July Post: Inch Sawmills

With summer being such a busy time for everyone, we’re sorry to have missed a few blog posts. Having said that, we’ve spent the summer exploring what Ireland has to offer in terms of design and lifestyle and had the pleasure in visiting Inch Sawmills in Kilkenny: a business that’s been situated there for 5 family generations and epitomises putting a modern spin on traditional Irish craft.

 

Left: The exterior of the old sawmill. Right: The old sawmill operated by the gear mechanism.

We met Eoin, the latest of the Brett family to run the business, for a tour of the mill. Eoin informed us that the sawmill has been in operation by his family since 1886 and has records that potentially date it back to the 1600s. Originally, the saws were operated by a series of gear mechanisms that used the mill to harness the power of the river Nore, which runs through the sawmill grounds. It was Eoin’s great-great grandfather, Patrick Brett, who found the mill abandoned in the 1880s. Originally used as a woollen mills, he converted it into a sawmill in 1886 and founded Inch Sawmills. Traditionally, wooden paddles were used by the waterwheel that were later replaced by steel, which kept the mill operational until only 10 years ago. Nowadays, a weir is used to convert the hydropower from the Nore to electric which powers the saws and sustains the entire property.

 

Left: Generator on the river Nore and weir that converts the hydropower to electricity. Middle: Air-drying timber slabs. Right: Kiln-drying timber.
Left: One of the main saws on site. Right: Hardwood logs.

Inch Sawmills still offer a custom saw and supply service tailored to customer or project’s specification. Eoin walked us through the processes that take place on the grounds. Irish sourced logs are sawn to timber, air-dryed, and kiln-dried to the client’s specifications. These logs are typically old hardwoods from 100+ year old trees which had to be felled for health and safety reasons. The dried wood is then crafted into bespoke woodware from tables, hurling sticks, flooring and skirting to structural and load bearing timber. We were particularly impressed by the single slab tables that Eoin crafts that have the unique spalting (wood colouration by the growth of fungi) effect. This process creates a beautiful ‘outlined’ colouration that follows the natural zone lines of the wood and modernises the furniture. This is a unique process that is completely natural, no dyes or stains are used to colour the wood. These showed the perfect example of using a crafting practice, which has been passed down through family generations in Ireland, to create products with an organic feel that fit modern-day interior design.

 

Inch Sawmills single slab timber tables. (Photos courtesy of Inch Sawmills)
Inch Sawmills chopping board with unique spalting as a result of growing fungi on the wood.
Examples of bespoke Inch Sawmills cladding. (Photos courtesy of Inch Sawmills)

A main feature of Inch sawmills is that they are highly environmentally conscious. Eoin highlighted the importance of reducing reliance on fossil fuels and tries to minimise the sawmill’s environmental impact and carbon footprint. As mentioned above the sawmill is powered purely by renewable energy, surplus power generated by the river is put back onto the grid and the heat needed for the kiln is catered for by utilizing the sawmill’s waste timber in a woodchip boiler. Their work is self-sustained and powered by renewables as much as possible. The owners great take pride in their way of doing things. Eoin and his family still live on-site in the Mill’s original drying room which they renovated and extended. For them this is more than just a job, it’s their life and vocation.

Eoin Brett is the 5th generation of his family to take over Inch Sawmills.

For more information check out their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Inchsawmills or feel free to call in!

Written by Deana Tsang and CG