About two years after unveiling expansion plans for the Sterling OSB plant, the Norbord board has pushed the button to start construction on the project – which will double its UK OSB production capacity. It’s a massive vote of confidence in the markets for OSB products.

It’s heartening to see such a big push in British timber industry manufacturing and, with the UK construction market set for continued growth in the coming years, Norbord clearly feels the time is right.

I’ve been out and about at various timber industry events in recent weeks, including the London Hardwood Club’s New Year Lunch and the Plywood Club of London’s Annual Dinner. Both were excellent, with a new date and venue working wonders for the latter.

Clearly, market and currency conditions are proving quite volatile for several panels importers and agents I spoke to at the Plywood dinner. Some said they had never known a time like it.

Meanwhile, attending the Xylexpo woodworking technology exhibition press preview conference in Milan the other week, the message was unification.

Italy’s leading woodworking machinery producers are once again backing the show, with SCM’s return completing the re-unification. There have been several fallouts in past years with some technology companies backing other shows in Italy. But the big three – also including Biesse and Cefla – are all back now.

Though much smaller than in the past (what show isn’t these days?), the exhibition will look to build on the 2014 event’s successful edition and could be a good option for UK companies seeking technology inspiration when it opens on May 24.

In this issue we interview the Timber Trade Federation’s new MD David Hopkins (page 46), a familiar face to many as the former director of Wood for Good.

A former journalist he has some bold ideas to take the TTF forward, part of which involves a vision to mobilise TTF members as a timber sales army engaging with architects and local authorities at their local level. If there’s a watchword which may sum up his vision it may be Spartacus – the name of his former PR company and taken from the legendary Roman gladiator. For Mr Hopkins, it speaks of empowerment and decentralisation.

It does seem that the TTF is moving into a new phase after last year’s focus on setting up the CTI.

Finally, it’s fitting to remember British Woodworking Federation membership director Michael Lee, who has sadly passed away. There will be many joinery companies who received a visit from him over the years and his enthusiasm and professionalism to look after BWF members’ interests will be sorely missed.