A case for choosing English Ash for furniture making

on Thu 17 Jan

 

It’s fair to say that, when planning furniture projects, conversations about hardwood timber selection more often than not feature Oak. This is not a bad thing - Oak is beautiful, durable and has qualities that make it ideal for furniture making. But there are many worthy alternatives, not least our very own native English Ash (Fraxinus excelsior).

A member of the Olive family, Ash grows widely and is the third most widespread of our common woodland trees, living up to 250 years and growing well over 60 feet tall. 

Here’s the issue: some believe Ash is no longer an option for furniture making because of what is known as ‘Ash die-back’ (caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, previously known as Chalara fraxinea)*. But the truth is this disease, as terrible as it is, is found predominantly in younger trees and saplings but not in mature stock. Surprisingly, it is estimated 90% of UK Ash consumption is supplied from overseas; meanwhile our neglected British forest and timber industries tell us there are substantial stocks of domestic Ash available - said to be over 70,000m3 per year.

Ash is strong, flexible and durable for interior applications, while its straight, uniquely figured grain offers a beautiful creamy texture. On price, it compares very favourably to Oak.

It was a pleasure to use English Ash for this modest but elegant side table. At a time when we look increasingly to home-grown resources that offer a minimal environmental impact, English Ash makes a very good case for itself.

 

* An interesting listen about Ash die-back can be found here at BBC R4 'Saving Species':

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b01nxh4q

 

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