It’s all happening at once

September 13, 2009

We have a busy period starting at the end of September.

First of all,

Edinburgh Doors-Open-Day 2009

The event this year is being held over the weekend of 26th & 27th Sept and our building will be open to visitors between 11.00 & 5.00 on the Saturday and noon & 4.00 on the Sunday. As well as the church itself, a listed building, and its graveyard’s interesting inhabitants, the interior provides a fine (and increasingly rare) example of a traditional cabinetmaking workshop; finished pieces and work in progress will be on show. One guy who dropped by recently described it as, “my favourite Edinburgh’s-best–kept-secret”.

Originally linked to Holyrood Abbey, references to Gogar as a religious site date back nearly a thousand years. The present building dates from 1890 (tower and porch added 1901) but incorporates at its S end the remains of a small pre-reformation chapel.  The last church service was held in 1955 and the building has been used as a cabinetmaking workshop specialising in the production of quality furniture in native hardwoods since 1979.

1890An engraving from 1890 showing the building as it was projected.  There are detailed differences from what was actually built, most notably the pitched roof to the tower.  This never materialized.  Perhaps they ran out of money? (or very possibly energy, since it was largely constructed by the congregation in their spare time).

With RBS having developed the former Gogarburn Hospital across the road as its new global headquarters and the tramline to the airport in the process of wrapping itself round two and a half sides of the graveyard, Gogar Church is the last building left standing in its vicinity. As the Environmental Statement commissioned by TIE (the tramline company) itself puts it (Vol. 1,section 5.6 pp6/7):-

“the long term impacts on it (i.e Gogar Church) are considered significant and adverse”

As I said in my original letter of objection to parliament, this is not made any better by knowing that

”the effects (of the tramline) on listed buildings would be significant only in relation to Gogar church”  (ibid p9).

It is therefore important that Edinburgh be aware of this precious relic, “put under the care of Corstorphine Kirk for all time coming” in 1602 and does everything possible to preserve the amenity of its setting.

Anyway, come and see how we are getting along in these circumstances and then visit the:-

Scottish Furniture Maker’s Annual Exhibition

Immediately after doors open day weekend, we transfer our attention to the annual Scottish Furniture Makers’ exhibition this year being held for one week in Greyfriar’s Kirk Edinburgh (Tuesday 29th Sept to Saturday 3rd Oct) and then transfering to Princes Square,Glasgow (Tuesday 6th Oct to Saturday 11th Oct).  Open daily 10.00am to 6.00pm both venues. More details on the association’s website


Console table and two chairs which I will be showing in SFMA exhibition.

And finally:-

Wych Elm Project Exhibition, opens 7th October

To complicate matters somewhat, between these latter two venues the long-awaited Wych Elm Project exhibition at the Royal Botanic Gardens  Edinburgh opens on to the public on the 7th Oct. Along with some two dozen makers who have produced work from the one Wych Elm, I will be showing my “Edinburgh Cabinet”, the  front of which is sculpted to give an impression of the Edinburgh skyline as the tree itself might have looked upon it from the Botanic Gardens in its maturity. The “Acheivement Tree” community project Sharon Kirby and myself did with the kids at Kaimes School will also feature in this exhibition.


This is a sneak preview of the cabinet, its front as yet incomplete, which will be on show at our open days, at the first (Edinburgh) sfma exhibition and thereafter at the Botanics.


My Second Armoire

February 22, 2009

When I’m asked how my commissions come about, I tend to say less than useful things like “Oh, I dunno, people just come across my work and it takes their fancy”.  The ‘coming across’ of this piece, the second and, very probably, last, armoire of my cabinetmaking career, illustrates the fairly ad hoc, arbitrary, flukey, multi-faceted,….ways in which these things might happen!

I bought a car on Ebay from a guy in Cumbernauld,  a very nice, low mileage, well cared-for classic 900 SAAB.  It transpired he’d only had it a few weeks and probably saw a way to turn it round quickly and make a few (hundred) quid – which was o.k. I’d still got a good sound car for not a lot of money.  Anyway I was contacted by a guy who was the son of the previous, long-term, owner. He had followed the auction on Ebay and was obviously interested to know if it had finished up in good hands. I invited him round to the workshop and hopefully was able to re-assure him on that score.

We got talking about my work and while looking at my portfolio one piece, an armoir in brown oak I had made 20 (?) years ago,  grabbed his attention as it seemed an adaption of it would meet a particular storage and display need in their household.  Of equal importance was that the piece should fulfill its function in an aesthetically satisfying manner. Critically, they had not been able to find anything through the normal furniture acquiring channels that met all their requirements – a bottom-line reason for commissioning a piece.

The predecessor had been in brown oak and the same timber appealed this time round (which led to its own set of problems sourcing the material, see the entry for the Charlotte Chapel lectern below).

Approximate dimensions are H=78″, W=34″ and D=20″.

It was one of my main jobs for 2008 and because of the Simon Scott stuff in fact ran over into Jan of 2009.  I have to thank the clients for their forbearance in that respect.


overview, bottom doors with fielded oak panels, top doors with beveled glass panels


framing and panelling of cabinet back exactly reflects that of the doors


detail of handles on top cabinet doors carved into stiles

Below is a picture of the previous armoire which I guess dates from about 1990

armoire 1990

Burr Elm Table with Magazine Shelf

January 20, 2009

This is an example of an item made to maximize the impact of a particular piece of wood, in this case a stunning slice of burr elm.  Larger holes are patched with small bits of burr and the myriad tiny, irregular holes are filled with so called “cold-cast brass” i.e. brass powder made into a paste with polyester resin which, when set hard, can be cut back and polished.

burr elm table with magazine shelf

detail of top

Simon Scott at Open Eye Gallery

January 12, 2009

I had a hectic few weeks up to and over Christmas/New Year working on mounts for some of the pieces in the Simon Scott exhibition at the Open Eye Gallery.  I will limit myself to saying that I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for when I was approached by Simon and his arch-collaborator Victor Albrow.

