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QEST Scholarship: Supporting Excellence in British Craft

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Funding in Furniture Making: QEST Scholarship - Supporting Excellence in British Craftsmanship

We are really pleased to welcome new student, Jack Relton to the school for a 12 week bespoke course with us. Jack has been awarded a QEST scholarship, which provides the funding for Jack to attend his cabinetmaking course with us. Throughout the 12 weeks, Jack’s focus is to refine and develop his hand skills and hand tool techniques to achieve excellence in his craft. Jack’s work is already really impressive and you can see more at www.jackrelton.com.

QEST are a fantastic trust at the forefront of supporting education and excellence in craft in the UK. They run both apprenticeship schemes and scholarships to fund talent both at entry level and for those looking to reach a level of excellence further into their career. Recipients of QEST funding say that it has provided the essential turning point in their careers.

QEST are soon to open the summer 2019 scholarship and apprenticeship applications. If you’d like to know more about the funding, please see here for more details:

https://www.qest.org.uk/

Emerging Materials in Furniture Making and Sustainability

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Emerging Materials in Furniture Making and Sustainability

 

New materials are emerging all the time. Whether it’s Formaldehyde free hemp MDF, 100% FSC paper composite, or a kind of leather grown from mycelium or re-constituted from pineapple leaf fibre…innovative new products are coming to light – which could have application in furniture making.

This spring, we are updating our materials library. We’ve taken some time to research emerging materials and to keep in step with current trends being used by the furniture and construction industry.

We have been paying particular interest to sustainability. We have discovered that while there is a lot of noise about the next eco friendly sustainable composite material or constructional fibre board, wood remains the most naturally renewable, recyclable, biodegradable, energy efficient and non toxic resource.

Trees are the heroes of environmental carbon capture, absorbing and locking away C from the atmosphere. Grown and managed responsibly, with little more than nutrients from the ground, sunlight, water and time, the end product needs very little in terms of processing before it can be used.

To be truly sustainable, it’s always best to use a species grown in close proximity to your location and to be aware of the endangered and exotic timber species when planning materials for your design.

With wood, you can go one step further towards sustainability by choosing a wood veneer.

Wood veneers are thin slices cut from a log, which can then be glued to a sustainable substrate in furniture making to create the appearance of solid wood furniture. By cutting a log into veneer strips it can be made to go an awful lot further than it would have as solid wood planks! While veneers have historically garnered a bad rap for quality, that is no longer the case with today’s first class veneers – and as such - it’s an attractive and viable alternative in sustainable furniture production.

Aside from wood, there are some fantastic sustainable materials out there. We’ve acquired samples of 100% recycled paper composite set in plant oil-based resins, upholstery leathers grown from mycelium and agricultural by products in a carbon negative way, and we’ve heard about new upholstery fabrics combining woven hemp with surplus wool from farming.

Yet we’ve also learnt to be cautious and eco audit materials before putting them forward as sustainable materials.

Lets pick on bamboo for example; Many blogs and web articles seem to promote it as a sustainable alternative over wood – but is it really?

Bamboo and hemp are attracting attention for their high tensile strength and the abundant fast growth rate of the grass - making them both carbon-hungry plants. They lock in carbon from the atmosphere and offset the carbon footprint of the manufacturing and building industries. However, the growing, processing and travel footprint involved in creating and supplying materials from bamboo -  can sometimes unbalance the sustainable benefits of these materials.

For example, some online sources report that the largest producers of bamboo are China, followed by Africa and South America. So the raw or processed material still has to be transported globally at an ecological cost to the end users of the product.

Could we grow bamboo in Europe? Well yes…. but the larger species of bamboo do not grow well in northern climates. So bamboo from Western countries is generally regulated to heat and chemical treated laminate products for smaller interior purposes.

