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Question

I am making toys and functional ornaments from wood, and some of the internal components
require small slivers of wood that are able to flex a little for the mechanisms to work.
The plans for these projects are from the U.S., and they recommend ash or hickory for this purpose.
Are there any Australian timbers that would do the same job, and could be sourced from local merchants ( Bunnings, Home Hardware etc. ) ?

Woodsolutions Answer +

American ash and hickory (or their Australian substitutes) are not likely to be found at Bunnings or Home Hardware, you will need to inquire through specialty timber suppliers. For example, Britton Timbers have American ash, see website here: https://brittontimbers.com.au/timbers. You may find other suppliers by writing ‘specialty timber suppliers’ or similar wording in your browser. For potential Australian timbers we consulted an old CSIRO reference in our library to find a recommendation for wooden sporting goods such as tennis racquets, which need strength and flexibility. CSIRO nominates silver ash from Queensland which is also stocked by Britton Timbers according to their website. However, it comes with the rather negative comment that ‘English and American ash is still mainly used [for tennis racquets] and there is no really satisfactory Australian substitute’. Perhaps your intended use is less demanding than a wooden tennis racquet frame and you could try more readily available timbers such as the ash eucalypts, mountain ash and alpine ash, aka ‘Victorian ash’.

Question

I am working on a residential project, where Rosewood has been suggested as the timber used for the pool deck and as cladding to the boatshed. Please could you advise whether Rosewood is suitable due to the marine environment, and if not, what you would recommend instead?
 

Woodsolutions Answer +

Several different timbers go under the name ‘rosewood’. As Wikipedia puts it, “Rosewood refers to any of a number of richly hued timbers, often brownish with darker veining, but found in many different hues.” If you could find out where the rosewood in question comes from we could advise you further. If it’s New Guinea rosewood this is rated Durability Class 2 out of ground contact. In our opinion that makes it a suitable timber for cladding but you might want to select a higher durability timber for the pool decking (spotted gum, blackbutt, tallowwood etc). Also rosewood is not particularly hard (dent resistant). Presumably the deck will be subject to splashing from the pool as well as weather exposure. The marine environment is not particularly hazardous for timber, but all fasteners will need to be highly resistant to corrosion, eg. stainless steel. If the deck is close to the ground precautions will need to be taken. Decks close to the ground are dealt with in our Technical Design Guide #21 “Domestic Timber Deck Design”. Copies can be downloaded free of charge here: https://www.woodsolutions.com.au/articles/technical-design-guides.

Rosewood, marine environment
Question

I have outdoor Merbau wood garden furniture and decking. How often should this be stained or treated to maintain durability of 25 - 40 years?

Woodsolutions Answer +

Actually merbau is rated Durability Class 1 outdoors, out of contact with the ground, so it would have a probable life of 40+ years without any coating at all – unless you are in a particularly high rainfall area, or the decking is in the path of a watering system. Regular wetting will shorten the life of most timbers. If you leave it without a coating it will turn driftwood grey so you may wish to oil or stain it to keep a more natural colour. While not strictly necessary from a durability point of view, a finish will help to prevent weathering effects such as fine surface cracks or ‘checks’. Any of the products marketed as garden furniture oil or decking oil are suitable. How often you re-coat depends on the level of exposure. A simple test is to sprinkle some water on the timber. If it forms droplets the finish is still doing its job. If it soaks in it’s time to re-coat. However, the timber might start to look ‘hungry’ before you reach that stage.

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