Local Area History

Houses and Fences Made of Timber by the First Settlers

Article and photos by Ian Hoschke – March 2016.

When the Hoschke family, and others, first came to Orara the land was covered by sub-tropical rainforest.  The land purchase was conditional on it being cleared and fenced.  They had little money and the nearest shop was a day’s walk away.

They needed to build a house, so the solution was to build it and the fences out of wood from trees felled while clearing the land.  Due to the density of the forest, the trees were mostly straight and some were large.  Thus, the wood had straight grain which was ideal for splitting into slabs (in place of sawn boards) and posts.

The tools are generally designed to cut either across the grain or along the grain.  To cut a tree down and then into suitable lengths either a standard axe or cross-cut saw was used.  Then the lengths of trunk were split into slabs using wedges and hammer.  These slabs were trimmed with a broad axe, cutting along the grain, to make them uniform in width.

To make a fence, rectangular holes were chopped in the posts using a mortise axe.  Then two slabs were fitted into each hole with one from each side.  The ends could be trimmed with an adze to make them fit together in the post. Thus only wood was required to make a fence.

For a house, vertical slabs were used.  These are likely to be of better quality then those used for a shed.  In addition, they may be adzed to make a smoother surface.  These were held in place by plates, on the top and bottom, in which a groove had been chiselled.  To make a roof, wooden shingles were from a specially selected block of wood.  The shingles were a thin slice of wood with rectangular shape.  When set in the roof, such that they overlapped each other, provided protection from the rain and sun.

The next development was to use a pit saw to cut wood along the grain producing a board. The wood was placed over a pit and the sawing done by two men.  The one in the pit below the wood had a dangerous job.

Timber Tools

Cross-cut saw

Cross-cut saw, operated by two people, and used to cut across wood.

Cross Cut Saws


Cross Cut Saw Teeth

Broad axe

Broad axe used to shape wood by cutting along the grain such as a slab.

Broad Axe


Adze used to shape a piece of wood such as trimming the end to fit a groove.


Shingle splitter

Shingle splitter (also known as a paling knife) where the handle was used to hold it in position and then the top of the blade was struck to split a slice of wood off a block.

Shingle Splitter

Pit saw

Pit saw, operated by two people, to saw boards from a tree trunk previously cut to the desired length with a cross-cut saw.

Pit Saw


Pit Saw Teeth

Mortise axe

Mortise axe used to cut a hole in a post to fit slabs.
Mortise Axe


Shed with vertical slabs. Being a shed, they are rather rough.  This is on the old Manson farm at Orara (note Clunie Manson married Frederick Hoschke – it is now owned by Dianne, nee Hoschke, and Rob Kingsford-Smith).




Post and Rail fence

Replica Post and Rail fence built by Geoff and Paul Hoschke.




Portion of second Hoschke House showing vertical slab wall and shingle roof.

Hoschke house




To see a broad-axe and shingle splitter at work use this link:



For more information about using a pit saw (in the photo a small log is on a frame instead of over a pit in the ground) see:

www.tasmanianforestfestival.org.au/Pit Saw.htm


The following link shows chopping a large tree down, cross-cut sawing and pit sawing:


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