Altgeselle is the standard German time period used to differentiate probably the most esteemed and expert senior cabinetmakers. Such tradesmen are mentors for the younger and are finest outfitted to impart data on these prepared to pay attention.

There is a small road in Northern Toowoomba, Australia, the place a hidden gem could also be discovered, a nondescript property that’s simply handed by. Stroll by the wire entrance gate and down the driveway and two form-hearted people will shout a hearty greeting at you from the porch the place they sit after breakfast, going through north, absorbing the nice and cozy morning rays of sunshine.

Meet Frank and Joan Wiesner, married for over 65 years and with such welcoming hearts that they make you are feeling proper at house. For those that have been concerned with woodworking for greater than 20 years, the Wiesner title is synonymous with woodworking of the very best caliber. For these new to woodwork, it’s a title value investigating.

Frank Wiesner is a cabinetmaker by commerce. Trained within the notoriously strict and stringent guild system of Germany, Frank began his apprenticeship in occupied Berlin in 1948. His grasp, Joseph Schirrmacher, was a strict and traditionalist man whose workshop utilized guide labor, not as a result of it was stylish, however just because this was the way in which it was performed.

At the completion of his formal coaching, Frank departed for Australia with a gaggle of expert German tradesmen in the hunt for pleasure and a brand new world. His travels led him first to Melbourne after which to Queensland the place Frank labored on distant dairy farms, constructing furnishings on the facet. It was right here that he met Joan, the love of his life.

Those early days of freedom, restricted solely by the vary of his Enfield single-cylinder motorbike, had a profound impact on the couple. Under Joan’s encouragement, Frank re-entered the commerce of cabinetmaking and shopfitting, working for effectively-identified joiners resembling City Joiners in Toowoomba, producing work that was showcased in lots of bars, eating places, and heritage-listed buildings within the distant Queensland outback.

A short while later Frank met the extremely influential Robert Dunlop, himself skilled by the Swiss grasp cabinetmaker Charles Kuffer within the 1930s. The two turned very heat pals; their personalities and coaching yielded a connection, understanding, and deep mutual respect hardly ever discovered immediately.

Robert challenged conference and inspired out-of-the-field creativity, thus offering the catalyst for Frank to appreciate and categorical his personal creativity in furnishings design. Frank’s furnishings quickly discovered its means into the homes of each the rich and the needy, as Frank doesn’t discriminate. It is his agency perception {that a} craftsman shouldn’t flip up his nostril however reasonably welcome any question with out prejudice.

There are many wonderful designers and craftsmen of each yesterday and immediately, however Frank is completely different.

Frank has the power to watch, analyze, and perceive timber not simply aesthetically, but in addition with the thoughts of an engineer – understanding the right way to manipulate timbers to take advantage of their inherent mechanical, chemical, and aesthetic properties to the fullest. Frank lives his skilled life by what he calls his “bible” – a 1928 copy of The Timbers and Forest Products of Queensland by EHF Swain. Years of finding out the distinctive timbers contained inside these pages in idea and apply, by the use of his personal detailed testing strategies, have rewarded Frank with an incomparable depth of data on the subject.


Toby’s Estate: The Craftsman series – Frank Weisner from miklos janek on Vimeo.


The phrase “farm to table” is usually used immediately to explain how probably the most devoted and adorned cooks develop and harvest their very own produce to create spectacular award-profitable dishes. Frank is probably certainly one of a only a few who’ve utilized this actual ethos to furnishings making. He began doing so many years earlier than this trendy time period was coined.

Frank’s method tackles the complete timber life cycle, from the expansion of the tree to the completed product and thru its serviceable life, concluding with inevitable disposal.

From the early 1970s Frank was a well-known sight, along with his Homelite Alaskan chainsaw mill slabbing fallen timber not solely in residential areas, but in addition deep within the tropical forests of Queensland. He recounts tales of forestry division bulldozers with their buckets hooked round robust timber on steep, distant hillsides. Operators would use the bulldozer’s winches to pull felled timber off the inaccessible slopes and onto flat floor the place Frank would effectively cut back them to 4- and 5-in.-thick slabs. Such slabs could be hoisted onto the again of his trusty Land Rover’s trailer. It was not unusual to see this cheery German returning along with his treasured cargo slowly and punctiliously by the streets of Toowoomba. A densely packed picture album sits proudly on the bookshelf that incorporates all supporting proof to those tales.

