Looking for a supply of straight-grained ash


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Established Member
29 Oct 2022
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Portsmouth UK
I've recently got involved in maintaining a church bell installation in the Portsmouth area and need a supply of ash for the stays that prevent the bells from turning over the top when they are rung. The stay is the 'fuse' in the system and is designed to break before anything else does, and they do occasionally get broken.

The stays are different sizes according to the weight of each bell, but our largest is about 30" long and 3" square (in millimetres of course). The wood needs to be flawless and straight-grained and ideally well-seasoned, though we could attend to that ourselves. The sawmill where I got ash forty years ago is now a housing estate, and I need a new supplier. We did get some ash from a vehicle restorer, but it was not straight-grained and breaks too easily.

I'm sure I could get the wood from the various bell-hanging firms but would prefer to get it straight from a wood merchant. Any suggestions?

Whilst looking for some air dried ash for steam bending I came across the firm - Avon Ropes.
They seem to specialise in ash for bell stays.
Woodturning blanks come in 3x3 squares, often 12 inch but longer are available. Ash is normally available. Maybe call Turners Retreat near Doncaster or Yandles. Both do mail order. Yandles will do custom sizes and isn't too far from you, near Yeovilton. .

(ah, I see Yandles mentioned above as well)
Being unable to find a suitable supply of the raw ash for bell stays, I have bought stay blanks from Nicholson Engineering.
(I found spindle blanks for wood turning are rarely long enough).
Please let me know if you have any luck sourcing some.
I asked at Yandles last year - they had nothing suitable at the time. Next time I’ll give English Woods a call to see what they have.

Is there a particular reason it has to be Ash?
Straight grained English ash is used traditionally because it is relatively strong and flexible allowing it to act as a shock absorber before it ultimately breaks.
As it is a protective device, I’d be reluctant to swap it to anything radically different although I have seen construction grade 2x2 used as a stop-gap.
Thanks for the replies and suggestions. Niall's suggestion of Avon Ropes sounds most promising - they select, fell, process and air-dry their own ash specifically with bell stays in mind, and you couldn't ask for better than that. They also have a very progressive approach to the manufacture of bell-ropes. I didn't know of them because they started up after my last involvement with such things. Thanks for the tip, Niall.

And I have a cousin who lives in Bristol - I can feel a family visit coming on!


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