Outside interest: woodwork

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 20 Jan 2016

Olivia HornerPlanner Olivia Horner tackles furniture restoration when she's not working at GL Hearn where she is a development manager.

How did you get into woodworking?

I have been quite lucky to find various pieces of furniture that have either been thrown out or I've bought cheaply at markets. I now have a small collection of lovely vintage pieces. It all started when I did a Google search for courses and stumbled across the Good Life Centre where I took a one-day introduction to furniture restoration. I then found an amazing place in Walthamstow called the Blackhorse Workshop that offers evening courses and have become somewhat addicted.

What does it involve?

Good planning and detailed design are the first steps to ensure once cut, pieces of wood fit together. The key is measure twice and cut once. There are a huge range of tools I am still learning about, from tiny handsaws to big table saws and a huge range of finishing tools such as hand chisels to disc sanders. Then come the finishing techniques: oils, waxes and, my personal favourite, French polishing.

Why do you do it?

There is something wonderful about being able to make things with your hands, especially if you have spent most of your life in front of books and computers.

What’s the toughest thing about it?

Finding the space to make pieces in London is hard. At the moment I visit the Blackhorse Workshop whenever I can as you can hire studio space, but I might have a great idea when I am at home and have to wait until my next visit to try it.

What’s the most rewarding thing about it?

Being able to use a piece of furniture knowing you made it from scratch is great. But aside from that I find the process hugely enjoyable as every day I learn something new about a technique that has often been around for centuries. The trade survives and evolves because knowledge has been passed on for generations and I think that is beautiful and inspiring in this age of Wikipedia and YouTube.

Are there any similarities between your day job as a Development Manager and woodworking?

Certainly: both roles involve a lot of planning for something you have to be able to visualise before it has come into existence –  the adage 'measure twice and cut once’ also applies in planning for development. In woodworking and development things often don’t go according to plan and in both cases you need to think fast and find the most cost- and time-efficient solution.

Do you have any unusual interests or hobbies that you would like to tell us about? If so, please email planning@haymarket.com