The Day of the Long Knives

I have moved on to a good place this week. I have started to work on the wood work phase, lining the pottery studio with our own timber boards. I am much happier working with wood rather than steel. I can work with steel perfectly well, but I like the feel and smell of freshly worked wood. It’s somehow very satisfying. I have spent the past few days planing the pine boards that we milled out of our burnt pine trees last year.

I was tempted to call this post ‘Just Plane Board’. Not because, I’m just plain bored, but because ‘All I do is just plane boards’ all day long. Doing just this, I quickly wore out the old plainer blades, they were mostly pretty blunt from from doing a lot of work in the past, so I had to change them over, which wasn’t too hard. I found, without too much surprise, that the work went so much easier with the sharper blades, but after a few hours, it slowed down again. This 130 year old home grown Caribbean pine is very solid timber, very tough to mill and now just as tough to plane. I’m only 1/4 of the way through this job and I can see that I’ll soon need to change the blades in the planer again. I can only take 1/4 of a millimetre off the boards with each pass. Anything more stalls the machine and activates the overload switch.

I am quite capable of sharpening knives, scissors, tin snips and small hand planer blades. Any blade up to 100mm. wide. Above this length, it gets tricky, as my widest honing stone is 80mm. so after that I have work diagonally or lengthwise for the longer blades. This works well with hand held sharpening of curved chef’s knives. Geordie (my son, who is a chef) and I used to do a sharpening session every few months or so, and did all our kitchen knives in one big session. We got quite good at the fine grinding and gentle finishing on the 4 graded Japanese whetstones, ranging from 400# to 8000# grit.

However. When it comes to a very thin straight planer blades, these are called knives in the industry, then what I need is a very long stiff jig that I can bolt the blade onto to keep it stiff while grinding it. as these long knives are 330 mm long but only 1.5 mm thick x 200 wide. To hone a long thin and flexible knife like this, I would need a long grinding stone and then a very long honing stone, As the planer blades are 330 mm long, so I will need a honing stone at least this long, preferably longer. I don’t know if there are even stones this long available. Obviously there must be, because these blades are being manufactured somewhere. However, I suspect that these kinds of knives are sharpened in the industry on rotary grinders and honers.

My first thought was to contact the original retailer, only to find that they had discontinued this model of machine a decade ago and no longer carry any spare parts for it any more. I’m not surprised, it’s only a cheap hobby machine. I should have spent the extra money and bought a better quality ‘name brand’ that would still be available. I went on line to see if there were any non-branded, no-name products that might suit my machine. My initial search didn’t bring up anything that might fit this model. So with this option eliminated, I have to find a way of getting the only blades that I have resharpened.

The is a new shop in Mittagong specialising in sharpening tools! I noticed its sign in the street a while ago and made a mental note. I called in there today and asked if he could sharpen my planner knives. He couldn’t. Not only couldn’t he do it but the place that he sends difficult jobs to get sharpened professionally doesn’t do these very long thin knives either. They only do the thicker, stronger machine knives. So I was feeling a bit snookered. but my enthusiasm wasn’t blunted, in fact I’m keen to have a go at building a jig to hold them firmly supported while I pass them over my own bench grinder. It can’t be that difficult – can it? It’s the final honing of them on a 200mm long, or should I say 200 mm short, stone that is going to be the hard part.

The worst that can happen is that the knives shatter while I’m grinding them. If that doesn’t happen, then the next worst thing that will happen, will be that they aren’t completely even, or have a few rough areas along the knife edge. Well, as long as they are sufficiently keen and sharp enough to take off the circular saw blade marks, then that will be fine by me. Any little rough areas on the blade that leave long straight grooves in the wood can be sanded down with the belt sander. I’m doing this anyway because of the current state of the blades.

Watch this space.

Finally, some woodwork – but not too much.

I spent the weekend milling and putting up the intermediate cover strips over the cheap plywood joints in the ceiling of the pottery studio.



I figured out a way of holding up the batons single handed using a couple of wooden props. They hold the wooden baton in place securely until I can get the screws into them, and fix them permanently.


Now that the ceiling is complete, it’s time to move on to the next job, which is to prepare the lining boards for the walls of the studio.We used to have three 120/130 year old pine trees growing over our old school house all our lives here for the past 45 years. They were quite skinny little things went we arrived here, as were we. But have put on quite a bit of girth over that time. As have I!


