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American Woodworker JUNe 1999 51

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magine a rich, red wood that's strong enough to support a steam locomotive and weatherproof enough for the dock that launched the Titanic. Imagine a wood named Eucalyptus marginata that grows in one small forest on the other side of the world. Imagine this exotic wood transformed into a table in your shop. Now stop dreaming and experience jarrah.

Chair designed and built by

David Upfill-Brown, Canberra, Australia.

Picnic table designed and built by Peter Sustar and Greg Beaupre of Sylvan Studio, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

Jarrab has many uses, from outdoor furniture to fine interior woodwork.

Picnic table designed and built by Peter Sustar and Greg Beaupre of Sylvan Studio, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

Jarrab has many uses, from outdoor furniture to fine interior woodwork.

Harvested only from old-growth forests in the coastal belt of southwestern Australia, jarrah is hard, strong, heavy wood. Historically, it was used for the undistinguished projects of heavy industry. (The sleeper ties under the rails of the London Underground are made of jarrah.)

Today jarrah enjoys an elevated status and is prized for use in fine furniture. Woodworkers concerned about the depletion of old-growth forests have recycled industrial jarrah into flooring and furniture. There's no old jarrah in the U.S., so we bought new lumber from the largest supplier in the U.S.,

Music of the Spheres"

by John Wooller, Melbourne, Australia a company that first brought jarrah here in the 1970s to rebuild parts of the boardwalk at Atlantic City.

Only prime-grade jarrah is imported, so there are no large knots to cut around. The color of the heartwood varies from dark brown to light red. The wood we bought didn't have any sap-wood. Gum pockets, like the kind you see in softwoods, are present in some boards. They are either a nuisance or an opportunity to put character in your work.

Jarrah is heavier than hard maple and white oak. It's as resistant to rot and insects as redwood and teak. And it's as beautiful as mahogany.

Milled only in Australia to metric dimensions, jarrah comes in thicknesses equivalent to 4/4, 6/4, and 8/4 lumber. It costs about $5.50 per bd. ft. in all thicknesses. The lumber is dried to a 10- to 12-percent moisture content, because it's intended primarily for outdoor use.

Jarrah isn't oily like teak, although it will turn the same silvery-gray color when exposed to the sun and rain. However, to keep its original rich color intact outdoors, you can apply an oil finish that has ultraviolet inhibitors. The finish should be renewed each year.

Working with jarrah is a pleasure, but because it's so hard, you must have sharp blades in your jointer and planer and a good combination blade in your tablesaw. We used a 30-tooth Forrest Woodworker II.

When handling jarrah, wear gloves to avoid splinters from rough lumber. Be prepared to lug around some hefty timbers. Like other dense, exotic woods, jarrah reduces to a fine powder that may irritate your eyes, lungs and skin. Wear a dust mask.

Much of the old-growth jarrah forest is carefully regulated by the Australian government. New plantations of jarrah are growing in Australia, though the trees are not mature enough yet to be harvested for furniture. M

TIMBER HOLDINGS LTD. 2400 W. Cornell Ave. Milwaukee, Wl 53209 (414) 445-8989

For more information on jarrah forests: From an Australian woodworkers association: From the Australian government: From Forest Conservation Archives, an environmental group

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