We also have to audit the ecological cost of farming crops like Bamboo and Hemp. They may have a fast growth rate and be easily renewable, but particularly in China, the farming of bamboo is largely unregulated. Matched with government incentives for bamboo production, this is leading to natural areas being deforested to accommodate the expanding cultivation of bamboo. Furthermore, such monoculture production depletes the soil and affects biodiversity.

Bamboo also has to be quite heavily processed to break down the grass into cellulose fibres, which are then used to make the final material. This can be done mechanically or chemically in chemical solvents such as sodium hydroxide. If not managed responsibly, this chemical waste can pose risk to the surrounding environment.

We also need to exercise caution with products claiming to be composites of natural waste. While these products are sustainably utilising waste materials, they are often set in chemical resins or plastic resins, which once set, will never break down. Some of the resins can be quite toxic, although, there are some natural plant-oil based resins and thermos resins made from things like cashew nut shell liquid  - which are increasingly being used in place of the old chemical resins.

So our advice to anybody reading this, and our students, is that if you want your furniture to be as sustainably produced and ecologically friendly as possible…. spend a few minutes eco-auditing your material choices. How was it grown/farmed? Is the farming/forestry regulated and sustainably managed? How far does the product need to travel? How is it processed and are there any ecologically unfriendly by products of that process? Will it be recyclable, biodegradable at the end of its useful life?

Veneering course

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Veneering Course 11th and 12th May 2019 - Places Still Available

Apologies, it has been some time since we last blogged - but that’s because SO much has been happening here at the furniture school and we haven’t had a minute to write. However, we do plan to update you on the progress very soon!

A short blog today to let you all know about our upcoming veneering course happening on Saturday the 11th May and Sunday 12th May. There are still places available on the course if you’d like to join us!

Our weekend veneering course is jam packed full of information and teaching around the process of veneering and marquetry.

Throughout the two days, you will make s veneered tray or your own marquetry or parquetry design, and you will have the added bonus of learning how to steam bend the handles for the project. You will cover:

  •     selecting veneer, book matching, slip matching

   •     various methods of pressing and jointing veneer

   •     vacuum press principles, types of press and use of equipment

   •     sand Scorching techniques and suitable use and application of adhesives

  • Steam bending handles for your tray

It’s a very popular course and has been thoroughly enjoyed by past students that have come for the veneering weekend, as shown by the review from Nicola below:

“Wonderful venue and great friendly teaching! I learned a lot in the last two weekend courses I attended and it really opened my mind to fine woodwork in general. Recommended for all skill levels.“

If you’d like to come and join us for the veneering course, feel free to call Kate in the office on 01984 667555 or email enquiries@williamsandcleal.co.uk. Veneering course. £288 inc materials. 11th/12th May 2019.

What Equipment do we use for Veneering and Laminating?

What equipment do we use for veneering and laminating?

New equipment for the school. Airpress professional kit supplied by www.airpress.co.uk

New equipment for the school. Airpress professional kit supplied by www.airpress.co.uk

People often ask us about the equipment that we use for veneering, so we thought we’d write a short blog about Airpress and the new Airpress professional kit that we’ve just acquired for the school.

We bought our first Airpress professional kit almost 20 years ago (Top picture screen right) and it has been an invaluable piece of equipment ever since. Whether its been a laminate formed over a mould, or…. as on a couple of occasions a project needing a special order bag to accommodate a 3m x 1.5 meter veneered dining table - we’ve had excellent results every time. This equipment has been so good that we bought a second professional kit a few years ago (Middle top photo) to allow our original Airpress to be used by ex students in our incubation workshop. Alas after 20 years of constant use, our original has lost a bit of suction. Although it could be repaired at a reasonable cost, we have opted to buy a new professional plus kit. This kit is supplied with polythene bags which are seamless, therefore doing away with the occasional split that we encountered on our vinyl bags, but we’ve always soldiered on with a bit of gaffer tape before the seamless bags.