The fire killed them, so we had to cut them down before they started to drop the dead branches onto the roof.We managed to get them felled safely in January 2020 and hired a portable saw mill to cut up the logs into planks for use in rebuilding later on. 



It’s now later on. 16 months later on in fact, and we are ready to start lining the pottery studio walls.We milled over 100 planks at that time. They are now pretty well seasoned, having been racked and stacked in an airy covered pile for all this time.
The planks need to be milled through my very ancient little thicknesser for a few passes, each time taking another millimetre off the thickness.This poor old machine is only just capable of milling these now dry 250mm wide boards. I have to take it easy on the poor old thing. I need it to last the distance. It’s pretty worn out like me. It was just a cheap hobby machine when I bought it 20 years ago and not really meant for heavy work over long hours. nor am I these days!
I only still have this machine now, because i stayed to defend my home during the fire. This gadget was stored in the barn, which caught fire. I was lucky enough to be on hand and see the fire catch hold, and put it out. Actually I didn’t put it out. I called the fire brigade shed to ask for help, but they said there was no help available. In fact no fire truck ever came here until a full 8 hours after the fire. The first fire truck to come past was meandering along the road hosing out smouldering logs on the sides of the road. i saw them and called them in to finally put the fire out.
I had been carrying buckets of water for some hours, throwing it onto the burning corner of the barn. The power for the electric pump that was feeding all the wall and roof sprinklers on the barn came from the pottery, so when the pottery burnt down, the power went off to the barn, even though I had a Tesla battery to power the whole place, the line came via the pottery. There is a lesson here. Only use independent, petrol engined, high pressure, fire fighting pumps in future! 
The sprinklers saved the barn from the initial onslaught of crowning fire and ember attack, but when they failed the ground fire caught up to the building. I managed to stop the fire from spreading to the whole building, but couldn’t actually put it out. As every time I went back to the water tank on the station building 30 metres away to refill the buckets, the fire would re-ignite in some of the smouldering, heavy wooden beams in my absence. I was pretty exhausted after 8 hours of this and the fire truck from Sydney finally arrived.
So I’m lucky to still own this old planer machine. Once the planks are mostly smooth, but not perfect. I then use the belt sander to clean up the few hollow areas. I initially use a 40# grit sanding belt for the first pass, then a 60# grit belt for the second pass. These boards will still need another go over with an 80# grit sand paper on the orbital sander to finish them off.



They come out pretty well for home grown, home milled, home seasoned, and now home planed and sanded planks.



16 planks roughed out, 50 to go.
They won’t be prefect. They have loads of technical faults, but they are mine. I grew them and nurtured them, milled them and sanded them. Their faults are my faults.What is most important to me is that they are so completely local with no travel miles, carbon debt, no fertilisers or irrigation, no middle man, and no coal fired power was used. We run on sunshine here, just the way the trees do. All the electricity to power these electric tools comes directly off our roof from our new solar panels
They just grew naturally for the past 130 years, and soon they will contribute something positive to the new rebuilt pottery. I like the idea that there will be something of the old place incorporated into this new building. Some sort of continuity that we have managed to amalgamate out of the shreds of this disaster. Hopefully it will be a positive link to the past and not a terrifying one. My psychologist says that I’m doing well and has decreased the frequency of my appointments. So I’m hoping all will be OK in the end. But the eczema and irritable bowel syndrome that came on after the fire still persist.
All of the corrugated iron used on the out sides of these sheds was recovered from old building sites where they otherwise would have gone to the tip. All of the corrugated iron lining was likewise recovered and repurposed from the old Moss Vale feed mill. There are so few new materials in this shed. The use of these home grown pine plank lining boards will mark a fitting end to the saga of this building project, as this is the last room to be lined. I am concerned that having any wood at all in this shed will be a point of vulnerability. I’m just hoping that with the iron cladding pretty well sealed and then the 90mm of insulwool stuffed into the cavity, it will stop most of the sparks from the next fire from getting into the building and reaching the timber lining. Having lost the 3 previous pottery buildings to fire has made me very cautious.
I really like the concept of being self reliant. This project has given me the chance to be more completely self reliant, while also incorporating more ‘creative’ and ‘Green’ concepts in my day to day life. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to rebuild our life in a reasonably sustainable, clean, green way.

