Restoring furniture to save it from landfill

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Posted

May 19, 2017 07:00:18

Armed with a honey waste product and 16th-century technology, Adele Spencer is equipped to save your furniture from the tip.

Ms Spencer describes herself as a “recovering public servant”.

She took a redundancy from her office job a few years ago and went searching for a new career where she could use her hands.

“I wanted to get into something that was creative, a bit physical and something that was sustainable.”

Restoring old pieces of furniture so they can continue to be used instead of ending up in landfill turned out to be the perfect line of work for Ms Spencer.

“It’s all about being gentle … it’s about respecting what you’ve got and what you’re working with,” she said.

Ms Spencer found a mentor, antique dealer and restorer Richard Kent, who showed her how to fix furniture in his backyard.

“It was just a really beautiful way to learn and take on his wisdom,” she said.

“Some of the principles he taught me were around making sure not to lose the story of the furniture in the restoration.

“The piece you end up with still wears its history quite proudly on its surface.”

After working closely with Mr Kent, Ms Spencer gained the skills to start her own business restoring furniture by hand.

There are no electric sanders or drills in her workspace, but there is a large block of beeswax and a 16th-century French tool called a polissoir.

“I started working more with just raw beeswax instead of some of the off-the-shelf-polishes,” she said.

“I get it from my friend who’s an apiarist.

“It smells amazing because we have beautiful leatherwood honey in Tasmania.

“It’s taking a kind of waste product and using it for making something beautiful.”

Sanding and polishing the beeswax into the wood by hand is hard, physical labour, but Ms Spencer said it allowed her to get to know the timber.

“You start to see the timber grain come through and that’s one of my favourite parts of the whole process, because it’s like something’s revealing itself and it’s like, ‘I’ve been hiding, but here I am and I’m really beautiful’.

“It’s a messy job, but that’s part of why I like it after many years of sitting in an office.”

Topics:

craft,

recycling-and-waste-management,

people,

careers,

human-interest,

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