New Orkney Chairs from wartime wood

September 20th 2018

Well, what a busy summer it has been here at Fraser Anderson Hand Crafted Furniture.

The sun has been shining for most of it, making it hard to stay focused in our workshop, what with all the blue skies and warm weather outside! We’ve been kept busy with a steady stream of commissions and visitors though, so thank you to everyone that has been in touch over the last few months.

We’re just getting ready to help with the harvest to collect fresh straw for our new chair backs and seats, but we’ve also got a very special set of furniture to tell you about.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been working on three traditional Orkney chairs made with wood salvaged from the blockships at the Churchill Barriers.

Two of Fraser's chairs made from the wood salavged from the blockships at the barriers.

If you’ve visited Orkney then the chances are you’ve driven across the Barriers, which were built to protect the eastern approaches to the Royal Navy base of Scapa Flow during World War Two. Before the concrete causeways were constructed, old vessels were towed to the various approaches to the Flow and scuttled there as obstacles to any potential U-boat incursions.

The remains of the blockships at barrier number 2.

You can still see some of the old rusting ships, especially at the 2nd and 3rd barriers. It’s from one of these ships that wood for our new chairs came from. It was salvaged by James Laird, from Gallowhill in Burray. He saved pitch pine from the ships as well as some beautiful Douglas fir from an old local pier.

He stored it in sheds at his home until it was discovered in 2015 by his son, Jimmy Laird, as he cleared out the property following the death of his mother, Ina. It eventually found its way into the hands of Sebastian Griffiths and we were only too happy to take a look at it when Seb got in touch!

You can see the stains from the sea characterising the wood.

It’s a beautiful collection of wood and it was perfect to work with too. We’ve built three traditional Orkney chairs with it, one with a slightly taller back than the other. As with all salvaged wood there are imperfections, changes in grain and different stains thanks to the sea and exposure over the years, but we believe that only adds to the character.

A close up of the detail of the chair.

We’ve already sold two of these beautiful, unique pieces, so if you’d like a genuine bit of Orcadian history in your home, get in touch with us or pop into the showroom to try it out for size. We also have a number of other pieces for sale, check out our available now page to see what's in stock.