Pieces in an Exhibition

January 24, 2012

Or- What’s happened (so far) with the Meadows Elms?

The first pieces made from the Meadows elms were on display in the Scottish Furniture Makers autumn exhibition at the Dovecot Gallery. Edinburgh.

All photos are high resolutiom and can be displayed full screen simply by clicking on them. I’m sorry that some of them will display on their side but you can use your own software to correct this. Further information on individuals can be obtained via the SFMA website.

If I’ve inadvertently missed a maker out , I apologize. Get in touch, with a JPEG, and I can include you.

In no particular order (as they like to say), we have

Tom Cooper. Side table

the tripartite burr top is composed with sycamore spokes


Dave Powell: small bookcase with solid bac

Chris Scotland: dining table

Chris Scotland: dining table

and a view of the grain of the top

rob thomson:bench, table  and chairs

michaela huber: revolving bookvase

jonathan lassen: glsss-topped occasional table

jack rootes: rocking chair

and,finally, for something that wee bit different,

Adrian McCurdy: (van Goghian) day and night




September 23, 2010

Doors Open Day at our workshop this weekend 25th-26th Sept. 2010. Download dod2010 for full details.

CLICK on document below to enlarge it or CTRL/CLICK, save it to your desktop and print it out


Scottish Furniture Makers at Collins Gallery, Glasgow.

NOW until Sunday Sept 26th.

Download sfma invite and/or sfma2010

Be there …….. or be culturally disadvantaged!

Colin Campbell Mitchell and the Steam Catapult

August 7, 2010

Introducing another of our kirkyards celebrities, the following is an extract from an article on the history of assisted launching of aircraft by Herbert M. Friedman and Ada Kera Friedman on the website http://www.americanheritage.com:-

“The hydraulic catapult had reached its limit, but the demand for power had not. The Grumman F9F Cougar, the standard Navy fighter at the time of the explosion, weighed 21,000 pounds fully loaded. The Douglas A-3 Skywarrior, which had first flown the year before, would reach a gross weight of 82,000 pounds, well beyond the capacity of any conceivable hydraulic catapult. Fortunately, the Royal Navy had long recognized the limitations of hydraulic catapults, and by 1950 Comdr. Colin C. Mitchell had designed and built an entirely new type of launcher, based on one of the Industrial Revolution’s oldest motive fluids. Mitchell’s steam catapult, as refined over the next five decades, can still be seen aboard today’s Navy carriers.”

(Only now, after over half a century is it being superceded by electro-magnetic systems.)

Amazingly and only recently discovered (at least by me) , Colin Campbell Mitchell is buried in Gogar Kirkyard; although the local authority in its wisdom and with all due lack of respect has laid his stone down.

Like Thomas Grainger  (and unlike sculptor Pittendrigh MacGillivary, another of our residents, of whom more anon) he was a local lad (from Corstorphine). So perhaps local knowledge can add something to his story?

Slightly more dramatic, I include a picture I took recently at East Fortune Air Museum of a Sea Hawk which, in its day, (the 1950’s), would have been regularly launched by Colin Mitchell’s catapults. It is displayed at the museum with wings folded as would have been the case when stored under decks.

Thomas Grainger and Gogar

June 25, 2010

Our graveyard boasts, at the latest count, some four B-list celebrities(i.e on the scale where Rabbie Burns and William Wallace would be A-list).

Amongst these is Thomas Grainger, a pioneering Victorian railway engineer responsible for the building of many of the earliest railway lines in Scotland and the North of England . I mention this just now because this last week seems to have been THOMAS-GRAINGER-WEEK-AT-GOGAR. On Monday, out of the blue, we had a visit from descedents Paul and Margaret (nee Grainger) Parker accompanied by Prof. Roland Paxton of the Heriot Watt Uni Civil Engineering Dept. Although enthusiastic to have found the graveyard, they were disappointed to discover how overgrown the grave had become ( to the extent that the inscriptions could not be read). I agreed to take my chainsaw to some of the bigger vegetation. The picture shows the state of the grave even after some large limbs have been removed.

