The Elm and the Ash

50 years ago Dutch elm disease pretty well wiped out the common elm in the UK. It was a tragedy. Elm was an emblem of the English landscape, our largest tree and handsome to boot, and its disappearance felt brutal and unsettling, an echo of the social, political and financial unease that gripped England in the late 1970’s I can well remember seeing hedgerows stripped of their elms and the gaping holes left behind. But as is well known, nature abhors a vacuum, and the common Ash, Fraxinus excelsior, was waiting in the wings to exploit a massive opportunity. This …

White Poplar

White Poplar

Towards the end of last summer when the ground was utterly parched, all around this young White Poplar suddenly there appeared a crowd of young ones, shooting directly from its roots in a last ditch attempt at DNA preservation. Fast forward a year and we have a miniature grove of White Poplars the tallest of which is already two metres in height and all genetically identical. I plan to keep the trunks clean so that the entrance to the workshop becomes framed by a lattice of these smooth sinuous forms. I’ll try to remember to photograph them next year to …

The Carbon sink of the World

A mature forest is a perfectly balanced carbon sink, with carbon released through death and decay, equal to the amount of carbon fixed by its growth – a climax ecosystem. Once it has reached this state it does not fix additional carbon. There it is, a giant store that would release a huge amount of carbon if burned, but while alive,it simply maintains itself. You can call the Amazon rain forest the lungs of the world if you like, because it does indeed respire. But don’t fool yourself that it is producing any net reduction in atmospheric CO2. For that …

The Royal Academy …

The Royal Academy was founded in 1768 with the support of King George the third. It moved to its present home at Burlington House in 1868. The Sackler Gallery within it was designed & built by Foster & Partners in 1991 and the two spaces are separated by a pair of bi-fold doors which fit within the thickness of the dividing wall when open. When first built it was amazing and exciting, a spaceship hanging over Piccadilly, and now,after almost 30 years, it’s has become a well loved addition. These doors have flat framing with a bead & butt detail …

GRIP Organisational

It takes two to tango and strip the willow goes better with twelve.  A big project is like a massive New Year’s ball just before midnight with two hundred people going flat out at the eightsome, wired up to their partners, foot hard on the throttle, max speed and precision & don’t get flattened by the drunken slob opposite. When it goes well it is exhilarating.  It is also a delicate & unstable equilibrium that can fall over without warning The way to survive this potential chaos is to know where you are and what your options are at any …

The Renzo Piano retrospective at the Royal Academy

A master of his craft. It finishes in a week or so and I doubt I’ll see it’s like again. I wish I had gone earlier. The models and drawings are lovely, plus It sums up so many of the essential truths about architecture. Firstly, the powerful underlining of the technical and craft skills involved in making these amazing, truly bespoke structures and of the subtle interactions between architect and maker, between his vision and the makers capabilities. But, secondly, you are privileged to watch that sublime magic where a pure metal construction takes form in the mind of a …

Look before you leap…

We have just over 6kgs of sirloin to roast. On the bone. It looks massive, specially cut to fit the width of the oven, & sitting on the cut face of the bone so that the meat rears out of the pan like the stump of a wall from the ruins. How long to cook? it’s been two hours out of the larder, so not like putting an ice lolly in the oven. Even though it’s massive, it’s cross section is relatively slight and the meat is divided by a continuous blade bone. It’s time for O level physics. The …

In praise of level playing fields

Biological systems are complicated, often unpredictable, as are organisational ones. The Guardian reports a study from Sweden showing there is greater risk than previously thought of tipping points in biological systems being breached, because apparently separate events are often linked. Obvious when you think about it. My relentlessly SME (small manufacturing enterprise) focused brain jumps immediately to the theory of constraints and it’s preoccupation with identifying the primary constraint in any particular system. Like so much scientific endeavour, we tend to look for a single cause when in truth it is almost always a group of causes that needs to …

IN PRAISE OF addressing the real issue

We use a great big complicated German Biomass boiler for our heating. It runs on pellets which need to be just right to work properly. We just had a delivery that is completely unusable. Even in the lorry you can see the high proportion of dust and broken pellets. We take the delivery and God help us by the next morning the boiler has stopped. The sensors are coated with dust. I complain and from their MD arrives a copy of the certificate issued at the port of embarkation which proves that the pellets are perfect. So, it is not …

IN PRAISE OF 3D COMPUTER MODELLING

A 3-D model delivers truth. You the designer, you the maker, you the client, can all see immediately what it is that will be made. The elevations will be laid out accurately and the sections, in whatever plane and in however complicated a piece, will always be ……truthful. This is of enormous value in the making of prototypes, artworks and individual bespoke items. It de-risks them and the more complex they are the greater the de-risking is required. We all know rubbish in = rubbish out. The same applies, truth in = truth out. @William Garvey Furniture Makers, we only …