History of Timber Harvesting at Bambra
We first planted trees at Bambra in 1987. We pruned and thinned to improve log quality and promote diameter growth. At the time there was no market for plantation eucalypt timber and certainly no premium for pruning. But, native forest logging was coming under the environmental spotlight. The community were starting to look for alternatives. There was plantation pine but not everyone wanted pine furniture.
Today commentators and interest groups are asking why there is no sustainable, farm-grown native timber available to replace the timber we once got from public native forest. There are eucalypt plantations for pulp but you can't mill them for furniture timbers.
We have some logs. Not enough to supply a mill - not that there are native timber mills left in our area. But, we have enough to test the market, explore the prospects for farm grown timber, and to encourage others to plant and manage trees for the future.
Our first trial harvest of pruned eucalypts involved 10-year-old trees (30-40cm diameter). That only proved that backsawing of Shining Gum created drying problems. Our 16-year-old harvest (50cm) was more promising. It proved that growth stresses were not an issue in well managed straight trees and that quatersawing produced stable boards with lower risk of internal checking and highlighted fiddleback grain if present. But, the logs could have been bigger.
Our latest harvest (above) was of 60-70cm diameter pruned logs. These are destined for veneers. Sixteen cubic metres of logs were felled and shipped to China to be sliced in 0.6mm veneers then sent back to Melbourne. The buyers were looking for a white hardwood from sustainable planted forests and if the trial works they'll pay prices higher than any native forest eucalypt.
I've now got my own bandsaw mill to process the leftovers (top logs ant thinnings). I'll dry the timber slowly then finish in a kiln.
No one knows where the future markets will be for farm grown timber let alone what prices we might get. All you can do is learn about the qualities of the different species and manage for quality logs (fat and clean). What is clear is that you can't sell quality logs in the future if you don't plant and manage them in the past. For many the time it takes to grow a forest is a problem - for those of us with logs it means that we are years ahead of our competition.
Below are some photos of our harvests.
Rowan felling a 22-year-old Shining Gum
To accurately fell without damaging other trees I used my remote control 5 ton tractor winch to pull over the tree (after cutting a scarf and back cut). This overcomes the need for wedges and means that I am well away from the action when the tree hits the ground.
The veneer buyer inspecting the log. The verdict: "we'll take a container load" They had to be over 50cm in diameter (small end), pruned and 5.8m long.
Using the logging winch to pull the logs up to the loading ramp. At 1.5 tons each the front end loader couldn't lift them.
Loading the truck - this photo show the load of 16-year-old Shinning Gum which were milled as part of a CSIRO trial
Few shots of Rowan milling one of the top logs from the 22-year-old harvest on his Lumbermate Bandsaw Mill. The timber was then stickered and stacked under plastic to dry slowly.
Furniture made from 16-year-old farm grown Shinning Gum harvested from a multipurpose mixed-species riparian planting along what was an eroded creek.
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