The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Garden -

Sit­ting in the liv­ing room of a friend’s house and hav­ing a good gawk at the style and sub­stance of a clas­sic Queenslander brought a few thoughts about the tim­bers this old girl was made of. VJ T&G (love the lingo that refers to ver­ti­cal joint and tongue and groove) wall pan­els were usu­ally hoop pine (arau­caria cun­ning­hamii) – an art form in pre­ci­sion car­pen­try of the time, con­sid­er­ing they were milled by hand and with­out any com­puter tech­nol­ogy.

Kauri (agathis ro­busta) was in great abun­dance in the late 19th and 20th cen­turies as a forestry and milled tim­ber un­til the 1980s.

Luck­ily for some of th­ese giants (like those at Lake Bar­rine that rise to 50-plus me­tres), they were left alone as they were too big for the rail­way car­riages from the Table­lands to Cairns via the Ku­randa rail­way.

Their use as a util­ity tim­ber was just that, as it was con­sid­ered plen­ti­ful and it is now highly prized to find th­ese as an­tique floor­ing.

Silky oak (gre­vil­lea ro­busta) was more abun­dant fur­ther south but was also heav­ily milled around the Table­lands. It is noth­ing to do with an English oak at all, ex­cept that the ray cells when the wood is split re­sem­ble those of a tra­di­tional oak.

Softer wood silky oak was used more for cabi­net and fine fur­ni­ture, win­dow frames and table­tops.

Th­ese were of work­ing-class use to evolve to highly sought-af­ter pieces that fetch big prices.

The daddy of them all and the tim­ber prized most was the lo­cal red cedar (toona cil­i­ata v aus­tralis) – of­ten seen in old Queens­lan­ders as doors, frames and oc­ca­sion­ally hy­bridised into an in­ter­est­ing piece of fur­ni­ture or whole walls if you were in the know with the lo­cal tim­ber mer­chants.

Most are not your sub­ur­ban home gar­den tree. Pity though, as we see swathes of great sub­di­vi­sions bereft of any scale or larger green, scream­ing for a tree, when all it needs is an al­lo­ca­tion of a space or two to re­vive the in­ter­est in th­ese great ‘build­ing block’ trees of the past and serve new pur­poses.

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