I will post any new developments in the saga as they occurs and all  previous posts will now be incorporated into this single page hopefully forming a more coherent story. It should  constitute a unique record in terms of the provenance of the furniture that will get made therefrom!


In 2010 the SFMA launched an initiative to encourage both their makers and the commissioning publisc to become aware of the possibilities and reduced envornmental impact of working with native timber on a local basis. It was entitled “Local Trees for Local Makers”.


As part of this initiative,  City of Edinburgh Council agreed to donate six  parkland elms to the SFMA for use by members to build furniture for a forthcoming Dovecot gallery exhibition (Oct 2011) and beyond.(On the west side of the country, Glasgow City Council similsrly donated a number of oaks). The exercise kicked off in autumn 2010 when a small party of SFMA members toured the Bruntsfield Links/Meadows with forestry/parkland officials from CEC and provisionally selected half a dozen of the elms which were due to be felled  due to the ravages of Dutch elm disease. These trees promised some spectacular timber and the city council are to be applauded for being keen to be involved in this initiative. The selected trees were all thought to have been planted around 150 years ago (Keith Logie, Edinburgh parks manager). CLICK on them and get a high-resolution version. Any numbers (no.’s) attached to trees refer to CEC’s dead elm disease survey (apt acronym DED) of the area.


This first tree is very local to where I stay now, and co-incidentally to the very first flat I lived in when I came to Edinburgh over 40 years ago. It came into full leaf in late spring this year (2010) but during the summer months died back rapidly with Dutch elm disease and acquired the council’s big red X, meaning it was  for the chop.

bruntsfield links elm, sept 2010
bruntsfield links wych elm (no.43)

My rough reckoning of timber yield on this tree is 50 cu.ft (Hoppus Measure) -but measurements were taken at the same time as trying to stop the dog bringing down unsuspecting joggers.

huntingdon elm (no.128)

My estimate of yield, 30 cu. ft., Hoppus Measure.

burr elm in font of Golf Tavern, Bruntsfield Links(no. 1209)

This one is a cracker in its own right and because of  its connection with the historic Golf Tavern it should be possible to generate lots of media interest.


This is towards the E end of the Meadows to the S of Melville Drive and next door to the final two:-

Wheatley elms at E end of Melville Drive, Meadows

On the basis of the two trees I have (kind of ) measured, we probably have a total volume of about 250 cu.ft. in the six trees.

SO all that was now required was to  bridge the small gap between the standing trees and getting the dry planking onto makers’ benches and ready to rock. As they say in the trade, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, straight  away, the weather (the severest winter conditions in the 40 plus years I’ve lived in Edinburgh) and subsequent ground conditions  conspired to prevent the felling taking place. and  meant that nothing  happened until  2011! Meantime this view of Arthur’s Seat with the bole of the Golf Tavern Elm on the right must suffice.

The Golf Elm looking across Bruntsfield Links to Arthur’s Seat
Having been alerted by the council, I wandered down the meadows this morning (25/01/11) and at the extreme east end of Melville Drive found the tree squad as they were just about to fell the first of the six elms destined for the Scottish furniture makers.The pictures show what happened in the next 5 minutes; the tree surgeon at the centre of the action is Nick Tooley who spoke to me afterwards but, before the event,quite rightly said he needed to focus on what was about to happen.The girl walking on Melville Drive (last 3 photos) seemed remarkably relaxed about the whole proceedings.
Tree, limbs removed, is ready to fell
large wedge removed low down on the side towards which tree is to fall
second cut on opposite side of tree and slightly above the wedge cut
just starting to go…
……really starting to go…..

This was a seriously tall tree. The main bole provided two very clean logs (first cut and second cut) each about 10 ft long and 2 ft diameter which you will see as the white painted logs and planking later on.

THe next felling I managed to photograph was that of the tre outside the Golf Tavern.

tree prepared for felling

Wednesday 2nd Feb, about 10.00am

removing wedge
starting to go
…on its way down…
…and hitting the ground…

(upper limbs have been left on to break the fall)

bottom end of bole, very clean (sound, no rot)

Green in the rings suggests wych elm. A rough ring count indicates a tree about 120 years old. What was happening in 1890? Well, lets see….the Forth railway bridge was opened, Stan laurel was born and, on a personal note, Gogar Church, my workshop, was rebuilt.

starting to tidy up
the 14ft log ready to lift

This was taken saturday 5th feb. Stump had been stripped of bark to prevent spread of Dutch elm disease.