I stare at my ceilings, but all I see are their flaws

Over the past few weeks we have come to the phase of our recovery project, where we needed to put up some ceilings in our new shed.With such high ceilings, I realised that I needed to borrow some scaffolding from my friend, a semi-retired builder, who had this gantry set sitting idle.
The gantry, allowed us to get up high safely, and being on wheels, it made moving around the room so much easier. I am so grateful to my friends for all their help over the past 17 months of our ordeal. We wouldn’t be so far advanced in our recovery without all of you and your generous and thoughtful support.


To get this difficult job done as safely and quickly as possible. I decided that I couldn’t do this part on my own as I have with most of the other trade-related tasks. I employed our wonderful brick layers and electricians for this same reason. I could have completed those jobs on my own, but I would still be at the beginning. There are just so many man-hours involved in building a project like this.
So to this end, I employed my friend Andy and his off-sider Tim, for 4 days to help me get the ceilings done. One ceiling per day more or less, but we did a few other difficult jobs as well while they were here, Many hands etc.
With these two young blokes up on the moveable gantry and me on the ground cutting, prepping and passing up the materials. They were free to stay up there and get the job done efficiently. I learned this when I used the gantry myself last month to secure the tallest sheets of gal iron sheeting that I put up on the walls of the very tall maintenance shed. I spent more time climbing up and down the scaffold than I did actually working up there.


Tim and Andy were terrific and I didn’t get worn out as part of a 3 man team, although I was very tired by the end of each day and had to have a lay down before dinner. Now our ceilings are almost finished, I can stand back and admire what we have achieved. 
Two of the ceilings were made of corrugated iron sheeting, using up the last of the recycled roofing that I recovered when Andy and I demolished the old feed mill factory in Moss Vale. The other two ceilings were made of quite thin plywood. Not my preferred choice, but the best of a poor bunch of options that were available to us on our tight budget.To save money, I searched out some quite thin 4mm bracing plywood at just $11 per sheet. This is just one third of the price that the big hardware stores are charging. It is so thin, that is it easily deformed by the weight of the insulwool above it that it is supporting. But I can live with that. 



These sheets are intended to be used as bracing ply, and are not meant to be seen. They are not even flat, but quite wavy, even when laying flat on the pallet. I have attempted to minimise some of this wavy distortion in the ceiling, by adding pine cover strips that we milled ourselves from the dead pine trees next to the house that were killed in the fire.The pine strips don’t stop the distortion, but by creating a straight line next to the wavy ply, it distracts the eye from the unevenness and will stop the ply from distorting more over time from the weight of the insulation. A cheap and creative, but effective solution to a difficult problem.


I’m not too concerned about my cheap and amateurish look of this choice of ceiling wood work. If I were building a brothel, where 50% of the customers might be staring at the ceiling, then it might concern me!

But this is a pottery shed. No one will be looking at the ceiling!

White Room

Janine and I have been painting all the multicoloured different hued sheets of re-cycled corrugated iron sheeting that we used internally as lining for our shed. I spent 3 or 4 months collecting old roofing iron off a lot of buildings from Sydney to the Highlands. I spread the word among my friends and students. I would come and collect what ever was on offer.

Sometimes, I’d get a call in the morning saying you need to be here between 3 and 4 this afternoon, you can have the roof and we’ll help you load it, but if you aren’t here, it will all go to the tip. We can’t store it here on the building site. And I did, some of it wasn’t much good, but I could select was was useful to me and take the rest to the recyclers.

We ended up with a dozen or so different styles of old corrugated roofing in every imaginable colour, from straight silver-metal zincalume, through red, green, blue, brown, yellow and grey.

I chose to use the sheets in the necessary lengths required in each position. This resulted in a mix of rather unattractive colours that didn’t sit well together. We decided that we would have to paint it all one colour to get some aesthetic cohesion. Even if the profile of the different sheets, manufactured in different decades, by different companies, didn’t fully match, resulting in some rather big gaps in the overlaps. Well, beggars can’t be choosers!

