How it all happened.

There was a rather simple combination of needs behind the development of the site at Lewis drive… one of (then) local hardware store Tonks brothers’ wish to expand it’s operations to be able to cater to the growing demands of construction within the Mount Alexander and the other, a vague, as yet un crystalised, dream of Mat and Anna’s to merge out of domestic building, and to create a fabulous salvage yard.

The journey began with the creation of an official partnership and a committment from both parties that all construction was to reflect the commitment to the use of salvaged materials.

There was, of course the usual considerations given to the practical nature of finance vs ethics and aesthetics across the whole property… but ultimately everybody believed that we needed to practice what was suggested, and therefore must endeavour to remain as close to our beliefs as possible. This ultimately created many challenges… and took a year or so beyond the original target… remaining true to the adage of ‘Good, Fast and Cheap’, you can’t have all three! (It can be good and cheap, but it won’t be fast… cheap and fast, but not good… fast and good, but not cheap. We opted for the former!)

The entire Lewis drive site consists of two titles… 4 Lewis drive is where the Big Shed now sits (the original home of Tonks Hardware)… and 6 Lewis drive (at the rear) is the home of The Salvage Yard (literally and metaphorically). The theme is obvious across both sites, and there are many unique aspects to both structures that make them ‘just a little bit more special’ than a couple of ordinary sheds!

The Salvage Yard shed was built first as a refuge and workshop from which to create the ‘super structure’ next door. Warehouse doors from the Melbourne wharves were used in each end of the gabled workshop, salvaged I-beams hold up ex school portable floors as mezzanines on each side of the skillion main frame… and all of the tool storage, internal offices, bathroom and lunch room are built into 20 ft shipping containers, in which the entire shed was sized up for. Second hand internal doors, electrical GPO’s stripped from a Melbourne nursing home that was being demolished (10 years after it’s construction), industrial castors re purposed as door runners… are just some of the fixtures and fittings that were used in the construction and fit out. Probably the more interesting aspect of the recycled nature of these sheds are the structural members that make up the main shed frames. We wanted to come up with a solution for the roof structure that didn’t involve purchasing new LVL structural beams to make the span that we required. Mat started investigating the integrity of laminating a waste product… that in itself was too gutless to do the job… but when doubled on it’s edge… came up to parr. We approached a company that makes gang plating machines… and they agreed to sponsor us by providing the machine… and we purchased their gang plates. In this manner, we created valuable structural roof and wall members, by the use of a waste product… old 4 x 2 hardwood stud work. This timber is stripped by the truck load from demolished victorian buildings across victoria… is gnarly and often twisted, filled with nails and is often seen as a ‘waste product’ as it is plentiful and hard to work with.

Gang plating it together to create a structural beam meant that it could be used ‘as is’, and we needed plenty of it…. and demolishers were very happy to provide it!

As far as we know … these are the first and only of their kind in the world to date, and we are very proud of them! The gang plating machine got a BIG work out over the year… and you can see these members lining the interior of both the big shed warehouse and the Salvage Yard main shed!

The webbed trusses that accompany these roof members were a by product from the fabulous education stimulus package… as was all of the cladding for both of the sheds, all originating from the old Colac Secondary College!

Over the years, hard and soft landscaping has emerged out of the hard packed clay and as the site is still evolving, so too our our storage areas and car parking spaces etc. We envisage a time when things may settle a bit more, but with large scale projects reliant on small scale human input.. our yard and caretakers’ residence will be fluid for a few more years to come!!