A great way to celebrate the winners at corporate and charity events is to present them with bespoke awards.
The client produced the initial designs, with the layout based on their geometric branding pattern. We discussed the scale and what would work best.
I used reclaimed and recycled materials, oak, mahogany sapele, maple and pitch pine woods to make triangular blocks. Before assembly, I selected the layout of the different woods to create apparently random colours, so each award was unique, while keeping the same triangular pattern. After I glued them together to form the patterns I planed the woods flat. Next, I shaped and polished some recycled copper, fixing the triangles to the wood to give a shiny appearance to some blocks. Once the awards were assembled I sanded everything to a very fine grade.
I added a face of gloss black Perspex to one side. This was later etched and printed with the award name, winners name and of course the sponsors details and logo. The client chose white lettering, which stood out very nicely on the black surface.
Finally, I gave these bespoke awards a coat of Danish oil then a satin acrylic lacquer finish. The lacquer will keep the wood looking good on the winners shelves for years to come.
I can make awards for your event or competition using similar materials and patterns, or something quite different which might be based on a logo or branding. Let me know what you have in mind and we can work on the design together to make your special bespoke award.
Back in 2020 I was asked to make these unusual turned items – ink ballstocks. A turned handle was to be fitted to a bowl shaped turning. This had thick walls so pins or tacks could be fitted. A covering which was to be ink proof was cut to shape. Leather was chosen for historic accuracy. This small leather sheet was secured to the rim and then the bowl was stuffed with wool and cotton. The surplus leather was then trimmed off. I made a matching pair in sycamore wood.
This library photo shows ink ballstocks in use, transferring ink to the printing plates.
This pair was commissioned to be exhibited in the main library of the University of Coimbra, in Portugal. They were to accompany a late 18th century iron and wood hand press – probably the oldest existing iron hand press in the world.
The customer also asked me to make another pair for use on his own hand wood press in his studio, for more day to day printing. I turned a groove on the outer rim of these bowls, to allow a fastening cord to hold the leather covering in place. The customer could then add more stuffing material as and if required.
I was approached by Callum Egan of Napier University, Edinburgh, to design and make an interactive storytelling chair. It was also to be part memorial for Calum’s late colleague Professor David Benyon who had shared the vision for the chair. It was to be used outdoors for classes in Napier’s Lions’ Gate Interactive Permaculture Gardens. After discussing ideas we decided on the chair having decoration to represent both circuit board technology and elements from nature.
I used stainless steel rods, recycled copper nails, recycled brass and copper pipe to form a circuit board pattern. This gradually morphed into a plant like layout. I polished all the copper and brass before fitting the shapes to the back. I left the metal bare so the pieces would change colour over time due to verdigris. The larger leaves were made from reclaimed teak wood which originally came from lecture theatres at Edinburgh University’s Appleton Tower. These were then laser etched with the commemoration and motto “Hasten Slowly”.
I made the chair itself from locally sourced oak and some reclaimed oak from the door to a Victorian walled garden. I was replacing the door as part of another project. The wood had a lovely grey weathered appearance and looked ancient, which had been part of the initial brief. I gave the completed throne several coats of teak oil to waterproof it. This finish can be reapplied easily without having to sand the wood.
I hollowed out two sections of burr wood so there was space to fit Bluetooth speakers inside. These were then fitted to the chair back. The burrs are removable so the speaker batteries can be recharged. The burrs were located about head height when seated. Perfect for the interactive storytelling chair to speak to the person sitting on it! Ideas and talks on sustainability and permaculture can now be delivered by the chair itself or from a seated lecturer or guest speaker.
Just as the Covid Lockdown happened, I started work on this oak chair commission from the Selkirk Incorporation of Hammermen.
The Incorporation was established in 1681. Historically most guilds had chairs carved with their emblems and decoration on the back. The Hammermen no longer had one in their possession.
A guild member saw a chair on the BBC Antique Roadshow programme. It had the Selkirk Hammermen emblems and date of Incorporation carved into it and it looked original. The owners who were in Northern Ireland said the chair had been in the family for generations. It was not for sale..