It looks like this new bit of kit will also be busy, with several students having incorporated laminated/veneered sections in their latest design make projects. Pictured below you can see the laminated sections of three past students projects. From top to bottom:

Finn James: Brompton Coffee Table veneered in figured quarter sawn oak

Jan Lennon: ‘Meala’ dressing table in olive ash and walnut

James Baker: Aeorply, burch ply and Formica bedside tables

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Dorset Based Designer Makers Trip

Visit to the workshops of John Makepeace, Alice Blogg and Simon Pririe

Students visit the workshops of John Makepeace

Students visit the workshops of John Makepeace

Yesterday, our tutor Maria, organised a day trip out of the workshop to visit three Furniture Designer Makers based in our neighboring county of Dorset.

We were excited to visit:

Simon Pririe (https://www.simonthomaspirie.co.uk),

Alice Blogg (http://www.aliceblogg.co.uk)

and

John Makepeace (https://www.johnmakepeacefurniture.com/)

All of the students found it an incredibly useful, inspiring and informative day out of the workshop - and they returned to the school with renewed enthusiasm and ideas.

When asked about their feedback from the trip, all of the students got a broad range of information from the makers visited. In particular, students hoping to set up their own small furniture businesses found it really useful to hear from the makers that had most recently set up their workshops, and to take information and advice on how to build and grow a furniture business.

There was also a great deal of valuable information from the more experienced makers, particularly with regards to design and how to create a sustainable business and design identity.

From a practical/workshop point of view, the students also found it useful to understand what you need to start your own workshop. What machinery is essential, and what can you get around not having until you are able to finance more machinery in your space.

We are very thankful to Simon, Alice and John for letting us come to visit and we look forward to further trips in the coming year.

Beautiful Bespoke Children's Furniture

Beautiful Bespoke Children’s Furniture

Student, Sophie Moraveg making a mock up of her children’s rocket seat/play den.

Student, Sophie Moraveg making a mock up of her children’s rocket seat/play den.

When students present their first design make projects to our tutors, the most exciting thing is the variety and scope of their ideas - and the inspiration behind the project they have chosen.

In addition to the more traditional items of furniture, past students have made specialised adjustable stools for use on stage, steam bent park benches, grandfather clocks and much more!

Our full time student, Sophie, has an interest in the market for good quality children’s furniture. As such, Sophie’s first design make project is a piece of furniture aimed at children aged 2 to 6.

Sophie’s project, a rocket seat/den, is also aimed at parents who want a piece of furniture for their children which is not only fun, but well made and aesthetically pleasing.

The rocket offers up a number of interesting design challenges that might not necessarily be encountered in standard furniture projects. As such, it is proving to be a great learning experience for Sophie, both in terms of design and making.

In particular, the size and shape of the rocket are complex to plan. Whereas a straight cylinder shape might be more straight-forward, the egg shaped curve presents difficulty in terms of the multiple radius’ which will be required to achieve the nose of the rocket.

It has also been a useful exercise in terms of how the structure could be formed from either traditional block shaping, laminating, carbon fibre, steambending, coopering and many other potential techniques and processes!

In the picture above, Sophie is assessing a cardboard mock up of the rocket to check dimensions, shape and aesthetics of the item before progressing the design. Today, Sophie and Jane have also been researching potential materials that could suit the project; what could be used to form the exterior shell of the rocket - and how the seat/den will be accessed by the children?

We are really looking forward to seeing how this project progresses, and there is no shortage of volunteers to product test the rocket when it’s completed!

Crafts Council Hothouse 2019 Makers Announced - Congratulations Jan Lennon!

‘Meala’ Dressing table by Jan Lennon

‘Meala’ Dressing table by Jan Lennon

Crafts Council Hothouse 2019 Makers Announced - Congratulations Jan Lennon!

We are very excited to announce that past student, Jan Lennon, has been selected from a number of applicants to participate in the Craft’s Council 2019 Hothouse programme.

As described by the Crafts Council….

