Stan Ceglinski's Biography

You know, the first thing I can remember is Dad's Polish mate coming to cut my hair. He owned some clippers but they must've been blunt because I remember pain with getting my hair cut; individual hairs pulled by these clippers bloody hurt when you're 4 years old. Today 42 years later I'm still a kid and they still hurt.

Anyway Mr. Rudey was coming round so I hid under Mum and Dad's double bed; the quilt hung low to the floor and this saved me from the pain.

One of my fondest memories was helping Dad in the bush. We had a 3/4 acre block in a cheaper bushy, gravel-roaded suburb on the outskirts of Newcastle, NSW. Mum had that piece of land as a miniature farm. We had chooks and rabbits, orange, lemon, pear and apple, peaches and nectarines, apricot and banana trees -- all producing; black musket and sultana grapes, chokos, tomatoes, rhubarb, lettuce, spinach, parsley, Japanese beans, climbing beans, dwarf beans, sorrel, fennel, potatoes everyday producing food for the table and an excess that I'd load in my billycart and take around the "block" and proudly sell for mum to help her with some much needed extra income.

Dad, a Polish migrant, had 5 kids; I was the second youngest. He couldn't find a job in Australia as a shoemaker (cobbler). There was no calling for them in '48 so he became a steelworker -- a lowly paid one at that!

When the chookshed had to be built, or the fence repaired, Dad didn't ring for any wood deliveries. He'd grab the axe and bow saw and go across to the train line into the bush and fell some saplings to do the job.

Six years old saw me as a big lad. Dad reckoned I could help and boy I wanted to, I loved to be with him. He would cut me a limb with some trunk on it -- making a mallet. With my experience today, I reckon the trees for rails were young brush box, and the mallet out of the same! My job was to beat the bark, bruise the bark for easy removal. Dad would have a hessian corn bag, roll it up and carry the sapling on his shoulder. Me, I'd carry the tools home -- at age 10 I was able to carry the sapling skinny end on my left shoulder, helping Dad home with the load! Mate -- I loved these days!!

I was raised a Polish farmboy in a suburban Newcastle home. I remember Mum's stories of a life of subsistence farming in Poland. Ducks and geese, sheep and growing veggies -- making your own shoes, building your own sheds and things. Deep down I wished I was there! Truly these stories have become my favorite childhood memories. I loved Mum, she was always there for me and willing to teach me anything she knew. Mum taught me how to weave, platt 3, platt 4, how to make a pair of shoes, how to grow your own food and eat well. I even learned how to make my own clothes. Dad taught me how to use my hands and I think my brain.

From young I always remember making stuff. One day when I was about 20ish my friend showed me a traditional Appalachian dulcimer he'd taken 3 weeks to make. No bullshit 2 days later I had a pretty crude, but very playable and enjoyable dulcimer that cost some plywood off the back of a wardrobe at the dump, some machine heads off a wrecked guitar, some fretwire left over from my mate's dulcimer. All I bought was a piece of beech 38x25 mm I got from a timber merchant at Gateshead. I can't work out why I bought this bit of wood -- about 1 meter long -- it probably cost 2 dollars.

A traditional dulcimer is played over the knee with a feather, I wanted to play it like a guitar -- the traditional one needs the sides steam bent -- too long! I used straight sides -- much much quicker -- inlays are very tedious and take forever -- I got some white paint and painted on some stripes.

I think I might have been playing it when it was drying -- one day I electrified it and played the blues with a slide on it! I liked it so much I gave it to my brother.

I made another for my best friend "in the whole world" who became my wife of now 23 years. She was tone deaf or something -- but I played it when I visited so it still served a purpose. I ended up making a few more, sold them for about $20 each. One was based on a scavenged tambourine, it sounded like a banjo!

One day I made a banjo out of a tambourine and some wood thrown out from the ten pin bowling alley. I made a scrolled head, and learned to play "Candyman".

I remember a lot feeling a bit black sheepish -- I wasn't quite the same as the other kids around. First of all I was pretty big -- tall and chubbyish -- then I was a wog! CEGLINSKI! Whichever way you spelled it meant immigrant -- wog etc... It was sometimes painful. At nineteen I left Newcastle to work in the mines up in north QLD. I discovered Australia is a bloody big place, and boy there's some real different people out there too! Working in the mines I met a lot of transient people there, stopping long enough at Weipa to save up a bundle then head off to buy a pearling lugger or a good stash to travel the world on a shoestring! Gees I saw a lot of different stuff!

