Coach & Horses

We had a most important visitor to our workshop - a rather grand horse-drawn carriage.

This superb example of Victorian engineering is owned by Ewan McInnes of Maryculter Carriage Driving Centre. It's pulled by a team of four horses and is used each year to make the journey from Braemar to Aberdeen in aid of local charities.

Our job was to replace the forward cross rail. This is vital component of the carriage's running gear as the harnesses of all four horses are attached to this rail. The original had been badly damaged during to an unfortunate collision with a strainer post.

The first job was to source a piece of perfectly straight grained 3" Oak. Our own stock of Aberdeenshire Oak is mostly character grade timber so we had to order in a length of clear grade French Oak from Paterson timber in Glasgow. (Thank you Chris!)

Cabinetmaker Phil Pratt made a careful copy of the broken rail, hand shaping the contours to exactly match the original. The ends were fitted with iron caps and secured with traditional coach bolts.

I love to see how the woodworkers of the past really understood and valued the different properties of our native timbers. In the days before plastics, timber technology was of vital importance.

Take the carriage wheels for instance; each wheel is made using three timbers - Oak, Ash and Elm. The central hub or nave of the wheel is made from Elm because its interlocked grain is resistant to splitting. Oak is used for the spokes because of its exceptional strength under compression. Ash is used for the outer rim (the felloes) because it's a flexible and springy wood that acts as a natural shock absorber.

Oak Ash and Elm - three different timbers, combined with skill and a deep understanding of their properties - those early carriage builders really knew their timbers!