pete@commonwoodco.com - 0414834804 - Sydney, Australia

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Preloved Lumber Larrikins

Updated: Jul 18, 2018

One thing that I really enjoy about what I do is sourcing great pieces of timber and turning them into something totally unrecognisable. Some pieces of busted old timber can reveal some mind-blowing grain characteristics and colours once they have been milled/dressed. I source my timbers from all over the place. Be it me constantly being on gumtree checking out any reclaimed timbers for sale or a demolition site I walk past, you never know where you’re going to come across a hidden gem. I’ve also become a pro at scouting council clean ups whilst driving past at 60km/h.


Apart from the great satisfaction I get from creating something from what might be conceived as firewood, I get to meet all sorts of weird and wonderful humans in my travels in search of fine reclaimed timbers.


One day whilst down in the Southern Highlands I came across a recycled timber yard. “You beauty” I thought. I pulled up out the front and wandered in. There was not a soul in sight. It felt like something out of a horror movie. All of a sudden about 50 metres away a giant Bullmastiff dog came running around a corner barking at me. “Oh bother” (the censored version) I thought. Facing certain death, I wasn’t quite sure what my next move was going to be. Do I run across the muddy timber yard and try to make it to my car? Do I stand and fight? Do I lie down and cry and hope the dog takes pity on me and leaves me be? As all of these scenarios played out in my head and with the dog advancing I hear a loud whistle. God? No. “G’day mate! Sorry about Beefy. He is all bark, no bite!” I’m alive!, I thought. Who was this mullet-wearing hero who just saved my bacon? He walks up to me. “Jono’s the name, but everyone calls me Dad.” Since that day I’ve sourced plenty great pieces of reclaimed lumber off Jono and Beefy the Bullmastiff. Not once have I called him Dad. I’m not going anywhere near that.


Cruising along the Bells Line of Road one summer’s afternoon, I thought I’d seen a bunch of live edge timber slabs lying on the side on the road. This could be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I swung around and pulled up. I wasn’t wrong: there was a bunch of live edge timber slabs lying on the side of the road. I then had another surprise, because behind the trees was a turn-of-the-century saw mill! Most timber you see these days is cut with a computer. This saw mill had a very old style giant blade-and-tracks system (can be seen in the video below). It was like stepping back in time. I had a wander around and tried to find someone to talk to. I found an older bloke who said the mill had been in their family for a few generations. These guys will mill anything, just don’t ask them to mill railway sleepers for you. That did not go down well.

I could go on about all the different characters I meet on my lumber sourcing travels. The guy near Campbelltown who has only ever told me prices, nothing more than that. All business, no conversation. Or the totally opposite, the awesome staff at Kimbriki buy-back centre who will always ask me what I’m building with the timber I buy off them. It’s great fun meeting folk who you wouldn’t usually meet in your day-to-day life. Even if you nearly get murdered by a killer dog.


I can’t take credit for the video below, but it shows the historic Johnson Bros mill in Bilpin in action.


Next week - Why Reclaimed?

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