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Scholarship Award 2017: Olly Christian

The UK recipient of the 2017 Tormek Scholarship Award is Olly Christian from Bristol. Olly is a fully qualified nurse and has many years experience working in the NHS, however he decided to change his career to suit his creative talent and home life. He has recently finished a 2-year course studying Furniture Making at the City of Bristol College; with his second-year project he won the Somerset Guild of Craftsman 2017 furniture prize and is now also awarded with a new Tormek Sharpening System.

Olly first got involved with woodworking when he set up home with his wife and needed furniture, flooring and more. They could not afford much, so his first workshop had a vintage second hand De Walt saw and a low-cost lathe to get him started. “I was building shelves, laying flooring and other carpentry for myself out of necessity”. “I soon realised I liked woodworking and wanted to pursue this as a career. Designing and creating is something I really enjoy, and I wanted to learn the finer aspects of furniture making.”

Enrolling on the Furniture Making course at the City of Bristol College was a big step from the comfort of a full time job. “Under the guidance of tutor Gary Dingle I started in a new world! Gary has been a fantastic tutor and mentor, he has an uncanny ability to let you feel like you are discovering and learning for yourself when all of a sudden all the skills he has taught you come together, like Mr Miyagi and the wax on - wax off.”

An ingenious dining table

Having completed City and Guilds level 2 Diploma, Olly’s second year project won him first prize at the Somerset Guild of Craftsman 2017 furniture prize. This large multifunctional dining table was also a product of necessity. “Our dining table is always a busy place and meal times were crowded with art projects, Lego creations and other elements of daily life. I wanted to create a way that my son could play with his Lego and my wife could leave her art projects ready to go, while still being able to have a clear uncluttered dinner table. The additions of the drawers and Lego pit make this quite an unusual dining table”.

Olly’s final workpiece is complicated in design with compound corners on the top and the drawers and a blend of materials. “I enjoyed every minute however I could have made life easier for myself. The double through tenons for the legs are at an angle, and the compound angles for the dovetail housings on the drawers was pretty challenging for a novice. There was plenty of head scratching and test pieces.” Olly chose ovangkol over oak that was too light and walnut that was too expensive.

“My son now has a great space for his Lego, and my wife’s drawing materials are on hand after a stressful day at work and we have a great space to eat and drink together and with friends”.

A long journey

He says “The compound angles on dovetail housing for the drawers were the biggest challenge. The designing took months before I even started and that was interesting. Looking around for inspiration then making mock ups and testing if what I wanted was even possible.” Up close the neat fitting drawers and lids make it very pleasing to see and use.

The course tutors judged the work which was assessed throughout the construction. A Distinction grade was achieved for the City and Guilds Level 2 Diploma. “Winning 1st prize at the Somerset Guild was a real confidence boost and helped me decide to go professional”, Olly explains.

This is a big piece of work, and took many hours. “The whole of the college year focused around this project, with the first few months being spent on design and processes, once the construction commenced it did take me right to the end of the academic year, 2 days a week for 10 months! Luckily I know the time taken to make it will be less than the time we will be enjoying it! With the off cuts I made a bench and turned a bowl to match”.

The future is looking sharp

Olly is now embarking as self-employed cabinetmaker in a shared workshop near Bath. “I have just installed my tools and relocated my machines. I have some work lined up and I know where the kettle is. The workshop has a Tormek 1200, from many years ago, and has clearly seen a lot of work. When I applied to join and announced I had won a T-8 this generated a lot of interest. The T-8 is now installed and creating razor sharp edges ready for everyone’s work. I can’t wait to get started, having sharp tools courtesy of the Scholarship will be a real help. The machine is fantastic and I am staggered by the ease of use. Thank you Tormek!”

If you want to see more of Olly’s work, visit his website Lien vers un autre site web, s'ouvre dans une nouvelle fenêtre..

The jury's feedback reads:

Olly’s dining table is intriguing and every small detail has been considered. It has an elegant design and each area is carefully planned according to how it will be used. Tormek is proud to support Olly’s forthcoming cabinet projects and wishes him all the best in the future.

Photo credits: Martin Brown