The first thing that strikes newcomers to the Ligna timber technology show in Germany is the scale of the event. At the Hannover fair complex, one giant hall packed to the gunnels with the latest wood and panel processing equipment leads to another. The Ligna personnel buzz around on scooters and there’s even a shuttle bus to shift slothful journalists from the entrance to the press centre.

Perhaps the next most notable thing about the show is that, while essentially about machinery, it still manages to be a window on the timber sector as a whole. Stand space is also dedicated to joinery, timber building, engineered wood, even traditional handicrafts – the souvenir clog-maker at the last show did a roaring trade!

If the plans of the Woodmex organisers come off, as of 2006 the UK timber trade will have a similarly all-embracing shopwindow. The event is unlikely to achieve the scale and international pull of its German counterpart, but it aims to take the same wide-ranging approach. Building on the base of the Woodmex processing technology show and the ASFI exhibition for furniture components suppliers, the new fair aims to cover joinery, packaging, timber frame, sawmilling, lumber and forestry. The ambition is to create an “industry-wide event for all those working with and around wood” and one that reflects the dynamism and diversity of what, as TTF past president Geoff Rhodes frequently stressed, is a very big business.

Another example of an ambition to get timber industry to put on a united front comes from the UK Wood Chain (UKW). Its aim is to set up a national training framework for the sector which could not only improve overall training standards but also open the door to government funding for education and skills development. The UKW is currently arm-wrestling the LANTRA sector skills council over who represents sawmillers on training and qualifications, but the Sector Skills Development Agency is making the right noises about its plans. If it succeeds it could put timber training on a whole new level.