Working with his hands has long been a way of life for Jon McLean. With an energetic disposition, unflagging curiosity and boundless imagination, Jon has, in recent times, used this abilities to produce decorative Christmas trees from horse shoes.

Beginning with accessing the 19 horse shoes needed for each tree, his work is a time consuming process but one that has proved rewarding for the response his trees have received.

“The shoes have to be soaked in water for three or four months to wash the dirt out of the grooves and make them soft,” he said.

“Once that is done I have to pull all the old nails out. After that I use an angle grinder that is fitted with a wire brush, to remove all the old dirt and rust. That’s when I weld the shoes together, spray them with a clear oil-based lacquer and add baubles, lights or whatever people want.”

The foundations for the dexterity Jon now displays were laid when he was growing up on a sheep and cattle property about 500 kilometres west of Toowoomba.

On finishing his schooling at Toowoomba Grammar, he went to the Longreach Pastoral College, the nation’s longest established agricultural training complex. It was during his two years at Longreach that Jon further developed his ability to use his hands. “The Pastoral College teaches the students all about the basic skills of running a property as well as things like welding and basic bush carpentry,” he says.

After finishing his studies at Longreach, Jon began working on the family farm, before marrying and beginning to farm at Tullochard, which was even further west. With the property often being stricken by drought and the occasional flood, the McLeans decided to move in to Toowoomba in 2003.

“When we first came in, I did handyman work and then we bought the Park House Café,” he said. “After we sold the café I started my own fencing company in 2007.”

It was while doing fencing work, about half way between Jondaryan and Dalby, that Jon came across old cattle yards being bulldozed for burning.

“The wood was just going to waste and I thought I could do something with it, so I set up a workshop under the house,” he said.

“That was probably in 2009 and in my spare time since I play with wood, making kitchen island benches on wheels, knife racks, bedside tables and I am working on some chairs.”

Though the work takes a while from start to finish, the responses have been nothing but positive.

“Everyone who sees my work likes what I’m doing. Then, a few years ago, when I was working at Injune with Noel Hill, I saw that he had made a Christmas tree as well as a giant pear, standing about 1.6 metres, from horse shoes.

“I thought blow it, I can weld so that’s something I can do and it has gone from there. I am not making the Christmas trees commercially but I have sold quite a few and I will make them on request,” he said.

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