The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Friday, October 5, 2012

Australian Timber Industry, Re-visited

One year ago this weekend I was winging my way towards Australia. It occurred to me to go back and look through my pictures and videos of the trip to see if there was anything interesting that I failed to share with you. And there is.

Tea time in the pallet mill.
First, I never really did give you a good report on the timber producers of New South Wales. And the picture of this crew reminded me of a nice place. This is T. Davis Milling in Wandandian, New South Wales. It is a small timber outfit that mills a little timber (we call it lumber), cuts pallet stock, and makes a little firewood. All at a leisurely pace. A nice place to slow down and get to know some folks.

The three fellows in the picture were mill hands, and a little gruff as mill hands tend to be. I was a little concerned I might wind up as gator bait out behind the mill, at first. But they put up with me at tea, offered me some of their meal...and the younger fellow, the one with the hard hat, actually offered me a place to stay for the night if I needed it. That was nice of him. Wood folks are great, all over the world.

The lady at the right-hand side of the picture is Ms. Leith Davis, niece of the owner and quite an interesting lady. She agreed to take me on a tour of the property, including a historical re-creation of an early twentieth-century sawmill. The video below is the tour, and if you listen carefully, you'll pick up some really interesting comments that reveal some very real differences between the timber industries of Australia and the U.S. And you'll see and hear about some different species...silver (mountain) ash, Eucalyptus regnans, which is the world's tallest hardwood; blackbutt, Eucalyptus pilularis; and spotted gum, Corymbia maculata, for starters.

I had another interesting visit just a ways down the road from here when I visited a mill of Boral Timber Hardwood Systems. I think I was told that Boral is the largest timber company in Australia. The mill manager was nice enough to share with me a daily mill run quality control sheet that shows the daily production broken out by species and log size. By far the largest component at this Boral mill that day was ironbark, which seems to be a generic name for at least four distinct species; followed by spotted gum, fastigatared mahogany, messmate, blackbutt, bluegum, yellow stringybark, and eight others in that order, all Eucalypts or related, as far as I could tell. Hard for me to tell them apart, and most had a large percentage of rot in the core of the log; the mill manager told me that they managed in the low 40% for mill recovery, which was good because most mills ran in the mid-thirties. With recovery that low, it's easy to see why Australian timber is relatively expensive.

Another Aussie experience in the next post...

1 comment:

David C Clark said...

Boral's mill manager is correct - a 40% yield is a good recovery and that would include a number of grades from Clear to pallet.BBQ grade.
Yes, Australian Eucalypts produce very expensive timber with only a few enjoying an export market - one that is diminishing very fast.