In The Rough



The urban streetscape supplies many examples of front fences and gates which sit uneasily with the houses they enclose. Offences to good taste range from being a bit inappropriate to being guilty of major period Style Crime. High swoops of Victorian pickets with cast iron finials crowning the gateposts often guard humble post-1945 weatherboard houses - debasing them in the process. Brush fences hide elaborately detailed tuck-pointed red brick residences and massive masonry walls conceal small timber cottages.

While I silently pass judgement on these marriages of construction during morning walks, I must fess up to fence felony myself - having until recently maintained a high stockade-like timber structure that got a bit saggy in its 20 year life. Compounding the misdemeanour, it supported a pair of salvaged wrought-iron gates somewhat overblown for a timber cottage in a street which has followed the metropolitan rail tracks since the 1880s. 

Encouraged by Timberzoo's recent production run of Blackbutt batten, I worked with Czech-born craftsman Vladimir Jelinek to install a simple picket fence that did little to overwhelm the simplicity of a weatherboard dwelling. Battens in a 40 x 32mm size can be fixed to rails on either a short 32mm face or a broad 40mm face. Because the footpath runs on only one side of the railway crescent, we decided upon a widely spaced set out - one for one - using the greater 40mm depth of the picket to give a diminished oblique view into the front yard when viewed up close. From across the road on the railway verge, when viewed directly, the picket screen provides a fairly transparent view of the house through the fence.


It's a truly universal instrument - this humble batten. As a picket, it would suit many houses - both contemporary in style and those making no claim to the high periods of domestic architectural style. In horizontal alignment, it would be a robust privacy screen for inner-city decks and verandas seeking to limit overlook from neighbours' windows. With the natural durability of Blackbutt, it could do service as a shade batten on decks and pergolas. It is also a decking board - with the ability to alleviate the monotony of standard decking sizes - especially on small linking platforms between different levels of timber decking.


Timberzoo resize this batten from north coast mill production falldown and waste board in larger dimensions. This should earn it several koala stamps in my estimation. It is a shame I don't run my own certification body. Blackbutt 40 x 32mm batten is available in set-length packs 1.5m, 1.8m and 2.1m, as well as regular availability of longer lengths.

Vladimir and I planned to retain the factory-salvaged hardwood gate posts and re-fashioned the capping to an industrial-look, chisel-faced profile. They marry well with the timber gate built by Barwon Heads artisan business Estancia Gates. Timberzoo and John Philip of Estancia Gates were destined to meet by dint of good hardwoods - specifically Jarrah timbers from Station Pier. Some of the shorter beams were milled to 100 x 100mm - perfect dimensions for the rails and mullions of the gates so finely worked, housed and seated.

When I commissioned a driveway gate from Estancia Gates using the same recycled Jarrah, John Philip installed the finished work himself, making sure that the gate was weight-relieved at rest in the open and closed positions. It is an element of care and fine-tuning necessary to something with this substantial heft of timber and metal. 


The essential appeal of the gate is this combination of metal banding, bolt and bar with solid timber forms. Philip rightly claims inspiration from the estancias of the Argentinean pampas - but there is a strong tradition that derives from rural Australia in this design. We see it in the stockyards and rail yards of the interior. John Philip spent most of his life managing sheep stations north of the Murray and he worked long days installing fences and gates that had to function. A lot rides on the containment of farm stock and their safe loading. Philip absorbed this design ethic without being conscious of its distinction. 

A barely remembered aspect of city life.

The level crossing, signals box and manual timber gates.


It strikes me now that this is what it's all about. It's all about texture and materials and the fundamentals of identity. Was I distracted by an entrenched suburban anxiety about giving offence? Of being guilty or innocent of Style Crimes? Good design probably has little to do with style - being all about function or utility - revealed (in this case) in the exposed elements of construction and lack of decorative detail. 

Elements of rural construction - the regular rhythms of timber brace, post, stile and rail.


I'm over it now - the Style jones. Completely cured. I admire the carelessness of suburban weekend stylists. Daggy rose arbours, water features, aspirational fences teamed with ageing bungalows. The more adventurous, the better. It ain't about style. It's about identity. It's hard to be unique, but we can all be individual and it's better to be bold than timid. I have no doubt that one day I'll be working unobserved in my front garden and overhear a passerby say to her companion "I like that fence - but I'm not sure it goes with the house" or something worse - and it worries me not a jot.



 Vladimir Jelinek can be contacted on 0412 516 553 and prefers carpentry and restoration work
that is not as back-breaking as fences. But he used to do lots of them when he was younger.


 John Philip of Estancia Gates can be contacted on 0418 542 998 and info@estanciagates.com.
His website is www.estanciagates.com



KD Blackbutt Batten

40 x 32mm     Rate $4.50/m     Lengths 1.5m; 1.8m; 2.1m     Available in set-length packs



Recycled Jarrah DAR

85 x 85mm     Rate $49.00/m     Lengths to 3.1m

Great scar lines, boltholes and black carbon staining around voids left by bolts and spike.

Surfaces often finely furrowed with surface checks.

The true recycled look.



Recycled Douglas Fir Beams

135 x 42mm (approx)     Rate $19.00/m

So keen were we to preserve vestiges of original face and edge - and to retain sawmarks and age,
that no two beams are exactly the same dimension - but close enough (2mm+/-).

Mostly 3.1m lengths salvaged from large factory in Ballarat Rd, Deer Park.

We used them for an 'exposed joist' look in the Timberzoo lunchroom.


What did we team it with?

Recycled Douglas Fir Lining Boards

125 x 15mm     Rate $55.00/m2

Plenty of long lengths.


Sawtooth Lining Board

185 x 14mm     Rate $50.00/m2 

The texture and mask of age and every face unique.



Timber Patterns

$70 to $400 each

These timber patterns were salvaged from the Goetz Engineering Works in Newport and relate to iron boilers and associated plant.

There are lots of circular patterns as well as piston, rod and crankcase profiles which would all look great in home or shop.

See individual items priced on our ebay shop - but the best way to shop is to browse our two rooms of Timber Patterns in person.

Come to the Timberzoo for a morning very soon.

You'll love the experience - and there's a lot to see.




Old Ammo Boxes

$66.00 each

I love the storeroom look in the repetitive forms when they are stacked and aligned
along a wall, ends facing - or as a bar support - or a shop display.

Butter-toned Baltic Pine timber in good solid condition.