Presented by

Translate

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Notes from the Road (11) - Meeting with Fellow Collectors of Wood

The primary reason for this year's visit to Australia was the 2016 Annual General Meeting of the International Wood Collectors Society. You may recall that the 2015 meeting was held here at Penn State; my visit to the 2016 meeting was to reciprocate in appreciation of the several Australian members who trekked all the way to State College last year.

The 2016 Australian Meeting was well worth the trip, and exceeded my expectations in every way. The meeting location was a horse-race track and meeting hall in Charleville, Queensland, and was spacious, comfortable, and memorable.

Good thing racing was out of season, or I might not have had any money left for wood specimens.

Our Queensland hosts provided several great field trips. First, we visited the local base of the Royal Flying Doctors Service. What a great story...


The RFDS hangar at the Charleville airport was built by American CB's as a base of air operations during the second world war. The wooden trusses were built of eucalyptus and are still as solid as the day they were bolted in place. 
Back during the war, these old pits near the air field were lined with tar and used as baths to relieve the soldiers relatively free of lice and disease-carrying mosquitos. Each soldier was required to dip at least once a week. 
These are mulga trees, Acacia aneura, which is the dominant forest type around Charleville and was our "host tree".
Wood of the mulga. From Max Kline, in A Guide to Useful Woods of the World (IWCS): "Mulga is a coffee color or has reddish-brown alternating with golden-brown stripes. The sapwood is a golden creamy yellow color. It has an extremely fine texture and generally straight grain. The luster is low to medium, but it takes a high polish. The odor is distinct but not aromatic; taste is not distinct. Mulga is one of the hardest and heaviest woods known. Average specific gravity is 0.92 (oven dry/green volume), equivalent to and air-dried weight of 75 lb/cf. Wood is highly distinctive in appearance."
What's that weird but familiar-looking tree in the middle of an Australian mulga forest? Melia azederach, the chinaberry, found practically all over the world.
Following our tour of the airbase we went on a 4WD/walkabout of Nick Swadling's property.

Entrance to Nick's property. This is a good start.
Spinifex, a type of grass found in most of Australia, and often used as bedding by the hoppers.
Nick (blue shirt and straw hat) led us through several different forest types within just a few miles of each other.
Here was an interesting and rare sight...a shield tree. Aboriginals cut a shield from the stem of this tree long ago, and the tree kept growing.

The tenants of Nick's property were friendly, but glad to see us move on.
Here's a taste of the tour, as Nick explains to us what a billabong is...



The next day we were honored to visit an historical old outback cattle station, Maryvale. Hosts Bob and Jenny Crichton welcomed us to a day of relaxation, exploration, and an authentic sunset barbeque. But this post grows long...tune in tomorrow.


2 comments:

Woods said...

Looks like you had a great time. I'm taking a trip down under and would love to get involved with something like this

Meilie Moy-Hodnett said...

Several years ago I purchased a large "Mulga" burl from an Australian source. The seller did not know of it's true origin or if it truly is Mulga. Maybe some day I can have it properly identified, as it's quite a large burl that was partially turned so it's almost the size and shape of a bowling ball. I suspect it was turned some decades ago, as the seller was an elderly woman and it was from her husband's collection.