The Hammermen commission me to make a new oak chair.
The dimensions and details were worked out from studying still images from the TV programme and from this single photo, which I think came from the owners. I also looked at contemporary examples on line and from museums.
I drew out a full scale plan for the carved details. The Hammermen approved the plan and then I started the carving work.
I kept the design as close to the original as possible, but with the modern Hammerman emblem of the arm and hammer replacing the single hammer. I also raised the seat height to a more comfortable and usable level. We decided the chair was to be made from locally sourced oak. I choose a single quarter sawn panel of oak for the back. All the carving was done by hand.
I assembled the chair with mortice and tenon joints, with no nails or screws used in the frame construction. The finish was several coats of Danish oil then a topcoat of clear satin lacquer to keep it maintenance free.
I handed over the completed chair in time for the Selkirk Incorporation of Hammermens opening of their new hall in August 2021.
I often get asked to make replacement newel caps. Over time they can be damaged or completely removed for one reason or another. Customers often want to reinstate the original style of features to their staircase but can’t buy off the shelf items. I custom make replacements for them.
Sometimes it isn’t straightforward, as in the case of my customer Charles. A previous owner had removed the original newel cap and rounded off the newel post quite badly. I had to make a cap which would fit securely and disguise the heavy chamfering, while having an appropriate style for the house.
Luckily a neighbour had original newel caps and Charles sent me photos showing the correct style. I was able to adapt the cap so it would work. Made from sustainably sourced oak, it looks like it was always there.
He then told me it would appear on television, on ‘George Clarke’s Old House, New Home’ show, details of which you can see here.
Charles’s joiners made a great job of fitting the finished newel cap with mouldings to the post, as seen on here on ‘ George Clarke’s Old House, New Home ‘.
Thanks to ‘George Clarke’s Old House, New Home’, Amazing Productions, Channel 4, @amazingtelly and @beetspulseandthyme for use of the photos. You can watch the episode on Channel 4 On Demand.
If you need replacement newel caps or other staircase parts for your old house, please contact me to discuss your requirements.
This year both Scottish Forestry and Scottish Woodlands Ltd commissioned me to make new trophies for Scotlands Finest Woods Awards 2019.
The awards ceremony took place on 21st June 2019, at the Royal Highland Showground, Ingliston. See www.sfwa.co.uk for details of the presentation and the other categories and winners.
1919 Forestry Act Centenary Award
I made this trophy from some of the many different woods grown by Scottish Forestry, who commissioned this trophy. These include larch, red pine, silver birch, elm, ash and oak. I gave this trophy two coats of Danish oil which brought out the colours, then a satin lacquer finish gave it a nice sheen.
Forestry and Land Scotland North Region team for Fort Augustus Woodlands won the trophy which was presented by Fergus Ewing MSP.
Farm Woodland Award
Scottish Woodlands Ltd gave me a rough sketch of the trophy they wanted and I worked on the design.
The circular saw blade on this trophy is made from laminated maple. Jane at laserflair.co.uk did the laser etching of the trees, animals and the Scottish Woodlands Ltd logo using the image jpegs which I supplied. I made the rest of the trophy in oak, with hand turned thistle decorations on the top. Satin lacquer finished things off. I fitted the solid brass plates which have enough space for the trophy to be won and engraved for several years to come.
Lynn Cassells and Sandra Baer for Lynbreck Croft, Grantown on Spey won the trophy and Fergus Ewing MSP made the presentation.
Congratulations to all the winners !
If you are looking for a custom trophy for a presentation please get in touch. I am happy to discuss your ideas and design something special for you. Here are some other examples.
Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th May 2019 saw the Lindores Abbey Chess Stars Tournament taking place. The event featured World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen and Indian Chess Grand Master Viswanathan “Vishy” Anand. Chinese Champion Ding Liren featured in the competition and the Russian Grand Master Sergey Karjakin also starred.