The exhibition combines the beautiful, the bizarre and the esoteric with wit and an unusual degree of accessability thanks to Simon’s brief essays which accompany each piece.  Victor Albrow’s immaculate photographs of pieces are themselves part of the exhibition.

I will add a couple of photos, for which thanks to Jane Scott ( they are  NOT Victor’s exhibition photos). They just happen to include mounts by myself, but I would urge everyone to grab the opportunity to see the whole thing for themselves.

Open Eye Gallery is at 34, Abercrombie Place, Edinburgh EH3 6QE until the 21st of Jan.   tel 0131 557 1020

Mon to Fri 10.00am to 6.00pm

Saturdays  10.00am to 4.00pm


politics-of-dancing (19th century Tailor's scissors on a burr-elm plinth)

home of the brave, land of the free?

home of the brave, land of the free? (miners' linnet cages on a yew-tree wall mount)

everything falls apart, sooner or later

everything falls apart, sooner or later ( an accidently broken fossil on a burr-elm wall mount)


Jeff the Cat

December 21, 2008

I have caused offence in certain quarters by promoting our new workshop member, Eddy the Bouvier, and ommiting to mention the pre-existent, feline occupant Jeff (or is that “Geoff”?). For the past 3 years he has been an important part of our workshop Pest-Control-Strategy. In fact, probably the whole of it.  Important because mice eat the plastic sheathing on the 3-phase electrics of the workshop with disastrous and expensive consequences, as we have found to our cost (as did the mice, presumably).

He is pictured here relaxing on a weekend off at home in his alernative, town-centre residence.


Eddy, now 3 months,  persists in trying to get him to play but continues to be met with disdain.  Here is the new boy today in a high wind on Blackford Hill.


Charlotte Chapel Bicentenary Lectern

November 23, 2008

As part of their bicentenary celebrations, Charlotte Chapel in Rose street, Edinburgh commissioned the design and build of a new lectern.  I had recently acquired, after much scouring of suppliers (most of whom turned out to be non-suppliers e.g. “haven’t seen any for years” “that’d cost you but I haven’t got any anyway”,”no idea”, “I’m pretty much retired nowadays”), a load of really nice brown oak to be used for the armoire which I am now currently working on.

Brown oak is not a species as such but is oak which, as a living tree, has hosted the beaf-steak fungus. The effect is, over the course of years (decades?, centuries?), to turn the heartwood of the tree a rich brown in colour – rare and much sought after. It was decided, in the context of the chapel interior that this would be a most suitable material with which to do the job.

A post-and-panel construction was agreed.  The main panel incorporates a relief-carved cross.  For stability in use the whole front inclines backwards,( i.e. towards the reader), by 2 degrees. The incised inscription is by the Edinburgh-based lettercarver Roger Hall(who is now on my blogroll) .


Just to show not everything is an end-product, below is a picture of the piece in the making, at the stage of being a skeletal framework


…the structure of the piece is thus made very apparent. Jointing is mortice and tenon. The grooves in the posts to accept the floating panels can be seen.

A new member for the workshop

November 19, 2008

Introducing our latest workshop recruit, designed and built to deter lowlife and scumbags attracted by our new-found juxtaposition to the building site which is the Edinburgh tramline to the airport.

This is Eddie pictured, on the right, at 4 weeks with his brother.  He is a Bouvier des Flandres and is in the process of growing apace. In a few months time all matters of workshop security are to be addressed to him.

He is named after Belgium’s most famous son ( and possibly the worlds greatest ever racing cyclist…. sorry Lance) Eddy Merckx.


Our part in the Wych Elm Project

October 25, 2008

Talking with Ian Edwards of the Royal Botanic Gardes, Edinburgh, I got the back of my legs slapped because I have not yet mentioned our participation in the Wych Elm Project.  This then is my attempt to rectify the omission.  With my colleague Sharon Kirby and the kids at Kaimes School, Edinburgh, we developed and installed an Acheivement Tree outside the school library.  It incorporated two of the planks from the Botanic’s Wych Elm as well as examples of timber from other native species.  See for more details including a forthcoming exhibition at the Botanics.

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Chester draws

October 25, 2008

Just a few of the chests of drawers (and similar-type pieces) I have made over the years.

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SFMA Exhibition

October 2, 2008

I showed a console table, in cherry and ash, and a pair of chairs, (native cherry}, at the annual Scottish Furniture Makers Association Exhibition in Edinburgh in October.

I have recently completed a set of 6 of these chairs in native cherry, (which, in Scotland, is called “gean”).  Because of its scarcity, and the demand for it for fine cabinetwork, one of the big yards down south (Duffields in Yorkshire) has now classified cherry as an ‘exotic’…. and priced it accordingly!  These chairs are £750 each.

The console table is partially inspired by the early sixties Maserati sports-racing car known as the “birdcage”.  Its incredibly low bodywork meant that the wheel arches rose dramatically above the bonnet line.  In my table, the floating top kicks up above the tops of the legs.

This console table, in cherry and ash, is for sale at £1175.