It is actually there,looming large in the middle of the frame, but completely obscured by young trees.

Prof Paxton kindly sent me a picture he took in 1983 (when things were black and white, and the grave itself must still have been maintained)

So, as the picture taken this week demonstrates,  turn your back for 27 years and just see what has happened……..

Then on Wednesday, and unbeknown to our previous visitors, another couple of descendants turned up from Ireland (the Kilpatrick branch of descent). Amongst other things they knew that Thomas left £250 in his will (a not inconsiderable sum in 1853) for the maintenance of his grave. Which rather begs the question as to who has been trousering the money these years?

Yesterday I had a real good go at it and this is how it is now looking:-

Thomas Grainger' grave at Gogar 2010

Thomas Grainger's Grave at Gogar

Thanks to Neil Robson’s comment, I looked up Yarm Viaduct and, sure enough, we find some stunning pictures, e.g.

and even due credit to the man himself

Yarm Viaduct, the inscription to its makers


It cost £44,500 and is 760 yards long and was built to extend the Leeds and Thirsk Railway from Northallerton to Stockton and Hartlepool. The viaduct has 43 arches, two of which carry the railway over the River Tees, these are 65ft high and have spans of 67 ft and took 139,000 cubic feet of stone to build.

Over seven and a half million bricks went into the building of the viaduct which was designed by Thomas Grainger and John Bourne of Edinburgh. The official opening was in May 1852.

Three years after the opening, it was to claim the first of a number of fatalities. On an exceptionally dark wet night, a train overshot the platform and an unsuspecting stranger to the area in alighting from his carriage, stepped over the parapet and fell 74 ft. An inquest jury recommended that “some fencing be erected”.

Remarkable what you can find out on the internet! I am already booking next years summer holiday to go and have a look at it. Freda is thrilled (she just finds difficulty expressing it).

Doors Open Day 2010

May 20, 2010

Following on from our very good experiences of the event last year, we will be repeating the exercise again at the end of September.

Specifically, the workshop at Gogar church will be open to the public on Saturday 25th Sept and Sunday 26th Sept between the hours of 11.00am and 4.00pm.

So, in preparation for the occasion, we are doing a bit of work on the tower; in particular, trying to stop those leaks that are the bain of flat roofs.

Chris Scotland pokes his head above the parapet

Come and see how we are getting on and how our neighbours, Edinburgh Trams, are progressing their work.

To download an information sheet on our participation in Edinburgh Doors-Open-Day this year, click on the link below


We look forward to seeing you at our workshop.

Something to Aim For

January 30, 2010

Putting a lot of other woodworkers’ efforts into perspective, have a look at this guy’s stuff. He’s called Livio de Marchi.

An amazing AMOUNT of work apart from anything else!

Does he do it all himself? I would guess not.

By way of example, this gives a whole new meaning to the expression  “cruising in the Ferrari”:-

wooden Ferrari on the canals of Venice

Ferrari wooden interior

and  his wooden house with wooden clothes hanging on the wall:-See lots more at the Livio de Marchi website. Click on it in my blogroll.


continuing the theme of “something to aim for” while putting local (i.e. Scottish) efforts into perspective ,it is also worth having a look at timber stocks in the Pennsilvaynia, USA, yard of Talarico Hardwoods. Look in particular at the section of their website devoted to “Amazing  Scottish Oak”.

Prime Scottish Oak Log at Talarico Hardwoods yard USA

This begs the question as to whether Scotland is some third world country to let logs of this quality go abroad.

Also, as a Scottish cabinetmaker wanting to incorporate the very best native oak in my furniture, why would I have to send to the States to get it?

Their website is accessible thru my blogroll.

