Elm  Common (English) Ulmus Procera & Wych (Scottish) Ulmus Glabra

A highly figured wood with a colour range from yellowish sapwood through to the heartwood, which is an attractive reddish brown, the Wych elm contains an occasional but distinctive green streak.It’s wild figuring makes it ideally suited to furniture making, the natural or waney edge being an interesting and popular finish. The Wych, or mountain Elm comes from the Anglo-Saxon name meaning pliable, referring to the trees twigs. Particularly prevalent in the highlands of Scotland wherever it is shady or damp. Probably because of its adaptation to it’s highland habitat Elmwood has distinctive properties, which make ideally suited to a variety specialist applications.

Elm will last almost indefinitely underground or submerged in water, will not split and is very tough. In the past it has been used for underground water pipes. Today it is used for fence posts, the keels of boats, harbour works and sluice gates. Being almost impossible to split makes it an ideal wood for seats of chairs into which legs can be firmly driven. Elm was the traditional wood used for coffins, although a practice which has largely died out, being replaced by modern composite materials.

The elm bark beetle which carries the fungal Dutch Elm disease, is not in fact Dutch in origin, probably Central Asiatic. The Dutch are associated with it only in that they worked hard in studying it and in raising elms resistant to the beetle.

Sessile Oak  Quercus Petraea

An extremely hardwearing and decorative wood particularly on quarter sawn boards. It is extremely durable both inside and out making it ideal for many uses. Historically oak was used to build the great fleets of ships, which established Britain as an Empire. Today it is used more for furniture and restoration work and as the main timber in the Post and Beam frame industry. A recent example was The Great Hall in Stirling Castle. A new hammer beam roof was constructed from around 350 oak trees taken from the forestry commissions Strathyre forest to meet the specifications laid down by Historic Scotland.

Scottish Oak differs from English, European or American in that it’s colouring and wild grain gives it a much more distinctive and interesting look. Quarter sawn boards are being almost leopard like in their appearance.

The tannic Acid found in Oak, although good for wines and spirit fermentation, react to irons which cause staining of the wood. It is important that on finishing work the timber is secured with wooden pegs, brass or some other metal containing no iron. It is an excellent flooring material prevalent in many of the great castles and stately homes.

Sycamore  Acer Pseudoplatanus

The Sycamore has been called the great Maple, the tallest of the European Maples, it arrived in Britain about 400 years ago. Being impervious to both air pollution and the salt laden winds of the coasts, it flourished quickly. A long lived tree, there are some huge specimens still around. One near Dunkeld is 32m x 2.4 (104’ x 8’).

The wood is ideal for kitchenware as it is white, extremely hard and can be scrubbed without the grain picking up. It neither takes stain from nor gives any taint to food, making it suitable for worktops, kitchen tables, breadboards, flooring and butchers blocks. Flamed Sycamore is often used for the tops of musical instruments because of the attractive, almost translucent veins which, when book-matched give a fiery appearance.

Common Ash  Fraxinus Excelsior

The Ash tree preferring limestone soils where ivy flourishes best can frequently be seen covered by the climber. Attaining heights of up to 41m this giant, deep-rooted tree is easy to spot in any forest. It is generally the last to gain its foliage in spring and the first to loose it in the autumn.

Its timber is a tough, elastic and flexible wood allowing it to withstand pressure, shock and splintering, historically used for Spears and arrows and the chassis of the Morgan car. Still used in this case by the Morgan car production company who, interestingly own and manage their own ash woods for this purpose.

Almost pure white, course grained and exceptionally tough it is used predominantly for tool handles, hockey sticks, skis and tennis rackets as well as furniture making and flooring. Ash is easily steam bent without losing its strength.

Beech  Fagus Sylvatica

Beech is a pale pinkish brown timber with small radial flecks of warm brown. Both heavy and strong it has long been used as a flooring materials as well as worktops, children’s toys and workbenches. Spalted beech has a spectacular pattern of black lines running through it, which is essentially caused by fungal decay, but offers a uniquely beautiful look to any kitchen or piece of furniture.

The name Beech is derived from the Anglo-Saxon name ‘boc’ that in turn gave rise to the name book. It was said that early books were either carved on thin tablets of beech wood or written on vellum leaves bound between beech boards. The tallest Beech hedge in the world is situated in Meikleour, Perthshire. Planted in 1745 by men who were called to fight in the battle of Culloden, many of whom never returned, it now reaches 30m high and is over 1/3 mile long.

European Larch  Larix Decidua

The European Larch is a deciduous tree with a seasonal repertoire of vivid emerald needles in spring interspersed with ruby red emerging cones. The Dukes of Athol made extensive plantations in the Tay Valley around 1770 the largest standing by the Old Blair Bridge is an impressive 43m x 1.4m (145’ x 5’).

Its resinous heartwood is an attractive pale red brown to brick red colour with clearly marked annual rings. The wood is straight grained with knots and has a fine uniform texture.

A hard durable wood it is about 50% harder than standard redwood, with resilience to water logging and fire make it an excellent wood for boat building, civil engineering and flooring as well as for furniture. It’s strength and durability has been equalled to oak.

Scots Pine  Pinus Sylvestris

A native of the once extensive Caledonian Pine Forests the Scots Pine can still be seen clinging to the poor soils of the highland slopes and infertile lowland sands. With its distinctive red, brown bark and high canopy of green foliage it can be easily spotted in small groups across the Scottish landscape.

These once great forests were cleared on an unprecedented scale from the seventeenth century onwards, coinciding with the highland clearances and the industrial revolution. It was used as charcoal to fuel the foundries and as general construction materials at the turn of the century.

With the majority of the population shipped out however, there was no one left to replant the hillsides and by 1970 there was only 25,000 acres left. The last 25 years has seen a great turn around in the regeneration of these fine trees and a concerted replanting and conservation programme is now underway. Its future now seems considerably brighter.

Its heartwood is yellowy red to brown colour with a fairly straight grain and a few knots. A top quality timber it is strong, yet easily worked, making it ideal for shipbuilding, masts and furniture as well as a key source for turpentine, resin and tar.