Since moving to the Antipodes I have been frequently astounded by the number of European tree species growing here and the proliferation of them. Ash, oaks, elms, walnuts (I include black walnut which was also grown in Britain for furniture), drupaceous fruitwoods, yew, holly and all manner of useful stuff. Elms do particularly well here; many rural settlements’ Avenues of Honour – some of them thousands of yards long – comprise elms.
Australia has the most plentiful numbers of disease-free elms in the world, though many are now over mature, potentially dangerous and have to be taken down. I was fortunate enough to avail myself of one such tree that was removed from Fitzroy Gardens in inner Melbourne some years ago. I milled the magnificent trunk into outstanding quality timber – some of the boards produced were 43″ (1100mm) wide – from which I made several pieces of furniture including a few wake tables.
Elm is one of my favourite timbers and in more recent times I have made an elm dressing table, an elm corner cupboard and the elm seat of a Windsor chair. The chair caught the eye of local Windsor chairmaker, Glen Rundell, who kindly invited me to a seminar he had organised, the key speaker at which was the renowned North American Windsor chairmaker, Peter Galbert.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend, but it was a happy introduction natheless. Anyone perusing the Rundell & Rundell blog can’t help but be impressed by the professionalism and dedication to the art of Windsor chairmaking, woodworking in general and the necessarily operose milling of quality furniture timber.
And so it was, last Sunday, Virginia and I motored out to the country to lend the Rundells (father, Alan and son, Glen) a hand milling some elm for several pieces of furniture I have in mind to make at some future date. “Lending a hand” might be a slight overstatement of my involvement as I spent most of the day perched on a log, excogitating, gesticulating and yelling instructions over the noise of their magnificent TimberKing bandsaw mill. I further tested the accord by consuming copious cups of their coffee and several slices of Barbara Rundell’s excellent cake. Have I previously mentioned I’m rather partial to cake?
My pedanticism presented no obstacle to Alan and Glen who accommodated my fastidious request for precisely rift-sawn square leg stock and quartersawn boards with natural aplomb.
Alan Rundell is the man at the helm of Mobile Saw Mills Australia, the Australian distributor for TimberKing portable sawmills.