We gave the room a first coat of very cheap ‘Aldi’ flat white acrylic to bring all the sheets to the same base colour. Then to save money, we bought one 4 litre tin of cheap commercial ‘pink’ tinted flat plastic and made our own blend of 3 parts, Aldi cheap white acrylic that just happened to be on special in the week that we needed it, and one part of the tinted pink paint. We ended up with a very pale pink that looked like a warm white. You can only tell that it is a pale pink, by comparing it to a otherwise supposedly ‘White’ test sheet.

Two coats of our cheapskate, ‘poverty pink’ and the room looks good and completely consistent in colour. We have gone through 16 litres of paint to get all 4 of the quite tall 4 to 5 metre high walls coated. Good value at $120.

Looking out of the big arched window that I made for the ‘gallery’ room. I can see the Balmoral Railway Station out in the garden. We bought the old Railway Station by tender, back in the 1970’s when the Railways Dept. had closed the line to passenger traffic, and kept it open as a solely goods line. They decided that they wanted the un-used timber stations removed from the line and the site cleared.

We thought that this was a shame, as the timber railway stations form part of the fabric of village history. The Station at Hill Top, the next village along the line, was the first to be sold off. It went for $2! the people who bought it only wanted the tin off the roof to build a chook shed. So they took the iron off the roof and burnt it down. That cleared the site, and fulfilled the contract! The what a shameful event.

We decided that this wouldn’t happen to our village station. When ours came up for demolition, we tendered to demolish it, but instead we picked it up in a couple of huge wire slings, lifted it onto a low loader and re-located it to our own back yard. That fulfilled the contract to clear the site. But most importantly, it preserved this valuable part of our village history for some time to come. The station building dates to about 1880 and although it is only small, we decided that it was too important to be destroyed.

Incredibly, it almost burnt down a few times during the catastrophic bush fire that raged through Balmoral Village on the 21st Dec. 2019. Embers lodged in the roof facia board and it caught fire. I was lucky to manage to see this early on and managed to hose it out before it spread to the whole of the roof. I was simultaneously fighting the fire that had caught hold of my barn at the same time and had t keep returning to the water tank on the station building to refill my buckets, because the pump on the barn had failed after half an hour. I saw the station roof burst into flames again, and again hosed it out. With the wind howling and the air temperature very high, and the constant shower of ember shrapnel flying through the air, my hair even caught an ember and caught fire at one stage. It’s impossible to forget the small of burning hair!

Even though I hosed the fire out very well and soaked the area around the fascia of the station roof. It soon dried out in the hot gale and burst back into flames. I had to return and put it out several times.

So I saved the Station – for a 2nd time.

Looking out at the station through the tall arched window from this newly painted white room. I am suddenly reminded of the lines of a song from my teen years, “In the white room, with no curtains, by the station” There was something else about tired starlings. but the important part is that we have a white room with no curtains, by the station.

That’s The Cream (on the cake for me)

Still on the tools

We have been working on the tools, brick cleaning for the past 3 weeks now. Last week, my wrists began to ache, so I stopped and had a 3 day break to let them rest. Our friends Rei and Fran called in on Monday to give us a hand and I did my share, but that night my wrists swelled up and ached, so I realise that I have reached my limit on brick cleaning. I’ll need to have a few weeks off now to let them recover. We got 2,200 bricks cleaned, so we are about 2/3 of the way through the job, an average of around 100 bricks a day. Not too bad, but obviously too much for my ageing body – at this time of great anxiety and stress.

Instead of brick cleaning, I finished off the claywater/greywater drainage system, digging the trench from the pottery studio to the seepage trench by hand using a crow bar and shovel. Interestingly, this didn’t hurt my wrists the way that chipping away at lime mortar does?


Once the sewerage line was completed, I turned my attention to the LP Gas line. We hadn’t fired our LP gas kiln for the past decade, as we were trying to minimise our use of fossil fuels. But the gas bottles still have gas in them and I’m planning to build another solar electric kiln using gas reduction at stone ware temps.
There are so many services that need to be buried all around the building, I’m trying to get these done, I’ve finished the storm water and guttering, so all that remains to be dug in and buried is the fresh tank water supply to the sink. This has to come all the way around the building from the 2 big rain water tanks next to the barn. I want to get all this done so that I can finish the ground works around the building and start to clean up the site. 
The LP Gas line comes from the 2 big gas bottles past the studio and around into the court yard then up and over the verandah and into the kiln room. I’m really proud that I have been able to achieve this complex installation using only two tools, a coil bender and an expander.

With this minimal tool set, I have been able to make all the elbows and joiner parts necessary for the job from simple copper pipe. I’m using thick class B pipe and 5% silver solder for all the welds, as required by the Australian Standards. The only parts that I will need to buy are the 2 end threads to screw on the LP Gas connection fittings. 
Miraculously, my ancient 1950’s oxy set and the 2 gas bottles survived the fire because I wheeled them out side into the paddock and wrapped them in a piece of 1/2” ceramic fibre blanket. The fire raged past and over them and didn’t even melt the plastic hoses, such is the insulating value of ceramic fibre in the short term. It saved me too!


I’m not real fast, It has taken me 2 days for this job, but I don’t charge myself anything for my time. One of our past pottery students is a plumber and he has agreed to come and test my line and certify it if it passes, then connect the kiln for us. I saved myself a lot of digging by using the existing stormwater trenching for nearly all of the underground work.
Another of our past students, Tony, a retired builder came and installed the glass french doors. These were donated to us by another ex-student Geoffrey and his wife Sue. They bought the doors 2nd hand and Geoffrey cleaned them back, reglazed and puttied them, then undercoated them. Only to realise that they didn’t really suit what they had in mind and found them to be excess to their requirements, so donated them to us. Tony did a wonderful job of installing them, which required moving one of the studs and me making a new steel header beam and then some new steel door jambs out of 3mm thick gal steel plate, so as to save using a wooden door jamb to save the extra space. This was the only way we could fit them in. They look great and let lots of light into the building. We are really pleased!


I also finished the back verandah with the help of my friend Warren last Sunday. I had made up all the parts to make a new ‘portal frame’ to finish the job that the builders said couldn’t be done. I used the off cuts from the 3mm thick gal steel plate that bought for the french door jambs, and cut out and folded the parts for the frame myself, using the guillotine and pan break, watched over by the always attentive chickens, Gladys and Edna. 


The back verandah is now complete and weather proof.
The brickie that we originally had come out ond look at the job, has now said that he can’t do it. A shame, but I have been in touch with a couple of younger guys who are interested. One says that he can start in 4 weeks, so the pressure is on to get the last 1200 bricks cleaned in 4 weeks! We’ll see what we can do. That’s 50 a day, 25 bricks each. It may be possible? 10 before breakfast, 10 before lunch, and 5 before dinner. We have a few weekend working bee’s organised, so that will take some of the load off our wrists.

A Day Off.

Today I didn’t clean any bricks. We had an almost full day yesterday when 2 friends came and gave us a hand for most of the day. Janine and I did our ‘normal’ shift from 6.30am till 9.30, then our friends came at 11.00 am and left at almost 7.00 pm.

We did have a long lunch, but it was still a big day on the tools. So today is a designated day off from brick cleaning. Our first

The electricians turned up, so that was good. It’s nice to see some progress. I spent the morning helping them by digging out the old pottery 3 phase cables down to 750mm. deep and exposing the horizontal run of the orange conduit. The sparkies then joined on a longer section of cable and ran it up the outside wall of the Gallery room, and then along to the new main sub-board inside.

My next job was then to fill it all back in again, after laying a sheet of orange ‘warning-electrical cables’ plastic safety strip along the trench, half way up. By doing these mindless labouring jobs myself, it saves paying the high hourly rate to the sparkies, for something so dull and time consuming and saving me some money.

I will need to make some new corner flashing out of gal steel sheet to cover this conduit and make it safe and weatherproof.

The sparkies continued on inside wiring the rest of the building.

Progress in fits and starts. I’m grateful for every little bit of it.

10 Days on the tools – We’re half way.

We have been working consistently on the brick cleaning, with have had a couple of friends come and give us a hand during the week and that has sped things up quite a bit. Janine and I have been at it every morning for a few hours from 6.30 to 9 or 9.30. We regularly clean our quota of 100 bricks to stay on target of finishing by the end of the month. With the little bit of help from our friends, we are now well ahead of our target. We had 3 friends here yesterday, so knocked off 300 bricks before lunch.This has brought us to about half way through the cleaning job. Ahead of schedule is a good place to be.

On the other days, we only had Gladys and Edna to help us.


We came across a really lovely example of the blue mould on one brick, with some green moss. I sent a photo of it to my friend Warren. He sent back an image of a pile of his bricks that are a stunning example of both the blue mould and bright green moss.

