King Charles Tours the ‘Circular’ Timber Plant Using Balmoral Wood

James Jones and Sons is one of Europe's largest integrated forest companies and supplies 45% of the UK's I-Joist market.

Wed 04 Oct 23


King Charles III visited the James Jones and Sons sawmill in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with the processor sourcing more than 150,000 tonnes of certified timber from the Balmoral Estate’s 1200 hectares of productive forests. 

The visit demonstrated the value of productive forestry, the circularity of forest products, the importance of tree planting to meet future demand for housing and the UK’s net-zero climate commitments.

James Jones and Sons sawmills are among Europe’s most efficient timber processing facilities, with its Timber Systems Division now the UK’s largest manufacturer of certified I-Joists, known as JJI-Joists. 

The 180-year-old, fifth-generation timber conglomerate operates more than 27 sites across the UK, employs more than 1250 staff and has annual sales of over 330 million pounds annually.

Today, JJI-Joists has a 45% share of the I-Joist market, has extensive Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) and Glue-Laminated Timber (GLT) capacity and is used by all major housebuilders across the UK.

The Aboyne sawmill, which opened in 1962 and was rebuilt in 1991, produces a mixed range of sawn timber specifications, including carcassing, fencing and palletwood, with the bulk of output serving the Scottish market. (Photo Credit: Supplied)

The sawmill opened in 1962 and primarily serves the Scottish market but also exports to Australia and New Zealand, with the visit commemorating the completion of the sawmills’s £15 million redevelopment programme.

In 2022, the company secured a 60% stake in Mayflower Enterprises, the parent company of Australian timber giants Xlam and Hyne Timber.

In an interview with the Fifth Estate, Hyne Timber General Manager of Strategic Relations Katie Fowden said that Xlam’s Wodonga 60,000 cubic metre Cross-Laminated Timber plant, the first of its kind in Australia, “was a key part of the deal.”

“From a Hyne perspective, it’s something that we’re excited about. Everyone wants to work for a business about expansion and growth, especially when it involves sustainably grown plantation pine.”

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The King, with members of James Jones and Sons executive team. (Photo Credit: Supplied)

Charles first visited the mill in 1999 whilst still the Prince of Wales and thanked the “marvellous workers” for processing timber from the estate.

Attending the Aboye sawmill, Charles asked about the price of the timber, with Company Chairman Tom Bruce-Jones, whose father previously welcomed Charles, joking that “it was too expensive.”

Charles wore a hard hat and hi-vis for most of the visit, which the Independent reported is the first time he has done so since becoming King.

The sawmill now trades indirectly with the Balmoral Estate, including high-quality pine, but the working relationship goes back decades.

Mr Bruce-Jones was honoured to welcome the King to the site “and discussed the significant benefits of productive forestry acting as carbon sinks and the merits of continuing to meet and exceed annual planting targets across the UK.”

In July, Wood Central revealed that the UK is struggling to meet tree-planting targets, with less than half of the committed trees planted across England.

At the time, the Guardian reported that inaction on trees risks the UK’s net zero targets, and whilst the public sector was responsible for a quarter of all UK forest area, “there was not enough direction from the government for the private sector, which faces “unclear strategies and overly bureaucratic schemes.”

The committee’s chair, Phillip Dunne, said the government’s tree-planting policies are disjointed and ineffective. (Photo Credit: Ashley Cooper from Alarmy via the Guardian)

In addition, Mr Bruce-Jones spoke of the “environmental advantages of UK-grown structural timber products to support our collective views on building future houses sustainably.”

According to Mr Bruce-Jones, the sawmill can transform one log into 24 smaller pieces in a single pass, with the production process using 100% of the log. 

The sawn timber goes to market, while chips and sawdust go for chipboard and bark to horticulture – with the company contributing to all major UK pallets pools, including CHEP, LPR, IPP and EPAL.

 Any remaining residues are upcycled and used to fire the biomass boiler to heat kilns for timber drying – impressing the King, long recognised for his commitment to environmentalism and conservation.

On-site, Charles visited the mill’s flood defence system and the timber processing plant before being introduced to several long-standing employees, apprentices and student placements.

The King was introduced to the five-generation firm’s site manager, primary processing manager, and saw-line operator. (Photo Credit: Supplied)

He also unveiled a plaque commemorating the visit, made on-site, and signed the visitor book.

“We were honoured to welcome His Majesty to our Aboyne site to demonstrate the extent of investments and technology upgrades,” Mr Bruce-Jones said.

Charles is a long-time supporter of sustainable forestry and whilst the Prince of Wales, appointed Geraint Richards, Head Forester of the Duchy of Cornwall.

This son of a Cornish father and Welsh mother is responsible for managing more than 2000 hectares of trees, woodlands and forests – all FSC certified  across the Duchy’s extensive landholding.

The Prince of Wales Award for Sustainable Forestry, instigated by Charles and managed in Australia by Forestry Australia, recognises the achievements of young forest professionals in Australia and New Zealand.

Geraint Richards, who has represented the Prince of Wales at award ceremonies in Australia and New Zealand, graduated with a BSc in Forestry from Bangor University in North Wales. 

“It’s about forests and foresters,” says noted forester Rob de Fégely, AM, chair of the Forest Industry Advisory Council.

“His Royal Highness has a well-known passion for forests and natural production systems,” Mr de Fégely said, “and as Prince Charles, he has supported the professional forestry institutes in Australia and New Zealand and before that in Canada and the UK.

“He has encouraged greater awareness of the importance of sustainably managing the world’s forests and training and creating a network of young foresters who will manage them professionally.”

“Forestry is about long-term thinking and planning, and the award should continue to inspire many younger members of our profession to join his quest to manage the world’s forests sustainably.”


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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