‘Set up by the Crafts Council in 2011, Hothouse is a six month programme designed to help makers cultivate their creativity and develop their business know-how with equal measure.

Throughout the course, makers will travel across the UK completing a series of workshops including finance, self-presentation, marketing, business growth and creative thinking, with the added bonus of mentorship and 1:1 support.

Once again, this year’s cohorts are an impressive bunch… Covering a range of classic and more unusual disciplines, they include a leather worker, a 3D technologist, a toys and automata specialist, a metal worker, three wood workers, three jewellers, five textile makers, five furniture makers and seven ceramicists. ‘

This is our third student to be successful in securing a place on the programme. Back in 2016, Past students Maria Gomez and Charles Byron took part in the Hothouse programme and benefitted enormously from the knowledge and development the mentorship and 1:1 support provided in developing their company Byron and Gomez. We have no doubt that Jan will utlise every opportunity the Hothouse programme provides to grow her furniture start up Jan Lennon Furniture.

See more of Jan’s work at www.janlennon.co.uk.

A day out of the workshop - Visits to Mundy Veneer and Vastern's Timber

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A Day Out of the Workshop - Visits to Mundy Veneer and Vastern's Timber Yard.

When some great timber is needed for students starting a new project, there is no better excuse than to book a visit to the timber yards. So when Sam and Gordon needed some boards of Rippled Sycamore and Oak, it was a great opportunity for our tutor Justin to take all the students on a trip to learn about selecting and purchasing the best timber.

Vasterns and Tyler Hardwoods are always incredibly generous with their time, and Stefan and Tom of Vasterns gave the students a great tour the yard last week.

We also really enjoyed a visit to Mundy Veneers near Wellington, where several of the students were able to browse, learn about and buy materials for their next projects.

It’s really important to take a break out of the workshop, to immerse yourself in new materials and to learn and gain experience in selecting the finest timber and materials for your work.

The Importance of Knowing When to Take a Break

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The Importance of Knowing When to Take a Break

 

For the last fortnight, two tradesmen have been working tirelessly to convert a space in my house.

In his late 20’s, our builder is exceptional. He has built his business from scratch and delivered a consistently high standard of work that has earned him multiple five star reviews online. He is an excellent project manager and is knowledgeable on all aspects of building. He has worked so hard on our project, putting in 10 hour days, working on Saturdays and more days than scheduled to ensure the finish is of the highest quality.

However, I also appreciate his honest approach to work. He recognises when he needs to stop, he understands that if he pushes himself to work ‘just another hour to get the job finished’ after a long day, that his tiredness could lead to him making mistakes or not quite achieving the finish he could -  if only he was well rested.

As clients, it results in a minor delay to us of half a day, but we are really happy to accept that in order to give our builder the best run at delivering a high quality finish.

When the completion of a project is in sight, it’s tempting to push on, partly out of excitement to see the project completed - but sometimes due to time pressures or a deadline. However, if time allows, this is just the right time to reflect on whether you have the right energy levels, concentration and direction to deliver your best work.

If the answer isn’t 100%... then consider taking a break, or coming back to it the following morning with a fresh motivation and energy.

As makers, we pride ourselves on the quality and accuracy of the pieces we craft. It’s easy to become distracted by the schedules and targets, but we must also remember that if we get tired, we become less productive and mistakes can start to creep in.

Taking breaks replenishes your mental resources, refreshes the mind and boosts creativity and reasoning – breaks are correlated with increased engagement and productivity. 

Ask yourself if you could achieve the same amount in 30 minutes fresh to a task, than in one hour at the end of a long day?

Breaks are important for your physical and emotional health, to prevent decision fatigue, restore motivation, improve learning and increase productivity and creativity – make sure you take enough of them throughout your day!

And if you are up against a deadline and can’t take a break?

Consider switching tasks if it is not disruptive to your work process.

If you are struggling on a particular project component or making process, is there another part of the project that you could get on with to provide a mental break from your current task?

