Like most  people born and bred in Tasmania, I have a number of treasured Huon pine  items in my home (now in the NSW Blue Mountains).

I have just finished reading a book by Brenden Ward  about a fabulous grand piano made a few years ago  from salvaged Huon pine.  Appropriately, the maker, Wayne Stuart,  was also  Tasmanian. To my amazement Wayne grew up on a farm at tiny North Motton, where my father was born.  The first piano he heard playing was from his Shadbolt neighbours, who were my relatives. ‘Before too long, curiosity got the better of him and that upright belonging to the Shadbolts was in pieces.‘  Young Wayne wanted to find out how it worked. ‘He wanted to play one. Better still, he wanted to build one.‘ (The Beethoven Obsession, page 13)

One of the first pieces of furniture made from the ancient, slow growing  trees was a coffin. It was  for Tasmania’s first Lieutenant Governor, David Collins, who died in 1810.


David Collins, whose coffin was made of Huon pine.


Here an interesting report published about Huon pine in 1816.  I have provided a ‘translation’ as it’s rather difficult to read.

The resources of the Isle of Van Diemen are daily developing; two harbours by the bold and enterprising perseverance of an individual. in a whale-boat, have been discovered on the bleak and western shores of the Isle.- Southernmost of those harbours named Port Davey, is of the utmost importance  to the navigator, and lies  about nine miles to the northward of South West Cape; and is a most excellent harbour divided into two arms extending  some nine miles into the country. – On the shores of this harbour are great quantities of the timber named Huon Pine  – the superior value of this wood for every purpose of joiners and cabinet work, from the closeness, regularity, and beauty of the grain is generally acknowledged – it will also be eminently serviceable in building boats, especially whale-boats,  from its lightness, buoyancy. and indestructibility from worms – it thus becomes a valuable article to the architect, boat-builder, and merchant.


The wood was mentioned in the first year of the Collins’ governorship, 1804. The diary of Rev, Robert Knopwood chaplain at Hobart Town, records that with two others he had been supplied with a boat and crew to investigate what is now known as D’entrecasteax channel. The party landed on Bruny Island and spent the next few days on the Huon river. He wrote, ‘I bought Huon pine home with me, the first seen.’   The unique grain of the wood was examined by interested parties who recognized its possibilities.

The botanical name for Huon pine, which is not really a true pine,  is Lagarostrobos franklinii. It was named in honour of another early Lieutenant Governor, John Franklin.

A famous old Huon pine ketch was made for Lady Jane Franklin in 1840. She named it Huon Pine, and used it as a yacht during her time in Hobart. It later became a working vessel in the timber trade.

Here is a recently constructed model whale-boat I spotted for sale on Gumtree.

Model of a whaleboat made of Huon pine.

And on the same site, a much, much earlier chest of drawers from the 1860s. Look at that gorgeous, deep honey colour.

Antique, chest of drawers made from Huon pine.


By the nineteen twenties the demand for Huon pine was enormous;

Fast forward 160 or so years and we are back with Wayne Stuart and his amazing grand piano. The unusual thing about it, apart from the wood used, is that it has 108 keys instead of the usual 88, a world first. This means the piano has a nine octave range.

The concert grand piano made by Wayne Stuart from Huon Pine.



Over logging meant that Huon pine was in grave danger of being completely wiped out…the Thylacine of the plant world. Thankfully, only salvaged timber can be used now;


How wonderful that a farm boy from a small rural community in Tasmania could follow his dreams and produce a beautiful, innovative instrument showcasing Huon pine.




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