|Tea time in the pallet mill.|
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, fastigata, red 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...