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|David Gunton supplies several species of Elm in boards from many sources,
but, most especially, wide long boards. By clicking on most pictures
on this site you can see a larger version.
Not all these photographs show finished floors. This will be because
these are new stocks of which we do not have finished floor photos.
Others may show floors laid in unfinished rooms - because we have not
been able to get back to photograph the finished job.
We and the designer had to work quite hard to persuade the board
of directors to fit this gorgeous English Elm floor into the refurbishment
of their listed 16th century pub restaurant 'The White Hart' at
Wytham near Oxford ( I'm told the food is very good and the chef
is making a name for himself. White Hart, Wytham, OX2 8QA. tel.
01865 244372 ). They now think it is absolutely wonderful and the
very best thing since sliced bread - which it is! This photo is
of the room in its unfinished state. It is not apparent from this
photo, but we have fitted the boards so that most cross the room
from skirting to skirting in a single length. We have also matched
boards where practical so that their grain patterns compliment one
another in the same way that matched veneers are laid up in fine
This picture shows the floor after they cluttered it up and spoiled
it with furniture. What are the lines crossing the boards? In olden
days, before the advent of machine saws, boards were pit sawn. This
involved digging a pit about 6 or seven feet deep and 16 feet long
or longer. The log to be sawn was laid on bearers over the pit - lengthwise.
One man stood on the log, another stood in the pit. With a double
handed saw they would saw the log into boards or beams or whatever
was required. Hence the term 'the pits', used to describe almost anything
insalubrious, because the man in the pit was constantly showered with
the sawdust from above.
Excepting for the finest work for the richest customers, the boards
were laid unplaned or only partially smoothed. Thus, there were many
saw cuts in the face of the boards.
In Tudor buildings these can still be seen in the dark polished
flooring, and are called 'the pit saw marks'. Second hand timber
still exhibiting pit saw marks is much sought after and very costly.
These elm boards were sawn by a modern automated band sawmill. However,
the log was sawn with the bark on. Lodged in a crevice in the bark
was a stone. When the saw hit that stone, it bent one of the teeth.
That tooth cut a deeper impression than all the rest. We deliberately
left that piece of the history of the wood in the floor when we
smoothed it by hand.
The elm is from the estate of a German nobleman. An ancestor planted
an avenue of English Elms. Dutch Elm Disease attacked some of the
trees and they had to be felled and burned. This spoiled the continuity
of the avenue so the current custodian has had the remaining trees
felled - about 1500 trees - and new young elms planted so that they
will all present the same appearance.
English Elm is one of those timbers in which one constantly finds
new patterns and delights. Rather like looking into a fire or clouds
and seeing faces or castles, to those with imagination, the whorling
grain of the elm presents an endless parade of discovery of images.
If you go to Wytham and dine at the White Hart, see if you can find
the hidden Lion of Wytham, a wraith in the floor.
Go to more elm boards.
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