Using the natural shapes of wood to create clocks, bowls and platters, Doug Ballard has carried out his woodworking hobby for twelve years from his home in Comboyne. A regular at the Foreshore Market in Port Macquarie, we spoke to Doug about his love for creating unique pieces that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
How long have you been in the woodworking profession? Is it something that you have been doing for quite a long time?
It’s just a hobby, and I’d say I have been doing it for about twelve years.
How did it all get started?
Years ago when I hadn’t started my woodworking, going back to when I was involved with the Comboyne Spring Fair, they wanted some unusual pieces of wood to have around. So I found a few pieces and cleaned them up by hand. It slowly grew from there. Now I do all of my work with angle grinders, with all carbon wheels on it. I make fruit trays, fruit bowls, party platters, clocks.
I can make all sorts of different things with the angle grinder, all in the natural shapes of the wood, which means they are the only one of that piece in the world. Each piece has its own uniqueness, and you can see the natural patterns of the timber used.
I do work with pearls and old Rosewood. If you saw what I started with compared to the finished product, you would think, “How did he do that?” It’s something you have got to have an eye for, and it took me a few years to master my technique, but I think I have it down pretty well now.
The last market a lady asked me if I teach classes. It’s really woodcarving, but I try not to alter the shape of the piece of wood but try to keep it as natural as it was when I started on it. If I’m doing clocks and things like that, I just clean the grooves – most of them I do with old Rosewood.
What does it involve to make a piece from start to finish? How long does it take and what steps are involved?
With the clocks, for example, I carve the face in on the angle grinder with what they call a mini carver, then I sand it all back until I think I’ve got it pretty right. It’s never perfect – the face might not be dead level, but you’ve got to have a good eye to pick it up. I use a compass, of course, when making the clocks and also the mini carver.
The clocks can either be a wall hanger or free-standing clock, depending on the piece of timber, which sort of tells me what it wants to be. Everything I make has the timber name on the back of it and the date it was made.
You specialise in clocks, bowls and platters for the markets. What other items can you make?
I have made coffee tables but I don’t really do them now, as they hard to take to the markets. They are more in the furniture side of things, whereas my style is rustic, using the natural shapes to make home accessories.
Some of my customers tell me they don’t even put anything in the bowls and things because they look too nice, so they use them as a decoration in their homes. Some handle them, some ship them, some just sit them to look at. Ladies like to put their jewellery in the bowls; it is all up to the beholder what the piece can be used for.
Describe one of your favourite pieces of work …
There is a clock I made for my wife. She passed away about seven years ago. Actually, I can tell you when I made it, because I wrote the date on the bottom. 2001 it was – twelve years ago. It’s a beautiful piece of timber, and it will stay with me until I die.
Then there was the first piece in the house. You have to see it; it is an old Viking ship. I used its natural shape and did it all by hand. Today I have learnt a few more tricks, and I can use the angle grinder.
Do you make custom pieces?
Well, if a customer wants something made, I can usually do it. It’s about the piece of wood and its natural shape, as that is the shape it will turn out to be. But I can make different sizes of bowls and trays and things.
The biggest bowl I have made was 17.5 kg when I started and when I finished the piece, it was just under 10 kg. It was a massive bowl; a couple wanted to take it to their daughter in Sydney, so that is where it ended up.
So I do get these custom pieces every now and again, even though it is only a hobby for me – and I enjoy spending time doing it.
Why do you enjoy about attending the Foreshore Market in Port Macquarie?
It is a great day out, and you meet a lot of new people. I have met people from Germany and other places. Just the social side of it is what I enjoy, and if I sell something, then it is a bonus!
Where else can people view and purchase your work?
I have some pieces in the community shed at Comboyne, and I think there are some down in a shop at Kendall that a lady bought, but mainly at the markets.