Allowing for breaks and good scheduling are areas that we work closely with students on here at Williams and Cleal.

Our tutors teach students how to best forecast the duration of the design and making process, and they demonstrate how to produce written schedules of work, ensuring students stay on track throughout their project.

With realistic planning, our students have the practical and creative space to produce their finest work.

Veneering Weekend Course

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Veneering ‘Make a Tray’ with Steambent Handle Weekend

This weekend we were pleased to welcome four students to our veneering course, with some of the students returning to the school for more tuition following our Box Making course in October.

Over the course of two days, the students learnt a number of new skills in veneering. They were taught about the selection of veneer and were able to make their own choices from our huge stock of veneer for the designs of their tray.

Our tutor Maria covered veneering topics like book matching and slip matching, as well as various methods of pressing and jointing veneer. The tuition also covered vacuum press principles, types of press and use of equipment.

Techniques like sand scorching and steambending were also taught.

We received some incredibly kind feedback from the course and we are really pleased that the students found it a productive and enjoyable weekend. And they were all really pleased with their trays! More weekend courses coming soon, please check the website for further details.

Weekend Box Making Course

Weekend Box Making Course

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Weekend Box Making Course - October 18

Last weekend, we welcomed six students to our Box Making course. Over just two days, our students made this solid wood box in a variation of timbers as chosen by each individual student.

Each student learnt how to select, set up and sharpen hand tools such as chisels and planes, learnt how to use marking out tools to accurately measure and mark out timber while working to a drawing, hand tool techniques, routing, assembly and glue up - and finishing!

It was a very productive and fun weekend, and some excellent box projects were made. A few of the students enjoyed the course so much they are coming back for our weekend veneering course on the 10th and 11th November. We look forward to welcoming them back!

Trip to Tyler Hardwoods to Learn About Selecting Timber

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Trip to Tyler Hardwoods to select timber for projects

Yesterday our students took a trip to Tyler Hardwoods with our tutor Justin, to learn about selecting the best timber and what to look for in terms of defects.

Tyler Hardwoods also gave us a tour around the yard and steam bending facility.

It was a very useful tour and our students managed to stock up on some Air Dried Ash, Rippled Sycamore, Walnut and Brown Oak for their next projects.

It was also really interesting to see their steam bending facility and professional steam bending machines, as we have recently been doing quite a bit of steam bending for Mark’s park bench project.

A useful and productive trip out of the workshop, but it’s back to the bench today!

Good job as the weather outside is decidedly unpleasant with this storm coming over!

Design Inspiration - Student Trip to London Design Festival

Inspired By Design:
Student Trip to London Design Festival
 

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Furniture fairs are great places to find new inspiration, to keep pulse with what's going on in the industry, and the best way to expose yourself to new materials and emerging trends.

Attending furniture and design fairs are also an opportunity to see how bespoke Furniture Makers present and market themselves within the industry, what styles are selling and how other makers are pricing their work. 

As such, we feel it's really important for our students to visit exhibitions and fairs and we build trips into our course syllabus. (Trips are also open to our bespoke course students).

Last week, our tutor Maria, took seven students on a mammoth day trip to London covering London Design Fair, Design Junction and 100% Design.

Our student, Toby found it incredibly productive for meeting suppliers of new and cutting edge materials. In particular, Toby has been thinking of incorporating marble into a design for some time but has been conscious of the expense and sustainability issues surrounding this material and the cost of importing from his contacts in Italy.

As such he was interested to meet a retailer of faux marble, the look and durability of which was extremely close to the real thing....and at a fraction of the price of real marble.

Toby also used the visit to canvas opinion with exhibitors about how beneficial exhibiting can be in terms of selling work and promoting your business in relation to the cost and work involved in doing so.

One of our past students, Jan Lennon, had a successful show on her stand at 100% Design, selling her 'Exmoor Chair' in Solid European Oak with Louro Preto and Black Walnut (pictured below).

