of preservative.
“The posts will be branded with the year and that means not only will you know that your fence post will last for 15 years but you will also know when to replace them.”
Clifford Jones Timber, who employ over 70 staff, manufacture over four million fence posts a year and process over 100,000 tons of timber a year from sustainable UK forests at their Ruthin headquarters and at Gretna.
In addition to fence posts they also make gates, laminated timber for the construction, garden centre and outdoor play industries, and kiln-dried logs.
They send their fence posts as far afield as the Falkland Islands while other clients for their timber products have included Center Parcs, a luxury treehouse builder, award-winning vineyards and a deck-chair company.
Alan Jones, from Wrexham, whose father founded the company in 1948, said: “Every piece of timber that comes through these gates is used. There isn’t any wasted and there aren’t many industries that can say that.
“We’re the UK’s biggest producer of fence posts but we pride ourselves on our versatility and we have a wide variety of customers for our products.”