Situated atop the steep southern end of the Blackall Range, the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is a haven for nature-lovers and environmentalists.
Mary, Mabel and Elizabeth Thynne donated the rainforest land to the then Landsborough Shire Council in October 1941 in memory of their mother and “for the preservation, conservation and exhibition of the natural flora and fauna.
The Rotary Club of Maleny began developing the park in 1959 and it was officially opened on December 1, 1960, by then governor Sir Henry Abel Smith.
Now, a new facility ‘The Discovery Centre’ has been opened to allow the public to be educated about the flora and fauna of the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve.
When the Discovery Centre project was announced, all involved agreed it was important that the building should reflect the history and themes of the rainforest. This is where the Blackall Range Woodcrafter’s Guild (also know as the ‘Woodies’) came in, as Guild President, John Muller, explains.
“We were keen to take part in the project and started thinking about the possibility of doing something in local wood species in the Discovery Centre itself; something like a reception desk/counter which would highlight the beauty of our native woods and exhibit the skills of our member’s creativeness and woodcrafting.
The Guild members were alerted to the fact that some trees in the reserve were going to be removed to make way for the new structure. This became an even greater incentive to feature local wood in whatever the Guild might be asked to create. Eventually, the architects on the project, Guymer Bailey, asked the Guild to make the entry doors for the Discovery Centre.
“We had previously made the Maleny Community Centre (MCC) entrance doors, and achieved a reputation on the Blackall Range for making beautiful doors. They were a carved forest of trees in Queensland Red Cedar on Red Cedar veneered flush panel doors,” John shares.
“For this new project, our resident designer and master carver, David Southern, came up with a design featuring trees from the Reserve with the Strangler Fig (Ficus watkinsiana) and Wonga Vine (Pandorea pandorana), both common in the reserve, growing on the trunks.
As the reserve also has a lot of beautiful Queensland Red Cedars (Toona australis), a wood ideal for carving, it was decided to again use it as the main carved feature. Sourcing enough local Red Cedar to do the project became an issue due to limited availability of old growth salvaged material, however, a new member to the Guild, Barry Burgum was aware of some old growth Cedar stored on a farm outside Murgon. Due to its age and colour, it proved ideal for our purpose.
“We then chose a solid timber substrate, New Guinea Rosewood (Pterocarpus indicus) as it is stable and durable, and it was felt the natural beauty of this wood would complement the rich colours of the old-growth Cedar. Sawn wood in this species was readily available from Brittons Timber at Narangba.”
The making of the doors was a long and detailed process. “David Southern lead the team to make the Cedar blanks and the carving of the trees, while John Muller arranged for the specification and manufacture of the substrate panels.
“When the Red Cedar boards had been dressed to the required thickness, they were grain matched to suit the patterns, then assembled and glued together to form the blanks for carving.”
And so began the arduous job of removing the excess timber by power carving, and then the painstaking detail hand carving that requires a high level of concentration, including working on the door handles which are made as separate units and glued in place.
Finally, the carvings were ready.
Back in the workshop the Rosewood for the door panels has been dressed and jointed using the Domino Jointing System. A final sand and then it was time to start adding the carved panels and complete the doors.
This type of project, in a club such as the Blackall Range Woodcrafters Guild, has an enormous benefit in developing healthy team spirit within the membership and lifting everyone’s skill levels.
“The dedication shown by those participating in the project was tremendous and very rewarding. In all, about 1000 hours of labour went into the manufacture of the doors,” John shares.
John says, “It was a nice experience for our members to receive feedback on the public reaction to the entrance way. The doors attract a great deal of attention from visitors to the Discovery Centre.”
The Guild members should be rightfully proud of creating an invaluable and enduring legacy and work of art, which has been embraced by locals, our community and visitors alike.