What we do on a bench making course.

What we do on a bench making course.

Posted by on Feb 9, 2014 in Blog, News and Events | No Comments

Last week I taught a six day work bench making course. This is one of my most demanding courses, both mentally and physically, for both my students and me! It’s demanding physically because we are working with big bits of wood and big joints and mentally because the work, although using large section timber, requires accuracy and attention to detail. I hope that those who come on the course not only leave with a very good work bench but also learn lots of new techniques in the making. Students on the course also build a good esprit de corps so I hope they also leave with new friends. Here’s a little photographic record of last weeks course.

Special Tuition this Summer

Special Tuition this Summer

Posted by on Sep 11, 2013 in Blog | No Comments

In July and August I like to stop my regular courses and invite people into my workshop for some special woodwork tuition. The aim is to give people of varying abilities the chance to work on a particular project or skill which cannot be catered for in my usual courses. This usually makes for some interesting teaching and this summer was no exception. Here’s a taster of some of the things that have been happening in the workshop this summer.

A chair in need of TLC

A chair in need of TLC

Bernard came along with a seriously ill Victorian upholstered easy chair in rosewood. As it’s in rosewood the work required to restore it is worthwhile. Bernard is keen to learn new restoration techniques so we are also treating it as a learning piece. A new semi circlular base had to be built up, new pieces spliced into the rosewood crest rail and curved decorative beads and facings applied. Work on the piece is not complete so Bernard will be working on it occasionally in the next few months.

Wood finishing course

Wood finishing course

Posted by on Jul 13, 2012 in Blog | No Comments

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Last weekend I taught a wood finishing weekend. These weekends are quite tricky to organise as to a good finish usually requires at least three coats and with the drying time on oil finishes especially this can be tricky to achieve. We looked at applying two different oil finishes, an acrylic lacquer, a wax finish and traditional French polishing. We also covered various methods of colouring wood and surface preparation.

The two basic elements of good finishing are diligent surface preparation and applying the finish in a number of very thin coats rather than a few thick ones. During the course we prepared a number of surfaces so they were perfectly smooth with no blemishes. This preparation starts with a very well sharpened and set plane, possibly a cabinet scraper if the wood is “difficult” and various abrasive media and methods.

Applying a number of thin coats is achieved in different ways depending on the finish. With an oiled finish such as Danish oil or a hard wax oil it involves applying the finish fairly liberally, but then, after a short period, being quite meticulous in rubbing off any residue thus leaving a fine increment of finish.

The craft of mindfulness

The craft of mindfulness

Posted by on Jun 21, 2012 in Blog | No Comments
Mindfulness or what?

Mindfulness or what?

I have talked about being in the zone in another blog. By being in the zone I mean a state of concentration on a task to the exclusion of other concerns. In the craft field this is an important state of mind, as it is when you are in the zone that you do your best work.

Recently I have become interested in the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being aware of the present moment, in tune with our senses and connected with the world. The way we live now discourages this way of living, automation means we do not have to concentrate on many daily processes and modern media means we have constant distractions from the real world. Consequently we tend to run on automatic pilot, divorced from what is going on around us. The idea of mindfulness is to bring yourself back to bodily sensations and immediate stimuli so you interact more meaningfully with the world

The idea for this blog came to me on Sunday when I was running a marquetry session during North Yorkshire Open Studios.

New beginners/improvers course.

New beginners/improvers course.

Posted by on Jun 6, 2012 in Blog | No Comments

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I’ve been working on an exciting new course based around making a low book case. The project can be adapted so that the course will be suitable for both beginners and improvers. I recently completed the prototype which looks fantastic

The book case is made entirely in the solid (oak in the prototype) except for the top which may be burr veneered with rosewood and boxwood inlay. For the improvers construction will include dovetailed carcase joints and the veneered and inlayed top. The jointing will be simplified for the beginners, just biscuiting, and they will have a solid top.

This course allows great flexibility, the beginners will learn:

  • Tool sharpening.
  • Basic jointing by hand.
  • Use of biscuit and domino jointers.
  • Edge jointing boards.
  • Principles of wood movement.
  • Gluing up and clamping.
  • Sanding and finishing.

For the improver there will also be:

  • Laying out and jointing veneers.
  • Laying veneer using cauls (ie clamping between boards).
  • Cutting and fitting inlay.
  • Dovetailing a carcase.
Learning a new skill.

Learning a new skill.

Posted by on Mar 26, 2012 in Blog | No Comments

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My wife, Alison, often asks me why, when I spend most of my time sawing and cutting wood square, can I not cut bread square. We like to eat home made  bread in our house and I have to plead guilty to making the cut look like the above when we get to the end of the loaf.


Anyone who has been on my beginners course will know it’s not that simple! First you have to plane a face side and face edge on the piece then mark the line square with a marking knife and chamfer down to the line with a chisel. Then we are ready for the cut, remembering to keep the saw arm in line with the saw and the eyes over the saw. All this is quite tricky on a loaf of bread, which is why I can’t cut bread straight.On the February beginners course the discussion got round to bread making. We had Nick on the course, he’s about as fanatical about his bread making as I am about my furniture making.