The Edinburgh Cabinet,RBGE wych elm project

October 27, 2009

I have made a number of chests of drawers over the past three decades,  all characterized by the sculpting of their handles from the solid of the drawer-fronts. The layout of the drawer handles has taken various forms on the different chests (see the post entitled “Chester draws”  of a year ago) but the idea behind “The Edinburgh Cabinet” is that the carved form represents the iconic Edinburgh skyline seen from the viewpoint where the wych elm itself stood as a living tree in the Botanic Gardens.


Apart from the obvious candidates, from Arthur’s Seat, Salisbury Crags and Calton Hill on the left to Edinburgh Castle and its esplanade on the right, I have tried to capture the feel of the roofscapes of the Old Town, its spires and chimneys, (Auld Reekie), and of the tree canopies of Stockbridge (with St Stephen’s  Church) and the Botanics itself. ( It will be apparent that the representation is more about the impression than any literal depiction). Sadly, due to lack of space, (or motivation?), I have had to omit the magnificent vista that is the St James Centre.

It has become usual to speak of using the timber of a tree as a way to extend the working life of that tree –  in the best instances for decades, if not centuries. The Edinburgh Cabinet  takes a significant step beyond this to explicitly link the piece itself to the source of its material. It imagines the tree, the Botanics Wych Elm, looking out over its environment as it would have done in its maturity. Thence arises the notion of “The Self Unseeing” as an alternative title for the piece.


These are a couple of photos taken by Edinburgh Evening News photographer Ian Georgeson which might have been (but weren’t) used with the feature the paper ran Thursday Oct 22nd; many thanks to Ian for sending me these.

We got a kind mention on a blog from across the Atlantic


Many thanks for that.

Wych Elm Exhibition opens at Botanics

October 11, 2009

With the opening of the new John Hope Gateway building at the west (Inverleith Park) entrance to the RBGE, the Wych Elm exhibition is now up and running. Our involvement has been twofold.

Firstly, with the kids of Kaimes School, Sharon Kirby and myself have built an “Acheivement Tree” which is now a permanent installation outside the school library. Photos and description of this form part of the exhibition and it is featured in the beautiful 10 minute video on the whole project made by Circa Media

Secondly, a piece I am calling “The Edinburgh Cabinet” shown here on its first morning in the John Hope Gateway (Angus Ross’s “collector’s chair” is to the left  and the Chris Butler chest he made for Ian Rankin is immediately behind).


and, below, a shot of the 5-drawer front nearing completion in the workshop


The exhibition runs until 28th March 2010 9.30am-7.00pm(9.00am on Saturday & Sunday).

Edinburgh moves to Glasgow

October 2, 2009

To paraphrase a well known Glaswegian saying, “The only good thing to come out of Edinburgh is the current Scottish Furniture Makers exhibition which transfers from Greyfriars Kirk to Princes Square, Glasgow after this weekend” (not that snappy a paraphrase then?).

More specifically, the exhibition is at GREYFRIAR’S Saturday the 3rd from 10.00 til 6.00 and Sunday the 4th from 2.00pm til 5.00pm when it clsoes its doors for the last time.

It re-opens at PRINCES SQUARE on Tuesday 6th Oct and runs thru, every day until Sunday 18th Oct 10.00 til 6.00.

Since my “Edinburgh Cabinet” is now in the Wych Elm Exhibition at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, it has been replaced with (a blast from the past) the swinging cot, an early piece in cherry and utile which has been in use in the family for a couple of decades.

swinging cot



Doors-Open-Day Weekend

September 28, 2009

This was a tremendous success.  We were inundated, “stowed out”, (sp?)  with visitors both days and I can only apologize that we were not able to give all of you the attention we would have liked.

Those of you who took photos, please send them as comments to this blog or email them.

Thank you for the “tea and coffee” donations towards my daughter Catherine’s forthcoming voluntary work in India. We collected nearly forty squids. Special thanks to the lady who used to come and sit in Gogar Kirkyard back in the seventies (before my time) just because ” it was a good place to sit”. Come back and see us soon, its still a good place to sit.