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Materials: Rescued firewood, woodshop and plywood offcuts

Like many woodworkers, I’m loathed to throw out any offcuts that “may be useful” and as a consequence I end up with a box full of pieces of timber and plywood. Similarly, my love of timber in all its forms leads me to “high grade” the firewood pile looking for pieces that are unusual and suitable for turning or just too pretty to burn. Of course, hoarding all this, what others may consider waste, means that I’ve had to come up with a way of using it in a meaningful way. What better way than to make toys that are a whimsical, unique and, hopefully, inspire children to be creative in their play.


The trunks of the supporting trees of Shipwreck Tree House were either scavenged from the burn pile while cutting firewood or from the firewood as it was unloaded. The platforms are slices cut from a small log with interesting grain patterns, also from the firewood pile. The wrecked pirate ship is made from some of the hoarded “may be useful” offcuts of plywood and bits and pieces of timber in the offcuts bin, the sails are made from material from old bed sheets that I usually use for clean-up rags. The battlements and towers are left over pieces from a table I made for friends from a fallen walnut tree on their property. The soldiers are turned from offcuts of various timbers with “chainmail” laser etched onto the bodies.

The Ship Wreck Tree House No.2 and the Spiderweb Tree House demonstrate that nothing needs to be waste. With a little bit of thought so called “waste” can be transformed into something useful, playful and whimsical.



I have been a hobby woodworker and photographer for most of my adult life. I was initially mainly interested in furniture restoration and cabinet making, and then I started making toys when our first grandchild was born in 2006. Inspired by the unimaginative doll houses for sale and an eye for interesting pieces of firewood, I saw an opportunity to use all the small offcuts of plywood that I had hoarded over the years and the naturalistic treehouse concept arrived.


After retiring to Port MacDonnell on the Limestone Coast of South Australia I was able to devote more time to my hobbies. My woodwork developed in new directions including woodturning, which for years I thought of as not for me and an old man’s pursuit, but which has turned out to be true because that’s mainly what I do now. With access to some beautiful timbers in the area, red gum, stringy bark, bull oak and iron bark that are typically used for firewood, I sought out the more interesting pieces from the wood pile with an eye for those that had been attacked by rot, borers or white ants. These, often honeycombed pieces, lend themselves to combining with acrylic resins to produce turned objects, bowls, pots and vases, of exceptional beauty reminiscent of the caves and waterholes of the Limestone Coast.

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