Combining artisan skills with environmental sustainability


Trent Keller uses recycled native Australian hardwood timbers and artisan skills to craft custom furniture at Tkel Furniture.

Mortice, tenon, dowel and dovetail are words missing from the art of contemporary furniture manufacturing.

But, Wodonga artisan Trent Keller is keeping the old skills alive by recycling timber from old woolsheds, houses and other buildings into elegant, one-off designs.

Each piece of furniture is numbered and hand stamped, accompanied by a certificate of provenance, and a donation to Landcare.

Trent and his father Merv, of Tkel Furniture, can often be found scouring clearing sales or demolition sites for that special piece of timber.

Trent recently transformed tallow wood and Murray pine from an old shearing shed in the Riverina into a unique set of chairs, tables and benches.

“A new trend is occurring to build timber furniture from shearing sheds,’’ he said.

“If any farmers have timber stored in a shed, we are able to turn it into a feature article for their home.’’

His favourite timbers are red stringybark and red gum, with the timber being transformed into dining tables, beds, chairs, benches, TV units, boardroom tables and outdoor furniture.

“You never now what you will get until the old nails and grime is removed,’’ he said.

Trent and Merv have a furniture workshop at Lockhart’s Gap, outside Tangambalanga, and kitchen cabinetry and joinery workshop in Wodonga.

Tkel Furniture exhibited handcrafted furniture, including side tables, butchers blocks, mirrors, photo frames and chopping boards, at the Henty Machinery Field Days last year for the first time.

Trent was encouraged to join the Henty Football Club by his brother Andrew and has played in the thirds, reserve and senior sides.

“Henty is a good community – I was welcomed from the first moment,’’ he said.

Trent has helped out in the club’s catering shed at the field days, raising funds for the club and its activities.

“As our business doesn’t have a showroom, we use the field days as a venue to show our products to the public,’’ he said.

Trent, 28, was encouraged as a child by his father to take up woodworking.

“Dad was a hobbyist and would potter around on weekends making timber furniture,’’ he said.

Trent took on an apprenticeship in 2004 with Timber Shed Furniture and Wodonga Joinery, working on bespoke timber furniture for seven years.

He graduated with an apprenticeship in Furniture at Wodonga TAFE, gained additional experience in Geelong and travelled overseas before deciding to follow his passion of working with timber, establishing Tkel Furniture.

Trent said once a piece of furniture was commissioned, customer input was important from start to finish.

“We use traditional joining techniques such as mortice and tenon, dowel and dovetail to ensure each piece of custom furniture will last forever,’’ he said.

“I love using timber that people would normally burn or throw away, and giving it a new lease on life.

“It may have stood in a house for 100 years and then I make a piece of furniture out of it – it could go on to last another 100 years.

“It’s a real passion I have to waste nothing – that includes recycling bolts or pieces of farm equipment, or timber from old shearing sheds and houses.

“Every piece of timber has a story and we are able to pass on that unique story to the customer.’’

Trent is determined to pass his skills on to the next generation and ensure the environmental footprint of his business remains small.

“We make a donation of the equivalent of five to 15 trees, depending on the value of the commissioned furniture, and the Landcare groups plant the trees where they are needed,’’ he said.

“They channel our donations into red stringybark, red and yellow box, and natural Australian hardwoods which are used to build furniture.

“It’s a dying trade but if the trees disappear, then it will go altogether.’’

Tkel Furniture can be found at site 368 at the field days.

 

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