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Timber Carrying on the Waterways

Working the Waterways: NarrowBoat, Spring 2018

Christopher M Jones

Chris M. Jones explores the carriage of timber by boat – one of the most useful and adaptable materials transported by canal and river craft.

In the heyday of Britain’s canals, one of the most important cargoes transported by boat was timber, which was needed for a wide variety of uses in many different industries.Types of timber Timber was a general term that referred to different types of wood in an ‘unconverted’ or ‘converted’ state. Unconverted timber was the unsawn tree trunk, sometimes called round timber, and converted timber was wood sawn into planks or other shapes and sizes. Beyond these two basic categories it got very complicated, which caused complaints from canal companies when timber-laden craft were gauged for the calculation of tolls. Other terms were used to describe timber cargoes. Deals were the most common. These were fir softwoods sawn 7in to 9in in width, 3in thick and 6ft or over in length, and were often used in the building industry. Pieces less than 7in wide were known as battens, and those over 10in as planks. Boards were under 3in thick. Smaller cuts of wood were k…

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