Newsletter > mail issue > 107 > 20/03/2014


Replica of a 'Schoningen Spear' c. 300,000 BC
There has been a justifiable enthusiasm in recent years for charred timber finishes, popularized most recently by interest in the work of figures such as David Nash and Terunobu Fujimori. However the process of charring timber to harden it, preserve it and change its appearance has its roots in the Palaeolithic.

The Schoningen Spears, discovered by Hartmut Thieme in the 1990's, show evidence of highly developed technological skills and of a profound workmanlike tradition. The tips were worked symmetrically from the base of the stems and  charred to increase hardness.

From a woodworker's perspective the spears represent an extraordinary tradition of craftsmanship, knowledge and skill from a culture that at best had only stone tools to work with.
One wonders that with such limited tools must have come a deeper understanding of the material in order to work it so successfully.
Charring fenceposts in order to protect the timber from decay.
In the United Kingdom it used to be common practice to char the ends of fence posts prior to putting them in the ground in order to preserve the timber from rot and decay. This requires only fairly agricultural techniques, as seen in the photo above. The fire used to clear up brambles and gorse from one of our woodland margins is also used to scorch the ends of the posts. Hot work!
Fortunately, when it comes to charring the timber in the studio we have more controlled methods at our disposal.................................
Scorching Daphne
................a blow torch can be used to provide a concentrated blast of heat to very specific areas enabling us to vary the intensity of the scorched or charred finish. It can be mesmerizing work, watching the nature of the timber change before your eyes..................
Daphne I > 2012 > L 210 W 210 H 535 mm > Scorched beech, Leather, Oiled finish.
................after charring a variety of treatments can be applied. Daphne (above) is loosely based upon the myth of Daphne and Apollo. Formed from the crotch of a Beech tree discovered in our woodland, it was subject to such deep charring that subsequent sculpting was possible and a split that had opened up due to the heat involved in the process could be coloured in order to enhance the allegorical appeal of the piece which can also be used as an occasional table.
Phenome Chair > 2009 > L 450 W 450 H 900 mm > Ebonised Oak and Stainless Steel, Oiled finish.
Phenome (above) required a much more controlled treatment. An exacting and precise cantilevered chair, designed for the garden of Hamish Herford's award winning Queen's Gate Terrace apartment, the piece required that the scorching did not soften the crisp lines of the timber that contrast so well with the tubular stainless steel of the seat and back. Other pieces in this collection were also 'ebonised' which is a process that will be featured in a subsequent 'Focus on Finishing' Newsletter.
(see more here).......................
Scorching fence-posts prior to fencing the edge of our woodland.
Random Play (below) creates an intimate out door reclining platform that is part hammock and part daybed. Created from Chestnut from our sustainably managed woodland it is a piece that combines the intrinsic qualities of coppiced material with contemporary design, in such a way that deliberately references their origins whilst avoiding the nostalgic whiff of rusticity.
We charred the chestnut poles in exactly the same way as we would fencing stakes (see above), both in order to increase the durability of this predominately outdoor piece of furniture and also for the visual contrast presented by charred and natural timber.
Both the canopy and platform are made from Marine netting sourced in Bridport, an historic net making town near the studio.
Random Play is available to order in a number of different sizes and finishes from £2100 + VAT
Random Play > 2012 > L 4000 W 4000 H 3000 mm > Scorched Chestnut, Nylon Netting, Stainless Steel, Oiled finish.
We hope you've enjoyed our first 'Focus on Finishes' Newsletter and that it provides some fuel for your imagination.
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we look forward to hearing from you soon,