After 2 or 3 years I came back for a while, discovering that Newcastle wasn't for me. I didn't find being a steelworker with a mortgage, etc, appealing. There was that subsistence farm in my head. I could smell it, see it, feel it. I said to my girlfriend, I love you heaps, but I'm going up the country to look for some land. If you want to come it's okay by me -- if not I'll see you one day!

And she said -- you find some land and we'll see! Bloody Beauty! That's Auzzie for fantastic, great, excellent, etc... Mate, you don't have to die to go to heaven! I was on a mission.

Well I hitchhiked north, got a lift off quite a famous architect/builder, stayed with him for a few weeks in the hinterland of Byron Bay, a place called Montecollum, 5 miles west of Mullumbimby. He even offered me a job! No bullshit, if you jump into the current things happen and you start on a journey. For me I had no idea where this was going to take me. No idea at all except land and my farm. Noelene -- I've found the land and landed a job offer. She said I've got some holidays coming up, I'll come up with you and have a look!

We drove up and found the land (communal land) at turntable falls a bit much at the time. The land seemed fine, I can still remember the fragrances of molasses grass, wild raspberries in the warm subtropical air. But the people there weren't where I was at.

My new-found friend offered me some of his land and a job -- $3.00 per hour if my memory is OK, digging drains, planting trees, starting a nursery. I grew 25,000 gum trees, blackbean trees, silky oaks, etc... We planted out a grove besides the main road near "Donoughues Bridge" crossing Wilson's creek on the Goonengerry rd. I look at this forest when I drive past -- they were just like ground salt and pepper dust when I planted those seeds! They are now real big trees with birds landing and occasionally living in them, have become a small forest.

Noelene bore me twins the first pregnancy -- we didn't know 'til she was eight months pregnant that we were to have twins. What a blow out! A real surprise -- these were the first twins our doctor delivered -- Mike has become a close friend over the last 23 years. Simon and Peter had a brother Andrew 3 years later.

With problems in childbirth I ended up taking the boys with me a lot. I left working for my boss 20 years ago and started my own business cutting firewood, posts, poles, etc... Winter time had the three boys and me in the front of my old 69 cruizer ute, off to the local forests cutting firewood and delivering same.

Buying land, building house and sheds, setting up paddocks for sheep and goats, terracing the hillside, growing the 360 fruit trees, grape trellises, 2 acres of asparagus and other vegetable crops for selling, bringing up 3 kids and trying to develop a business sure did stretch our meager income, but I learned to do what other business people do:

I learned to say Yes.

Can you supply me some posts? Yes

Can you sell me some bridge girders? Yes

Can you deliver me some firewood? Yes

Can you split me a shingle roof? Ah, ah, Yes!

Noelene, we're off to timbertown for the day -- pack the kids into the car and we're off. Old Stan Barlow patiently taught me what he knew about the "hands on" side of splitting shingles. By the time I got to him I read every book I could find on the subject. The rest was easy -- just practice a lot! Well the first job I did the client suggested I start producing shingles and shakes commercially. I make 'em, he'd sell them. So we did -- this arrangement lasted approximately 18 months when we decided to market our own product.

Manufacturing Australian "Shingles and Shakes" saw our name linked to over 170 jobs Australia-wide. We learned a lot about old houses, new houses, resorts, timber "makeup" and structure and the beauty of our forests and trees.

One day a few years ago the Forestry Boss rang and told me to come into the office, Simon my eldest son walked into the meeting as i was being told to become a "Potato Farmer." Now I love potatos but I'm not a potato farmer! Apparently resources were being rationed and spread around and there wasn't enough for me - new policies and legislation, etc...

I said to Noelene I'm going to make bowl turning blanks and cut slabs and cater to the craft market -- I had the tools, the equipment, and understood how to process timber and I loved working with wood. I wouldn't be in any other industry!

At this same time, Patrick O'Reilly from Ridell Exhibition Promotions said he'd give me a space at the Australian Famous Timber and Working with Wood Shows (T&WWWS) in Sydney.

I plannned a display of shingle splitting and installation, had a Japanese friend "Shege" assemble a beautiful building without nails or bolts and myself, Noelene, Shege, Harry the roofer and about 4 other talented friends "Blew 'em away" at that 1992 Sydney wood show. I did this show for a couple of years in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, and one day I told patrick I thought the show needed a change. He told me - send me a proposal and I'll get back to you. Well, I sent him a 15 page fax, drawings, descriptions, etc...and he OK'd me and my plan. Sydney 1993 was the birthplace of Stan's Australian Bush Crafts and "The Great Saw Race."

You know, I don't reckon they know what hit 'em that show. There were people 6 deep on 4 sides of my post and rail fence; from the photos I counted approx. 1600 people at one session.

