Twitter Linkedin Facebook Pinterest Newsletter

Posts Tagged ‘Will Miller Sawmill’

All the Saints

Thursday, May 10th, 2018

Morden Nave Altar 6

At Simon Thomas Pirie Ltd we pride ourselves in being able to turn our hand to any furniture-related job be it big or small. This year we have been fortunate to have been approached by three separate local churches to help them with very different projects. Working within the architecture of these beautiful sacred spaces always gives us lots of scope for dramatic designs that domestic furniture rarely enjoys. There are also millennia of history, faith, tradition and religious practice to draw on and sometimes move away from. Fertile creative ground!

Morden Nave Altar 4Morden Nave Altar 2The first of these projects, a new nave altar, was for St Mary’s Church in Morden. On visiting this unusually light and airy Parish church, Simon was immediately struck by the beautiful way in which the nave arch and the West window followed the exact same curve and so it made perfect sense to replicate this feature in the under-frame of the altar table. The whole thing is made from solid oak with the top constructed from 11 separate shaped pieces, this is emphasised by a small v-groove running along the length of the top creating a visibly grooved surface. 5 simple crosses are inscribed slightly deeper into the top of the altar joining the v-grooves. It’s a simple but striking detail. Now taking its place under the nave arch, the altar complements the simple beauty of the church interior.

Morden Nave Altar 3de

The next piece is a frontal chest, used for the storing the altar cloths in St Andrew’s Church in Fontmell Magna. It was commissioned by a couple for whom this church is very important; the piece is both a gift to the church and a lasting memorial to a grown-up son who sadly passed away recently. Again made entirely out of solid oak this large cabinet is solely for hanging and airing altar cloths that only get used at very specific times of the religious calendar.

Fontmell Cab 2

Fontmell Cab 3 de

While being a simple piece to look at, ensuring airflow through the textiles and that they can be easily lifted out made this a challenging piece to design. It’s sheer size, governed by the cloths it has to store, also made getting the correct proportions challenging. The end result is a classic piece of English ecclesiastical furniture with a subtle hint of the contemporary with those crisp, shadow-line detailed, oak panels. The other feature that stands out are the 4 the hanging rails that break out from the frame to form the sloped lifting handles under the overhanging top. With half of the front panel and top hinging open this makes changeovers simple.

Affpuddle Chuch Gates 1

Whatley Memorial TableFinally, a commission from a church we already know well: St Laruence’s at Affpuddle is the closest church to our workshops, several years ago we also made a striking sycamore & oak memorial table for the side aisle. This time we were asked to make new gates into the churchyard. Although we were initially approached by the PCC they did have a benefactor who lived overseas but had grown-up in the parish and wanted to commission the gates as a gift to the church and as a family memorial. The new gates are a refined version of the existing gates which had been hanging for around 50 years but had become tired and started to rot. We added some subtle curved top and bottom rails and simplified the centre cross to be able to take some script for the family memorial text. We commissioned Zoe Cull of Stoneform to come up with some beautiful curved bespoke script work on the centre cruciform rails. The client asked for some locally sourced Dorset oak. We found a very nice, air-dried log through Will Miller who often sources and saws rare, local logs for us.

Affpuddle Gates new and old

Affpuddle Chuch Gates 4

These three pieces have been a joy to complete. It’s been pure chance they have all come along in quick succession but it has reminded us how much we do enjoy these ecclesiastical and institutional projects.

For more information on furniture for churches, universities and museums visit the ‘Institutional’ section of our new website.

New English Walnut Log

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

I’ve been out sourcing my favorite timber again, English walnut. I always like to have a log or two lined up and timber in stock but as a result of making a kitchen in this relatively rare wood last year our stock got completely used up.

Since then I’ve been trying to secure new stock and my old pal and fellow furniture maker George Morgan came up trumps with a log he found in Stocksbridge Hampshire. When I first saw it it had already been sliced down the middle, but it was a substantial log, about a metre wide and 2.3 long. Although a log may look promising, it’s very hard to tell exactly what you’ve got, at least with this one I got a sense of what it was like through that original centre cut.

It had all the key things I’m looking for: good grain character, colour and a small sapwood edge (the sapwood can be very wide, ugly, prone to worm attack and is pretty unusable.)

So it’s a few months later and I’m at George’s have arranged to meet Will Miller there with his Woodmizer portable sawmill. He’s also cutting some stuff for George so it’s a full day for all of us. First up is the walnut log and size wise it is about as big a diameter as the Woodmiser can handle (even after it has been halved). Luckily George has a forklift which makes this whole process much easier. Like everything he does it has a twist, this old mechanical beast has a Dukes of Hazard ‘General Lee styley’ airhorn, all it needs is the right paint job.

The first cut on a log always makes me nervous, despite having an idea this log was a good one it’s only now with a fresh saw cut the truth will be revealed. I’m pleased to say it was even better than I expected, with the only surprise coming in the form of a nail which must have been a good 70 to 80 years in. Cost Will a new blade and of course it came on the first cut just after we put a new sharp one on. Always the way.

The first half of the butt gave me two nice stacks of inch and a quarter and inch and a half boards. The second half was even bigger so we focused on 2 inch with a couple of 3 inch boards from the centre. I always need a bit of 3 inch if I’m making legs on tables, desks etc, and English walnut is a devil to match if you have to go out and find a bit later. Best it comes from the same tree, although the down side is it makes the drying more complicated. We still had a bit left to cut so I got 7 more boards of 1 inch out plus a few falling boards – mostly sap but a component or two in there as well.

My 4 finished stacks add up to about 45 cubic feet of timber. Not all of that will be usable but it will yield about 75% of that. For English walnut that’s very good. It will need to air dry for a month or two now and then go into George’s Kiln for a further 4 to 6 weeks. Then all I have to do is find the right client and turn it into beautiful furniture!

Other related English walnut stories on the blog:

To see the film that follows us making that stunning English walnut kitchen from cutting the first board through to it’s completion click here.

You can also read about and see images of all the furniture we made from our last large walnut butt that we bought back in 2007. We made our last piece, the Ronald desk from it last year: Click to go to the story.