Friday, July 10, 2015
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
Watch the LT15 in action in the video
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.
I invite you to contact me for any questions about these articles.