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?


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 to book your place.

Tambour doors demonstration with Maria Gomez


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)


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:

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 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?


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.


New Weekend Woodworking Courses!


New Weekend Woodworking Courses!


For some time, people have been asking us about running weekend woodworking courses....

Well, we listened and we are very excited to announce that this year, we will be offering a variety of weekend courses!

Our weekend woodworking courses will be taught by tutor and professional furniture designer maker, Maria Del Mar Gomez. 

Maria is a graduate of the Craft Council's Hothouse programme, and in 2016 was touted as 'one to watch' by Wallpaper* magazine. Alongside her business partner, Charles Byron, they have impressed the world of furniture designers with traditionally handcrafted furniture for contemporary interiors. The work of Byron and Gomez has attracted several awards and much recognition from the industry, with one Design Guild Mark and one Bespoke Guild Mark awarded to their designs from the Furniture Makers' Company.  

As well as being a talented maker and designer, Maria has a background in teaching and architecture. Maria also comes from experience of building up and running a successful bespoke furniture business, Byron and Gomez. Maria has a great deal of experience and knowledge to share with our students and we are excited to have her leading weekend courses at the school.You can visit their website at

More courses and course dates are to be announced soon, but you can view our current weekend woodworking courses below. To book on a course, please contact the office on 01984 667555 or email


Box Making Course


Dates: 9th/10th June 2018      

Hours: Sat 09:30 to 17:00

            Sun 09:30 to 16:00

Cost:   £288 inc vat

Level: Beginner and Intermediate




In just two days, make a beautiful solid wooden box in our picturesque Somerset workshop. This course will introduce you to the wider skills and techniques needed for fine furniture making and you will learn from our award winning tutors. Techniques and skills covered will include:


          Selection, set up and sharpening of hand tools

   •     Accurate marking out and measuring

   •     Successful chiseling, sawing and hand planing

   •     Introduction to routing

   •     Accurate assembly and glue up.

   •     Application of finishes.


What's included in the price?

All materials and use of tools


Please bring your own lunch, drinks and snacks. Tea and coffee provided.

Please bring ear defenders and masks if you have them, otherwise we can supply these items.

You are welcome to bring your own tools if you have them, and we will help you set them up and use them for your project.

Accommodation is not included, but we can send you information about local accommodation providers should you wish.

Gift vouchers can be supplied for this course. 

Please email for more information -


Veneering Course


Dates:14th/15th July 2018      

Hours: Sat 09:30 to 17:00

            Sun 09:30 to 16:00

Cost:   £288 inc vat

Level:  Beginner and Intermediate



Enjoy the freedom to create your own simple designs with marquetry and parquetry on this two day veneering course. Learn about the advantages of working with veneer and the opportunities that it offers.

During your two days with us, you will make a veneered tray. Choose from our stock of veneer in varying colours, grains and species.

As well as making your own tray to take away with you, you will learn:


   •     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

   •     Suitable use and application of adhesives


What's included in the price?

All materials and use of tools



Please bring your own lunch, drinks and snacks. Tea and coffee provided.

Please bring ear defenders and masks if you have them, otherwise we can supply.

You are welcome to bring your own tools if you have them, and we will help you set them up and use them for your project.

Accommodation is not included, but we can send you information about local accommodation providers should you wish.

Gift vouchers can be supplied for this course. 

Please email for more information -


Make a Bench Stool


Dates:1st/2nd September    

Hours: Sat 09:30 to 17:00

            Sun 09:30 to 16:00

Cost:   £310 inc vat

Level: Beginner and Intermediate




Master essential furniture making techniques and skills by crafting a beautiful solid wood bench in just two days. Our tutor, Maria Del Mar Gomez will guide you through, demonstrating the skills needed to craft and assemble this functional and useful item of furniture.


As well as making your own bench to take away with you, you will learn:


   •     Timber selection, identification and preparation

   •     Selection set up and sharpening of hand tools

   •     Techniques to achieve successful chiseling and planing

   •     Accurate measuring and marking out joint work

   •     Understanding basic workshop drawings

   •     Understanding basic joints

   •     Accurate assembly and glue up

   •     Hand Finishing


What's included in the price?

All materials and use of tools



Please bring your own lunch, drinks and snacks. Tea and coffee provided.

Please bring ear defenders and masks if you have them, otherwise we can supply.