Well, Blackie the dog said she wanted to go to the next show when I told her about the Sunday night BBQ's and the pies and sausage rolls at the refreshment areas. Blackie is now 23 years old and she has been to 38 of 45 of our Timber and Working with Wood shows.

In the beginning I was a little technical, an older friend Reg Bartz from up near Dalby QLD told me: Bullshit a bit! We were a poor Polish family, couldn't afford bullshit. You know I searched for the great Auzzie Bullshit for 2 years before I found it! It's like a seasoning you apply to a story - like putting salt, pepper and butter on a steamed choko - makes it taste better! Well, bullshit colours up the story!

Truly, I can't believe the reaction to my show, Australia- wide. One gentlemen of 86 jumped my fence in Brisbane about 1998 and asked me to promise him something after he finished The Great Saw Race...I agreed. I promised him I would never stop doing "The Great Saw Race." A lady of 76 years old told me in Perth or Melbourne last year "At six years old I remember being thoroughly entertained, now seventy years later you have done the same - Thank You!" Man, I nearly cried. Australia-wide people came up to me, shook my hand, gave me a kiss on the cheek and thanked me for the entertainment. The combination of wood skills, polish sense of humour, Blackie the dog, my good looks (If I don't tell you who will?!) and the Auzzie way of "having a go" -- and the bullshit! -- have combined to make up a winning recipe! I discovered years ago on our farm when teaching

  • Blacksmithing...making tools
  • timber processing...cutting salvaged logs
  • small motor maintenance...rebuilding a lawn mower
  • shed building...pole construction

through TAFE & adult education, I really loved sharing my time and knowldege to other people. The woodshows anselected country Fairs bring me a lot of joy and some beautiful relationships!

You know, there's some mongrels out there, but I tell you what, geeze there's a lot of really nice genuine people too! (I reckon they far outweight the mongrels). So these days, I'm 45 or 46 (I'm not sure) and I don't care, as I'm writing this, me and Noelene are living alone these days, our boys have grown up and left home to find their lives (exciting stuff...), we live on the Far North Coast of NSW, can see and smell the ocean, apart from the travel to woodshows, I love cutting wood, which is what I do at my mill, cutting any tree into something (waste is a crime).

Weekends, I dream of fishing but it doesn't happen as often as it should. One of my favorite pastimes is to relax on the front verandah and watch passing whales or boats (wonder where they're going), or playing my favorite guitar. My most favorite pastime is sitting on the verandah with my sweetheart "best friend in the world" Noelene, with a red wine nearby, listening to the sounds of life going by, the birds chirping and cheeping (lots of varieties) and the smell of the bush and the ocean.

I love life, every day's a beauty, I did have a time where for 3 months I lost the plot, Noelene sorted me out, a couple of true friends were there also. But no bullshit, I wouldn't be dead for quids -- !!

Whoever reads this... If you're ever going by North New South Wales and you want to buy some timber, or just stop in for a cuppa -- please feel free! I like visitors at the mill, and the jugs are nearly boiled. If you come at smoko time -- morning, afternoon, or lunch time -- I love a piece of date and walnut cake with a cuppa.

See you there!

PS. I could write hundreds of pages on my life, stories that'd make you lauch so much that you might cry -- like when we got running water for the first time -- but not for now, I might tell you when I see you.

I got an email today from a chap in Melbourne - I didn't pay him to write it or anything! I'm tacking it on the end here...It made me feel real good reading it.

Life is great, folks, Keep Well, All the Very Very Best Regards,

Stanley Marian Ceglinski
also known as Big Stan

Dear Stan,

I never really thanked you for the great time we had at the Melbourne Working with Wood Show last year, we never miss your stand.

My son Roddy and I won the crosscut saw race and went home with a couple of beaut super jaws from Triton, a fantastic prize, especially since we only entered for the fun of it and Roddy (14) had never had a cross cut in his hands before.

My other two younger boys Taz and Lachlan want to thank you also, the only thing they want to see when they come to the show is your stand, don't get too big headed though - it's Blackie they want to see!

Once again Stan, thanks a million for the pleasure you bring to everyone, the world (and the shows) are a better and happier place to be with people like you around. Can you also pass our regards on to your mate in Mullumbimby woodturning (sorry I think his name is Ken) we called in there about 2 years ago and he was kind enough to show us round his turning shop and pass on some great advice, hope he gets up there again someday.

Until that day I guess we will have to settle for the Melbourne WWW show, it's a long drive from Geelong.

See you at the show


"The Nash Family"


The Billinudgel Wood Working Company -
Keeping the Tradition Alive!