In 1808, after twenty years of settling and establishing their homes and enterprise on Norfolk Island, my ancestors were evacuated on political whim to Tasmania. Described by John Pascoe Fawkner as fine axemen, among many other attributes, they put their hard-won skills to rebuilding their homes and enterprise in the new settlement on the Derwent. Generations followed, hewing timber homes and utensils for comfortable self-sustaining living. In one family’s move in the early 1900s from Bruny Island to northwest Tasmania their piano was encased in family milled timber to protect it on the rail journey from southeast to northwest. Some of that casing was redesigned to be the kitchen table at Edith Creek, and now, five generations on, that table lives on in the northeast Tasmanian home of my little toddler.
I love working with timber. I’ve planted, cut, milled, and created with timber. It’s my relaxation and joy. When I was eight years old I saved my pocket money to buy my first power tool. It’s a keyhole saw – I still have it.
The forests supported hundreds of Tasmanian timber millers until the late 1900s hungry maw of export changed their living. Now, more than ever, those remaining old growth forests must be protected. As an occasional arborist and miller my niche is in ethically removing trees for homeowners and farmers. They call for me when their tree endangers the home, or has overgrown a fence line, or the council has condemned the tree. After removal I mill it with my portable mill. There’s not much in it. I get a few slabs that are great for cabinetmakers, or some timber for carpenters, and there plenty left over for designing into end grain cutting and serving boards. They tell me there’s no money in it – but I love it, it’s my passion.