You are welcome to bring your own tools if you have them, and we will help you set them up and use them for your project.

Accommodation is not included, but we can send you information about local accommodation providers should you wish.

Gift vouchers can be supplied for this course. 

Please email for more information -

Byron and Gomez awarded a Design Guild Mark by The Furniture Maker' Company


Byron and Gomez awarded a Design Guild Mark by The Furniture Makers' Company

Byron and Gomez awarded a Design Guild Mark by The Furniture Maker's Company

We would like to celebrate Charles Byron and Maria Gomez' recent success in being awarded a Design Guild Mark for their Aphelion Console Table.

Maria and Charlie completed our full time furniture designer course, and since finishing, have built a highly respected and successful bespoke furniture business in the Williams and Cleal incubation workshop.

Byron and Gomez worked with Benchmark in 2017 on the Aphelion Console Table, a design aimed at volume production. 

I don't need to write much more about it here - as the Furniture Makers Company have a beautifully written blog and interview with Maria about the table; and her career to date.

The article is well worth a read. Visit the link below to read it for yourself.

£50 Project Time


£50 Project Time!


At my desk in the design office, I'm fortunate to have the advantage of listening into Jane Cleal's theory sessions with the students.

One of my favourite challenges Jane sets the students is the £50 project.

The brief is to design an item that can be replicated 20 times in 20 hours. Each item should aim to achieve £50 from a buyer.

It is an exercise in designing for simplicity and batch production, market research in terms of what a buyer would consider worthy of a £50 price tag and whether the item should best appeal to need or aesthetics, and budgeting and costing.

At the end of the project, the other students each vote on whether they think a buyer would pay £50 for the items designed.

It is so much trickier than it sounds, but I'm always impressed with the ideas that come up - and I of course  like to join in with the end votes! 

We've had cake stands, book rests and spectacle stores, mud kitchens, guitar stands - all sorts!

Ben, Toby and Mark are pictured here with numerous ideas in their sketch books. I can't wait to see what they have come up with.

Congratulations to Wilma and Henry for Securing Jobs at Artichoke Ltd.

Jobs for Henry and Wilma at Artichoke



Congratulations to students Wilma and Henry for securing jobs with Artichoke Ltd

Today, our student, Wilma Wyatt starts her new job at Cheddar based fine bespoke furniture and interiors company - Artichoke Ltd.

Our student, Henry still has another month of his course to finish, but will join Wilma at Artichoke in May.

For those students who would like to pursue a route to employment, we will give you  support in finding the role and employer that is right for you.

Not all students will know exactly what they want to do, or where they might like to work when they first begin the course, but that is something we will help you research and explore in your time here.

We'll use our knowledge of South West and UK based bespoke furniture companies to suggest furniture companies and workshops that might be of interest to you.

We will also advise you on what workshop managers will be looking for in a CV, application and interview - or what to expect from a trade test. You can read more about what workshop managers look for in a cabinetmakers cv in our previous blog (about 13 posts down!)

When Wilma began at Williams and Cleal, she had no previous woodworking experience and she leaves the course at a competant designer/maker. We couldn't be more proud of her for securing a job with Artichoke and we wish her all the best for her future.

Ratten Revival

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Ratten Revival

Ratten Revival

Congratulations to past students Maria Del Mar Gomez and Charles Byron, whose work has been featured in the Sunday Times Home section.

As part of a feature on wicker furniture, Byron and Gomez's Patria Cabinet was selected by the Sunday Times amongst several other pieces from makers showing how rattan is taking pride of place indoors again.

For more information on the Patria Cabinet, see the Byron and Gomez website link here:

How Did We Do? Reviews of our short furniture making courses.


How did we do? Reviews of our short furniture making courses.

How Did We Do? Reviews of our short furniture making courses.

It's good to know when you are doing things right, and even better to know that the teaching we have delivered, has inspired and motivated students to go on and do more!

We were delighted to recieve some positively great feedback from our one week Introduction to Fine Furniture Making students in February (even though their course got temporarily delayed by the snow from the Beast from the East). You can see what they had to say about the course below....

In addition, Gordon has decided to take advantage of an option that we offer to all those on our one week courses.

If after your week's course with us, you decide that you'd like to go on and enrol in our one year furniture designer maker course, we will offset the fee that you have paid for the week's course, against the cost of the one year course as a thank you!  

