Posted on November 6, 2007
A few weeks ago, my mate Ben called and said "hey, there's a garage sale on in Mareeba, selling off a whole lot of wood ... some cabinet maker going out of business". I'm not much of a fan of garage sales ... and it was first thing Monday morning, my so-called 'day of rest' ... but, this sounded OK, so I headed over straight away. Mareeba is the next town over from where I live ... only 60kms (40 miles).
It turned out that it was actually the 60-odd year old son of a hobby woodworker who was selling off all Dad's gear ... 'coz Dad is 101. Much of the wood ... and there was a LOT of it ... had been collected over about 60 or more years. I suspect that I was too late for a lot of really good easily accessible stock because the sale had been going since the previous evening, but I began building a pile of anything that looked interesting.
As my pile grew bigger, the seller became aware that I had half an idea of what I was looking at and also that I was becoming financially substantial. He started hooking out a few odds and ends ... and I secured a bunch of wide boards of Queensland Kauri and also some Australian Red Cedar. There was also a bit of Queensland Maple and some left-overs of Silky Oak. It seems the Silky Oak was a hot favourite early on. I don't like Silky Oak ... and this northern timberland area near where I live was littered with the stuff in the early days before the timber industry cut almost all of it down. But, I did find some very dark Red Oak which the early-birds had overlooked and which, for me, was worth way more than the common Silky Oak.
After about an hour of poking around I had a pretty good pile built beneath the Hill's Hoist (garden clothes line for non-Aussies) and I asked Mike (the seller) "is that it?", knowing full well that there was a stack of rough-sawn wide (8 to 10 inch) boards in the back shed. "Well, there's some African Mahogany and Teak down the back, but we can't get at it yet." "Oh yes we can ... I'll help move stuff!"
I wasn't at all interested in the Teak ... I've used heaps of it in boatbuilding and I simply don't have a use for it now ... but, the African Mahogany was of interest. It grows across the top end of Australia from Weipa to Darwin and beyond. This particular wood came from Weipa and was the result of a tree-fall some 15 or so years ago. It actually belonged to the seller's wife (along with the Teak) ... who, after being consulted that she actually did want to part with it, agreed to let me buy some of it ... at not that much under market cost, as it turned out. It shows nice colour though and I've already made and sold a number of utensils from it and also a small fine bowl.
Much of the wood that was on offer that day could only be used by someone like me ... the quantities were too small for furniture makers or cabinet makers, and most of it was rough-sawn and ugly, so hobbyists would be put off by it. I figured out what a lot of it was by shaving a bit off the end with a knife. To most people, it was just wood. Besides the African Mahogany, the rally good find was the wide Kauri and, although Kauri is quite readily available still today, this particular wood was really old and finishes up to a beautiful golden honey colour.
The events of the day made me wonder how many of these old-timer's houses there must be scattered around that are literally treasure troves of some commodity like wood ... or antiques ... or precious stones. Oh, there was also a pottery wheel and a full size fire-brick pottery kiln ... and a cold room ... and heavy work benches ... and tools. Ben went back about 4 days in succession buying stuff .. and it took him almost a week to cart it all back to his place across town. I don't have enough available time to really do stuff like that.
As I was driving home, I couldn't help but think of the old guy who had collected all this stuff all his life. As a collector/recycler myself, I place a lot of value on certain bits and pieces and I already know that there are one or two bits of wood in the whole pile that I bought which I will probably never cut up because they are so spectacular ... so, in a way, that unknown old guy's legacy lives on for at least a few more years.