Wood Works Well For Stan

Stan Ceglinski is so passionate about timber that you’d think he has sap running through his veins. He owns Mullumbimby Woodworks in northern New South Wales, Australia.

His experience with wood is extensive and goes back a long way. Twenty-seven years ago, after his wife Noelene had trouble in childbirth, Stan gave up his job and started working for himself as a firewood supplier.

“I just used to go up in the bush and cut firewood, by hand, by the tonne, and then deliver it,” he said.

In time, people started asking if Stan could supply them with some posts, which he did. Then people started requesting split posts. Stan didn’t know how to split posts, but he agreed anyway. “If it was to do with timber I’d say yes to anybody, and then I’d worry about how to do it later.”

So he found out how to split posts. Then people started asking him to supply bridge girders. So he learned how to hand-hew bridge girders with adzes and broad axes. Another time, someone asked if he could make shingles, and of course he agreed. “I said ‘sure, no problems’.” But again, he had to go and find out how to make them. He read every book he could find on the subject and also made a visit to old Stan Bailey, a wood craftsman in Timbertown.

Mullumbimby Woodworks on display at the Sydney Woodworks Show.

When Stan called in on the old man he was demonstrating shingle making to a Japanese tourist. The craftsman was asked several questions, none of which he could answer. Stan Ceglinski was a bushy and knew nothing about the technical aspects of shingle making. But old Stan did, and he offered to answer the questions.

After the tourist’s curiosity was satisfied, the old man turned to Stan: “you’re going to go away from here today and start a shingle factory aren’t you?” he asked. “Yep,” said Stan. “Well, if I hear you’re any good, I’ll send you more work than you can poke a stick at.”

Within two years Stan had developed a shingle mill and was getting all the commercial timber work from Timbertown. He continued supplying firewood, posts, sawn timber and bridge girders too, and his reputation as a timber man grew. “Over the past 26 years, we’ve done over 250 National Trust jobs, nationally and internationally” Stan said.

He has also developed a detailed understanding about the qualities of different timbers and what they can be used for. This knowledge came in handy some years later when his access to timber resource was curtailed by the NSW Forestry Commission.

“They said I should go and grow potatoes or something,” Stan said. But he wasn’t ready to grow potatoes. “I told Noelene and the kids I was going to get into salvaging timber – slabbing them up, designing and making furniture and the like.”

He then bought one of the first-ever made Peterson sawmills. He has also been a regular attraction at agricultural shows in Australia and New Zealand, entertaining people with his woodcraft skills and the “Great Saw Race”, where the general public competes in a crosscut saw contest. “In the past 10 years, I’ve been to 77 shows and the responses have just been amazing,” Stan said. “It gives me the passion to keep doing it.”

Stan still uses his handcraft skills in his everyday work, but also embraces technology such as chainsaws and portable sawmills. “The traditional way of doing things was to find a quick and comfortable way of doing it. However I won’t use a tool because it’s convenient, if it’s going to compromise the integrity of the product.”

Stan’s boys – Simon, Peter and Andrew – have grown up around timber, and while they are pursuing their own careers, they are still involved in their dad’s business along with Noelene. From humble beginnings in firewood, Stan has developed a diverse range of skills and his love of timber and the bush is obvious when you talk to him. So, the last words should be left to him.

“I wouldn’t be dead for quids.”

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