Messmate Vs Ash timber

Which…Wood….you choose?

Mark Mortelliti is Proprietor of Lifestyle Furniture Melbourne and President of the Furnishers Society of Victoria has been selling timber furniture for 20 years.

The beauty of timber furniture is always in the eye of the beholder. We are unique individuals and as such different timbers will “speak” to people differently. I watch every week as those frequenting my showroom reach out their hand and run it along the length of the timbers in our showroom tables as if reaching out to nature.

That raises the question of which timber will I have my furniture crafted from?

Two timbers which are related to each other and yet very different to each other are, Messmate and Victorian Ash. Both these timbers are terrific for furniture making and have similar density and strength characteristics.

Messmate Timber

Messmate (Eucalyptus obliqua),

Messmate timber furniture contains strong grain patterns and character. The timber features magnificent whirled grains patterns, gum veins, pin holes, squiggly worm trails and natural stains from fire, wind and flood.

You will be drawn to the natural feel and beauty of this Australian Hardwood. Messmate timber is brown to light-brown.  Also called Messmate Stringy bark it grows naturally in parts of Victoria and Tasmania, and less widely in South Australia, the tablelands of NSW and southern Queensland.

Messmate timber has in recent years become a popular choice for furniture makers as the timber takes very well to a range of stain colours. The fact that the grain patters are stronger and more varied also means the timber is somewhat more forgiving when the marked  or scratched by the younger family members in day to day use. With Messmate no two pieces of furniture will ever be the same each is beautifully unique. Whereas Victorian ash is very consistent in its straight grain character.

Victorian Ash Timber

Victorian Ash (Eucalyptus regnans),Also known as Tasmanian Oak

Victorian Ash is the trade name for both Alpine and Mountain Ash. Mountain Ash, Eucalyptus regnans, has the distinction of being the world’s tallest flowering plant. Recorded before the turn of the century at exceeding 100 m tall.

Together with Silvertop Ash, Eucalyptus sieberi, Victorian Ash has become the staple hardwood of furniture makers around the world. Consistently even grain, long lengths and similar appearance of these species have also contributed to their desirability.

Because of their relatively consistent colour (ranging from a pale pink and reddy browns to a pale straw) Victorian Ash/ Tasmanian Oak lend themselves to most applications where a quieter and more contemporary feel is required. It is quarter sawn giving an extremely straight grain. It is an ideal hardwood for furniture.

Victorian ash is plantation grown in Australia and as such is an Eco Friendly choice however if the furniture has been produced overseas the 32,000km round trip should be taken into account.

Matching timber furniture to your home decor

So you’ve found a great price of furniture but are stuck on how to get it to fit style-wise into your home? Just follow these simple steps to ensure your furniture not only looks great in your home but looks like it belongs too.

First to consider is colour. With furniture you can either blend with what is in your home or go for a deliberate contrast. For example: if you have Tasmanian oak floors and choose a Tasmanian oak table the table can get lost amongst the same colour timber. To offset this you can choose upholstered back chairs in a strong colour to differentiate whilst tying it all together. On the other side if you choose a table that is very dark in contrast to the light Tasmanian oak floors that is enough contrast to make the setting look great. Simply accompany the table with timber back chairs of the same colour.

The other mention in using colours is tying your other pieces of furniture together by utilising the same colour theme for all pieces in the house. For example: If you have dark furniture in your living room, carry this on into the dining room, study and bedroom too. It will connect all your furniture and make the whole house come together in style.

The second point to consider is on using accessories. Items such as mirrors, cushions, wall art, and other similar pieces are the icing on the cake. They can enhance the room by adding colour and finishing off the room setting. Use colours that bring out the tones of the timber. For example: for a Red Gum TV Unit you can add cushions on the sofa in various hues of red to bring out the rich red colours that Red Gum timber is known for. And if the sofa is in a neutral colour like cream or light grey the red cushions will also contrast with the sofa and tie the room together.

The third point I will mention is choosing if your style will be contemporary or traditional. Modern timber furniture is typically square edged, with lots of straight lines and a uniform and symmetrical layout design. Traditional style tends to be about details like tapered or turned legs, detailed edges like shark nose or bull nose, sometimes involves wrought iron and sometimes with carved details. The current trends are all about modern styles with bright vibrant colours. My suggestion however is choose a style that A) suits your house and B) you most enjoy.

So there you have it. 3 simple rules for matching timber furniture to your home décor: Colour, Accessories and Style.

Written by
Nathan Brown
Lifestyle Furniture

Tips on Timber: Timber Joinery

Wood Joinery is merely the way in which two pieces of timber are joined together, and this also proves strength at the crucial points on construction of Furniture alone with glues used.

We will cover Wood Joinery commonly used in manufacturing solid timber furniture.

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Dovetail Joints

Dovetail Joints

Dovetail joints have been used for centuries for building drawers, Chest, Boxes and other wooden projects. This method of joinery is exceptionally strong.

Mortise & Tenon

This type of joint is made up of two parts, the mortise (female) and the tenon (male).

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Mortise & Tenon

The tenon on the end of one piece of timber is inserted into a cut out hole, cut into the joining timber. The tenon is cut to fit the mortise hole exactly. This joint may then be glued, pinned or wedged to lock into place.


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Biscuit Joint

Biscuit Joint

This is where a small biscuit is used to align two pieces of timber. For instance, a butt joint then this glued.

Butt Joint

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Butt Joint


This method of joinery is the most basic method of joinery, but accuracy is still required. A butt join is where one piece of timber is butted against another and glued. In some situations it may also be screwed or nailed.


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Tongue & Groove

Tongue and Groove

This is where a groove is cut all along the edge and a thin deep ridge (The tongue) on the adjoining piece of timber.

Finger Joint

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Finger Joint


This is created by cutting a set of complimentary rectangular cuts in two pieces of timber which are then glued together (e.g. to visualise this, simply interlock the fingers of your hands together).


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Mitre Joint

Mitre Joint

Similar to the butt joint, but bother pieces have been cut on a 45 degree angle.

Grove Joint

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Grove Joint


This is where a slot is cut with the grain in which this enables a piece of timber to slide into this.


Mark Mortelliti