THEY have designed and produced material for film, television, theatre and a major sporting event.

And now a pair of Borders carpenters are carving a niche of their own in homes and businesses.

With the help of a council initiative Richard O’Connor and Gavin Smith are using their skills to create unique furniture at their West Linton workshop.

They met at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre where they designed memorable stage sets but it was after success with a project for the Commonwealth Games they decided to launch a full-scale business.

Richard, 42, said: “I was the master carpenter at the Royal Lyceum for 10 years and that’s where I met Gavin. We started making furniture together for ourselves and for others, all of it purpose built, unique and made from local Scottish hardwood.

“It was a small 'hobby’ business but it did really well and we began asking ourselves if we could do it full time. One significant project was to build the weightlifters wall for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

“It was a big scale project that put our engineering and steel fabrication skills to good use. The response was fantastic and that made us think that, yes, we could turn this into a profitable business.” The business provides a bespoke design, build and install service crafting everything from spiral staircases and dining tables to full kitchens and office furniture, all from responsibly sourced and sustainably grown Scottish hardwood.

Having an ample stock of locally sourced timber and FSC certified sheet materials in their workshop, they also provide a supply and cut service for local joiners and DIY enthusiasts, and will be offering a wide range of courses and educational events aimed at keeping their traditional skills alive.

Aided by Business Gateway the duo secured funding through Scottish Borders Council’s Borders Business Fund which allowed them to buy machinery – and start trading six months ahead of schedule.

Richard said: “Setting up has been a massive learning curve that has been challenging but ultimately rewarding. Business Gateway helped us write a business plan and our mission statement really gave us clarification as to what we were able to do. “Our adviser also helped us apply for the funding which was a real boost. We’re particularly excited by the educational side of our business, and our adviser’s input will help us ensure we offer exciting evening and weekend courses for all ages and skill levels.” Sandra Campbell, of Business Gateway, said: “Planning is key to the success of any new business, helping you identify milestones to work towards.

“A business plan is also necessary when applying for finance through projects like the Council’s business fund which helped RG Workshops get established.

“We will continue to work with Richard and Gavin to help them achieve their goals which include taking on their first apprentice and providing work for local artisans and craftsmen.” RG Workshops’ first commission – to design, build and install a bespoke main staircase followed by a spiral staircase for a watermill conversion in Innerleithen – is now complete.

At their workshop based in a former village hall with its own stage, Richard and Gavin took just two months to craft the features, which showcase both their welding and carpentry skills through the combination of steel and timber.

“We went from working for the theatre to literally working in one! Having the stage and height that the hall provides gives us a unique space to showcase our work,” said Richard. “The staircase project arose from a discussion with a local architect who wanted to bring something 'industrial’ yet 'decorative’ to a design they were working on.

“Now that it is complete it’s a great example of how our meticulous planning with the client, from initial concept to actual build, results in pieces that our clients love, and that we are proud of. Yes, you can go to DIY stores, and there is a place for that, but if you want something that is truly outstanding and unique that’s where we come in.” Gavin, 37, has designed and built for film and television as well as for corporate events such as The Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

He said: “Theatre and events can be challenging in many ways but it taught us how to problem solve on a budget and be innovative when making things.

“We designed and built over 80 sets for the Lyceum including a six-metre long suspended bridge and a flying, practical staircase for Dale Wasserman’s Man of La Mancha.

“But events and productions are so throw away – you spend weeks, even months, making props and sets and the minute the show or event comes to an end it is torn back down.

“I want to create things that last a lifetime; that can become family heirlooms and astound people, like the two staircases we have just created, and RG Workshops lets us do that with every commission.”