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Cork – What exactly is it & why is it so good?

Cork – What exactly is it?

Well the simplest and shortest answer is it’s the bark of a tree. Shall we all go home now? Actually, hang around there is some great trivia about cork that you probably didn’t know, oh and lots more. Let’s dig a little deeper. Most trees have an outer cork bark, but most cork products are made from the Cork Oak Tree, probably because it meets our commercial needs the best. It has the thickest layer of bark when compared to other trees too. So, where might we find these particular trees? Well most of the harvest comes from places such as Algeria, Spain, Morocco, Italy and Tunisia to name a few.

If you think of it as a protective layer to the more delicate inner bark and fibres of the tree, you can begin to understand why this material has the wonderful properties and benefits it does. Such as being water-proof, lightweight, rot resistant, fire resistant, soft and buoyant etc

Cork Harvesting

Cork Oak trees need to grow until they are around 20-25 years old before the cork can be stripped from them. After that it can be stripped every 10-14 years for as long as the tree lives. Care must be taken not cause any damage to the inner bark of the tree or the outer layers will not grow back

Once the cork has been taken away from the tree, the rough outer layer or skin is removed and the remaining pieces are then boiled. Boiling aids the removal of outer bark and also softens it making it much easier to work with.

It can be ground up and baked for use in products like floor & wall tiles and notice boards.

Looking Deeper

Cork has a honeycomb-like structure, meaning that much of it is empty space, which means it’s very lightweight. But unlike honeycomb, it has a very irregular construction of ‘holes’ with many more sides and different spaces between them. These microscopic holes reveal another benefit, that of a cushioning effect. This structure of holes has even more uses as it is also good for insulation and noise reduction.

Why is it so good then?

Amazingly, for a wood product, it’s fire retardant! Fire will only char the surface and there are no toxic fumes. There’s more. When you cut or slice it you are cutting through those tiny air pockets. When you place a piece of cork on a flat surface the open holes act like little suction cups and effectively grip the surface giving them anti-slip properties.

It does not absorb dust or moisture, is very resilient to being crushed, returning to most of it’s original size over time. It doesn’t rot, and resists insects. Additionally it is resistant to wear and is or has been used to polish diamonds.

Traditional Cork Pin Boards

Time and time again we are asked for cork pin boards and perhaps this article helps explain why. But let us consider how some of those wonderful cork properties lend themselves so well to this particular established product.  Although felt notice boards have their place, and a few positive points of their own. There are times when a ‘cleaner’, fibreless surface is actually better. A good example of this would be when using a map on a pinboard. Our aim is to lay the map as flat and close to the pin board surface as possible. Cork is ideal in that regard. In fact cork’s natural anti-slip benefit helps the map, and indeed any information stay in place better.

I could mention the fire retardant feature of cork again, but it is important to state that the cork surface is just a laminate. A layer of cork, usually between 1-3mm thick is permanently bonded to a industry standard piece of medium-high density fibre board. This is necessary to keep the board rigid and improve pin retention. That pin board fibre core is wood based and is not fire rated. The same would apply to the wood frame of a cork board. 

Now You Know!

Now you know why it’s such a great choice of material to choose. Plus you can now impress your friends and family at dinner parties!

Don’t forget to check out the Notice Me cork pin boards range.

cork pin notice board

Check out even more useful information;

UK Cork Industry Federation
Wikipedia Cork Material article

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