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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 48

Woods and Wood-Ware

Woods and Wood-Ware.

At one of the preliminary meetings of the Committee of Management of the Industrial I Exhibition, a member suggested that it would be unfortunate if no exhibits of native wood were sent in. Thereupon Mr R. W. England page 17 undertook, notwithstanding the short time available, to secure some sort of representation. He telegraphed or wrote to various places, and although he did not receive in time for the Exhibition all the results he hoped for, he has been enabled to show no fewer than 70 polished specimens of New Zealand woods. Looking at this magnificent collection, one could appreciate the force of what had been said by the President, to the effect that we have been importing often inferior timber and burning our own; that in a sense we have grasped at the shadow and lost the substance. Any one who may take the trouble to look up this subject as referred to in Parliamentary and other papers, will speedily find that others have spoken out far more strongly. "I am astonished," says the Conservator of state Forests, "at the reckless and improvident manner in which the timber lands of Canterbury have been managed." Of the timbers which have been classed as "of great durability, adapted for general building purposes or constructive works, &c.," Mr England's specimens include the following:—Kauri, totara, black pine, yellow silver pine; tawai, or round-leaved beech; puriri, or New Zealand teak; rata, ironwood; rawiri, or tea-tree; kowhai, black maire, maire tawhake, &c. Of the next class, "timbers adapted for general building or special purposes, but not possessing great durability," the following are shown:—Red and white pine, miro, entire-leaved beech, towai, pukatea, hinau, pokako, titoki; rewa-rewa, or honeysuckle; whitewood, &c. In another class, "timbers chiefly of small dimensions, but adapted for various purposes," there are the following:—Pepper tree, ribbonwood or houi, akeake, small tea-tree, fuchsia, lancewood, broadleaf, neinei, maire, ngaio, &c. In the case of such woods as totara, honeysuckle, varieties of grain are represented, and the extreme beauty of some of the markings was much commented upon. Above the neat framework containing these specimens, Mr England had a largo pentagonal pillar, formed of five polished panels of kauri, as received from various mills. Many visitors, in conversing with members of the Committee, expressed their regret that some of these exquisite woods which they had not before seen, were not generally applied to the manufacture of articles of utility, or for ornamental purposes.

Next to this collection of native woods, it is fitting that mention should be made of a house door exhibited by Mr P. Reese, builder. This door, which is constructed of the native rimu or red pine timber, is worked out after a Gothic design, the panels being let solid into the framing; and in the opinion of decidedly competent judges it is one of the best specimens of workmanship in the exhibition. It is a pleasure to be enabled to add that such a specimen is the work of a Colonial youth, who learned his trade in Mr Reese's establishment. The adjoining cheffonier and book-case, of blackwood timber, and entirely worked out of the solid wood, was also made by a Colonial youth taught in the same establishment.

No one will be likely to regret the fact, that a large amount of space was occupied by Mr Jenkins. Mr England had shown what our native woods were like, and Mr Jenkins had very completely illustrated how complete are the appliances now used by our workers in wood, and how well they are thereby enabled to supply fully the requirements of the country at the lowest possible prices, and to help our wheelwrights to compete with the Sydney and other makers. In point of fact, the trophy under notice, must be regarded as not merely representing the extensive works of Mr Jenkins, but as generally illustrating one of our great local industries. "Highly commended" is the unanimous verdict of the visitors as they look at the beautiful design which has been built up of spokes and other unpromising items; and the verdict is as unanimously repeated when the workmanship of the articles is more closely looked into. The beautifully finished spokes have been produced by a wonderful machine termed a copying lathe. Given, a spoke which is to be reproduced, it is put into the upper portion of the machine, immediately underneath it is a length of rough wood. The rapidly revolving cutting apparatus travels slowly to and fro, its pressure against the rough wood being guided by lever connection with a finger-like feeler, which is passing to and fro along the spoke to be copied. The machine works so truly that all the after finish necessary is the application of sandpaper, and even this part of the work is done by suitable machinery. There are also brackets which have been entirely produced by mechanical agency, and the neat, fluted patterns cannot fail to win favour, for they are really tasteful, and bear a certain resemblance to the Early English style of design now so much used for furniture, &c. There are French bedposts and octagonal page 18 table legs, also mechanically formed and fluted; and even the big sweep of the circular moulding which crowns the trophy, and the wavy moulding which forms one of the relief lines are entirely machine made. In the carved brackets, handwork is of course represented, though oven here the labour has been materially lessened by using machinery for the first shaping from the solid. Dressed spokes are also shown by Messrs W. Langdown and Co., who have long used one of the copying lathes, and a fine series of machine-made mouldings is neatly displayed by Messrs W. Montgomery and Co. The designs for wood-carving, displayed by Mr C. J.Hill, are good from a constructive point of view, and they are also thoroughly good in execution, the light and shade being admirably managed. Close by them, Mr Hill shows the carvings which he has produced therefrom. His work is very clean and regular, but it would have appeared to greater advantage as a specimen of his skill had he abstained from applying a coat of paint. A considerable number of the wood ware products of Messrs Guthrie and Larnach, of Dunedin, are exhibited by Messrs T. O. Kelsey and Co., the Christchurch agents. The buckets, &c., of which there are many patterns, are produced entirely by special machinery, and with almost inconceivable rapidity; and in the production of all the other wood ware in the collection the best possible appliances are used, so as to issue the goods for sale at such prices as to ensure a steady trade throughout the Colony. In the machinery room, where a carving bench had been set up, Mr H. Smith practically illustrated his skill by carving ornamental brackets, some of them of most tasteful design; and he left no doubt on the minds of the visitors either as to the rapidity of his execution or as to the effectiveness of his work.