On the Tools – Day 4

We work for a couple of hours every morning from 6 or 6.30 until 8 or 8.30, depending on when we wake up.

We do at least 100 bricks before breakfast. Our brick cleaning tally stands at 600 bricks now. I was thinking at the beginning of this little project that I had over 3,000 bricks to get done. I’m an ageing old man, maybe 100 per day would get them all done in a month. Achievable, without doing myself an injury. So, all in all, I think that we are doing pretty well.

There is a gap between the bench and the brick pile now. That’s progress made tangible.

We were joined this morning, very early on by half a dozen wood ducks, they came wandering past grazing on the grass and made their way up to the front of our land where I planted a patch of clover.

Janine wets the bricks down with some water every now and then to suppress the dust.

Yesterday, I started the day with a new set of scutch combs in the hammers and by the evening they were reduced to being pretty blunt, so I reversed them to get another day out of the the other edge.

Slowly but surely, we will get it all done. The 42 oC temperatures haven’t helped, but we are in for a cool damp change tomorrow, so I might be swapping my home-made Legionaires style, adapted sun hat for a rain coat. At least it will keep the dust down and be so much cooler.

I improvised it by fixing part of an old T shirt to my straw hat with some of Geordie’s old nappy safety pins. Needs will, as needs must.

Clay water/grey water

On Wednesday afternoon, my neighbour Mitch called in with his excavator after he had finished work on another job.I had asked him to come when he could just a couple of days earlier.
We needed a seepage trench for the pottery sink to be dug 10 metres long and at least 600mm wide and 600 mm. deep. This will be for clay water/grey water seepage.I felt that as the weather is getting hotter and I’m wearing down. I copped out and got the trench dug. But it is money well spent.  Mitch dug the trench in just 10 minutes. It would have taken me all day – and then some.  3.5 cu.m. of crushed stone gravel is about 7 tonnes of material.

Yesterday I was in town, as I had a favour to repay and then I was off to Moss Vale to the plumbing supplies to buy all the parts for the seepage trench. 
Today, with everything in stock, we lined the seepage trench and built the stop ends/access/inspection ports, then filled 5 of the 7 tonnes back in again. A big day in the hot sun. We still have a couple of tonnes left over to deal with. 


I’m so glad to see the end of that job. It was over 30 oC here today while we did all this digging. After we finished all the earth works, we watered the garden and I picked all the days garden produce.


I picked tomatos, zuchinnis, capsicum, cucumbers, chillis and artichokes. This will be dinner. Janine cooked a vegetable risotto for dinner, while I made a big 5 litre stock pot full of tomato passata. We had our risotto with a small piece of fish, fresh off the south coast fish truck yesterday.

It’s a good life if you don’t weaken!

I See a Red Door

As the building of the new pottery shed has progressed in fits and starts, I have been busy on several fronts, working behind the scenes doing several jobs in preparation to keep the build progressing, by making windows and doors etc. Two weeks ago it was the stormwater plumbing and at the end of the week, the Council Building Inspector came out and passed the building up to the frame stage and also passed my underground storm water plumbing.

The last two items to be completed and inspected will be the sink, grease trap and drainage/absorption trench. I asked the inspector if i could do all this work myself and he said yes. I can do it all, I don’t need a plumber to sign off on it. So next week I will attempt to dig an adsorption trench 600mm. x 600mm. x 10 metres long and bury the plastic hoops necessary to create a legal drainage system for the sink. I have done all this before over the years, firstly for the first bathroom at the front of the house in 1980, and then again for there new kitchen/laundry/bathroom extension in 1990. It’s not rocket science. Just grunt.

The last inspection will be the final inspection. This will be after the electricians have been and the shed is lined inside with insulation in the walls and with the brickwork completed on the front wall. This will take some time to get done.

This last week I was hanging doors on the front and side verandahs. This has been one of those little jobs that have been idling along in the back ground for the last couple of months. I collected these couple of old doors years ago, just because they were really beautiful objects, even though I didn’t need them at the time. They were too good to pass up.

These days when I drive past piles of other peoples junk on the foot path, waiting for council clean-up. There is nothing worth taking home and re-cycling. It is all just so much plastic and chip board pulp waiting for land fill. The only lasting thing about Ikea furniture is the allenkey!

