I can’t creep up on you Beech Tree,
You hear me scrunch through decades of disintegrated nuts and mast.
Were I limber I would clamber to the crook of your elephant skinned arm.
Rather, looking skyward through fractyl shimmer green, my fingers making wishes in the
tracery of bark
A breath of wind,
And I hear tree instead of me.
JEANNIE MACLEAN | Beech | Angus, Scotland
What use is wood from the Beech tree , Fagus Sylvatica?
“I love the feel of beech-wood chopping boards, close grained, smooth. I run my hand across a board before setting my knife against it. Hard, but not too hard; I don’t blunt my knives on it.”
The furniture maker
“Beech polishes to warm colour, cosy, reddish brown. It’s easy to work, turns nicely to make spindles. It’s uncomplicated solid wood with an interesting grain that’ll make you want to rub the arm of a chair. Reliable, it makes the unseen carcass of your chair too. Reliable, that’s a good word for beech.”
The toy maker
“Kids these days need to play more with wooden toys, to get the feel of it. Beech is great, doesn’t splinter so I use it for making building blocks. For a kid to stroke the sides of a pull along train and feel the warm wood, he knows this thing was alive once, not dead like plastic. Lolly sticks are made of beech, no splinters!”
The piano restorer
“We employ master craftsmen with meticulous fitting and cabinet making skills to make piano pin-blocks. The blocks grip the tuning pins so the piano can’t go out of tune. Why beech? It laminates well, so the end grain of the wood presses against the tuning pin from four or more directions. And beech drills cleanly, 230 accurately drilled holes for the tuning pins. The pin-block is critical, having to withstand 40,000 pounds of string tension inside a piano.”
The Arbroath fish merchant
“We smoke haddock using beech and a few oak chippings laid in the bottom of a half whisky barrel, with the whole fish split and hung above. Beech smoke gives a subtler flavour than the oak, with a wee hint of whisky too. ‘Arbroath Smokies’ are unique. No, I won’t give you the recipe”
The wood turner
“Spalted beech is treasure. Look at this, see those swirls in the stomach of this bowl? Dark lines like watermarks running with and across the grain? It’s fungus, travels through the dead cells. Takes years. Beautiful to work with, pure magic.”
“I shone thirty years ago. My colour has long faded. My surface feels hairy from being washed and scrubbed. A survivor holding memories in cuts, dents and bashes gathered over a lifetime of service. Beech-wood, hardwood, blessed with heart.”