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  • Fretwork has been Ted’s hobby for 20 years
  • It’s a decorative style of wood machining done with a fretsaw
  • Ted has won two national Australian Scroll Saw Network titles
  • His favourite piece is an old-fashioned American fire engine
05 June 2020
Ted pictured with two of his fretwork pieces.
“It requires total concentration, everything is wiped from your mind.”
Ted Hawkins
IRT Harbourside resident

“How long’s a piece of string?” is often the answer Ted Hawkins gives when asked how long it takes to create one of his intricate fretwork pieces.

In his IRT Harbourside home, Ted has an impressive collection of his fretwork – including a sunburst clock. “I’ve made another one for the national titles in Goulburn,” Ted explains.

Ted has won two national titles with the Australian Scroll Saw Network and is vying for his third. The titles were meant to be held this year but have been postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19.

Fretwork is a decorative style of wood machining – done with a fretsaw – where the design is machined from a thin piece of timber.

Of all his fretwork creations, his favourite is an old-fashioned American fire engine, with a clock face in the carriage and a velvet-cushioned seat (pictured above).

Ted never had a hobby, but after seeing a 12-year-old girl doing fretwork at a woodworking demonstration in Albury/Wodonga some 20 years ago, he decided to buy a saw.

Ted in the IRT Harbourside workshop.

Ted describes his saw as like a sewing machine but with a blade instead of a needle. The timber is overlaid with a design, which he runs through the saw. After cutting the timber he punches it out. Then he assembles the pieces and finishes it off. He can also dye the timber to create different effects. The end result is extremely intricate and detailed.

“I used to be able to mill my own timber but today I work out of the small workshop here at Harbourside,” Ted explains.

Ted spends about three hours a day in the workshop when he can – he enjoys being totally absorbed in his hobby. “It requires total concentration, everything is wiped from your mind.” Ted is also a member of the Kiama Woodcraft Group, the Kiama Men’s Shed and the Scroll Saw Network.

Ted’s religious fretwork pieces have ended up in churches – including Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s chapel and several churches in Kiama.

“I’ve done a lot of religious pieces and I love to do them because they are so intricate but I’m not religious.”

Following the death of his wife Val in 2018, Ted is now getting back into fretwork. They were married for 64 years.

He grew up in Mortdale, Sydney and before he retired to Kiama he designed and installed industrial air conditioning. “My grandparents had one of the first houses in Minnamurra and we used to visit there a lot,” Ted explains. “We always wanted to move down here.”

Ted and Val had four children and today there are ten grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

He has been travelling around to woodworking shows and events in his maroon motorhome but now, at 86 years of age, Ted will park up the motorhome for good sometime this year.

Ted enjoys the satisfaction of creating a piece and then being able to sit back and say “I did that”.

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