A Country Living

Seeing Beauty And Use In Other’s Discarded Junk

Steve Dimmer is a familiar face in North Dorset, having spent many years working for Harts of Stur in their garden centre department. 

But his heart has always been in working wood; a couple of years ago he had the opportunity to buy a workshop, complete with the larger tools he’d always wanted – the lifestyle choice was made, and now Steve spends his days happily coated in sawdust and wood shavings.

Steve Dimmer in his workshop at Spire Hill Business Park near Stalbridge
image: Courtenay Hitchcock

“I was taught woodworking from around 8 years old; by 14 I was making my own fishing boxes. At 17 I was making timber frames for customising my car. I’ve been good with my hands for as long as I could hold a hammer. My dad let me help when I was tiny – and my sons watched me in the workshop. Both my boys and my stepson are as good as me. You learn from doing it!

“The first thing I ever made was a tea towel holder – the ones with marbles in the slots? I’m still making them!” He holds one up and waves it. “My hobby has become my living – and I’m happy.”

A restored cast iron mangle base, topped with planks of the rescued London Plane, oiled and sitting in the sun to dry. This table was priced at £300, and sold instantly
image: Courtenay Hitchcock

Steve creates bespoke statement pieces of furniture – desks, coffee tables plus a lot of garden benches over the summer. And he’s finding there’s a real market for his work, often selling items via social media as fast as he can make them.

Perhaps it’s the unique look of his materials – Steve prides himself on creating new purpose from the wood others reject; 

“it’s the bits with character that I see potential in. I’m happier with the live edge (pieces with bark still on), with knots and interesting grain like pawprint oak.”

Steve refuses to waste anything – old doors and floorboards become mirrors and clocks. Long twisting branches can become cheese boards or hook racks. Even small offcuts can be made into stylish tealight holders.

Vintage cast iron bench ends in Steve’s workshop waiting to be treated and restored.
image: Courtenay Hitchcock

There is a pile of old, age-blackened wood sitting to the side of Steve’s yard – upon having it examined he found it is London Plane. The saw marks show that it was potentially cut around a hundred years ago – the marks match a traction engine saw blade of 24” diameter, and this method of belt-driven saws powered by tractors was replaced in the early 20th century timber yards by modern machinery with different blade types. This pile of wood was perhaps cut a century ago – and has not been used since. 

It’s not just about the woodwork, however – Steve’s stylish furniture pieces carefully pair wood with vintage metal components which he restores. He has just completed a magnificent desk, constructed from a pre-1930’s mangle base topped with yew (in image below). Old unwanted cast iron parasol bases make terrific coffee tables. A recently finished garden bench was built with Victorian railway station bench ends, restored as they would have been when new on the platform.

The small showroom at Steve’s workshop, with his clocks and mirrors on the walls, one of Steve’s completed benches, and just behind it the yew-topped mangle-based desk (£350).
image: Courtenay Hitchcock

He scours the internet for useful items he can recycle – not just wood, but cast iron vintage objects which can find a new purpose, unwanted items simply in need of some traditional skills.  

Steve takes on a lot of bespoke commissions – customers either come to him with a loose idea, or they have a very specific request, and he works with them to create a unique piece of furniture which they can be confident has the best environmentally-friendly credentials.  

Steve in his workshop – image: Courtenay Hitchcock

When he’s not in his workshop, Steve can usually be found out fishing – he has plans for a busy eventual retirement, taking a small camper van with Elvie the Jack Russell on a long road trip to fish the best carp lakes in the British Isles.

Prices vary according to commission, but as a rough guide restored cast iron garden benches start at £250. 

Find Steve as ‘@stevestuff_uk’ on Facebook and on Instagram. His workshop is at Spire Hill Business Park near Stalbridge, and Steve welcomes visitors by appointment. 
Do call him on 07721530672 to discuss your own bespoke requirements. 

By: Laura Hitchcock

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