John Fairweather Specialty Timber Solutions has had the good fortune to acquire wharf piles from Lyttelton Port Company. While we emphasize the use of locally-grown eucalypts we embrace the re-purposing of wharf piles which have been in service in Canterbury for a long time. Ironbark is a eucalypt with very durable timber.
The piles come from a wharf referred to as Cashin Quay 2. Construction of this wharf commenced in 1964, and was completed in 1967. As a result of the 2010 / 2011 Canterbury Earthquakes the structure was severely damaged and subsequently demolished.
The ironbarks get their name from the normally hard, rough bark on their trunks which stays dead on the trees, rather than peeling off, and is resistant to fire and heat.
The ironbarks include a number of species but two with the largest natural distribution are grey ironbark (E. paniculata) and red ironbark (E. sideroxylon). The former grows as a medium-sized to tall forest tree while the latter grows to a small to medium-sized woodland to occasionally tall forest tree (Brooker and Kleinig, Field Guide to Eucalypts). It seems likely that grey ironbark would be the more readily-available species.
The piles have been in salt water for about 50 years and they have lasted very well. In fact, when you cut one, the heartwood looks quite fresh and if you tap the end of the log it ‘rings’ as if it were a freshly cut log. The logs are in good condition in part because, when installed, the outside of each log was burnt and then treated with creosote.
The wood ranges in colour from red brown to pale brown. It weighs 1,100kg per cubic metre. The moisture content ranges from 14-17%.
The naval shipworm, Teredo navalis, has made a home in some of the logs. These worms manage to eat through the heartwood, despite its hardness, and leave interesting trails. Some of the milled timber has this feature. These worm holes come free of charge. The photograph below shows the shipworm and the two shells used for boring through wood.
The virtue of this naturally occurring character is apparent in the photograph below showing a guitar constructed without a dedicated sound hole (using a species other than ironbark).
Aside from such artistic purposes ironbark can be used for all exterior applications and for feature timber and structures internally. We can supply 25mm thick timber for decking or cladding, 50mm thick timber for tables and other structures, and beams cut to any size needed. Common beam sizes include 200mm by 200mm and 150mm by 150mm. Lengths are available up to 5m.
The photograph below shows ironbark timber next to and on top of E. nitens to show the contrast in colours.