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Huon Pine - Tasmanian Timbers
Huon Pine (Dacrydium franklinii)
Huon Pine is found only in Tasmania and since the invasion of Europeans
has been the most sought after timber for
Major rivers in the south-west were explored for the Huon
Pine in the 1800’s and convicts were used to retrieve
It is now very rare and of course difficult to acquire.
Only recovery of old logs is permitted via licences given
to a fortunate few.
The oldest trees found are generally around 3,000 years
old, but one tree has been carbon dated at 10,000 years
old and still growing, placing the species amongst the
longest living organisms on earth.
Huon Pine only increases its girth by approximately 12cm
in 100 years! It's qualities are soft and easy to work
with, it has low shrinkage, is light in weight and is
almost immune to rot due to its unique "eugenol"
Today it is mainly used by craft workers but due to its
qualities, many boats built early last century are still
in service today and therefore Huon is still highly prized
in traditional restoration work.
The Gannett is one of these vessels and she is featured
in another story.
Celery Top Pine (phyllocladus aspleniifolius)
Celery Top, named for its distinct celery type foliage,
is a Tasmanian native conifer and is best known as a hard
and durable timber.
It is slow growing giving it hardness, strength and density,
therefore making it suitable for boatbuilding.
Like Huon, it is found in the west of Tasmania and can live
for up to 900 years and reaches heights of 40 metres.
In the early days it was used for railway sleepers and
stair treads. For boats it is still regarded as one of
the best decking timbers available.
King Billy Pine (athrotaxis)
King Billy is a medium sized tree also endemic to Tasmania.
The timber is soft, fine textured with straight grain, works
easily and has low shrinkage. It is light weight, its oils
are preserving and it is also prized for boat work.
They are slow growing and can live for 1000 years but are
susceptible to bushfires and do not regenerate well.
The timber was mostly prized as dinghy planking because
of its light weight and it is easily steamed into the
tight curves that are required.
The Future of Boatbuilding Timber
Since the 1970’s King Billy has also lent itself
as an ideal material for strip planking, an example of
this is a modern launch we saw at the wooden boat festival
in Hobart which was built in the 90’s by a local
Tasmanian in his shed in southern Tasmania.
Each of these timbers along with many other Tasmanian species
lend themselves to different uses in the structure of a
wooden boat, depending on their individual integrity.
Unfortunately there are many areas in Tasmania which are under
threat of logging but hopefully through efforts made by many
Tasmanians, including the
Wilderness Society and
Greens, these too will become protected for us to enjoy.
Many people are calling for changes in logging practices to save
our wilderness. The alternative to clear felling for woodchip is
selective logging which allows for the forests to remain and would
provide a lasting supply of these priceless timbers.
This was the way it was done for generations and was sustainable
but with the advent of big corporations and the domination of
woodchipping, these good old practices have nearly disappeared.
In our Sailing Story of Thailand we include the hunt for timber
for the restoration of the 110 year old timber yacht "Cariad".
It has proved to us that worldwide boatbuilding timber supplies
are depleting at an almost unrecoverable rate.