Urban Salvage

The Drum


      AUGUST 2012

  • Is There A Natural Wisdom In Our Use Of Native Hardwoods?
  • New In Stock
  • Specials Of The Month

Is There A Natural Wisdom In Our Use Of Native Hardwoods?

Forest scientists Martin Moroni and Ian Ferguson tell us that Old-Growth Forests Won't Save The Planet (SMH 05/09/2011). Forests and wood products invite intense analysis in the present age. Is this scrutiny as rigorously applied to the fossil-fuel driven economy in which we live? Or to the timber alternatives manufactured in this economy?

A rarely-challenged view says that timber used in building requires a special social and environmental assessment that steel, bricks and concrete do not. Everywhere manufactured building materials are considered in terms of Wise Use. They are forever 'touching the earth lightly' (steel) or acting as a 'passive collector for the sun's energy' (concrete). Worn phrases - yes - but validating of the design and environmental worth of concrete, bricks and steel. 

Our best state forests continue to produce sawlog from regrowth timbers.

Timber, meanwhile, is always Good or Evil. Surely a lost opportunity for Wisdom to play a more secular role. This Wisdom model - unburdened by the insistence of pantheist ethics - would ask not just about whether forests are managed or not managed. It might be concerned about end-use. It could also be about waste minimisation, keeping state forestry profitable, replacing non-viable markets like woodchip, moving greater volumes into Appearance-Grade products and allowing markets to fund renewal of forest resource. It should be about essential value and an increased commercial worth. Most of these processes are ethically-neutral and can be judged as worthy to some degree on a Wisdom standard.

A useful side benefit of the Wisdom model might be better social cohesion. Less rural disaffection with cascading urban values. In the cities we regularly fall victim to a cultivated pop-think. Identity politics is not a good way to promote either good consumer choice or forest certification models. Rather than encouraging popular sentiment and opinion in favour of reforms, it creates instead a sector of permanent exclusion that defines and reinforces a preening Meritocracy. 

There was an era when hardwood forests supplied timber for most forms of construction.
Nowadays steel and concrete are preferred and the demand for structural hardwood has contracted.

Moroni and Ferguson tell us that old-growth timbers, over which the middle classes do fret, are already in reserves or National Parks. Not available for logging. The forest resource that the sawmilling industry wants to harvest is regrowth forest - State Forests that have been logged in the recent past and managed in the regrowth phase to continue to produce sawlog.

It is a valid point but reassures in an uneven way. There is a lack of balance in resource use between pulplog and sawlog. Some forest types in Australia are vigorous and renewable; some native forest climes and structures are fragile and elegant in their diversity - and slow to recover from logging.

I am intolerant of sharing native forests with the paper industry - though I'm sensible to the role of woodchip as a genuine by-product of sawmilling - in much smaller volumes. On the other hand, I resent the privilege of access to renewable native timbers being denied based upon the soulless abstractions of the new environmental elites. The dogma of the pantheists is as rigid and as driven by fixed mantras and repetitions as fundamentalist religion ever was.

Where the components of construction are largely hidden, are behind fabric or plaster, or required to support across a wide span,
then plantation softwoods and engineered products are preferred to solid hardwood.

Moroni and Ferguson conclude by promoting hardwood timber use in building against manufactured alternatives. Should people who are indifferent to timber be encouraged to buy it? It makes me a poor marketing advocate - but I don't think so. It wouldn't bother me if native hardwoods ceased to be a cost-effective alternative to engineered products. Are they truly in competition in this modern era - as is continually claimed in media? Admittedly there is a diminishing sector of hardwood product that competes in the structural marketplace - and, likely, it will not disappear - but it will contract over time. The trend mandated by the Wisdom model should be that plantation softwoods, non-timber or timber engineered materials continue to take over the core structural market.

May it come to pass that native hardwood sawlogs are reserved for their visual and tactile qualities - furniture, visible structures and appearance grade products - a process already well advanced - and if higher values are part of this shift, then so be it. Relative values will help to define essential differences within this broad universe referred to in media-speak as Forest Product - paper, softwood and the high-rotation crop-like end of the industry on the one hand - and on the other - the truly wonderful individual species of native hardwoods that take 80 years - and more - to mature.

Sawn hardwood board in stick and drying.
These class #1 hardwoods will be kiln-dried and milled to dressed board - deemed too valuable for lintels or joists.

New In Stock


Recycled Spotted Gum Flooring
125 x 19mm
   Post-Grade   Rate: $79.00/m2

Post-Grade floors are a variety of Feature Grade boards that exhibit penetration features in the face of board.
In Post-Grade the typifying marker is a drying feature - fine fracture lines that are discontinuous and affect board integrity in but
a minor way - and drilled holes left from climbing spikes. They are both unavoidable features of milling old recycled power poles and
large bridge section timbers into 25mm boards. These timbers are carefully re-seasoned to furniture-grade moisture-content before profiling.
When installed as an overlay floor on a structural base and filled before coating, integrity as a floor is restored.
Post-Grade timbers are great in shop fit-outs and in wall lining projects and are priced 40% below premium graded timbers.




Recycled Forest Reds
105 x 42mm   DAR   Rate: $27.00/m
   85 x 42mm   DAR   Rate: $20.00/m

Deep wine-red tones of Forest Red Gum, Ironbark, Grey Gum, Bloodwood and Sydney Blue Gum in this batch of dressed timbers.
Select your own matching boards or choose a riot of tones for your benchtop or new table.



KD Spotted Gum
140 x 32mm   DAR   Rate: $22.00/m
   90 x 32mm   DAR   Rate: $19.00/m

The subtle khaki-browns of NSW Spotted Gum in a seasoned board suitable for a range of furniture projects.


Seasoned furniture grade Spotted Gum.

KD Mountain Ash
360 x 32mm (laminated board)   DAR   Rate: $49.00/m

Clear, strong and light ash boards in a bookshelf size - no joining to be done. 
Would also suit furniture and stair projects. The most predictable timber to stain to a rich chocolate brown
or charcoal if an arctic blonde is not to your taste.



Recycled Douglas Fir
125 x 18mm

Every now and then you discover something special appearing from the outfeed of the moulder. Timber so dense and fine-grained
for a softwood, you imagine you might not see it again. The same quartersawn millings seen in antique timber
cabinets and drawers - and the odd backsawn swirl of grain every fifth board is even more appealing.
There is a small cache of these boards - a few dozen lengths - for those who love fine timber.
Come and choose your lengths


Specials Of The Month

KD Ironbark Flooring
80 x 19mm   NFG   T & G   Rate $59.00/m2 (150m2)

Muscular reds grading to creamy reds and red-browns near log centres.
This is a great price for Ironbark flooring - but we need the space for new stock.



KD Marri DAR
190 x 32mm - was $39.00/m - now $29.00/m for the last half pack

20 boards at 2.4m length. Western Australia's equivalent of our River Red Gum - but in a blonde-brown timber
with lots of rainbow threads in the tonal palette.