Helen and Shane Walsh
We like to use recycled timber from demolished houses, bridges and other structures. In NE Victoria, where we live, this is often river red gum, stringybark or various box species. It sometimes has beautiful grain and figure as well as a history which sometimes remains in the finished work as nail holes or other ‘features’. We also use timber reclaimed from felled garden and street trees. Some of this timber comes from our own garden but other comes from people who see our work or hear that we will use the timber and offer their felled trees to us rather than take it to the tip or have it chipped. This is a supply of varied timber species which often could not be otherwise obtained. At times we are asked to make items from timber supplied by the client.
Recycled and reclaimed timber share some potential hazards such as bolts, nails and other fixings, hidden or visible. Reclaimed timber may have other hazardous inclusions such as wire, shadecloth, bullets and other more puzzling surprises. We take great pleasure in making beautiful objects from timber that others have discarded as waste or firewood, from timber that is often a challenge to use but, when finished, has a look that very often can’t be matched by timber currently available for purchase.
I first took up woodworking because quality furniture was outside our family budget. The first simple bed was made entirely with hand tools. Each new project justified the purchase of a new tool. What began as a way of getting furniture that suited our own needs and size requirements has become a near full time occupation. These days I like to build ‘once-offs’ that challenge me to learn new techniques. Helen designs furniture for a particular function and space and I build it. It is important to me that the pieces display attention to detail and finish. Our furniture designs have become more unique and more challenging to fabricate.
When time permits, I also enjoy making boxes. This started as a way to use small size offcuts that might otherwise be discarded. I find that with boxes it can be quite challenging to get both design and technical execution right so it all comes together. The magnet boxes are an example of me playing around with an idea: the technique has opened up other possibilities.
I like to use a natural Tung oil base finish that needs little maintenance and can easily be renewed with a quick wipe of oil and also easily repaired if needed. We use the same finish on our own furniture and it has not needed refinishing after many years of use.
I have been woodturning for about 20 years. I came to turning from an interest in design and sculpture. Having learnt to sew and knit before starting school, I then studied many different fields of design at different times and places including, among others: life drawing,woodturning, leadlight and other glass work, jewellery in varied media, woodcarving and building design. Muddled in with this are studies in science, literature, philosophy and trumpet.
My main focus is on design and finish. Most usually, the work is left to stand on the merits of shape and timber characteristics but, where I do embellish with spun metal, carving, paint or other additions, form and shape definitely take precedence. Work ranges from deep bowls to large platters, from lace bobbins to multi-tiered rotating earring stands, from vases to pepper and spice mills, and almost anything else. As well as recycled or reclaimed timer, I use Australian burls. My inspiration is hard to trace; it comes from everywhere and everything. Most recently I have concentrated on carving wood.
My turnings are almost exclusively finished with Rustin’s Danish Oil. It’s a very durable finish and if it dulls over time or if a glossier finish is needed, a buff with more oil is quick and easy. It is also a food grade finish. Kitchen items such as spoons and spatulas that may be immersed repeatedly in liquid during use are generally finished with vegetable oil. Such items should be hand washed and re-oiled after each use.