The story of Arbortech truly started from humble beginnings with CEO and Arbortech original tools inventor, Kevin Inkster and his wife, Kristine living in Nannup – a small country town in the South West of Western Australia. Kevin and Kristine made a living from a combination of driving school buses, mechanical repairs and woodworking.
About Kevin Inkster
From a very young age it was already evident that Kevin had an intuitive, inventive flair in him. At the age of 18 he came up with the design concept of self lighting cigarettes. The idea was pursued by unscrupulous investors who told him the idea was unpatentable.
Designing had always been a love for Kevin and he spent his spare time experimenting with other different design and concepts. In fact, most of Arbortech’s woodworking tools are a result of Kevin’s experimentation.
|Kevin with an early Woodcarver Blade in 1988|
The Original Woodcarver Blade
In 1984 Kevin and Kristine were joint cafe owners with another business couple. The building required complete renovation and it was decided the cafe would go through a fit-out. With limited funds to hire a professional to do the work, Kevin became hands on with the entire fit-out. This project further fueled Kevin’s interest for invention and woodworking as he felt the lack of tools on the market for woodworking.
Kevin continued with his passion for woodworking and making a bit of extra income from making wooden chairs, in partnership with another craftperson, Peter Godden who was making tables from wood sourced from the forest floor.
Kevin became frustrated at the lack of woodworking tools for freehand shaping the seat bases. That was when Kevin decided to try his hands at a new contraption by wrapping a chainsaw chain around part of an old Volkswagen cover.
|The Original Woodcarver Blade in 1984|
Between 1984 – 1987, Kevin experimented with many prototypes and eventually the design evolved through a series of improvements and testing.
|Woodcarver Prototype 2|
In 1988 Kevin decided to enter his creation of a Sculpted Reclining Chair (made using a Woodcarver prototype) into a woodworking competition which won the South West Arts Festival’s woodworking prize of $3,000. From here the decision arose as to whether Kevin wanted to continue with his love for woodworking or venture into manufacturing of woodworking tools. The choice was to commercialize the Woodcarver after receiving a $5,000 government grant in June of that year, with an office being set up out of Kevin and Kristine’s home to run their business.
|Kevin’s sculpted Jarrah chair sold for $3,000|
|Kevin’s first chair sculpture won the South West Prize $1,000 in 1987|
As such, Arbortech was officially incorporated. In October 1988, Arbortech attended the first Timber & Working With Wood Show in Melbourne. The Woodcarver made a debut appearance and also demonstrated, which intrigued and generated much interest to the woodworking enthusiasts. The Woodcarver was sold for $50.00 and completely sold out by the end of the show weekend. Having netted sales of $14,000 from the Woodcarver sales, it was a big achievement for Kevin and Kristine, and it was clear the teamwork between the humble couple paid of.
|The Original Woodcarver Blade going to market in 1988|
The following year, an office was set up in the main street of Nannup. Further success followed when the Woodcarver blade was awarded the BHP Steel award.
|Kevin with his BHP Steel Award|
In 1990, Kevin and Kristine were able to move from their home office to an office building at 50 Westchester Road. This same year, the demand for the Woodcarver grew and Arbortech received an order of 50,000 Woodcarver blades from Ryobi in the United States.
The growth of sales and business lead to Arbortech expanding and needing a larger office to facilitate the business operations and activities. In 1993, a purpose built corporate office and manufacturing facility at 67 Westchester Road, Malaga was built. Business activity only went from strength to strength from here as Kevin continued his passion for woodworking and developing woodworking tools out of his love for design and experimentation. In 1996 the woodworking range expanded to include more woodworking tools which have translated to the preferred tools for many woodworkers today.
Arbortech Ventures Into The International Market
With the appreciation for woodworking growing and the increased demand for woodworking tools beyond the Australian market, Arbortech expanded business operations and ventured into the export market with the opening of a US office in 2007 and European office in 2011.
Whilst woodworking tools are a big part of Arbortech’s product portfolio, Arbortech’s name has been associated with engineering excellence and innovation for the award winning brick and mortar saw known as the Allsaw.
|Newspaper clipping from 1993 featuring Kevin with his award winning Allsaw|
Arbortech also gained international recognition for the development of the Airboard, a unique personal hovercraft that was featured at the Sydney 2000 Olympics Opening Ceremony.
|The Airboard |
Arbortech continues to focus on research and development to bring the best and most innovative products to the market. A renewed focus on woodworking products has seen the release of the TURBOPlane in 2012 and following it’s success, the release of the Mini-TURBO to the Australian market in May 2013 at the Maleny Wood Show. The Mini-TURBO will be released to the international market in September 2013.
Celebrating 25 Years
Having started from humble beginnings and evolving to an internationally recognized brand name, we thought such achievement needed to be celebrated at our 25 year anniversary.
|No celebration is complete without cake!|
The party was held at Arbortech head office grounds on Sunday, June 30th with attendees of Arbortech staff and their family members, shareholders, suppliers, auditors and other members associated with the Arbortech team. Drinks and canapés were served and everyone mingled happily.
|Kevin making a speech|
| No Arbortech event is what it is without the Arbortech Band|
|Getting into the groove|
|The Arbortech Band cranking the tunes for the crowd!|
As part of the 25 year anniversary and annual woodworking competition, one of the highlights of the party was judging the staff woodworking projects.
This marks the 2nd year of the staff woodworking competition and we covered this in a previous blog post of last year’s staff woodworking winners and projects.
Arbortech staff had been working hard on their woodworking project and this year’s entries were equally as impressive as last year’s submissions.
Stay tuned for our next blog post for coverage of the staff woodworking project and the winners.
Before we close off this blog entry we wanted to express our appreciation to our customers who have supported us through the years and been loyal Arbortech tool users. We look forward to serving you for many more years to come!
If you have any comments or suggestions about Arbortech tools, our company or anything else, we welcome your thoughts and would love to hear from you.
Until then, happy woodworking!