Man Who Made Things Out Of Trees, The


052015122520151226 (R4)

In 2012, Robert Penn felled (and replanted) a great ash from a Welsh wood. He set out to explore the true value of the tree of which we have made the greatest and most varied use in human history. How many things can be made from one tree?

Over the next two years he travelled across Britain, to Europe and the USA, to the workshops and barns of a generation of craftsmen committed to working in wood. He watched them make over 45 artefacts and tools that have been in continual use for centuries, if not millennia.

For his final project, Rob wants to create a totem to embody his reverence not just for his tree, but for all Ash trees - a writing desk. It's an ambitious project. With his friend Andy Dix, he selects the perfect piece of timber for each component. The finished product and its distinctive smell takes Rob back to the day his tree was felled. As his time with the tree comes to an end, his new rapport with the ash is just beginning.

This is a tale about the joy of making things in wood, of its touch and smell, its many uses, and the resonant, calming effect of running our hands along a wooden surface. It is a celebration of man's close relationship with this greatest of natural materials and a reminder of the value of things made by hand and made to last.

Abridged by Jo Coombs

Produced by Hannah Marshall

A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4.

A year after his Ash tree was felled, Robert has one final project - a writing desk.