Thursday, 16 February 2012

Blackwood in the Otways

Over the last few years I've spent a lot of time talking about the unique attributes of a Windsor Chairs and what sets them apart from your usual arm or side chair.

Those conversations inevitably revert back to the origin of the material, the way it is rived and shaped and ultimately the selection of the tree or log that those riven parts are taken from. Essentially making the chair from the tree. Jennie/John Alexander's famous book explains the process perfectly, but in essence dead straight grain is what you're looking for.

Just after Christmas Carl Karacsay rang me and offered an opportunity to head into the Otways and salvage some freshly felled Blackwood. This was no ordinary outing though, we were lucky enough to be collecting stock or offcuts that had been milled by Murray Kidman, one of the last timber workers in the Otways licensed to selectively log trees in this wonderful part of the state. Murray is well known as the supplier of exquisitely figured Blackwood and Satin Box to Maton Guitars.

As well as the figured stuff, he chases some lovely straight grained stuff for guitar sides. Perfect turning blanks for legs and arms! It was also a chance to get Pete Galbert into the bush to see some Australian chair timbers.

Here's Murray's sawmill. Yes, he is the sawmill. With his trusty 880 Stihl, Murray mills guitar sides and backs with the skill of a surgeon. No 'Alaskan Mill', no marking, no measuring just decades of practise and technique. How good is he? Below is a 6mm sliver Murray shaved off the side of one flitch. There would be few that could mill as accurately freehand on a bandsaw!

Not bad eh?

Here is a pile of freshly cut Blackwood neatly stacked on the stump it came from, free of dirt and any other impurities. Oh, and the Horse? Murray's Rhodesian Ridgeback.

And when it comes to low impact, this is about as low as it gets! All lugged out by hand. In this case a decent lump of very sort after Satin Box.

And a bit of sight seeing on the way. Victoria's 12 Apostles.

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