Uniquely harvested fine Tasmanian timbers for American boat-building project

A team of seven American wooden boat builders, alumni members from the renowned North West School of Wooden Boat Building in Port Townsend, are preparing to travel to Tasmania in November to build a Haven 12.5, a classic American keel-boat, using beautiful Tasmanian timber.

In the interim, a dedicated team of Tasmanians has sourced and milled the finest Tasmanian timbers to be used in this project which will culminate in the finished boat being displayed and auctioned at the MyState Australian Wooden Boat Festival, from 8 to 11 February 2019.

The timber being used is reclaimed Tasmanian celery-top pine supplied by Tasmanian company, Hydrowood.

The strength, durability and ease of working of celery top pine made it popular for boat building in Tasmania for the past 200 years but it is now regarded as a ‘rare wood’ and available only from specialist timber retailers.

It is a rot-resistant old-growth timber that bends well and can be used for either structural timbers or planking in wooden boats. The texture is fine and even and the grain is usually straight, with the growth rings conspicuous and very close together. Importantly, celery top pine lends itself to a beautiful finish.

The donated timber has spent the past 25 years preserved deep underwater in Tasmania’s hidden wilderness following the flooding of the Pieman River for a hydro-electricity development. But thanks to an incredible vision and innovative feats of modern engineering, Hydrowood is now harvesting precious timbers, thought lost, deep below the waters of Lake Pieman.

The innovation demonstrated by Hydrowood to reclaim rare and valuable timbers that are otherwise in very short supply is to be applauded, as is the company’s generosity in donating the timber for this international boat-building project.

The celery-top logs were milled by Dave Golding and Hayden Abbott in the Huon Valley.

Both Dave and Hayden have extensive knowledge of, and experience with, Tasmanian timbers. As boat-builders themselves, they understand the specific qualities expected of timber to be used in wooden boats and they mill the logs to meet these exacting requirements.

Dave and Hayden know how to ‘read a log’, looking for stress cracks along which they make their first cuts. It is as if they are exploiting the log’s weaknesses to achieve the optimum result.

The logs are prepared for milling by removing protrusions, burls and loose bark using chainsaws or axes. They are then washed using a high-pressure hose to remove small stones, grit or dirt which would otherwise quickly dull the razor-sharp saw blades.

After milling, the timber is racked for drying. The timber milled for the American project should have just the right amount of moisture content remaining by the time the boat builders arrive. Dave will then transport the timber down the Huon River to the Wooden Boat School in Franklin using his own wooden boat, the ketch Kerrawyn.

Then it is over to the visiting American team to transform beautiful Tasmanian timber into a beautiful American keel-boat.

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