At Woolshed Cabinets we try to be as environmentally conscious as possible about the products we use. We use a range of timbers within the parameters of our eco-friendly charter. Our timber is sourced mostly from Australian plantations, locally sourced recycled timber and salvaged timbers. Unfortunately, many asian rainforest timbers are becoming popular in Australia now, particularly for things like decking, wall paneling and furniture. Even though some of these timbers are labeled 'sustainable', it is very difficult to verify this. Below is a list of some of the more common timbers that we have available..
Jarrah is a very hard and heavy Eucalypt sourced from Western Australia. It is extremely durable and was used extensively on rural and industrial properties. It was considered to be a rough sawn construction timber for indoor and outdoor use, although it is susceptible to termite attack. These uses for Jarrah have now largely been replaced with cheaper, more accessible timbers. It is still used in a green state for railway sleepers in some places but is now realising a better value added potential as decking and flooring. Recycled material makes very attractive furniture despite gum lines and the occasional defect. When dressed as furniture and oiled it has a very rich red colour. Recycled timber from farm shed harvested many years ago would have been taken from very large, old growth trees and, as such, is better featured than new timber.
Like Jarrah, Karri is a large Eucalypt from Western Australia (very large). When finished and oiled it is very difficult to distinguish between Jarrah and Karri although the two are different to work with. Karri is noticeably heavier than Jarrah, has less defects and is available in very long, straight lengths. Making it suitable for use on handrails in shearing sheds. Karri was used in place of Jarrah when long straight lengths were required and this is how it is often found now in recycling yards.
The name of a timber does not necessarily refer to a particular tree. Oak is a common name for a lot of timbers that in some respect resemble English Oak, usually timbers with prominent medular rays. Tasmanian Oak refers to at least three species of Eucalypt: E. delegatensis (alpine ash) occurs at higher altitudes, while E. regnans (mountain ash) is found in wetter sites; E. obliqua (messmate) has a wide distribution, occurring in wet forests but also extending into drier areas.and is often interchangeable with Victorian Ash which has a very similar appearance. So here we have Eucalypts being referred to as Ash when they are growing and Oak after they are sawn, when in fact they are Eucalypts all along. Timber identification is not a precise art form.
Regardless of it's identity crisis, Tasmanaian Oak is a very stable and attractive timber for furniture manufacture. It is readily available both new and recycled, although, as with most timbers, old growth recycled timber usually has better features. It takes a finish very well and can be polished to quite a high sheen if required but can be difficult to shape due to its splintery texture.
Douglas Fir/ Oregon
Douglas Fir is the name of the tree that the timber, known in Australia as Oregon, comes from. Sometimes known as Oregon Pine it neither a Fir or a Pine but a different genus altogether. Oregon was a widely used construction timber in both New South Wales and Adelaide until the late 1980's. It was available in very large cross sections, in fact the milling was done in Australia. It is not so readily available as new timber in Australia today and has largely been replaced by locally grown Pine. Fortunately, it is still available in large quantities second hand as almost all old buildings contained Oregon as the predominant timber. It was not widely used in fine furniture due to its softness and is easily dented, however, this is seen as much less of an issue now using recycled materials. It polishes to a very attractive pinky orange with a nice grain structure. There is a distinct difference between quarter sawn and flat sawn pieces. So a square verandah post can give a completely different appearance depending on which way it is cut.
Grown extensively as a plantation timber in Australia. Radiata Pine is the "go to" timber for most applications. Needs to be treated for outdoor use. Used for almost everything in Australia now, from fence posts to furniture to plywood. Fast growing softwood and by far the cheapest timber available. It is available in grades from 'New Zealand clear' to 'Merchant'. A sustainably grown renewable resource. As far as new timber is concerned, Radiata Pine is far and away the most environmentally friendly option and is readily available in a wide range of sizes and profiles. Unfortunately, due to its easy availability, Pine suffers some prejudice among consumers as being a 'cheap' alternative or a timber for making cheap furniture. It is true that cheap, poorly made furniture is made from pine but good solid, well made furniture can also be made from pine with very pleasing results. Pine takes an oil and wax finish very well, due to its spongy soft wood texture it readily accepts the finish and ages well giving a nice patina that improves with age. It will take a stain but is best left to age naturally.
Meranti is from a South East Asian rainforest tree, in fact a few related species of trees.
It is sometimes known as 'Maple' or 'Mahoganny' although it is actually neither. It is of the Shorea genus, the majority of which are listed as critically endangered. 'Sustainable' sources are available but there are reports of wide scale corruption and illegal logging bearing 'sustainable' certification. Due to its previous widespread use in Australia, second hand Meranti is readily available, not from old sheds but from old houses with renovations from the 1970's onward. It is a stable timber, easily worked and gives a pleasing speckled pink finish. An excellent joinery timber.