Breathing new life into diseased trees

I will be guilty of stating the obvious when I say wood is the lifeblood of a furniture maker’s existence.  We select it, we mill it and then we strive to create something beautiful to be used and loved for years, generations to come.  Without wood, we lack the single most important ingredient from which we can realise our designs.


Everyone is naturally concerned when our trees come under attack from disease.  As makers, it is also worrying when supplies of the wood we need are threatened by these attacks.  Much of the furniture on this website uses the beautiful rich tones of Elm and the clean lines of Ash.  It is well documented that both species have been devastated respectively by Dutch Elm Disease and more recently by Ash Dieback.


Thankfully the scientists have been hard at work and there have recently been encouraging signs that nature can indeed find a way to survive.  Earlier this year, scientists identified ways in which resistance to Ash Dieback can be predicted so that forests can be actively managed over time to replace stricken trees with more resistant varieties.  The Elm may also be in for a reprieve following the discovery of a pair of large healthy trees right in the middle of Edinburgh (see photo above).  Experts were surprised that the 100ft trees seem to have gone unnoticed until recently but the important point is that they are there as broad and beautiful as daylight itself, providing the experts with valuable knowledge about the variety.


What then happens to already diseased trees?  Various scientific measures are taken to control the spread of the fungus and when all else fails and a tree is beyond redemption, out comes the chainsaw.  Is this right, however?  Would it not be better to ‘bite the bullet’ early and remove diseased trees as soon as they are positively diagnosed and while they can still provide decent usuable lumber?  Readers may be horrified at the thought of this suggestion and I admit I have a vested interest as a maker in seeing continuing stocks of decent wood from which to create furniture.  Afterall diseased trees can still be turned into fine furniture providing they have not been left or kept alive so long that they have started to rot in the ground.  Is it not therefore better to remove the tree while it still has the qualities needed to turn it into something both useful and beautiful which will remind us why we love trees in the first place?