46. Oak and sycamore

Our front door has nowhere to go

27th September 2014

Today Ford and I shuffled various wooden components of the house between our little garage in Forest Hill, the workshop in Kent and the building site in Clapham. There's no longer any room for the kitchen in the workshop so it had to come home but, as the house isn't ready for it yet, our garage had to be cleared of the wood I got milled back in post #4, which ended up on site after a visit to the workshop.

We also took our front door to site. Ford is posing with it here in its final destination, at the front of the solid brick porch/larder/fruit store that will only get built when the scaffold comes down. This part of the building, like the conservatory above it, will be outside the insulated envelope of the building so it's not part of the timber frame (and consequently doesn't exist yet).

I drew this door ages ago when I first sketched the Arts and Crafts fantasy that will be The Orchard: a quarter-sawn solid oak door with big metal straps and a chunky iron knocker. I was delighted when I found it for sale, almost exactly as I had imagined it, through Cox's Yard Reclamation in Gloucestershire. Apparently it comes from a Cotswold Manor House that was being modernised. I'm happy to have been going in the opposite direction at the same moment.

After getting the door on site we headed down to Kent with all our milled planks of sycamore from the tree that once inspired neighbouring Tree House. There we cut them to size and put them through the thicknesser so all they now need is a bit of sanding and oiling before they become shelves in our double height bookcases in the upstairs library. We are retaining the curving, knobbly edges of the logs and lining up the planks from the same logs so that their form will still be evident across the shelves. The wood itself is quite striking as the tree evidently suffered from a severe fungal infection; the resulting patterns bloom across the shelves.

As the workshop is in the grounds of the Scotney Castle estate, we stopped off for a National Trust lunch. We also checked out the recently renovated walled garden of the house, built with the solid brick garden wall bond that is common in Sussex and Kent and we which we will be using for our porch: three red stretchers, one dark header; repeat and offset on the next course. Lovely.


  1. What a stunning threshold that will create. I presume the Cotswold Manor House is now graced by a state-of-the-art UPVC - so much more practical.

    The sycamore planks are (and will be) equally impressive. I can see the fungal infection is similar to the turned sycamore bowl Jaco and I bought from the Kilmory Workshop on the Isle of Arran.

    Looking forward to seeing those lovely bricks creeping up...

  2. That sycamore is utterly gorgeous...not a bad idea that....not a bad idea.


  3. Gosh - I didn't know that the sycamore tree had been felled! What a relationship you have had with that tree, over the years.I remember being on the top floor of Tree House and looking out over the canopy of leaves - and having you explain, Will, how in summer the foliage gave the room shade from the sun, and in winter the bare branches let the light in! And now, the wood will be a vital part of your everyday lives in your new home. And the door is absolutely beautiful. So, so excited by all of this! Thea x

    1. Yes, Thea, we've had a long relationship with that hoary old sycamore. It was sad when the final stems were felled but I knew when I first set eyes on it that its days were numbered - one of the stems was already showing signs of disease. I made sure at the final felling that the tree surgeons didn't cut the logs too short - thinking ahead to this moment when the logs become shelves in the new house. I'm hoping that by keeping the edges to the logs intact the shelves will invite touch as well as showing off the patterns in the wood.

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