Some time ago I was commissioned to build two bedside tables for a client. As the room already contained an old handsome teak wardrobe we decided the bedside tables should be in a timber matching in colour. Fortunately I have a small treasure trove of Burmese Teak door frames, salvaged from the original Standard bank building in Johannesburg, and bought by my father at an auction many years later. An aside: my father had a great weakness for auctions; I remember as a small child the sight of Pa, returning to the farm triumphantly from Johannesburg with many bales of clothing on the truck. For years after this one would be treated to the sight of African women, resplendent in bright evening gowns, hoeing the tobacco fields.
The pieces of teak languished in various barns through the years, eventually ending up in my workshop. This teak would have been cut at the turn of the 20th century, so approximately 120 years old. Still cut by axe, dragged from the forest by elephants, one is humbled.
The pieces prior to cutting. Old wood indeed. And yet, the first bandsaw cut released a wonderful aroma of fresh wood, revealing an oily surface on the wood with no signs of decay at all. My hands turned shiny with the oil as I cut.
A timber that is a pure joy to work. I am grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to work old teak, the old-growth forests have been decimated and the replanted forests tend to be cut young. But at least there is formidable replanting in process.
The tables that emerged from the old pieces of timber: