Turning old into new with timber

Planter boxes, picnic tables, libraries, shop displays: you name it and Graeme Baltetsch will make it. And best of all, he’ll make it out of as much recycled material as he can.

Dubbed a ‘timber wiz’ by his colleagues at North Geelong’s GDP Industries, Graeme knows how to produce high-quality pieces and, after 50 years on the job, his incredible attention to detail delivers some amazing results.

What’s old is new, ­more sustainable, cheaper to buy…

While the majority of the pallets and timber offcuts dropped off at GDP Industries are turned into kindling for resale, some are used to create new timber products.

The pieces are very reasonably priced, particularly in cases where more recycled materials are used, and the money goes back into improving the organisation ­– a not-for-profit with close to 100 workers employed under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Creating job opportunities for people with disabilities

Graeme started out at GDP Industries as a 17-year-old work experience student, and has learned everything on the job. When asked what made him choose GDP Industries, he responded:

Years ago, back in the 50s and 60s, people like me weren’t heard of because they were put in places like Karingal because I have cerebral palsy. . .I went to a special school and the headmaster said he couldn’t get me a job. He sent me to Centrelink and they said to go straight to the pension office.

But Graeme wasn’t having it; he was determined to find work.

I just rocked up at GPD, asked for a job and they put me on straight away. I’ve been here ever since.

Handmade with care

According to Graeme, a great deal of care and effort goes into the custom pieces he creates, and in most cases the turnaround time is one to two weeks.

There’s a lot of router work, sanding, and prep work involved, you’ve got to make it special.

His pieces rival items you would find in a high-end furniture store, but they are fully customisable and can be painted or designed to incorporate intricate moldings.

Graeme is willing to give anything a go and has experience in creating all sorts of things, including bars and counters for restaurants and displays, and shelves for shops made predominantly from timber pallets.

Recently he helped make a mud kitchen for Thomson Kindergarten using 100 per cent recycled materials. The kitchen featured hot plates made from discarded CDs, as well as an old microwave that was collected through GDP’s e-waste scheme.

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