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Not only did Jan sell her work, but she may now have repeat business from her customer and other visitors that viewed her work at 100% Design. So the business exposure has been worth the cost of exhibiting and long week organising and manning the stand in London.

Other students, like Nick, found great value in talking to other makers about how they had achieved certain designs, and techniques for realising difficult and clever constructions in the furniture exhibited at the show. Nick also found it useful for identifying styles of work that he liked and for making contact with makers working in his preffered design field.

All the students came away with bags of leaflets and cards from which to create a scrap book of materials and design inpiration back at the school

It's fair to say that the aching feet from pounding the streets of London between exhibitions and the long day were well worth the effort!
 

Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design 2018

Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design 2018

Low Walnut Bowl table by Jane Cleal

Low Walnut Bowl table by Jane Cleal

Running from the 18th to the 27th August 2018, the Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design has become the largest selling exhibition of high quality bespoke furniture in the country. It is known for and attended by the very best makers and up and coming talent in furniture design and making.

We will be exhibiting our work again this year, and we are pleased to see both Irene Banham Furniture and Thomas Whittingham - past students of ours - also exhibiting at CCD.

The exhibition is predominantly focused on furniture, but is also complemented by other disciplines such as jewellery, art and glass. The show also runs several awards to generate awareness of the craft and reward makers and designers that continue to push the boundaries of perfection, skill and innovation.

We'll be encouraging our students to visit too - such shows are an excellent source of information and inspiration for thier own projects.

Launching Our New Website!

Launching Our New Website!

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It's finally here, our new website! 

We've been working studiously to redesign our website and add more content for those interested in the school, cabinetmaking and careers in furniture making. We would love you to visit the site and let us know what you think!

We've expanded our gallery of student furniture so that visitors can see the wide range of work produced here and the variation of design throughout students projects. We've added more information about our courses here, and added new weekend woodworking courses by popular request!

You'll  find all you need to know about the school and our incubation workshop, and a section about students experiences at the school so that you can hear first hand what our students think about their courses.

Other bonuses include information about funding for furniture courses, and a section on a careers as a cabinetmaker/furniture designer maker.

We hope you find the site and information interesting and helpful, and let us know if there is something you think we could add to further improve the website.

 

 

What is the difference between marquetry and parquetry?

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What is the difference between marquetry and parquetry?

 

When answering this question, most people have a notion of the difference between the two terms. It’s common to think of parquetry in connection with flooring (Parque flooring) and marquetry with more decorative pictures in furnishings. There are also a few more distinctions which are worth exploring too.

Parquetry is characterised by the geometric natures of the shapes making up a pattern. The herringbone and chevron repeating patterns are commonly seen in wooden flooring, but the geometric shapes and patterns of parquetry can also be found in furnishings. Regular squares, rectangles, rhombus and triangles created in wood or wood strips are all common parquetry forms – as are star shapes and suns.

Marquetry by comparison is more the creation of an image or picture in wood, usually a recreation of a real image, of scenery, people, animals or objects. Marquetry is a method of decoration more commonly found in furnishings rather than flooring.

The materials used in Parquetry and Marquetry, can also differ slightly. In Parquetry, wood is used predominantly throughout the design, often even solid wood or engineered wood, particularly with flooring. In Marquetry, the veneers used are of various species of wood, but are also likely to be complimented with other materials such as mother of pearl or brass for example. In both marquetry and parquetry, contrasting woods with carrying colours, tones and grains of different species enhance the pattern of the picture created.

In three weeks time, our tutor Maria Gomez is running a weekend course in Veneering, which will explore both Marquetry and Parquetry techniques and applications. We’ve had students in the past create incredible parquetry box lid designs with geometric designs that trick the eye. We’ve also had students using marquetry to create images of flowers, a repeating squirrel pattern and the skyline of Bath!

Why not come and unleash your creativity in Marquetry and Parquetry, and learn more about the possibilities of using veneer?

