old oak & coffee - the story
in the late autumn of 2014, dr coralie mills of dendrochronicle offered knock the chance to work with some oak beam waste, salvaged from a borders' building restoration project she had been part of 2 years earlier. dating cores and cross-section samples had been taken from the beams and their growth rings measured and compared to establish the earliest date of the building, all to add more evidence to the great line of oak chronology that scientists use to establish climate records across the centuries and that in turn help date anything from oil painting panels, to archaelogical finds and even pre-historic artefacts.
the work coralie carried out established that these beams had been felled in the borders in the late 17th century, having been growing for the preceding 100 plus years, making them saplings in the 16th century and workable timber by the end of the war of the three kingdoms and the restoration of the monarchy.
it is during this time that coffee was being introduced to northern europe, initially by dutch traders - more specifically the wood was reaching maturity as both in 1650, britain's first coffeehouse, the angel , was opened in oxford by a jewish entrepreneur named jacob; and then shortly afterward in 1652, london's first coffee house, pasqua rosee's, in cornhill (eventually rosee would go on to establish the first parisian coffee houses).
with the dating samples safely stored, the remaining timber was regarded as surplus waste - at which point we were offered them. the timbers were handed over to john mcwilliam, a semi-retired craft turner based in fife. john enjoys a challenge and working out how to get as many usable pieces out from between the wormholes and the remnant nails has certainly proved to be that.
old oak hausgrind
we hope to get a maximum of 4 grinders from the timbers, 2 in our familiar straight sided design and 2 in the flared design shown.
old oak tampers
the number of tamper handles to be yielded is less clear as these come from the smaller sections and the off cuts from the grinder block selection. the full length handles offered obviously use more of the timber than the 586 style caps and we will off them as they become available. each handle is slightly different as john works round shakes, knots, voids and nail remnants to get what he can from each block.
the finished wood
john uses a clear melamine sealer and carnuba wax to finish each product - depending on shape and grain, on some the effect is of a faint 3d or lenticular surface, with the grain seeming to shift and flicker as the pieces are moved. john commented that the grain & colouration is subtley more interesting than so much oak that is now commercially available in that the latter is often less unpredictable, being effectively almost plantation grown for regularity. the light and dark gold colouring are simply the product of the turning and no staining or false ageing has been applied.