The Manufacture of Adam Fireplaces

The Scots pine, pinus sylvestris, is the timber traditionally used to make finished joinery – windows, doors, skirting boards, architraves, floorboards and chimney pieces. It was and is known as redwood because after exposure to the air for some time it becomes red, which then fades in UV light to a nut brown.

In the 18th and 19th century most of the world’s forests were still untouched and the timber trade enjoyed selecting the best trees from this virgin environment, producing straight, clean, knot free timber. Making Adam chimney pieces to this quality in the 21st century is quite a challenge since modern timber is now produced on such a vast scale with much lower quality, following the ‘pump it out quick’ business model.

Fortunately in Scotland on the old estates there are trees of the age that yield the standard required so, with persistence, the local grapevine, and the assistance of the seasonal gales, we have managed to match the quality of the 18th century. The logs are sawn at the local mill and seasoned in the traditional way.

The decorative detail is made from Adam composition (compo). This is like a hot putty which is pressed into moulds and, over a number of days, cools and dries to be brick hard. When it is at the dry but malleable stage of this process it is selected, cut and assembled onto the prepared timber frame. The antique trade refer to this type of Adam chimney piece as ‘pine and gesso’. This is erroneous since gesso is made from rabbit skin glue and chalk, to make a prepared ground for gilding.

Our fireplaces are exact replicas of Robert Adam's originals, which were produced in Edinburgh circa 1770 - 1830. They are manufactured using the same materials and techniques that were employed in those times.

All chimney pieces come sealed and sanded.  If painting is required they are sprayed, in order not to lose detail under puddles of undercoat. Any other finish can be applied including marbling, glazing and gilding.

Kim Roberts