Material of the month – January 2018 – Elm

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Why Elm inspires us:

With the launch of the ‘Timber Awards’ this month, it felt only fitting to have timber as our material of the month. We have a new structure to house the ‘Timber Awards’ and it is constructed of a combination of Red Pine, and Scots Elm also known as Wych Elm.

The interesting thing about the timber being used for the McGinlay Bell designed structure housing the ‘Timber Awards’ is the way it was felled. This wood falls naturally and collected to be cut to size and used appropriately. In the case of our timber, this fell naturally near the Dutch House Roundabout in Prestwick (nothing to do with the deadly Dutch Elm disease, which has decimated many trees throughout the UK) and was gathered by the contractor Bridgewater Solutions who then manufactured the exhibition structure.

A contender for our national tree

In 2013 The Scottish Government were considering whether there should be a national tree and there was a case by Max Coleman to make this Scotland’s national tree.

“Wych Elm is a strong candidate for Scotland’s most useful tree. The reason it is not better known today is that most of the uses have become unnecessary or are now carried out with other materials. The list includes wooden wheel hubs, water mains, bows and arrows, keels of wooden ships, bell stocks, water wheels, fodder for livestock, and, most famously, coffins […] The loss of many trees to Dutch Elm disease has meant that furniture makers have rediscovered Wych Elm as a native hardwood with exquisite grain that can make quality furniture. In northern and western parts of Scotland the beetles that carry the fungal disease seem to struggle and Scotland’s Wych Elms are internationally important in a European context. The Wych Elm is an adaptable survivor and worthy of the title of Scotland’s national tree.”

Why we think it should inspire you:

Elm is a beautiful warm brown coloured wood, highly grained and with a distinctive ‘Partridge-Breast’ figure. This special timber also has some unique qualities that make it ideally suited for use in a variety of specialist circumstances. It will last almost indefinitely when placed in water or below ground level. (although it is not durable at ground level). This makes it ideal for the construction of fish ladders and sluice gates and other submerged structures.

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