Rocking horse race is on
A RACE against time to turn a massive silky oak felled in a Grafton backyard last October into children's rocking horses, is in the home straight.
A trio of horseketeers at Grafton's Men's Shed has taken delivery of the timber and will begin the transformation immediately.
Men's shed rocking horse mentor Greg Ryan said the men, who he has christened the horseketeers, have a couple of months to finish the project to be in time for this year's July racing carnival.
Mr Ryan said Sydney racing identity Paul Birney, who has been coming to the July carnival for 35 years, put in an order for a rocking horse last year.
"Originally he wanted the horse for Christmas but when he heard what we were doing with the silky oak, he gave us a reprieve," he said.
"We said we could have it ready for him for next year's carnival."
Mr Ryan said it was only the ingenuity and resources of a number of Grafton businesses that allowed the wood to be ready at such short notice.
"If you left it up to nature, the wood would take years to season properly," he said.
To speed up the process, the tree was taken straight to the Notaras and Sons sawmill in South Grafton, where Spiro Notaras oversaw its preparation.
The tree was cut in half, then de-barked and milled into sizes that best suited the rocking horse production line. Mr Notaras said the dry summer allowed him to begin drying the timber naturally, but he had to put the pieces into the kiln to finish the job.
Last week, a Ravens Smash Repairs truck turned up at the mill to load the seasoned timber for its trip across to the men's shed.
Mr Ryan said the support of Mr Notaras and Ravens Smash Repairs had made this project possible.
"When Karl (Cooksely) donated the tree, most thought it would not be possible," he said. "But with the help of great local businesses, we're now ready."
He was confident the of the July deadline. "It could be a close-run thing," he said.