Cathedral’s Tassie touch

St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Adelaide is now home to Tasmanian Blackwood, sourced through Britton Timbers, to further embellish a rare Canadian Casavant Frères pipe organ. Photo courtesy of Phil Handforth.

Craftsmanship. Blackwood from Britton Timbers has been used to craft a spectacular organ in a South Australian church.

In Adelaide’s magnificent St Francis Xavier Cathedral, a rare Canadian Casavant Frères pipe organ was sourced to complete a nine-year transformation of the holy structure.

Originally built in 1927 and installed for 70 years in a Montreal church, the 3500 pipes weighing 16 tonnes were painstakingly dismantled, transported and re-built.

Renowned South Australian master craftsman Lex Stobie was commissioned to undertake the fit-out of the façade, case work and other associated cabinetry around the instrument using the ideal timber: Tasmanian Blackwood.

Britton Timbers manager Shawn Britton said he was pleased with the unique partnership.

“It’s historically been a decorative timber, right from when Blackwood was first harvested in Tasmania over 150 years ago.

“Smithton has been the main source of Blackwood for 150 years.”

He said there were churches and public buildings constructed at the turn of the century fitted with the specialty timber.

Even timber beer barrels and trams were made using Blackwood.

“This is the sort of thing our timber goes into, it doesn’t go into framing, it all goes into appearance products because it’s high-quality timber.”

He said it is the timber of choice in many commercial fit-outs.

“We’ve just completed fitting out the new BHP offices in Brisbane and they should be finished this month,” he said.

“[This includes] all the internal joinery, the staircase work and the facade – the window surrounds – are completely done in Blackwood.

“We’ve done courthouses, we’ve done the RACV accommodation places in Victoria (in the past).

“They’re great stories for the timber and it’s great to get our product into large commercial projects.

“If it’s not our timber it would be an imported hardwood from overseas.”

Mr Britton said the use of local timbers benefits regional communities, including the 80 employees in Smithton and further 40 Australia-wide.

“Our opinion is that our forest practices are better than anywhere else in the world; it’s good to know when our timber is used it’s coming from sustainable sources . . . considering that most Blackwoods don’t live from much longer than 90 years.”

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