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"Clydesdales Pulling a Wagon of Silver Ore from Yerranderie"

Winner of the National People's Choice Award at

The 1999 Melbourne Working with Wood Show

Size: 17in. Height x 25 in. width x 5 Meters length
430 mm H x 635 mm W x 5 Meters L

By Maricha Oxley

I began the Clydesdale sculpture in 1995. I had always wanted to create a large carving - my biggest project yet - but didn't until a tree was donated (Golden Cedar). The size of the tree dictated the size of the sculpture. It was full of interesting grain and many knots. I was hoping that the grain would help to convey the energy and movement of the horses.

Research began through drawing. I wanted to make it an authentic depiction of the actual wagon and horses from Yerranderie, a small silver mining town in New South Wales that flourished in the early part of this century. I studied old photographs from the Mining Department, and visited Yerranderie where the remains of the mines are, took photos and made several drawings. I talked to the owner Val Lhuede and caretaker John Hopwood. I also visited the Oaks, Camden and Yerranderie Museums. I found an authentic silver ore hessian bag at the Oaks, and a great photo of a team of clydesdales at the Camden Museums which helped as references for sizes and proportions of the sculpture.

It was important to find out all the finer details for the bridles, accessories and harnesses.

Before I began the actual carving I had to divide the log into segments for each horse, with a chainsaw and Arbortech. It took quite some time to remove the waste areas. I used a large fishtail chisel (2 - 1 1/2 inches wide) and mallet.

I was also making notes to prepare to carve a "Teamster" the man who is in charge of the horses, owns, feeds, and he drives them. I interviewed several people, researchers (Ron Mills), historians, and people who were part of that era, or family, or connected with the mining, horses and life at that time.

I developed the character for the teamster from a series of sketches. I wanted him to emulate the hard working laconic Australian bush character. He has rough bearded face and worn clothes. He is drinking from a hessian water bag.

I discovered that a stockhorse was used by the teamster. Clydesdales could not be led by a reign. The team of horses is dominated by one clydesdale known at the "leader;" the teamster whistles and directs the leader and the rest of the team of horses follow.

I did encounter a major difficulty in that a large crack became apparent. I had to change the stance of several of the horses to avoid the cracks. I used tung oil, wax and shellac to prevent any further cracking.

I wanted to include the knots in the timber because they do give the work a unique colour and texture. Carving near a knot is challenging and extremely difficult. I followed the grain as I carved to complement the flowing movement of the horses.

I was searching for specialized timbers for the stockhorse. I also needed to carve 2 two more clydesdales that I had lost from the original log. Harry Clancy had to laminate pieces of Queensland Maple to create three blocks big enough to carve the stockhorse and the last two clydesdales.

I had problems carving underneath and in between each horse. I used flat and back bent straight chisels to free the horses and their legs. I also had to make a tool flat and curved at the end to carve the horse's stomach.

I needed to interview locals of Yerranderie and owners of Clydesdales at the Sydney Easter Shows, who had worked with the Clydesdales. They were able to provide first hand accounts of the journey the Clydesdales made pulling the wagon loaded with silver ore. The terrain was quite difficult, the roads narrow and winding. Some times the roads were washed away by inclement weather.

The wagon itself had to be purpose built. It was designed to carry a massive load of approximately 8 to 20 tons depending on the number of horses. The horses can pull one and half times their own weight.

To construct the wagon took considerable planning, research and many calculations. I was assisted by my brother Sandro de Aboitiz who has an engineering background. He calculated the amount of cargo each horse could carry including the weight of the wagon. I was able to make the wagon close to scale following these considerations.

The final stage involved finer carving of the horses heads. I wanted each horse to have individual expressions. I blackened the saddle and collar with a blowtorch. These black areas needed to be sanded back and waxed. The surrounding areas were covered with shellac. The chains and bars, balanced correctly indicating the pulling force required for the heavy load.



I decided to make the sculpture in two segments so that it could be transported. Then joining the two segments together - placing them on a large tray with the road and environment in mind. ( Harry Clancy made the tray.)

Completing the sculpture in time for the 1999 Sydney Timber Show was a major accomplishment. The whole project had taken about four and half years to finish. Working on such a large scale project posed equally huge problems for me to overcome. I see the work now as an accurate representation of an important era in Australian history. I wanted to show the majesty and power of the Clydesdales. I was fascinated by their incredible strength and their endurance on what must have been trecherous journey. I also admired those men who led the horses. They must have had nerves of steel and amazing skill in handling these animals.

I hope that the work captures the Australian spirit of survival. In such a harsh and unforgiving environment these early settlers were able to create a unique way of life.

Maricha Oxley is one of Australia's most skilled wood carvers who centres her sculptures around Australian icons. Her interest in the enormous variety and beauty of Australian timbers has inspired her passion for woodcarving. She has created carvings of Australian poet Henry Lawson, famed racehorse Phar Lap and the outback legend, the swagman.

Detailed planning and research are essential to Maricha's creations. She begins with series of sketches based on photographs or direct observation of the subject. From these studies Maricha creates a three-dimensional clay model.

Maricha carefully chooses the timber for each sculpture. She considers the rich colour, fine texture and quality of the grain.

You are invited email Maricha Oxley at maricha@ozemail.com.au.