UK Hardwoods Spotlight on John McShea

Sawmill News / 13 March 2024

John mcshea

Building boats in Salcombe with UK grown timber.....

South Devon Boat Builder extraordinaire John McShea, has always been a highly skilled craftsman. He specialises in high quality woodwork at his country workshop in Salcombe and is currently nominated for an award at the 2024 Classic Boat Awards. Using our British, Grown in Britain certified timber his creations are renowned across the whole of England. 

Established in 1999, boatbuilding has been the foundation of John’s success, however his experience and skill means he can turn his hand to specialist bespoke projects too. From restoring dinghies to building yachts, John can create contemporary sculptures, as well as curved furniture and doors that are sympathetically crafted to suit historical sites, harmonising heritage with functionality.  


Salcombe timber

A customer of UK Hardwoods since 2017......

We first started supplying John with timber in 2017 and have enjoyed getting to know him and appreciating his fine craftsmanship and attention to detail. We were thrilled when he invited us to his boat show in 2023 and couldn’t wait to support him and admire his hard work. It was sensational to see the boats gleaming and glossy in the Salcombe sunlight. 

It’s always a pleasure when we know John is visiting the Sawmill, as our shared passion means we could chat for hours about traditional methods of woodwork. We’re often hunting through our stock together to find the very best timber to inspire his latest creations. 

We asked John why traceability of his British timber was so important to his work:

“Traceability of timber is important in two ways.  As a craftsman I need to know the quality of the material I’m working with is reliable and of the right standards, that it has been selected, cut and dried in the best way possible. I trust that Uk Hardwoods have the highest standards for the way that they carry out each of these processes. “

Salcombe timber
Salcombe timber

Timber is a valuable natural resource.......

“As a human being, it’s important to know that the valuable resource I am using and processing has been responsibly and respectfully sourced. I know that timber from the mill in South Molton has come from the estates of Devon and Cornwall, often I have been given a story behind a particular tree or log that I have taken to be part of my work. These insights in turn become part of the larger tale of producing a boat, sculpture, or piece of furniture. Whilst my job is making physical objects for people, it is ultimately stories that they are really investing in.”

“The first log that Tom cut for me at the mill was a Sweet Chestnut. I wanted to use the timber for planking boats and with Tom’s help, I was able to pick the very tree he would then saw for me. The log was lifted onto the saw and opened with the first cut. I would have been very happy with clean timber, what I got though was much more than that, not only was it clean but there was a ‘fiddleback’ ripple in the lower buttress, it was a beautiful unexpected gift. That moment of a hidden treasure being revealed is one of the reasons I love British grown timber so much. I didn’t use the chestnut for planking, that job needs something plain, so I kept it for years until an appropriate and special opportunity.”

Salcombe timber

A customer of UK Hardwoods for over 10 years.......

Bibbidy my latest launch has the rippled sweet chestnut in her cabinetry, where the use of varnish allows the timber to sing. She is the boat that has been nominated for Classic boats best build 2024, if I’m honest her whole aesthetic has been built around the Chestnut which you can see in her panels and decking, the ripple and varnish giving a three dimensional effect usually reserved for the backs of violins, here appropriately mirroring the image of the surface of water.”  

“So as a person that aspires to use natural materials in the most respectful way I can, I like to source it from people who are like minded and equally invested in the whole story.”

As avid followers of his work, we wish John all the success he deserves and hope he continues to share his progress with us and pass on his extensive knowledge. You can vote for him here in the 2024 Classic Boat Awards, and see some of his work on his website & Instagram too.   

Salcombe timber
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