We have spaces left on our course running from Saturday 14th July to Sunday 15th July. Fees for the weekend are £288. Find out more here or contact us on enquiries@williamsandcleal.co.uk to book your place.

Tambour doors demonstration with Maria Gomez

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Tambour doors demonstration with Maria Gomez

Tambour doors -  you might have commonly seen them on a bread box or perhaps a writing desk – they are usually employed wherever regular doors are too large or awkward, opening without having to swing out like a regular door (or as a design feature).

Designing and making a tambour is really enjoyable. Tambour introduces an aspect of interactive fun to your design, inviting users to play with opening and closing the doors by running the tambour along its track. Tambour doors are also popular on cabinets for the reason that you can reach the entire contents of the cabinet without having to open many doors.

This week, our tutor Maria Gomez has been demonstrating how to make them. 

Just a few months ago, Maria made the commission pictured above. The Air Cabinet was a bespoke commission for a 40th birthday present that honoured the client’s wife’s career as an air hostess and included the importance of family life. The cabinet was based on the shape of a section of aeroplane wing, with 40 brass inlays, 2 aluminium and one white resin inlay to represent the birthday and their family. This stunning commission featured a wraparound tambour door.

Maria’s demonstration explored the planning and construction behind incorporating tambour doors into a project – covering the production of the slats, backing and the rail for the tambour. Maria talked about the importance of building a model to help with the sizing of the slats, and to check the right fit by running mock slats through the groove.

Maria’s commission also featured quite a tight C-curve on the ‘wing tip’ shape of the cabinet, and as such Maria was also able to share her making secrets with the students on how to design tambour that could give a very tight turn.

It was a really interesting demonstration and got some of our students thinking. 

Tambour has been making a comeback in recent years and there are some really exciting companies out there producing  furniture of exceptional quality and design incoporating this technique.

Wood destroying fungi: Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporous Sulphureus)

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Wood destroying fungi: Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporous Sulphureus)

Wood destroying fungi : Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporous Sulphureus).

Outside the workshop, we have large oak felled by the nearby farm workers some time ago. Being right next to the picnic table, we recently noticed this stunning species of fungi living off the decaying log.

It has a rather cool name ‘Chicken of the Woods’ and grows mainly on oak, but can be found on cherry, sweet chestnut, beech,  willow and yew. UK Wild food sites say that it’s edible, and is said to taste... well…. like chicken! Although it’s best eaten young (bright yellow to orange as opposed to older specimens which are dull yellow to white) as the older specimens become woody and acrid to taste. Also, if it’s growing on Yew – steer clear of it! When growing on Yew, Chicken of the Woods takes in the very poisonous Taxine and Taxane of the Yew. We wouldn’t advise making a meal out of it and it certainly won’t be featuring in our lunches, as 20% of people are sensitive to eating this mushroom and become ill after consumption!

Chicken of the Woods (Laetiporous Sulphureus) is a saprotrophic (wood decay) fungus. Saprotrophic fungi do the job of decaying logs and stumps, recycling the nutrients for other organisms. This fungus can colonise both living and dead trees, acting as a weak pathogen on living trees. It’s said to be one of the easiest fungi to recognise, with its large size and striking sulphur-yellow to orange colour and wavy edged cap.

As woodworkers, the fungi that concern us are the species that digest their food from trees and the timber cut from them. Wood destroying types of fungi live off the cell walls of the wood, causing the structure to decompose and eventually collapse.

Wood rotting fungi differ in their optimum temperature for breeding, but the majority thrive at temperatures between 20 to 30c and fungus is rapidly killed above 40c. One of the benefits of wood-drying kilns is that the temperatures employed in the process typically kill all the fungi and insects if a maximum dry-bulb temperature of above 60 is used for the drying schedule.

