Why handmade oak floorboards are so special
At Charles Lowe & Sons we know that there are real, tangible benefits to the floor and to the home owner when you rely on a skilled craftsman to engineer each floorboard. Here, we look at some fundamental advantages when choosing the personal touch rather than a machine.
Real craftsmanship and historical expertise simply cannot be replicated by machine. A handsome, mature, oak floor is a product where you can see and feel the difference when using craftsmen.
It takes a respectful understanding of timber and a loving skill to fully reveal the shy beauty that is latent in every oak floorboard and we believe this can only be achieved by hand. Engineered oak wood flooring is our speciality, and it provides an alternative to reclaimed flooring but not all engineered oak is the same.
Mechanised planeing and sanding scratches and smashes the grain together, blurring together the fibres forming the surface, hiding much of the inner beauty of the oak and producing opaque muted tones.
In contrast, the razor-sharp hand plane in skilled hands, slices the timber cleanly, creating a lovely silky-smooth surface, slicing away the factory-flat deadness, that feels starkly out of place in a cherished home. For luxury wooden flooring we suggest a true expert’s care will always outperform automation.
A craftsman's care
The simple truth is that no one hand planes oak flooring like we do. As craftsmen, we are able touch and feel our way along, ‘reading’ the grain in every board. We trust our instincts, letting the oak itself guide the movement of our tools. It takes years of experience in the workshop to learn how to reveal the natural beauty of the oak. It’s an art passed down through seven generations, perfected from a long, long history of fine English cabinet making and antique restoration.
The artisan is only as good as his tools, so caring for them is a large and vital part of his expertise.
Throughout the day, the plane is regularly dismantled, the iron is precisely ground by eye, and finely honed on a leather strop until it is sharp enough to remove hairs from the back of the hand. The plane is then reassembled, set up and intricately ‘tuned’ until it will glide over the surface of the timber, ejecting a plume of translucent shavings with a satisfying hiss.
We are revealing and accentuating the hidden beauty lying within the noble oak tree. This is not some brutal roughening method or contrived dry rusticating for the sake of it. It’s true that there are plenty of these less refined processes around, they are striking to observe perhaps, but produce a dead, muddy finish which is ultimately dull and lacking the soft warmth and genuineness that says ‘home’. Hard work and labour elegantly replicates that elusive time-honoured, cared-for character of vintage oak boards. These oak boards are completely at home in your property, as if they had always been there, like beautiful original oak flooring.
Quality oak floorboards
Mechanisation of any process will, by definition, have the effect of distancing human input from the natural individuality of every piece of wood. A machine operator effectively has to surrender each unique plank to a standardised process to ‘see what they get’ out of the other side. This leads to the introduction of processes and treatments designed to unify the output to an artificial conformity by killing or muting differences. Standardised lengths and widths are forced. Anything in the timber outside of what the machines can effectively process is rejected, and any remaining character in the wood is literally buried beneath opaque tinted lacquers to ‘correct’ variations in colour.
Quite remarkably, there are factories across Europe where thousands of square metres of flooring are produced daily, without once being touched by a human hand.
We handle every single board in person lavishing it with the level of love, care and attention required to ensure its true character is allowed to blossom, be celebrated, to truly become the heart of your home.
This is quality control that is second to none. Every single piece of oak, every single process, attended to intimately by highly skilled personal attendants throughout its entire stay in the workshops.
The point is that most oak flooring production is automated, even some allegedly ‘aged’ oak flooring but the honoured tools, the flair, and the experience of true craftsmanship simply cannot be reproduced or even imitated. To bring out the natural character of oak takes confidence, trust, ability and a deeper understanding of the qualities within the wood.