Starting with the tree, he searches for character hewn by the weather and formed from the local landscape. Minerals drawn up by roots deep within Highland soil colour the timber in unique ways as it grows slowly, sometimes for generations, often only to be revealed when the wood is finally worked. Far removed from the shelter and straight lines of mono forestry, these trees also twist and bend as they battle over a lifetime with the forces of nature.
Since retirement as a surgeon, Alasdair Munro has been enjoying working with wood for the last 14years. His aim is to create beautiful, thoughtfully designed and carefully executed items from timber, in particular Highland grown hardwoods.
We are delighted to present a range of Alasdair’s items of furniture and other interesting pieces. His work can be seen, bought and commissioned via the Gallery.
Alisdair began collecting timber in 2005. Most of the timber comes from trees he has acquired from the Black Isle. Easter Ross and Inverness areas. These have been milled on site by a contractor using a mobile bandsaw and transported to a place in his native Black Isle (close to where his ancestors used to operate a meal mill) and air dried on platforms over several years to a moisture content of 15-18%.
The drying process is completed in a solar kiln which he helped build, based at Craggach Woods near Inverness. Tucked away in a native woodland, this building is made from Douglas Fir and Larch timber from Craggach. Solar drying achieves a final moisture content of 6-10% throughout the timber, ensuring the finished product does not split or warp, particularly in a centrally heated home.
Returning to his workshop in Inverness, Alasdair begins work on the end product. He takes pleasure from creating designs with different local timbers in juxtaposition, to produce unusual and unique effects. He feels that it is not widely appreciated that Highland hardwoods can produce spectacularly beautiful and characterful pieces of furniture although it may take more effort and creativity than using imported knot free timbers He also creates pieces requiring both carpentry and simple upholstery skills; crafting footstools and other small objects, taking care to match the colours in the wood to the fabric, creating a final harmonious whole.
Without having had a career as a surgeon, Alasdair believes he would not be working with wood now. He cites skills transferrable between surgery and woodworking; the manual dexterity and attention to detail required in both disciplines. In addition, excellent spatial awareness and 3 dimensional perception are hugely advantageous for operating as well as woodworking. He usually envisages what a finished piece will look like from a rough sketch and rarely resorts to detailed drawings. Knowledge of human anatomy is an advantage when constructing chairs and breakfast bar stools! Ensuring optimum functionality is an essential aspect of creating bespoke furniture.
It is worth mentioning some of Alasdair’s current collection of timber; 300 year old American black walnut grown at Brahan, laburnum from a house garden in Island Bank Road in Inverness; local gean (cherry) from Foulis; nicely figured elm from Craggach Woods; a particularly attractive variety of olive ash from Drumnadrochit and a number of different kinds of oak including less common pippy and tiger varieties.
Natural features such as the interface between heartwood and sapwood, and waney edges are used to add interest where these enhance the appearance of the final piece. ‘Defects’ in timber can sometimes be usefully enhanced so long as the structural integrity of the piece is not compromised.
Click on any image below to see more about woodwork and furniture by Alisdair Munro for sale at Alchemist Gallery, or online.