ROLKA Creative Building Blocks
From Seed to Play
Our blocks are made from plantation grown Hoop pine that we buy from a Mill in Clontarf on the Redcliffe Peninsula. The timber comes from the Imbil State Forest plantation situated between Gympie and Maryborough. When the trees reach maturity, large companies like Hyne & Son Pty Ltd put in tenders for a specific area, harvest the timber, and sell on to the smaller mills such as the one in Clontarf.
When we need more timber for our blocks, we put in an order for about 1000 linear metres, which is enough to make about 50 standard sets (150 blocks). The timber is then cut and dressed to 8mm x 24 mm, in lengths of up to 3 metres.
In our workshop we use a dropsaw to dock the timber into 120mm lengths. Each block is then checked for splinters or other defects and these are sanded off to give us our finished product.
We always have lots of off-cuts and reject blocks that we donate to Reverse Garbage (recyclers of industrial waste) in Brisbane’s West End. Child Care Centres , Schools and Kindergartens can then buy these pieces for use in craft work. In this way, waste is kept to a minimum, as timber is precious.
Finally. The blocks are counted into sets of 50, 100 or 150 and wrapped in craft paper ready to be sold.
Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii)
The Hoop Pine is a wonderful tree. A teepee of green tufts dotted along the branches while its straight dark trunk stretches upwards. The name comes from the fact that the bark splits horizontally at regular intervals in forms of hoops.
Proud symbol of the Pine Rivers Shire where it was once prolific, Hoop Pine is a softwood and its timber is a rich light creamy colour patterned with curved streaks of pale brown. Its great qualities as a material for furniture, floors, houses etc lead to its being exploited throughout Queensland. Fortunately, many plantations, such as the one at Imbil, have now been established.
A Brief History – From “Living with the Environment” by John Bowden for the Pine Rivers Shire Council
When he explored the Pine River, John Oxley showed great interest in hoop pines as timber for masts. His interest was followed by that of others seeking supplies of the species for its exceptional quality as a general building timber. One of the first surveyors of the district, Robert Dixon, in 1842 named the North Pine the “Eden” River (J. Steele, 1975 p. 268), an indication of the great beauty of the riverine forests and their numerous emergent hoop pines. Many early settlers of the Pine Valley turned to timber cutting instead of agriculture (D. Dorman & D. Cryle, 1992, p. 108). Natural stands of mature hoop pines are now rare in the Pine Shire but they are still evident in our landscapes and more are being planted. Similarly, the once common giant red cedars, white beech and silky oaks have all but disappeared from our forests, as they have from other parts of Eastern Australia. The historical, economic, ecological and aesthetic value of the hoop pine to the Pine Rivers is commemorated in the Shire Council logo.
The species is found in pockets all along the Queensland coast and into New South Wales as far south as the Macleay River. Southern Queensland still contains the greatest representation of the species while it is also found in Papua New Guinea.
Hoop pine grows in undulating to mountainous country and in a variety of soil types. It can be found in the sands of Fraser Island, as well as the basaltic soils of the coastal ranges. It requires annual rainfall in excess of 750mm.
Being a rainforest pioneer it has to compete with other rainforest species and is not often found in pure stands. Hoop pine seedlings are shade intolerant so natural regeneration is limited.
Management of hoop pine plantations
Plantations were first established on former rainforest sites from the 1920s, mostly in south-east Queensland.
Seeds are produced in seed orchards, then germinated in the Department of Primary Industry’s nurseries. Suitable seedlings take about two years to grow before being planted out. 830 trees are planted to the hectare though this can vary according to conditions. The best 400 trees on each hectare are pruned while the remaining trees are progressively removed during commercial thinning operations. The superior trees are able to develop more fully and are felled after a 50-year cycle.
Thinnings are converted to cases, mouldings, furniture components, particleboard, pulp for paper, cardboard. Small trees give us speciality items such as spatulas and brush handles, while furniture, cladding and mouldings are produced from larger trees. Plywood and wide boards are produced from the butt sections of the final crop.
Apart from timber production, management also provides for catchment protection, recreation, grazing, beekeeping and protection of wildlife habitats.
Importance of trees
Everyone knows the importance of trees in the environment, they are an essential part of life and must be nurtured and loved. Many mistakes were made in the past. Now we have to use the lessons learnt, applying our new knowledge to the growing of timber and the upkeep of our natural forests, for the betterment of all.
Wood is such a rich resource, used in so many aspects of our lives. What would we do without the endless list of end products that are part of our lifestyle? Is there a viable alternative? Can we produce enough forests to cater for our needs? Australia is enormous, the amount of cleared land that could be replanted is endless; what is needed is a commitment from governments, landowners and the wider community in a joint effort to do something about it.
HOW HIGH IS THAT TREE?
Making a clinometer
A clinometer is a simple instrument that can read an angle of inclination. It can be used to estimate the height of a tree.