I found one of these old doors 20 years ago, in ‘condom ally’ in Darlinghurst, not far from the National Art School. I used to go there because it allowed all day parking for free at time when there was no space in the Art School. Someone had dumped the door on the side of the ally. I don’t know which house it came from, but it must have been posh as the door is massive. 2.1 metres x 1.2 metres and 55mm. thick. All in Australian cedar, but it had had a hard life and was pretty knocked around. The top two wooden in-set panels in the 4 panel door were smashed out. I saw it and put it up on my roof rack straight away. It sat there all day without being stolen back. So I drove home with it that night.

It sat in the wood shed for years and survived the fire last year. Our friend Megan Patey came to volunteer here one day earlier in the year and asked for a suitable job. So Janine and Megan cleared out the years of built up clutter that had made it’s way into the wood shed and Megan dragged out these two doors. That was a couple of months ago, and I have been tinkering away on them ever since.

The other door was collected off the side of the road on a Council Clean-up day. I saw it and stopped. Checked it out. It was dirty and damaged with the glass panes broken and missing, but it still had one small lead light intact on the top left side. The other 4 panes were smashed. I could see that it was made of Californian red wood timber and was massively thick at 65mm thick! It’s the thickest door I’ve ever handled. It was also stored in the back of the wood shed and survived the fire. So now I know why I saved them all those years ago. I would need them for this last pottery building.

I started cleaning them both back, removing decades of built-up dirt and layers of paint. some of it possibly lead based, considering their age. I worked out side and wore a mask and gloves, just in case. The big cedar door didn’t look good after cleaning. it was too far gone. A lot of splits and cracks and weathering. I decided that the best option was to paint it. I filled all the cracks with polyester gap filler mastic and undercoated it.

The other door was quite badly weathered on the outside face, to the extent that the patina of crackled and flaked paint and slightly exposed patches of bare wood had a very subtle ‘wabi-sabi’ feeling about it. This green-yellow-mustard-grey-brown patina of multi layered flaking paint matched some of the old rusted galvanised iron that I had collected. This combination was too good to waste. I decided there and then that this was the gal iron for the verandah where this door would be hung.

I prised the wooden beading out of the frame holding the lead light in place and moved it to the centre position, then got two new plain glass panes to fit the other two spaces where the other lead lights had been smashed. It came together quite well I think.

The door knock and letter box slot are just the right combination of yellow brass, red copper oxide and green copper verdigris.
I fitted two large panels of laminated safety glass in to the middle two openings. They had been wood in the past, but rather than having wood there. I decided that the door worked better with glass in this instance.

I decided to paint the massive cedar door bright red and use it as the front door facing the street. It looks good, but strong red needs a little bit of black to contrast against it. So I fitted a very old lock that I scrounged way back in the 70’s. I could never find a place for this lock, as it was just too big for any normal door. Finally it has found its place in life. I see a red door and I want to paint the lock black!

My friend Jack Cookson, and I made a key for it.

I think that it works well with the old cast iron door knob, that came off the side door to the old pottery. I recovered this from the ashes after the fire, along with the old cast iron knocker. Just enough black to off-set and highlight the bright red. A little of the old incorporated into the new.

Here again, I decided that the door worked better for us here with glass in the two upper panels rather than wood.

Where the latch key lock should have been. There was a circular hole in the door, regrettably, much too close to the door frame to fit a standard ‘lockwood’ style lock. So I decided to deal with the hole by filling it. My very good friend Warren recently came to give us a hand for a few days of his Xmas holidays. So generous of him! We got a lot of stormwater plumbing done. Warren came bearing gifts! One of his clients had given him a bottle of French ‘Pol Roger’ Champagne for Xmas and he decided to bring it down and share it with us. It was very nice. I saved the cork. Janine realised that the initials on the cork ‘PR’ was not too dissimilar to the clay stamp that our teacher, good friend and mentor Peter Rushforth used on his work, so I incorporated the cork into the door as a little tribute to Peter and Bobby.

This new pottery now has embedded into its structure a load of references and links to our personal history, and our friends past and present. We are ever so grateful to all of you out there who have turned up to give us a hand along the way on this difficult and trying journey.

Nothing is ever finished, nothing is perfect and nothing lasts.

Thank you!