Simon Begg is a young Australian woodworker from Sydney who found his passion for timber at a young age. Throughout school he excelled in Industrial Technology, finishing high school with a rank of 2nd in the State. He completed his cabinetmaking apprenticeship working for Stephen Pemberton Fine Furniture and Covemore Designs in Seven Hills. While completing his trade, Simon spent most of his time in his shed making pieces for customers and competitions, regularly winning awards at agricultural shows.
After a trip to Turnfest 2016, Simon realised that his hobby could be a career that is worth pursuing, so he began to chase his dream job. 2 years later he got an opportunity to teach at the Turnfest clinic and in 2019 he will be one of the headline demonstrators.
Simon Begg works in a variety of timbers including the Tasmanian Blackwood, Tiger Grain Myrtle, Huon Pine etc.
For starters Huon Pine only grows in the wet, temperate rainforests of South West Tasmania – on the whole planet! ‘Lagarostrobus franklinii’ (its proper name) is not actually a pine and is the only member of its family, so a pretty unique tree which grows extremely slowly, averaging just 1 millimetre in girth per year. They can grow to be 2,500 years old which means some of them started life BC! Add to this the fact that they do not start to reproduce until 600 to 800 years of age and you have a very special tree whose timber also has remarkable properties. The timber has a very high oil content, methyl eugenol to be precise, which renders it impervious to insects, waterproof, and imbues it with its characteristic sappy perfume. The high oil content also means the timber can be bent, shaped, worked and sculpted without splitting and finishes to a superb, fine lustre. Pale straw coloured when first cut, it ages to a rich honey gold. Woodworkers love it!
A Little Bit Of History
The early settlers discovered the remarkable properties of Huon Pine and saw its potential for boat building, resistant as it was to those perennial problems of the boat builder, marine borer and screw worm. It turned out to be the best boat building timber in the world and was exploited heavily in the early days, driving a huge industry based on this ‘green gold’.
Interestingly, concern for the future of these venerable giants started early in the last century – even back then it was apparent that there would be no next generation of trees to be had, their slow growth precluding the possibility of plantation farms.