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    Breathing new life into something old

    Sheela Chandran

    ANN/THE STAR – Not many people get as excited about finding discarded lumber or seeing fallen trees in their neighbourhood than Mohd Nazmie Che Mohd Ashari, 36.

    The English teacher uses tree trunks and discarded wood that he finds around his village in Bachok, Kelantan to make study tables, chopping boards, stools and toys. He also sources lumber from villagers who are clearing their land for agricultural production or for construction.

    “Sometimes, I get the logs for free or sometimes, I have to pay for them. The money will be used (by the villagers) to pay for the cost of clearing the land. It’s a win-win situation,” said Mohd Nazmie from Bachok recently.

    He’s accumulated so much wood that he is using some of it to build a home.

    He is using a combination of discarded wood and local wood like cengal, damar hitam and medang to build his 167 square metres double-storey home in Kampong Pantai Senak in Bachok. He started the project during the movement control order period at the start of the pandemic and hopes to complete it next year.

    “I have always dreamt of building my own wooden house. It’s a simple house with Malay architectural elements.

    Mohd Nazmie loves his job as a teacher but he devotes his spare time to his passion for woodworking
    Mohd Nazmie and his family in the house that he built.PHOTOS: ANN/THE STAR
    ABOVE & BELOW: Mohd Nazmie improves his woodworking skills through YouTube video tutorials; and discarded tembusu tree trunk can be repurposed into many items including toys and coffee tables

    “My wooden house is 20 kilometres away from my in-law’s home, where I am staying with my family now,” said Mohd Nazmie, who has spent MYR80,000, so far, to erect his dream home.

    The father of three is among the growing number of people moving towards sustainable living. He believes he is doing his part to reduce landfill waste.

    He also appreciates the value of breathing new life into something old.

    “Cutting down trees for development and open burning are issues of concern for me. It can lead to many environmental problems like soil degradation, climate change and deforestation.

    “Usually when I see felled trees on the road, I’d find the owner and ask if I can use the wood. I’m trying to make good use of discarded wood by turning them into reusable items,” said the teacher from SMK Long Yunus in Bachok.

    He learnt woodworking by watching video tutorials on social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.

    “I love watching videos on woodworking on the Internet. It’s amazing how woodcrafters make many creative things like tables, tree houses, and decorative items.

    “I’m a handyman. And I have improved my woodworking skills through video tutorials. By watching these videos, I have managed to create wooden toy aeroplanes, helicopters, and cars for my kids.

    “Then, I moved on to bigger things like tissue boxes, coffee tables and shoe racks,” said Mohd Nazmie, who has been making wooden furniture since 2012.

    He has never attended any woodworking workshops.

    “To improve my skills, I have visited furniture workshops as well as those of welders and blacksmiths. I’ve met many friendly and kind-hearted craftsmen who are willing to teach me the tricks of the trade.

    “Of course, I have also encountered some who are not so willing to share their skills. I view these as challenges. I’ve learnt that one mustn’t feel shy about asking for help from master craftsmen.”

    In 2016, Mohd Nazmie turned his hobby into a side hustle – creating rustic furniture.

    He operates his business, Tembusu Woodworks, from home where he transforms discarded wood into tables, chair, bookcases and beds. His products are priced between MYR50 and MYR5,000.

    “Tembusu was the first type of wood that I used when I launched my small business.

    Therefore, I used the wood’s name as my trademark. I love tembusu because of its durability,” shared Mohd Nazmie, who shares his creations on his Facebook page.

    But he doesn’t rely solely on discarded wood for his commissioned projects. He also uses durable wood like cengal, mersawa, kapor, and merbau.

    “I select wood based on its durability and suitability. For example, jelutong, cengal and tembusu woods are suitable for carving.

    Kapor, mersawa and akasia are hard wood and it’s recommended for sturdier items like tables and doors. Customers are willing to pay higher for better quality wood.”

    Mohd Nazmie admits that juggling a full-time job and his part-time business isn’t easy. But his teaching job takes priority, and he only starts his woodworking in the evenings.

    “I love my job, and I enjoy educating students. However, sometimes, I have to attend school meetings after work hours. On some days, I only reach home at 4pm.

    “I work on woodworking projects in the evening and on weekends. I never work at night because that is the time I relax with my family. Family is second to none. So essentially, it boils down to scheduling my time according to my priorities,” shared Mohd Nazmie.

    He hires part-timers – villagers and even his students – to help him with his woodworking.
    He believes anyone can learn a new skill as long as they have the determination.

    “We must do everything with passion. Passion is a powerful force in helping us accomplish anything we set our mind to.

    “I always encourage my students to chase their dreams. Failing once doesn’t mean you’ll fail again. The secret is to believe in one’s instincts and to have passion.

    “I’ve lived by this motto and now I’m building my own home from scratch. Knowledge is power, so never give up on your dreams,” he concluded.

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