It started when I had a call from a farmer friend who had around 75 oak trees that he wanted to clear from his land. He asked me if I knew how he could go about selling the timber. Thinking it would be easy I called a a timber merchant I dealt with regularly and had a telling response:
The timber merchant, who I had known as a homegrown oak specialist for many years, told me they had stopped milling homegrown timber completely. It was more cost effective to buy in ready milled timber from Eastern Europe. He referred me to a log buyer he knew.
I called the log buyer. He asked how many logs I had. I told him around 75. He said he wasn't interested in stands of less than 150 trees and then only if they were of certain sizes and with long straight trunks.
This experience confirmed my suspicions. The market for small stands or single trees was limited to small craft makers or the small specialist timber mills scattered across the countryside. Furthermore Scottish timber is slow growing due to the harsh climate and is thus too interesting - it tends to have twists and turns, burrs and pips, leaving it outside the grading standards used by the international timber trade.
I decided this presented a fantastic opportunity to obtain the most wonderful, unique timbers which would otherwise be trashed and, using my design skills, make desirable high-end products. Rather than throwing them away the logs become like Premier Cru wines - not like the anodyne supermarket plonk - unique expressions of the Terroir on which they grew.
That's how the Fallen Tree Rising project came about.
The First On-site Timber Milling
I bought a portable sawmill and made it known that I was interested in milling any windblown trees into useful timber. Friends and local landowners called me : trees had to come down because they were leaning dangerously over a road .... a large oak had blown down in the storm.... I soon realised that there was an abundance of trees within a few miles of my workshop and folk were delighted to offer them to me to save them from the fireplace.
The Fallen Tree Rising project by designer Ben Dawson uses timber from windblown Scottish trees to make contemporary furniture and accessories inlaid with words and images.