The Winners: Best Use of Native Timbers, AWR Student Awards 2018

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Award winner: Finn Johnson, Haileybury College, Vic. Teacher: Stephen Hughes

Finn Johnson received a Gift Card  valued at $500 from Award Sponsor Hare & Forbes Machinery House for his Outback Banjo made from river redgum and fiddleback ironbark. The redgum was sourced from his grandfather's farm. Here's a short interview with Finn:

AWR: When did you start woodworking?
FJ: I started woodworking in year 11 when I started the product design and development class with Mr Hughes.

AWR: Biggest influence on your woodworking?
FJ: My biggest influences would have to be my teacher and grandpa who owns the property that I sourced the burl and majority of the redgum from. My grandpa always wanted me to make something from the downed trees on the property which really inspired me to make something truly special. And my teacher’s skills regarding his works motivated me to make something unique and different, something that hadn’t been done at my school before.

AWR: Hardest thing about making the banjo?
FJ: The most challenging stage of the production process would be creating a perfect fit for the resonator (burl back) to the body of the banjo. This meant getting the body to have the closest possible diameter to the resonator while leaving the perfect amount of space for the metal brackets that connected the two parts. However typically the neck and frets would be the most complex part, we avoided this by creating a jig that allowed perfect parallel grooves to be cuts for the fret wire.

Best thing?
FJ: Personally, I think the best part about making the banjo would be putting on the strings for the first time and hearing the sound of a banjo, it was by far the most rewarding part of the whole production. For the entire year people would ask “will it sound like a banjo?”, and I could only answer with “I hope so”. It was a very special moment in the production.

AWR: Hours spent?
FJ: 150 – 200 hours

AWR: Favourite tool /machine?
FJ: The lathe, I think it’s the most rewarding machine. I really enjoy seeing my product come to fruition while I shape and carve intricate features.

AWR: What was the thing your teacher said to you most often?
FJ: “How’s your portfolio going?”

AWR: Any words for your teacher?
FJ: I’d just like to say thank you to Stephen Hughes, I greatly appreciate your support in the production of the banjo and would have never been able to complete the production without your knowledge and craftsmanship. Your ability to solve issues that I wouldn’t even know where to start is amazing and I look forward to keeping in touch with you and following your woodworking.

AWR: What are you doing this year?
FJ: 2019 is my final year of school and I’ll be taking English, Further Mathematics, Media, Geography and Sociology.

AWR: Are you planning to keep up your woodworking?
FJ: Of course I plan to continue my woodworking, I’m already planning my next few products that I wish to build. There is still plenty of wood up on my grandpa’s property.

See an 8-page feature on AWR Student Awards 2018 including comments from the judges in the March issue of Australian Wood Review. See all Student Award entries for 2018 in our online gallery.



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