The last of the six Meadows/Bruntsfield Links trees the SFMA are getting was taken down on the 10th Feb, Nick Tooley doing the honours.

lopping off some of the upper limbs prior to felling

a sense of scale

two thirds of the way to the ground

The main trunk, freshly felled, with its stump in the foreground

At approaching three tons, this was the biggest of the lot and posed some problems with the uplifting, being beyond the capacity of the council’s equipment. An outside contractor ho was taking the rest of the tree for fire wood was engaged to do the business.


Finally, marking the end of phase one of the project, the logs at Inverleith yard with their ends painted and awaiting the sawmiller. the log in the foreground with its yellow end just visible is the Golf tavern elm. Photo, and most of the paint, courtesy of Tom Cooper.

the end of a very damp painting session…please can we go home?
2 days were then spent planking the logs at the yard, In round figures the hire cost for the woodmizer was a grand and this works out at about £4 per cube conversion costs with the association supplying free labour brushing and stacking the converted planking. The relatively high cost is explaine by hitting nails, especially in the Golf Tavern elm (beware trees that have grown adjacent to pubs); this consumes both time(digging them out) and bandsaw blades.
Keith operating the Real Wood Studios Woodmizer
Brushing sawdust off the plank prior to stickering.
The timber was removed from the council’s y
ard at Inverleith. Half of it went for air drying to Tom Cooper’s workshop at Newbattle and the half of it  destined to go into making furniture for the Association’s October exhibition at the Dovecot gallery was loaded in my dehumidifying kiln at Gogar.. The bulk of the carrying was done in one journey on the trailers of John Johnston and Rob Elliot and the pick-up of Robert Thomson.
these boys are loaded and john johnston tells rob elliot where to go
planking arrives at kiln

The workers, from L to R, Chris Scotland, John MacKinnon, Rob Elliot, Jonathan Lassen, John Johnson and Rob Thomson.

A week later I had the kiln cleared out and, on the 26th of April,  a second group  of SFMA members gathered to load it up.

On this occasion those present were Ozzy MacKinnon,  Dave Powell, Digby Morrow, Jack Roots, John MacKinnon and Chris Scotland. (Ember Hall, working in a “proper” job, wasn’t able to get there until later in the day when it was all over).

adjusting stickers inside kiln, JR and OM
sorting out next planks to in
stack nearing completion

(Above three photos courtesy of John MacKinnon)

We had a day in mid-April transporting the timber to Gogar and re-stickering it there until the kiln was ready to accept it. It was a mixture of 30mm and 40mm (mostly 40) Wych, Wheatley and Huntingdon Elms. And of prime quality.

Kilning got underway at the beginning of May and theplanking was dried down to 10% (maybe the odd bit of the odd plank as high as 12%, which is not a bad performance?) by early July and planks were collected by those SFMA members who (a) had helped with the processing of the logs and (b) are proposing to make a piece with it for the forthcoming Dovecot exhibition in October.

REMINDER  On this and all earlier posts, a high resolution version of any photo can be obtained simply by clicking on that photo within the post. It can then be dragged to your desktop (whence you can do with it what you will).


Anyone interested in commissioning a maker or purchasing an exhibition piece should contact our association at Meantime those SFMA members who are actively making their exhibition pieces with Meadows elm can leave a comment  to this post and thereby direct people to what they are doing. Go on, what’s the worst that can happen?

For the record, the other half of the Meadows elm is air drying under the stewardship of  Tom Cooper and will be similarly distributed to makers once drying is complete next year. I hereby give notice that I am spitting on a couple of the very fine burr planks that one of the Melville Drive elms produced.

Due to ill-health, I am unable to do a piece for this years exhibition but hope to make a comeback next year. It is my intention to use some of the Golf Tavern planking to make another cabinet in the manner of my Royal Botanic Gardens “Edinburgh Skyline” (see e.g the picture that heads my whole blog) but this time depicting the view of Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat as seen across the Links  from the Golf. I have laid aside some beautiful Golf Tavern elm planks for this purpose. Should the tree itself figure in this view? Presently I’m thinking yes – a nice self-referential slant to something that no longer exists.

My other rambling thought on using some other of these golf elm planks (since I counted the rings at 120) would be to depict the Forth rail bridge which, like the tree, dates from 1890………….

This probably constitutes a a unique record in terms of the provenance of the furniture that gets made therefrom!


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