SOME WOOD-SNIFFER HIGHLIGHTS OF A TASMANIAN ROAD TRIP
My partner and I recently took a ten-day road trip around Tasmania. Big on our agenda were the various environmental wonders ranging from the Freycinet Peninsular on the East coast to the Gordon-below-Franklin on the West coast. Along the way, there were several highlights that caught my woodworking attention that I would like to recommend.
We began and finished our trip in Launceston. A must visit destination here is the Design Tasmania centre. It has on display various arts and crafts collections. Among these, the Tasmanian Wood Design Collection is a standout, a feast to the eye and a tribute to excellent design. It stands testament to the vibrancy and creativity of contemporary Tasmanian wood design.
Another Launceston treat was had at the Queen Victoria Art Gallery at Royal Park. On show was an exhibition entitled ‘Jimmy Possum: An Unbroken Tradition.’ It had examples of the Jimmy Possum chair, from some early very functional renditions to more recent elegant elaborations. The exhibition traces the opaque origins of the chair through to the present day. Be quick though, this exhibition finishes at the end of May (2023).
Not limited to woodworker’s delight and more in the basket of sublime awe was an unscheduled stop between Hobart and Queenstown. Somewhere between Derwent Bridge and the Bradshaw Bridge on the Lyell Highway is Donaghy’s Hill lookout. It’s a reasonable step from the road and the track up takes you across a narrow spur, testing my vertigo somewhat. Nonetheless it was worth it. The panorama that opened up was spectacular. Before us was where the Collingwood River runs into the Franklin River, framed by very steep forested ravines, timbered wilderness punctuated by wild rivers. This beauty provided a sharp contrast to the desolate peaks of Queenstown that we encountered later in the day.
Strahan, a railhead for Queenstown, was the base to explore the massive Macquarie Harbour as well as the serenity and beauty of the lower Gordon River. It is also a place with a long connection to the wonderful marvel of Huon Pine. Extensive logging over the years has depleted nearly all of the very old large trees but apparently regrowth abounds. Its high oil content (methyl eugenol) makes it waterproof, resistant to rotting and an insect repellent. Unsurprisingly it was popular with early colonial shipbuilders.
On the waterfront at Strahan there are several places to take in the distinctive perfume of Huon Pine and to appreciate its good looks and silky feel. The first is Morrison’s Huon Pine Sawmill. This is a demonstration mill that includes a large old reciprocating saw breaking down Huon Pine logs as well as other timber milling equipment. The other is Tasmanian Special Timbers, which operates more as a timber yard, especially of Huon Pine and King Billy Pine. It had on sale some impressive lengths of Huon Pine that could be used in dining table builds and the like. My recollection is that its shipping rates to Victoria seemed very reasonable.
The natural wonders of Tasmania never disappoint and there’s plenty of wood-sniffing opportunities as well. So do yourself a favour.