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Narrogin wood works

FIVE years ago, a group of men in Narrogin decided they wanted to learn the art of woodcraft, so they scraped together some handtools, a few blocks of wood and a willing tutor.

Today, the Aboriginal craftsmen at the Bibdjool Woodcraft workshop are turning native hardwoods into high quality furniture and ornaments that are becoming prized possessions in hundreds of WA homes.

The business, which is operated as a unit trust by the eight craftsmen, is an integral part of a training program whereby those involved will finish an apprenticeship with a TAFE qualifi-cation.

Master Craftsmen William Pickford says the business had started when a group of local men approached him to teach them the finer points of woodcraft.

“They had a few handtools and a small bandsaw, so we began making wooden bowls and jewellery boxes,” he says.

A $7000 grant from the Lotteries Commission meant the group was able to buy more equipment, and when the workshop became a training program and received funding from the Department of Training and Employment, the men became even more enthused.

“The simple projects became more and more complex, we started looking at magazines for ideas,” Mr Pickford says.

“We have very traditional, rustic styles, the furniture we build are antiques for tomorrow.”

And more than just assembling the pieces, the craftsmen use a mobile sawmill and drying kiln to source their timber.

Working with the Department of Conservation and Land Management, the craftsmen only harvest native trees that have died from natural causes.

The Bibdjool craftsmen now have just over a year left on their apprenticeships, and Mr Pickford expects their skills will be in high demand.

The Bibdjool Woodcraft furniture is instantly recognisable by a delicate silver gecko that is monogrammed on each piece. Bibdjool means gecko and symbolises a connection to the land.

Bibdjool Woodcraft furniture is available in Perth at Colony Furniture in Subiaco.

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