Sgian Dubh by Michael Findlater

The Sgian Dubh (Skee-en-doo) is a traditional singled edged Scottish knife which has its origins during the 17th and 18th century. As a sign of courtesy and etiquette, edged weapons were made visible when entering the home of a friend; which is why the knife is worn in the hose or sock as part of traditional kilt attire. 

This project began as a souvenir for professional snowboarder and friend Andre Sommer Andre first visited Scotland in the winter of 2014 to judge the Freeride World Qualifier ski and snowboard event at Glencoe Mountain, he instantly fell in love with the Scottish highlands and promised to return the following year for the same event. During our conversations, I discovered that Andre had spent three months in the wilderness of his native Switzerland living off of the land. He told me owning a good knife and knowing how to use it in the wild is key to succeeding in such an environment, as he used a bushcraft and hunting skills to provide food and shelter.  I thought it would be appropriate gift to create a Sgiand Dubh as an ideal memento of his time in Scotland. 

With no prior experience of a making project like this, I didn't really set out with any sort of plan other than accepting the fact that crafting the blade from scratch would be beyond my skill level and luckily I managed to source high carbon Damascus steel blades from a local supplier near Loch Ness The rest of the material I had to hand, a few blocks of Spalted Beech, some Laburnum and deer antler; although Beech and Laburnum are not native to Scotland, the pieces I had were felled from trees grown here and the antler sourced from rural areas around South Lanarkshire.

I began by laminating the timber together with high strength two part epoxy, which would ensure a strong bond, I wasn't quite sure how I was going to use the antler so I decided to leave this until later. The Damascus steel blade was a half tang, which means that the back portion of the blade where it connects to the handle is only half the length of the blade itself, this meant having to drill and chisel through the end of my laminated timber to create a cavity for the blade to slot into.  

Once I had cleared enough space in the timber for the tang to fit comfortably inside I set it in place with more epoxy, clamped the whole thing together and left it for 24 hours to set properly. 

I was quite happy with my handy work so far however I  realised there would be a much easier way of getting to this stage and now I had to attempt the difficult part of adding in the deer antler elements. The first noticeable trait of working with deer antler is the horrendous smell when sanding or cutting it, I would definitely recommend a well ventilated area and a sanding mask. Other than the smell, as a material it's comparable to timber in the sense that it can be carved and cut fairly easily with hand tools although it can crack and snap under pressure. Having never really had the opportunity to attempt any interesting jointing or carving work, I figured that these small pieces of antler were as good a place as any to start. 

After breaking several pieces and getting quite frustrated, I discovered patience was paramount. Soon enough, I'd carved two pieces which fit into a groove in the base of the handle and one that slipped over the blade and onto the hilt. Once epoxied, the only steps remaining where shaping and finishing. 

Sgian Dubh's traditionally are quite thin in both blade and handle, typically symmetrical and comprised of dark stained timber such as Bog Oak. I couldn't quite see myself producing something typical of the historic Sgian Dubh, so an asymmetrical shape formed and rather than using heavy stains I let the natural hues of the timber and antler come through, only used a light wax and oil for finishing.  

In order to protect the blade and the user, there is normally a wooden scabbard which completes the Sgian Dubh however, time was now pressing and I was fairly confident that I wasn't going to get the scabbard right first time, so I found an alternative option. I used an old piece of leather with some copper studs to form a sheath, this was a really quick fix but it turned out quite well.

For a first attempt I pleasantly surprised myself with how well this turned out and Andre was delighted with his gift when I met with him the following year.

It's good to have small making projects like this; there isn't a great opportunity to make physical objects as part of the design office environment, creating the time for such projects is the difficult part but if the desire to create is there then the time will make itself available. More to come in the near future.

Glasgow School Of Art - Young Offices Lecture by Michael Findlater

We were invited to take part in the Glasgow School of Art's architecture lecture series this month which focussed on young practices that have emerged after graduating from architecture school. We also had the pleasure of meeting our co-presenters Graham Hogg from Lateral North ( and Jeremie Warner from Studio 2080 (

After a short tour of the new Reid building by Steven Holl we were given the floor to address a room of around 50 students from years 1 - 5 and also recent graduates. Our presentation touched on the journey that we have been on since last September and where we intend to go from here, we outlined some of the projects that we have been working on in recent months and also our achievements with regard to funding and recognition within the environment of young entrepreneurs. Graham from Lateral North went on to deliver a fantastic collection of engaging images and diagrams all about Scotland and it's potential within the Arctic context, everything from abandoned oil rigs being used as night clubs to underwater tunnels connecting the Islands. It was clear to see the "big thinking" within Lateral North's agenda and also the desire to provoke discourse about how we change our built environment. Jeremie surprised us all with his presentation on the work that Studio 2080 have undertaken in developing countries such as Senegal and Milawi, the focus is delivering social, economic and ecological sustainability to communities within rural Africa. Again Studio 2080 are most certainly thinking big and addressing some key global issues such as education, food production, energy and water. 

We were rather looking forward to hearing from the students after the presentations were over and I'm glad to say that we weren't disappointed. We touched on issues such as the development of the role of an Architect within today's environment; how to fund a start up company; finding clients and promoting your brand and many other topics. Even after the formal Q&A many of the students were still keen to hear more so we retired to the studio bar for a beer and a chat which led to further discussion about the use of foamed concrete as a building material; the progression of renewable energy generation technology and the logistics of delivering a project in a foreign, remote, rural location such as Senegal. 

Overall this was a really rewarding and exciting experience and with a little bit of luck we'll see some great things from Glasgow School of Art on the young enterprise front. 


Competitions and Enterprise Events by Joanne Potter

Its been a very busy month for everyone here at Notio Studio! We've submitted designs to a few competitions and are, as ever, very busy with freelance work on peopleperhour.

One of the competitions we entered was the ArchTriumph Architectural Treehouse competition. The aim of the competition was to design and present a 20 sqm treehouse retreat for a city couple. The treehouse was to be at least 2m off the ground and contain dedicated reading spaces as well as clear connections to surrounding views and landscapes.

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starter for six by Joanne Potter

We at Notio Studio are very proud to announce that we have been accepted to be a part of the Starter for 6 programme here in Dundee. The programme is a great chance for us to build our business skills and become the best we can for our clients. 


Starter for 6 offers tailored support to help develop micro-businesses, optimising the economic potential of new starts in the creative sector, which currently has a £5billion annual turnover in Scotland.

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people-per-hour by Joanne Potter

As a young business we aim to utilise as many sources as possible to reach our clients. One way to do this is through the people-per-hour website. This website allows us to be hired in as freelancers to produce work for clients. This work can take the form of 'hourlies', jobs posted on our profile, or as a result of being the winning proposal for a job posted on the site.

It is a great chance for us to complete small jobs, such as sketch work or 3D visualisations, as well as generate income from more traditional architectural design services while stripping away complex appointment agreements and fee structures. 

You can visit our people-per-hour page here

introducing Notio Studio by Joanne Potter

Notio Studio an exciting, innovative new design practice comprised of contemporary thinkers who specialise in the design and construction of low energy, thermally efficient buildings

Notio Studio was formed as a result of observing the changes that are taking place within the construction sector, primarily the housing industry. We are seeing demand for a home that has minimal running costs as fuel and utility prices gradually increase each year. We have a determination and drive to ensure the success of this enterprise as we can deliver a better quality, longer lasting, product and design service to the market at competitive rates.  

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