John Tainsh is a local woodworker who creates beautiful timber masterpieces as a hobby. FOCUS talks to John about his passion for timber …
How did you initially discover your woodworking talents?
Well, I retired early and was having a holiday house built. I needed to build some fences etc. so I bought a Triton work bench. Some time later, I moved to Queensland, where I ran into a friend of mine who was a woodworker – and he said I was pretty good at it. So he suggested I talk to Triton and become a Triton Demonstrator … so I did. Being a Triton Demonstrator meant I worked at different Bunnings stores every Saturday morning along the Gold Coast.
I demonstrated the equipment and its uses, basically as a hobby. Eventually, I bought more and more equipment and became more proficient in woodworking.
Have you had any formal training?
No, I’m basically self taught – other than going to a few specialist lessons with Neil Scobie and John Van der Kolk here in Coffs Harbour.
You’re a member of the Mid North Coast Woodworkers club here, aren’t you?
Yes, I am. I was the Publicity Officer on the committee, but in the last 12 months I’ve resigned from that post. I’m still active in the club though … I still give lessons and offer for members to come to my workshop. The club meets on the fourth Friday of every month at John Paul College, in the woodworking section. Membership to the Club is $35 a year.
It’s not an expensive group to be a member of, and visitors are welcome. There’s a lot of knowledge and expertise in the town, and people in the Club are prepared to pass on that knowledge to you. The Club does do some weekend courses, and we have a number of different demonstrators who come and present to us.
So do you teach?
Well, I do teach occasionally for some of the members of the club. I really don’t teach as a professional.
You’re more of a mentor then?
Yes. I’ve taught a number of ladies to get started in woodwork, and they have been very happy to take home a simple box for their first effort. My very patient wife Suzanne has provided the coffee and biscuits. So, I’ve mentored people basically just to promote woodwork and show that it’s a fun and creative thing to do.
What’s your specialty?
I specialise in making jewellery boxes. I’ve got 13 grand kids … there are 7 girls, and when they turn 13 they all get a big jewellery box for their birthday. I can create pieces of any size – as big as coffee tables and outside benches. I don’t invest in lots of timber if it’s not going to sell, but if someone wants something large, I’ll make it.
I do sell some of my work at the annual woodworking show that the Club holds at the Cavanbah Hall around Easter, and I put my work up for sale at The Butterfly House as well. I am a member of the Sawtell Art Group and display my work there too.
What sort of timbers do you like to work with?
The more exotic, the better! I’ve used a lot of local timbers like Camphor Laurel, Rosewood and Cedar, but I do like the Western Desert timbers like Gidgee, Lancewood and Needlewood. These are all hard acacias that come from the North Queensland/Darwin area.
So when I travel up there, I have been known to come back with a caravan full of timbers that I’ve picked up along the way!
What is it about wood that you’re attracted to?
I just like the way that it can be finished – especially the harder woods. You can polish them up and make them look like marble! This emphasises the beautiful grain and texture in the wood. You can make some great pieces of art with wood, from structured to sculptured … that’s what I like.
What challenges do you face in your work?
Making sure you don’t cut off your fingers! Safety is always an issue, so you have to be as careful as possible – especially when you’re working with big machines.
What’s the easiest way for people to view and commission your work?
As I mentioned, some of it is on display at The Butterfly House, but I also have some images online. People can call me directly to commission work – (02) 6658 8859 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org