Transforming native timbers into unique bush furniture

August 12, 2015

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David Pearson and Gavin Lock with red gum burls they will turn into bowls at Corowa Bush Furniture.

Outdoor settings, bars, coffee tables and park benches literally walked off the Corowa Bush Furniture site at the Henty Machinery Field Days last year.

The hand crafted pieces, made from camphor laurel, red gum, yellow and grey box, Murray pine and silky oak, proved to be popular items among field day visitors, according to Corowa Bush Furniture director David Pearson.

“By day three of Henty, we had sold out of stock so sat there all day taking orders,’’ David said.

“Even now, we are still getting follow up orders.’’

David and his business partner Gavin Lock have started preparing for Henty this year by stock piling their specialty timbers and finished products.

At this year’s field days, Corowa woodworker Tony Collins will give woodturning demonstrations daily.

On display will be magnetic chopping boards with knife sets, peppermills, wine stoppers, coffee grinders, jewellery boxes, timber handled cutlery, book cases, tables, seats, outdoor settings, bars, coffee tables and shearer’s clocks made out of red gum, coolabah or mallee root burls.

Woodworking has long been a passion for David and Gavin.

Originally from Cessnock, David took on a mature age building apprenticeship with woodworking lecturer Peter Rodd following a career in the Navy as a chef.

David and Peter specialised in renovation projects on heritage buildings in the Port Stephens region.

David and his wife Gaye later moved to Queensland where they came across a Swedish timber cutter selling slabs of milled timber at a market.

“I offered to turn the timber slabs into something useful to help him sell the timber. I made a table and a bar top, dropped them off to him and they sold that day,’’ David said.

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Gavin Lock works on transforming a red gum burl into a fruit bowl at Corowa Bush Furniture.

A business partnership making timber furniture was born and lasted 10 years until the Pearsons moved to Corowa in 2010.

Members of the Corowa Wood Grubs welcomed David’s skills with open arms.

David teamed up with retired school teacher and keen wood worker Gavin Lock to regularly travel to the NSW north coast to cut and mill timber.

Three years ago the pair established Corowa Bush Furniture, operating out of a former cabinet making business in South Corowa.

Late last year they moved to new purpose built premises in Header World Drive as business boomed.

“We do renovations and fit-outs for retail businesses and residential homes. We are now also exporting tables, outdoor settings and coffee tables to the UK,’’ David said.

“We have four woodworkers, aged from 57 to 80, in our team to handle the wood turning and box making.

“I really love the rustic nature and uniqueness of bush furniture – each piece is individual, it can be the same length as another piece but will not have the same look.

“Ninety nine per cent of our work is custom made.’’

David and Gavin specialise in camphor laurel, one of only a few sustainable timbers left in Australia.

“Camphor laurel holds a big oil content so does not crack, warp or twist,’’ David said.

“It is not only pest and rodent resistant but also anti-bacterial and anti-fungal which makes it the preferred cutting board for chefs.

“We use grape seed oil to dress the timber.’’

Each weekend, David and Gavin hit the road to exhibit at Victorian markets with the organisation Australian Craft.

They are keen to hear from farmers with logs suitable for milling.

“Many people have slabs in the back of a shed we can put through the WoodWizz so they can finish that bar they always wanted,’’ Gavin said.

“Or they may have a burl they would like turned into a bowl or coffee table.’’

Their latest range of timber pens have exquisitely made mechanisms from the US in the shape of bolt action bullets, skulls, deer hunters, and pink Swarovski crystal to raise money for breast cancer research.

They even recycle the wood shavings into pet beds as the camphor laurel is flea and tick resistant, and repells urine smells.