W is for Woodwork

April 26, 2014 at 8:54 am | Posted in Australia, Family History, History, Ways of Living | 13 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]


Display_DVD Shelves_06

DVD shelves Dad made in 2003

I love trees, and I love the wood that comes from them. I love the look, texture, smell of it. I love the variety and colour, the density of mulga or the softness of pine, and all between. I love how it can be fashioned and worked and used in so many ways, for practical, decorative and artistic purposes.

As long as I can remember, my father made things from wood. Often, it was the only material he could afford to use. In England, he carved a lion for my brother out of wood, and while he was in the RAF in WWII, he carved enemy planes and hung them in the Mess hall.

When we first came to Australia from England in 1954, we had hardly any money. To supplement his income, Dad began building wooden boats. No matter that he had never done such work before; if he wanted to do something, he found out how to and then did it. They were small rowboats with a keel, and Dad built them from plywood in his sister’s back yard.

ErnThompson &boat APR Abt1956 001

Dad with one of his boats

Two years later, when we had our own house and yard, he expanded to building small rounded caravans as well as the boats. This was in addition to his regular day work as a concreter, and it meant that he could then go on and extend the tiny cottage we started with – using wood and the then popular asbestos sheeting.


Through the years, Dad made tables, wooden deck-chairs and many other objects – including the scooters he made for me and my sister. He built a hovercraft before there was much known about them, and made the frame out of wood.

ErnThompsons Hovercraft Abt.1967

Dad’s hovercraft at a show, c.1967

Once he retired though, he had the time to extend his knowledge and scope, and began using his wood-turning lathe much more. He created wonderful things for the house for Mum and for his children too, as we were all married by then with children of our own.



92 Display_Goblets_15

Lathe-turned goblets Dad made well after his sight began deteriorating.

After Mum died in 1994, Dad’s woodwork became the major focus of his activities, in spite of gradually decreasing vision due to macular degeneration. He loved to create things that amazed those who saw them, even when he had very little sight left.


Ern Woodwork_171203 068

After my divorce, I became the fix-it person and the builder, roles which I really loved. I built chook-houses and pens and wooden fences where we lived in Central West NSW and then in remote communities in the Northern Territory. When we moved to South Australia to our own house, I did the same.

Bird shelf 1

My shelf with rubbish bin holder underneath. The old cupboards were also covered with wood from fruit cases.

I went further, making shelves, a table and other things we needed around the house. Then Dad gave me his old scroll saw. Because of his failing eyesight, he could no longer safely use it – although he did still used his big band saw and the lathe!

With the scroll saw, I began to make small items that I could sell – I was on a disability pension at that time. I collected old fruit crates that I could cut and sand easily, and started making animal shapes and other designs into fridge magnets.

Linda's fridge magnets 2001

A few of my fridge magnet designs, 2001

From there, I graduated to also making somewhat larger items, like pen holders and key racks. I really enjoyed it, and sold quite a few too. I was lucky I had Dad, on the phone and when I visited him, to support me in what I was doing. Both of us were committed to wood, but we didn’t buy any unless we had to. Because my items were small, I always used scrap wood from the fruit boxes or other recycled sources.


One of Dad’s segmented-work bowls.



On his lathe, and doing segmented work, Dad made bowls, jewellery boxes and many other amazing items from used wood that others were throwing away. Then, whatever scraps were left went into his wood burning heater in the house.


Another of Dad’s creations.

One of my sons loves making things from wood. I hope he can get a place of his own one day that will provide him with enough room to set up his own little woodworking shed. That will make three generations of workers in wood in the family.

Does anyone in your family do woodwork? Are there any artistic or other creative interests that have been passed down in your family?

(c) Linda Visman  26.04.2014  (753 words)


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