Drew McKenzie Smith, the founder and managing director of the distillery, commissioned me to design and make a series of four chess sets. They were to be based on Lindores Abbey Distillery.
Each piece represents something from the history of the abbey or from the modern distillery. The pawns are whisky barrels. The bishops are monks from the abbey. The knights take their shape from the Lindores stills. The rooks are based on the remains of columns found at the abbey. The queen represents Mary Queen of Scots and the king is based on James IV who gave the abbey a charter to make “aqua vitae” in 1494.
I made the pieces from laburnum and maple, and I made the board with walnut and maple squares. An oak border and mouldings finish the board. Jane at www.laserflair.co.uk laser etched the engraving on the oak.
Are you interested in a custom chess set like this? Do you have an idea for a theme of your own? I would be happy to discuss it.
These two bespoke gate post caps were designed to fit on the driveway gateposts of a customer last year. He is an author and a bee keeper, hence the carved motifs. They are hand carved from locally sourced wood and each made from a single piece of oak.
You can see more newel caps here and I can make them to your design and dimensions.
The client was very specific about the species of bee that he wanted me to carve on the book. It had to be apis mellifera. I had to do some research before carving, so I could get the shape of the body correct. Oddly enough, at the time of carving we discovered a small colony of miner bees in the garden, which led us to try and see how many different types of bee we could spot.
Luckily for my gate post caps project the design for the green man carving was easier. I did look at a few different styles though, and gave the client a sketch of each. The scale of the book limited the detail I could carve, so the green man had to be relatively simple. Sometime I would like to carve a much bigger and more detailed green man, with more leaves.
Finding furniture for under the stairs can be a problem in small cottages.
Last year a couple came to my workshop to see if I could come up with a solution for their house. They wanted a bespoke piece of furniture, something with cupboards and shelves which would fit a small area under the stairs. They hoped for something in the dresser style, with an angled top section.
Furniture Design Elements
We talked over the design elements they required. They wanted natural edges to the wood which was to be locally sourced Wych Elm. I asked the couple how many shelves were needed and what spacings were preferred between the shelves. We had to make allowances for electric sockets on the wall behind the cabinet, so they were accessible. They told me exactly what they wanted. I just had to make it for them.
Also it had to be ready for Christmas!
It is 5′ 5″ tall ( 1650 mm ) and 5′ ( 1520 mm ) wide. The lower cabinet is 22″ high ( 560 mm ). The handles and the bun feet are all hand turned, from burr elm. I finished the whole cabinet and shelves with 3 coats of Danish oil. The shelving fits nicely under the stairs and creates a display area where the space had previously been wasted.
This Celtic knotwork carving was made from a single piece of oak. The base, or plinth, is also a solid block of oak, which gives it great stability. It was hand carved for a customer in Ohio, USA, who had visited Scotland and wanted a sculpture to go in his garden as a reminder of his travels.
He liked the design of another Celtic knotwork carving that I had made, but wanted a larger version. This is the larger version. The original design had been exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy, in Edinburgh. It was also made from a single piece of wood, this time reclaimed Scots pine. The plinth was a very heavy block of granite, also reclaimed.
Celtic Knotwork Column
The knotwork carving process
I started off by drawing the pattern on a prepared board of oak. I had to adjust the design a few times to get the best fit. When I was happy with the layout I cut away the outside of the knotwork with the bandsaw. I then shaped it carefully near to the drawn lines. After that I took away the waste wood leaving the rough shape.
The next stage was the fun part for me. I chipped and carved closer to the lines and tried to make the wood flow like a ribbon. You have to follow the grain of the oak and cut “downhill”. At this point I also used cabinet scrapers and sandpaper to get the finish I wanted. This can hurt the fingers a bit. Finally, when the pattern looks right and feels smooth, it is time for the oil finish. I gave it several coats of teak oil.
Lastly, when the knotwork was done, I made a plywood case with foam protection. This was a snug fit. I then shipped it to its new home in Ohio.