By Ruth Quick, Avid Arbortech Woodworker Enthusiast
Two days into the start of the new year of 2015, communities in the North Eastern rural fringe areas of Adelaide were savaged by a fire that started from a small spot fire on someone's property to a raging inferno that took several days before it be could be brought under control and burned out thousands of hectares of land. The fire front itself was over 200km in length .Several properties including those of local CFS members who were helping to fight this fire were destroyed. The whole landscape was transformed into an eerie blackened alien mess.
I lived approximately 30 mins away from Kersbrook, the hardest hit town in the fire. For the first time ever we too were put on alert to prepare to evacuate, something none of us had ever had to experience. I live in the suburbs and this was just so surreal. We could see the glow of the fires, the smoke was even choking at times to us and a few days later I found bits of burned out embers in our backyard. It just demonstrated to us how wide ranging this threat had been.
I thought I had an idea of what it would be like. I thought I could comprehend it but it was just indescribably MASSIVE. It took a few weeks for even the roads to be open to get through as the trees were still burning inside themselves and were suddenly collapsing into the roadway causing danger to traffic. You just don't understand it until you have seen it.
I just had this idea after I saw an urgently set up group looking for people to help fundraise to get some money and equipment to support and replace the equipment that they had used or needed such as a defibrillator. I contacted one of the organisers and put forward my idea that if someone could spare a few pieces of burned wood I could use my Arbortech tools to make up some simple carvings they could perhaps be auctioned off and use the money to help them with what they need.
I was then invited up to have a look around this person's property to collect some wood and do just that. I knew I would need something with real grunt to work my way into these piece and that's when I contacted Arbortech's CEO and woodworker, Kevin Inkster and asked about the donation of the Arbortech TurboPlane blade to be provided to me as I didn't have one. This blade would be the ideal tool and I only have the Arbortech Mini-TURBO.
I used the Industrial Woodcarver blade to dig out pockets of burnt out wood and grit (from where it had fallen into the ground, often from great heights) and also to help make channels/recesses that I could then use the TurboPlane blade to scoop and plane the wood out with. I simply couldn't have done this with the smaller tools. The burned wood was full of surprises, the heat had caused the wood to rupture internally in unexpected places. You imagine that when carving on a piece of unburned wood that it would be pretty well solid all the way through. I found that I would come across splintery dry fragmented pieces where the heat had travelled in literally caused the wood to rapidly blow apart and dry out so when I was using the TurboPlane. The whole feel of the wood would change and splinters would suddenly fly off in all directions. Both the TurboPlane and Industrial Woodcarver made short work of all the charred wood on the surface that often covered these pieces. I was covered in fine ash but it did the job beautifully.
The TurboPlane is now my favourite tool. It worked fabulously and there was a good amount of control and power when using it. This wood was hard eucalyptus, it was like carving a brick at times but the TurboPlane just ate it for breakfast! It didn't grab like the Industrial Woodcarver as it sometimes does, but again these are two different blades and each has their own way of doing things. It was fun, messy and always a huge learning experience for me to do this. You really need to play around with them to get a good feel of the tool's capabilities.
I finished up the rest of the pieces with my own pyrography, engraved sayings, paint additions and clear coated them all with a tungoil/resin finish.
These pieces were auctioned at the Kersbrook Fire Fighters Support Group Fair (along with other donated items etc) which was held on the 15th March, 2015 at the Kersbrook Soldiers Memorial Park. I have since been approached and am currently completing some more items for some residents who were affected by the fire and who want a personal memento to keep and pass on to their own children as a reminder of not just the fire but more importantly, the fact that they survived it. Someone said to me "it's making beauty from tragedy". I dont think I could ask for a better statement than that and it makes me feel so good to be able to bring that into their lives after what they have experienced.
It's funny isn't it....I wouldn't have been able to do this without these tools and wouldn't have had these experiences and met these people as a result. It's amazing to see how much it has helped .
Thank you Arbortech so much for supplying me with the TurboPlane blade. I should add that I actually have bad tendonitis in my right hand ( I'm right handed) yet it coped ok with using these tools whereas if I had tried to use hand tools there was no way I could do this. That was a revelation for me! Thanks again Arbortech!