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Articles & Stories

LT15 repurposes 200 year old Slavonian oak

Friday, July 10, 2015

LT15 repurposes 200 year old Slavonian oak

Under the skilled hands of this master artisan from Croatia, the beauty of ancient Slavonian oak salvaged from deteriorating barns and homes is preserved for future generations.

"My passion for woodworking started simply as a hobby. Having learned from my father some of the finer techniques and tricks of the craft, I began small by constructing picture frames and mirror frames about 15 years ago."

One day, I happened across an old wooden beam, and began working with it. After cleaning and sanding down the surface, I was struck by the beauty created by the natural grain combining with marks and colourations left by time. I was compelled to find out more about where it came from, and where it could be found.

A collection of old 

beams awaiting new life under Petar’s talented hands.

After doing some research on construction techniques used in my area over the past 200 hundred years, I found that there was once much larger timber available than we see today. One photo I collected shows a log with dimensions of 17 metres long and 132 cm in diameter – 23 cubic metres of boards in only one log! Just to move the log from the forest, ten horses were required, and these old logs were sawn by hand!

Now, the old Slavonian giant oak trees are all gone – completely harvested in the 18-19th centuries. Almost 90% of the timber was shipped to Europe to be used in construction projects.

Even though our giant oaks are no longer standing, much of their wood still survives. In my town of Zagreb, old homes and barns are constructed from the old oak beams. Many of these structures are not in daily use as they once were and are being torn down as they fall into disrepair. Watching these premium old beams being hauled away as waste, I decided that this presented an opportunity to do what I enjoy most, while also being a profitable way to support my family. Repurposing the wooden components of these aging buildings into something beautiful, modern, and useful is where my business enters the picture again. My shop is aptly named, ‘Rarity’.

 

Salvaging ancient wood and initial restoration

Four years ago, I purchased my first old building, dismantled it piece by piece, and began my business building unique and high- quality furniture from the old wood. Since that first trial, I have dismantled a number of old buildings, and have formed a reputation locally for my desire for old wood, and residents often contact me, offering their old buildings for purchase. Once a deal is made, the real work can begin.

First, I disassemble the whole house, then the individual beams must be washed with high water pressure, and all metal nails and staples removed. I keep a metal detector handy!

Next, the old beams must be cut straight again. Originally, they were cut by hand, leaving the surfaces rough and over the decades, the beams have developed warps and bends.

Petar is able to produce 

blanks with smooth, accurate surfaces with his new LT15 sawmill.

For several years, I hired someone to do this for me, but in January of 2013, I bought my own Wood-Mizer sawmill and now I cut the beams myself. I chose an LT15 band sawmill, where the log is secured to the bed and then I cut it into boards, one by one, pushing the sawmill head along the length of the bed. The cutting blade is essentially a horizontal band saw on a moveable track. The head raises and lowers with a crank to position the blade for the next cut, and to adjust the resulting lumber dimensions. The resulting lumber is cut accurately and quickly, considering it is simply powered with an electric 7.5 kW motor.

Wood that is hundreds of years old is as hard as ceramic, but the Wood-Mizer cuts it much easier than I expected. I create table tops with 3mm thick veneer, and it turns out perfectly smooth. The sawn material is dried in my electric kilns for 2-3 days to a final moisture content of 8%. Then the blanks are glued – the cut precision is so good that the splices are practically invisible. I saw up to 20 cubic metres of wood a month, and the quality of the pieces brings steady business.

I have customers from Germany, wood carvers, who order wood for their projects. My sawmill ensures that I can guarantee them the highest quality wood.

Custom Furniture Building

Although I supply some of the wood to other artisans, the primary goal for the wood I cut is for my own furniture projects, where the only limit is my imagination.

I am always thinking up new designs, new innovative elements to create. And I use the finest quality materials to create them – German lacquer, Dutch glue, and English polish.

My most regular customers are restaurants, hotels, and fans of Slavonian antique-style furniture from Croatia, Germany, Austria, and Northern Europe. The furniture is purchased, not only for the beauty it will add to current furnishings, but also because it is intended to become a heirloom to be passed on to the next generation.

It is a great pleasure to be able to create and build such things. Our whole family works with wood – my father, uncle, and nephews. Of my three sons, the eldest is already planning to attend study forestry in college. Originally, I was educated in the culinary arts, but the family passion of woodworking has captured my full attention.

For me, it’s so important that these old homes built from beautiful bicentennial oak are not just torn down and destroyed, but that they will continue to live on, being used and appreciated for another five hundred years!"

 

Watch the LT15 in action in the video below:

 

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Welcome to the stories and articles section of our website.

Here you will discover how Wood-Mizer sawmill owners worldwide are actively growing local economies by processing wood more sustainably and profitably. 

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