OLD HAND: Spiro Notaras measures the silky oak tree in Karl Cooksley’s backyard in Grafton, which will be milled to provide wood to the local Men’s Shed. Photo: JoJo Newby
OLD HAND: Spiro Notaras measures the silky oak tree in Karl Cooksley’s backyard in Grafton, which will be milled to provide wood to the local Men’s Shed. Photo: JoJo Newby

Group chisels out solution

GREEN bananas are a risky investment for some of the blokes involved in a plan to turn wood from a giant silky oak in a Grafton backyard into rocking horses.

So it was important to find some shortcuts in the process of felling the tree and getting it onto the benches in the Men's Shed at the old Grafton Brewery building.

Local surveyor Karl Cooksley, with some reluctance, has decided to get rid of a huge silky oak in his Robinson Ave backyard.

"It's a lovely tree, but it's got too big for a yard tree," Karl said.

Rather than waste it, he offered it to Grafton Men's Shed, where silky oak is sought after for carving.

But when he made the offer, it looked headed for the too-hard basket.

"They said a lot of us might be gone by the time we dried the timber out," Karl said.

Men's Shed member Greg Ryan was tempted by the offer, but initially thought it was not feasible.

"It's so big. How do we get it down and what can we do with it?" Greg said.

But a bit of lateral thinking and networking has solved the problem and Karl's silky oak problem now has a win, win solution.

Clarence Valley sawmiller Spiro Notaras has volunteered to mill the tree and put it through his kiln to dry out the wood.

"We should be able to use the wood eight weeks from when it's cut down," Greg said.

"The Men's Shed has rocking horse orders from Brisbane and Sydney for Christmas, so it should come together for us."

On Thursday, Spiro visited Karl's backyard to cast a practised eye over the tree.

"It could be a bit cranky-grained and a few branches have been trimmed from the trunk, so there's going to be some knots in it," Spiro said.

"But silky oak wood is so soft, the knots aren't a problem and can even enhance it for carving."

He said silky oak as a rainforest tree provided a soft wood with a beautiful flecked grain, which wood turners loved.

"It has to be quarter-sawn to get the most out of the grain," he said.

Spiro showed how good his "eye" was for trees when asked to guess the circumference.

He gave the tree a quick hug and came up with 2.1m "under the bark".

Karl found a measuring tape and put it around the tree and announced "2.2m".

"But 2.1m under the bark," Spiro countered.

Greg said other businesses had volunteered to help out, with Ravens Smash Repairs on board to cart the tree to the mill.

A date for the felling has not been set.

Tree facts

Spiro assessed Karl's silky oak and estimated it:

 Was about 30m or 100ft in the old measure from base to crown.

 2.2m circumference at the base (2.1m under the bark).

 Weighed about 1.5 tonne.

 Was about 50 years old.

 Had about 9m of millable log in it.

 Would give the carvers around 1.5 cubic metres of good wood.



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