We’ve decided to call our sandstone whetstones Tassie Tigers, for a number of reasons.
I’d originally thought of ‘Thylacine’, but the alliteration of the Tassie Tiger is more catchy.
Anyone in Tasmania knows that despite being declared extinct a long time ago, sightings of Thylacines (or at least stories of sightings) and expeditions to find them crop up fairly regularly. So they exist, but they don’t exist – a bit like this sandstone, which several stonemasons reckoned couldn’t be found in Tassie.
Plus there’s the poignant reminder of the emblem of the Thylacine – something we hunted to extinction – which seems to be the way many established whetstone resources are heading (the Bregenzer is apparently nearly spent, and the Rozsutec stone is being used for a number of applications). On the national highway between the north and south of Tassie there’s an installation of a steel-cutout family of Thylacines in a roadside paddock. The first time I saw it, it took a split second to realise that I hadn’t just made a sighting, and the ensuing sense of loss was arrestingly visceral. The emblem doesn’t always seem to be used to evoke such feelings; indeed, the “dead dog” (as it was known with a deliberate sense of irony when I worked in the public service) is still the logo of the Tasmanian government – the same institution which placed a bounty on its head – apparently because it evokes an image of unexplored territories Tasmania can offer to tourists. Indeed, we have to acknowledge our complicity in exploiting a natural resource for our ends (and the ‘dead dog’ logo on our government-issued prospecting licenses helps us remember…) But in terms of appropriate use of a natural resource, putting hand-prospected and individually-shaped stone to use on a scythe blade seems to be one of the more reasonable.
And it feels like it’s got a good bite.
Last but not least is the appearance of the stone – or at least some of it. Some of it is brown – and just brown, while some of it is brown with streaks (reminiscent of the Tiger’s stripes) and/or marbling, and some of it looks just dead boring grey (almost like a Rozsutec) but then is almost greenish when wet. It’s not quarried stone from a large deposit, so there really is a lot of variation.