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A Few Words on Wood

I buy timber from the precious few sawmills in Australia that are committed to the sustainable harvest of what’s called “salvaged” timber: trees that have died of natural causes (yes, trees don’t live forever!) or have been removed for safety reasons or to make way for another half-finished Melbourne project..

I annoy the bejeezus out of the lumber yard staff, taking hundreds of boards off a rack just to find that one board that’s meets my standards. It’s not enough that it’s just wood. It has to be sensitively and painstakingly selected to give its best. 

I like to find those special pieces: Tiger Myrtle, not just Myrtle; Fiddleback Jarrah, not just Jarrah; Figured Red Gum, not just fence-post Red Gum. These woods allow me to create, and you to own, a piece that could never be made the same way again.

Three Kinds of Timber

I look for three types of timber. 

Firstly, there’s the 18-25mm thick stock that I use for cabinet frames, back frames, cabinet door frames, drawer sides and bottoms. These need to be clean, straight grained and stable. 

Secondly, there’s the 38-55mm thicknesses of similar timbers that are used in a similar way, but on larger pieces: table legs, aprons, rails and chair legs. When you need strength, this is where you get it.

The job of type one and two is like the stage of a theatre: they have to hold the actors up!

It’s type three who’re the actors. The glitz, and the glamour. These are the really special pieces of solid wood and veneer that have character in spades. Their life history is written in every twist and turn of their grain. Working with these timbers is what every woodworker lives for.

There are too many timbers to list them all, but here are a few of my favourites:

Tasmanian Blackwood

One of the most popular furniture woods in the world, once cut Tasmanian Blackwood ages to a stunning honey brown with a bit of sun exposure.

Queensland Maple Silkwood

I'm not often one for light woods, but I have a soft spot for Queensland Maple, which is not a maple at all, but a gum.

Fiddleback Jarrah

Jarrah is murder on edge tools. Swipe, sharpen, swipe, sharpen, swipe, shar... you get the idea. But it's worth the effort when you have a piece with colours ranging from a reddy brown heartwood to a deep purple, with streaks of lilac. Darkens with age.

Figured Red Gum

Probably my favourite Australian wood. Very difficult to work, but worth the effort. Very strong, it is useful for all kinds of furniture. See the Red Gum Chair for how stunning it can be.

Tiger Myrtle

A vanishingly rare and exceedingly expensive timber. Exceptionally beautiful. I don't get to make whole pieces with it often, but occassionally a patron chooses Tiger Myrtle for a chair, and my whole year is made.

Ringed Gidgee

The 3rd hardest wood on earth, and one of the most beautiful. Because of the cost I only use it for highlights: door pulls, shadow lines and trim. I make some of my own tools out of it when I can find the time.