CELEBRATING TOP TIMBERS
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.