Simple and Solid

Headlie's Handy Tree Fork Bench

In 1911, Headlie Taylor (1883-1957) was ready to build the machine of his dreams. Having taught himself the skills to make his famous Header Harvester, Taylor co-opted the family blacksmith shop to begin his work. This shed had been built by his father in the 1880s, about the time the family purchased their property near Albury, NSW.

The late nineteenth century was not a time when you could pop off to Bunnings. Everything had to be ordered and deliveries could take months to arrive. Faced with long delays in receiving any type of supplies, people made what they needed with what they had.

The bench consists of a forked tree branch of indeterminate hardwood, set firmly into the earthen floor of the workshop. On top of the two branch arms a rough-hewn plank has been nailed to form the bench top. It is unclear exactly when it was constructed but it is easy to imagine this being an early addition to Headlie’s workshop. Its simplicity demonstrates the creativity and resourcefulness of the Taylor family and is a good example of simple, but effective, Australian bushcraft.

The benchtop stands approximately seventy centimeters high. It is not huge but the deep scoring and cutting marks indicate a lifetime of use. Standing at the height of a desk, it easy to also imagine Headlie Taylor sitting next to it on a break with a cup of tea, trying to solve his latest design problem. Or even watching his younger sister Ruby, as she worked the forge and bellows or swung one of the smaller hammers to shape a piece of metal destined to be a part of Headlie’s harvesting machine.