The very first day that I visited Frank, he proudly confirmed me his workshop, confidently proclaiming “I bet you haven’t seen anything like this!” See, Frank’s workshop just isn’t an immaculately curated assortment of equipment and collectible hand instruments. Almost the whole lot was acquired used from pals or fabricated in-home by Frank. Each has its personal story to inform, and earns its preserve by pure performance. For Frank is a sensible man: To focus on the fantastic thing about design and nature over a meal or cup of tea is one factor, however in his workshop pragmatism and effectivity is prioritized above all else.

His workbench, the stalwart of the store, is modeled on the standard Continental workbench of yesteryear full with shopmade picket threads—a really unusual sight immediately. Made from the now unobtainable Satinay discovered solely on Fraser Island, the bench bears the refined marks of many years of use. Its Ulmia benchdogs are marred from the hammer strikes delivered to tremendous tune the clamping forces used to carry the 1000’s of furnishings elements which have handed by his workshop doorways. Despite its look it retains excellent performance; its glazed picket vise screws possess an incomparable, pleasant tactility.

With the passion of an individual half his age, Frank throws up a big curler door beside his panel noticed that opens into a big timber storage space constructed as a lean-to on his workshop. “Come on Dummkopf!” he hollers cheekily as I comply with him by this maze of cellulose treasures, 6 ft. excessive in locations.

Cedar of Lebanon, Rose Mahogany, Shining Gum, Queensland White Beech, London Plane, Red Cedar, Blackbean, Sally Wattle, Bolly Silkwood, Camphor Laurel, the listing goes on. Each tree has been slabbed, stacked, and punctiliously seasoned for many years. To the uninitiated, all of it appears to be like the identical—a mildly chaotic world of tough-lower slabs with a grey patina, the results of many years of stagnant oxidation. To Frank, it’s a catalogued library of timbers. Nothing is labeled, and if uncertain, a fast rub along with his palm on the timber and some lengthy deep sniffs will give Frank the species data he wants to chop with absolute confidence.

I used to be lucky sufficient to help within the course of of manufacturing his effectively-identified stools—a design that received Frank awards, and is proving a constant vendor because the first ones left his workshop over three many years in the past.

Timber is chosen and punctiliously extracted from the stockpile with crowbars, metal tubes, and the youthful vigor of 1 or two enthusiastic helpers resembling myself.

After being loaded onto a cart, it is dropped at the entrance of the workshop the place a chainsaw is used to cut back the brutal cuts of timber to extra manageable items.

These items are ripped and tough milled with nice effectivity earlier than being grouped by grain, colour, and lower as to what element of the stool they’re most suited to. Everything is inspected, famous, and marked. After a number of weeks of labor, what emerges is actually a factor of magnificence—a 3-legged stool that employs a picket thread for peak adjustment.

It might sound easy, however as a skilled engineer with a watch for element that resulted from rising up all over the world-class workshops through which my father labored, I can guarantee you that such stools haven’t any parallel in general magnificence and gestalt. One solely wants to watch how cleanly the threads on the screw are fashioned—no burn or tooling marks, absolute consistency, and a design geometry that signifies the creator totally understands the mechanics concerned. Frank is a craftsman foremost, and as such he leaves the refined signatures of his fingers as a reward to those that look.

To be working 5 or 6 days every week on the age of 88 with all his digits accounted for is a testomony to the sharp focus and understanding of machines, instruments and processes which are used within the workshop, in addition to the mechanical and human limitations.

Routine is crucial. To begin persistently daily with adequate durations of relaxation for each thoughts and physique is emphasised, and so a 10 a.m. “smoko” is adopted by lunch at 12 and “smoko” once more at three p.m. Recognising and by no means pushing the boundaries of bodily and psychological endurance helps to make sure security and consistency. Adequate sustenance at every break is supplied by Joan’s scrumptious house-baked treats washed down with ample quantities of espresso.

My father—himself an achieved skilled cabinetmaker, conservator, and craftsman—refers to Frank as “The Last Mohican,” a person who is without doubt one of the final standing in using such strategies and a living treasure due to it. Everyone that I spoke to who has met and labored with Frank agrees. Frank won’t ever cease studying and enhancing. From the times I spent within the workshop working intimately collectively, and the prolonged discussions over many a meal, it’s unattainable to overlook the fireplace and keenness that Frank has to each additional and go on the craft of woodworking.

Now all we should do is prick up our ears and be humble, prepared, and accepting of this reward of data.


-Siegfried is a mechanical engineer primarily based in Melbourne, Australia. He was skilled in woodworking by his father – a German grasp cabinetmaker and conservator within the conventional method, he focuses on combining engineering rules and thought with conventional woodworking. Siegfried hopes to shine the highlight on the fantastic timbers distinctive to Australia and the unheralded craftsmen who utilise them and who’ve been so beneficiant as to mentor him.

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