In 1985, with thirty-five years of practical life experience behind me, the business of Iain McGregor Designs was born. All the wood used is obtained from the North of England or Southern Scotland - either from windblown trees, amenity trees that have to be felled or from numerous large Estates in the area. An active regeneration of local planting is carried out using indigenous stock seed from selected stock seed trees grown in the Scottish Borders. Most of the timber used is over two hundred years old, occasionally ancient trees of over four hundred and fifty years old. Once the trees are collected together they are taken to the local sawmill, again family run. It is always a joy to see a fine oak log, sometimes over forty-eight quarter girth and up to fifteen feet long, gradually revealing itself as each board comes off the saw. In a matter of less than an hour, you can watch three hundred years of growth reveal grain patterns, blind knots, imperfections and perfection in the even and uneven growth patterns that any dendrologist would watch with sheer envy, knowing that you had the sole privilege of seeing something no other person had seen before.
Once the wood is planked, it is stickered within softwood lathes, evenly spaced to hold the boards apart to allow the air to circulate and ultimately to dry the wood. The drying process is purely natural and, in order that the wood dries out evenly, we paint the ends to stop water moving out too fast and causing major end cracks.
In sticker and undercover for protection, the oak will stay undisturbed for at least three years, the heavier sections four, five or six years. This allows the moisture gradient of the wood to drop slowly and naturally, the wood will shrink, warp slightly and most of the water will evaporate, eventually reaching 18-20% moisture content. Once the wood reaches the same moisture content as the air around it, it will become stable with only a few minor fluctuations. As all our furniture is made for outside use, this tried and tested method used by craftsmen for over five centuries, gives a very stable and strong product. The wood, now air dried and seasoned, is taken into the workshop where it is marked, planed, sawn and shaped.
Slowly, the component parts take shape, be it for an "Aberdeen" style, a "Glasgow" style or a one-off special. Stainless steel screws are used to combat the corrosive effects of the tannic acid and after many hours of preparation the various piles of assorted shapes come together to become a complete familiar unit.
When fully sanded down, inspected and passed, each piece is humbly marked with the Iain McGregor Designs label. This signature signifies that this is an individual piece created by old style craftsmen, geriatric machinery, generations of experience and at least two hundred years of nature, to produce a traditional bench in the finest English Oak which will go on to give several generations more the pleasure, comfort and beauty which oak deserves.
I was once asked by our accountant why I didn’t expand, diversify, modernise and make more money. My answer was, why? If you are doing something you enjoy, are able to work with people who have talent, have time to talk with and make a product which your customers appreciate, work with the best raw materials available and work to your own honest standards, why change?
So the future is more of the same, for as long as the same is possible.
Iain McGregor Designs. Tel: 01573 410277. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org