Scottish hardwood logs such as, Oak, Elm, Ash, Yew and Beech are purchased from sawmills and firewood producers. The timber is sourced from the Inverness area of the Highlands. Although Orkney is not known for its trees sycamore is the most prolific and is utilised whenever possible.
Large loads are collected by a local haulier. Occasionally we take a trip to the mainland ourselves to pick up smaller amounts.
The logs are first cut with a chainsaw if necessary, then loaded onto our small sawmill. Planks are cut in various thicknesses, mostly 4“– 6”. They are then further processed into smaller blanks on the band saw. During this process Michael optimises the cutting to take advantage of the burrs, spalting and defects that will enhance the finished piece.
Smaller pieces are set aside for pinch pots and box blanks. Once air dried the box blanks are stabilised. This alleviates any movement and allows the timber to take hand cut threads.
The bowl blanks are then mounted on the lathe and turned to their finished form. They are then dried slowly for several weeks or even months, if necessary.
Once dry the pieces are sanded through the grits. It is after the sanding that all embellishments are added, for instance the carving, ebonising, pyrography and the addition of hemp for the ‘Neolithic’ pieces. Other bowls have sisal twine, leather, or a silver staple added to enhance the piece. Several coats of oil are applied until the required depth of finish is achieved. We also use hematite which is ground into a paste with water to colour pieces, again a nod to ancient times. Any silver used is stamped with our own mark which is applied at the Assay Office in Edinburgh along with their hallmark.
Each piece is unique although there are some similarities with in collections, for instance the ‘Neolithic’ Unstan and Grooved ware inspired bowls. The original clay pots were found on sites near to the workshop.
All finished pieces are then signed and displayed in our gallery at our home and here customers can browse with a fresh cup of coffee and are encouraged to handle the bowls. We also take on commission work which Michael will discuss with the client.