On our long course, Jane Cleal’s theory lessons in timber technology touch on wood rotting fungi, wood boring insects and their controls. The syllabus also covers the various methods of seasoning wood, and this is usually tied in with a visit to a timber yard to look at best drying practices, timber storage and how to select the best timber.

We aim to give you the knowledge and the skills to select the finest quality and healthiest timbers for your projects going forward, and to arm you with the knowledge of what to look out for in timber selection and preparation.

For this oak log, the time has long passed where we could salvage it for timber, but at least we can enjoy the colourful show from the fungi that live on it!

A homage to Sam Maloof: Henry's Olive Ash Rocking Chair

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A homage to Sam Maloof: Henry's Olive Ash Rocking Chair

A Homage to Sam Maloof, Henry's Olive Ash Rocking Chair.

Some students come to course wanting to make furniture only of their own design. While other students are happy to make furniture inspired by other makers for what it will teach them in terms of process and technique. Some students choose to do both.

Student, Henry Baltesz chose to make a Sam Maloof inspired rocking chair as his final project on our full time furniture designer maker course. As you can see from the images of Henry's chair above, the result was absolutely spectacular.

Sam Maloof is acknowledged as one of the finest woodworkers of our time and a leader of the California modern arts movement until his death in 2009. You can read more about Sam Maloof here: http://www.malooffoundation.org/about

This style of rocking chair is one of the most popular styles that Sam Maloof made and Maloof’s rocking chairs were highly esteemed by two presidents – Reagan and Carter. Maloof made his rocking chairs most often in walnut, but here, Henry has made it in a beautiful Olive Ash with some Walnut detail on the rails.

While making the chair, Henry's project also inspired our American student (Maurice) to visit Sam Maloof’s house while he was back in the States. You can see more of Sam Maloof’s incredible house here http://www.malooffoundation.org/visit. Sam’s home was hand built by Sam and his assistants over 40 years. It is an exceptional finely crafted wooden house, with hand crafted details right down to the door latches and hinges. The house is situated in Alta Loma, California.

Getting back to Maloof inspired rocking chairs….

We do encourage our students to have a go at making a chair, as chairs are one of the more challenging items for aspiring furniture makers to produce.

A Sam Maloof inspired rocking chair is quite high on the spectrum of challenging chairs to make, and as such, I think Henry felt this was a good project in terms of the amount that he learnt from it. It was also a project that allowed quite a lot of freedom in terms of the shaping, much of which Henry shaped by eye.

It’s a very successful final project, and importantly, we’ve all tried the chair for comfort! We are tough critics, but we can safely say it’s one of the comfiest chairs we’ve ever sat in. We are just sad that we can’t keep it for ourselves!

Why not head over to our Instagram page to see more images and footage of Henry making the Sam Maloof inspired rocker?

Where can I stay on my course?

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Where can I stay on my course?

Where can I stay on my course?

Whether you are coming here for a weekend, week, bespoke length or year long course, where you will live is a big question.

Each students needs differ immensely! We've had students that have struck  deals with local farmers to live cheaply in caravans without electricity, surviving on campfire food and showers at the local gym (probably our most extreme example!), students that have embraced rural life and found comfortable lodgings at the local farmhouses and numerous holiday lets in the area, or town houses in Taunton.

Most students find some absolute gems of reasonably priced accommodation. Maurice, our American student is staying at a beautiful cottage self contained annex, where the owners bake him fresh bread through the week. (what more could you ask for!)

We also have links with several accommodation providers around the area, especially the farmhouses in Willett. Many of our students have lodged with Anne, who owns the beautiful farmhouse directly opposite the workshop - Willett Farm

In a short leap and a bound, our students living at Willett farm can finish breakfast and be in the workshop in less than 5 minutes. Anne's cleaners have also offered to take on the ironing of students staying at Willett farm- not many places will offer that!

So do feel free to ask us about accommodation in the local area and we will always do our very best to assist you in finding the perfect place. We also have a list of local bnb's that we recommend if you are coming for a short course or weekend woodworking course.