© Copyright 2011  Julianne Dodds
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Timber, Veneer and Plywood 1901 - 1969
Moulding a career
John (Mac) McGinnis Williams was born in 1882 in the timber town of Warragul in Victoria. He left school when he was twelve years old to work with his father in a timber mill. The eldest son in a large family, it fell upon Mac to help support the family. Mac’s father had been a hard working sawyer for most of his life. He had high hopes for his son who showed exceptional skills with timber so he paid for Mac’s further education at a night school in Melbourne. Mac then served a wood turning apprenticeship in Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. By 1904, when he was twenty-two years old, he had completed his training and had been employed as a wood turner for a few years.  At that stage, veneers and plywoods were imported into Australia. In about 1912 Alexander Sturrock went to the United States, took a job as a machine hand in a factory, and learnt the trade of plywood manufacture. On his return, and after shipping a lathe to Australia, he spent two years of experimentation.  Sturrock concluded that butt logs of timber from certain districts produced a better three-ply product. The best results came from ordinary Australian hardwood and superior veneer resulted from Queensland walnut and Queensland maple. He also found that Queensland hoop pine did not warp or twist. Foreign glue was neither strong nor waterproof so he began experimenting with casein. Queensland hoop pine held the glue perfectly. By July 1914 Sturrock’s mill was in full production at the corner of Lygon Street and Brunswick Road, East Brunswick. Sturrock was confident that within a few years a large number of plywood factories would be established, and opened up the results of his experiments to anyone who wished to enter into the plywood business. A few weeks later, on the 4th August 1914, Great Britain declared war on Germany. Commercial shipping activities were curtailed. Imports of plywood into Australia were seriously affected. This included the supply of Queensland hoop pine down to Victoria. Mac’s occupation at the time was a moulding manufacturer. [1]  He was inspired by Sturrock’s success and quickly realized that Brisbane would be the most appropriate site to set up his own plywood business as there was a plentiful supply of suitable timber, including Hoop Pine.
Moulding a new career First rotary lathe in Brisbane Woolloongabba Mills Glue and logs from the country Expansion after The Great War Mac's men at the mills Largest plywood mill in Australia Timber resources The Great Depression Queensland Veneer Company World War II Retirement References
Deshon Wood Veneer and 3-Ply Wood Mills at Woolloongabba  c. 1920.  Williams Collection