Vale Frank Wiesner, master craftsman

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Words: Linda Nathan, Wood Review editor
Images: David Seeto

This is going to make a lot of people sad – it certainly makes me feel that way. Master craftsman Frank Wiesner passed away on Saturday, January 6, 2024. I don’t know the details of his passing, but I did know that he had been ill in recent times. My heart goes out to Joan, his beloved wife.

Frank is one of those universally loved people who touched people with his positivity and often cheeky kindness. I visited him in Toowoomba, Qld several times and was always amazed by his energy and the life force that radiated from him.

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Frank Wiesner’s silver ash cabinet, which he describes the making of here

That Frank was a master craftsman of the old school variety was a given – everyone who knew of him, knew that. He was regarded by many, myself included, as a ‘national treasure’, someone who has not only attained master status but also had a character and personality which gave encouragement and a sense of inclusion to others. I never heard him put anyone else down. There is a spiritual aspect to attaining true mastery, a lifetime of diligent and joyful practice, a lifetime of living the journey.

Frank Wiesner silver ash cabinet detail.jpg

Frank Wiesner, silver ash cabinet detail

German-born, Frank trained in traditional joinery and furniture making in the traditional master-apprentice way but he also trained himself. Frank built furniture, fittings and bookbinding presses in ways that frequently started with sourcing and sawing the raw material before it even reached the top of one of his legendary workbenches.


His light-filled workshop was also the stuff of legend with its wall mounted shopbuilt dust extraction fixtures and benches full of tools and things on the go. He sometimes rang me when an issue of the magazine turned up in his letterbox and I know he had a special place reserved in his workshop for reading it…you can guess where!

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Issue 9, Australian Wood Review, photo by Clive Buxton

Frank first appeared in Australian Wood Review, issue 9 with an article on building one of his widely admired European workbenches and his image also graced the cover. He wrote several more articles for the magazine most of which can be found on our website at the links shown above right. He appeared again on the cover of issue 47 in conjunction with his article on making a sofa table.

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Cedar bookcase by Frank Wiesner with a detail of the cabinet back below

Frank Wiesner cedar bookcase detail.jpg

Some photos of Frank and his work are shown here. I saw quite a bit of his work up close and it was always beautifully made, often from the native species he favoured. In particular, shining gum, Eucalyptus nitens, was something special to Frank.

It saddens me to think of any suffering Frank may have endured in his latter years, but thinking of him now still makes me smile. I’m happy thinking that Frank’s spirit will live on the beautiful furniture, workbenches, and book presses he made, and his memory will be treasured by the many who will remember his smile and words.

If you didn’t know Frank you can get an idea of the kind of person he was in the video below.

If you would like to share your own thoughts or reflections on this page you can write in the comments below, or if you prefer you can email your words to me and I’ll post them below for you.


From Marshall Wiesner, grandson

“Thank you for your kind words and the very correct description of Frank, (Grandad). He lived for the joy of making furniture and grandma 100% behind him always ready with morning tea and lunch. We are all very sad with his passing, but know he lived a full life and we know just how many people he has touched with his infectious energy.

“To many he was a master craftsman and maker of very fine furniture and bookbinding equipment. But to me he was Grandad always in his self built shed with the white apron on  with the finger marks of glue that had been wiped there many times before working away and the smell of freshly cut camphor laurel.

“I am very blessed to have some of his work in my house and it holds a special place in my heart. He loved his shed and what he has built over the years. He once said to me: “Marshall, we are simple people, I have everything I have dreamed of. I have my property where I can make furniture and my little lady. That's all I need.”

“Frank (grandad) would have loved to pass away in his shed doing what he loved but passed in his sleep, I'm sure he was thinking of the next stool or press he wanted to make. The family misses him deeply as do many other people I'm sure.”


Rick Bonser, Workshop Manager, Boucher & Co, Toowoomba, Qld

“It is with very sad hearts we hear the news of Frank Wiesner’s passing.

“I first met Frank back in 2006 not long after starting here at Bouchers. I had noticed all the other guys in the shop, their faces had lit up, and someone said Frank’s here! And soon he was making the rounds, chatting with us all one by one. It was soon obvious he was a very humble, but knowledgeable guy, with a smile that could melt any heart. He would occasionally drop in for a chat, often wanting to source that special piece of veneer, and we would also occasionally drop in on him wanting to source a special piece of wood. He was a man of many talents and was a particularly good and fast woodturner as well as a cabinetmaker. He has turned quite a few components for me over the years. His bookbinding presses were amazing, and his self-designed stools were a delight to see.

“Even as Franks age started to catch up on him, and consequently his health failing, he could still be found working in his shed, even into his nineties. If not, he was having a cuppa with his beloved wife Joan. During the last 18 months or so I made a point of dropping in more often as the inevitable was obvious, and he was no longer reliably to be found in the shed. I couldn’t go to the north end of town without swinging past, and if his gate was open, then in for a short chat. I’m sure he enjoyed the company, I certainly enjoyed his. We’ll miss you dearly Frank.”


Derek Wiffen, Tasmania

“I got the opportunity to meet and listen to Frank a number of times. When he talked everyone listened. I loved the articles that came out on pieces he made. Seeing the pieces in exhibitions or at events they always stood out for the level of thought and craftsmanship. We have lost a Titan and a true master and national treasure. I loved the way he shared knowledge. The world feels a little smaller with his passing.”

Ian Wilkie, Qld

“Sad news indeed, but a life lived well and to the full! I got to know Frank as a member of the Woodcraftsmans Guild back in the 90s and would describe him as a man of huge talent and energy, but yet so humble; always ready to encourage others with a compliment or sound advice without sounding ‘superior’ in any way. His work will stand for a long time as evidence of his craftmanship, and those of us who were fortunate to know him personally will treasure the memory and hopefully, be inspired by his enthusiasm and kindness and readiness to pass on knowledge. Vale Frank...”

Gareth Lazarides, Qld

I was saddened when I received the news that my great friend Frank Wiesner had passed way peacefully in his sleep. I first met Frank in the 1980s when I called on him to see if I could sell him any timber. From that meeting came a friendship that lasted until he passed away. Frank bought a lot of timber from me over the years, and during my visits we would often discuss timbers and all things relating to timber over a cuppa and biscuit with Joan joining in. Since my retirement I. have kept in touch with Frank and Joan, either by phone or visits whenever my wife ,and I were in Toowoomba.

Frank demonstrated his skills on our stand at the Timber and Working with Wood Show when I had my business supplying cabinet timbers to the industry. He always drew a crowd with his gift of the gab,and his natural woodworking skills. I had several pieces made by Frank, one of which is the Qld silver ash cabinet featured in the AWR story on Frank’s life. I found a volume of highly figured silver ash in a consignment we had received, and after discussion with Frank he said he would make a special piece for me, and this cabinet was the result. I do know that he also made a another for another client from some highly figured shining gum which we supplied. That silver ash cabinet still takes pride of place in our house today.

My wife and I will miss Frank along with many other people in Australia and around the world where his skill in making bespoke furniture and book binding presses has been recognised.

It has been a privilege to know Frank.


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