As such, Gordon starts his full time course with us in May, and we are delighted to welcome him back.

So over to Fung, Heather, Julian, Paul and Gordon for thier feedback on our Introduction to Fine Furniture Making Course!


"Fantastic beginner's course with well thought-out projects. Students are mentored individually to develop at their own pace. Woodworking skills are gradually instilled by experienced tutors in a modern and well-equipped facility. Highly recommended for anyone serious about woodworking!"


"I did the one week introduction to fine furniture making. It is a fantastic course for both beginners and experienced woodworkers. Students are given a clear, well thought out project, designed to learn basic hand tool skills and put them into practice. Justin was extremely knowledgeable and patient - especially with us beginners! At the end of the 5 days a beautiful piece was created which highlighted our new and amazing woodworking skills. Thank you so much for a fun and enjoyable week and helping me learn some great new skills."


"W&C have a great setup for training, with a large, well-stocked workshop. I did the one week introduction course, which covered a lot of techniques without being overwhelming. Justin is a great teacher and I would highly recommend the course."


"Just completed the one week introductory course and it totally exceeded my expectations. Wanting to get into fine woodwork Justin proved to be the perfect tutor with an obvious mountain of knowledge and skills, ensuring once shown how to each individual was mentored on the hands on elements. The course content and pace was also spot on with the benefit of a completed project at the end. The workshop environment completed the package which I would highly recommend to anyone interested into fine woodwork. It has given me the basics needed and definitely ignited a desire to hone skills learned."


"I have just completed the one week course with Williams and Cleal and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning about making things out of wood to a professionally high standard. Making  a Japanese Tea Table (or is it a cheese board?) in the course of a week proved to be both challenging, and rewarding in an environment where Jane, Justin and Kate made us feel really welcome


The joy of a log burner in the middle of the workshop during cold weather is not to be underestimated. The 'Beast from the East' arrived during the week but Justin was really flexible in helping us all finish the project in spite of the fact that some people needed to return to other parts of the world whilst most of us couldn’t get near the workshop because of the deep snow."


If you'd like more information or an informal chat about our courses, please feel free to call the office.


The Beast from the East

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The Beast From the East and the return of our one week introduction to fine furniture making students.

The Beast from the East and the return of our One Week Fine Furniture Making Students

This week, we welcome back three students from our February One Week Introduction to Fine Furniture Making course - Julian, Heather and Gordon.

The Beast from the East winter storm tried... and succeeded in snowing off two days of the course in February. 

However, whatever the weather, our tutors were keen that the students didn't miss out on any of their training. So we welcome them back to continue their course -  and finish their tea tray project at the school this week.

We look forward to posting their finished projects on Friday!

Functional Furniture: Bespoke designs by our past students in the press.


Functional Furniture: Bespoke designs by our past students in the press.

Two former students, Charles Byron and Maria Del Mar Gomez met while on course at Williams and Cleal. Three years ago, Maria and Charles began their business, Byron and Gomez, in the school's incubation workshop just up the road.

Since beginning their business, they have been a perfect role model on how to grow a successful furniture start up. Not only has their work been acknowledged for a bespoke guild mark, but they have been selected amoungst tough competition for the Crafts Council Hothouse Programme, and won and been shortlisted for numerous awards.

This month their work (and story to date) is featured in the March edition of Somerset Living. The article is an interesting insight into how Charlie and Maria work together on designs - in their words:

The creative process begins with a purpose (a chair, table, cabinet) and then they both draw separate designs for each other to critique. "We have to be completely honest about what we think of each other's designs and if we can't agree then we have to put the design on hold for a while. Then we will usually come up with a third solution which is better than either of our intial ideas"

The article features their beautiful Lunas lamp, Patria Cabinet, Eleanor Coffee table and Penumbra sideboard. It also charts their story.....from meeting at Williams and Cleal through to building their successful bespoke furniture business together. 

It's also a very honest account of the challenges and rewards of creating your own furniture business. While acknowledging the isolation of lone working that can come from small business situations like this, Maria balances this with the freedom and pleasure of being makers and designers - and the excitement of being a master of your own fate.

Does veneer deserve it's bad reputation? Solid wood Vs veneer!


Does veneer deserve it's bad reputation?

Solid wood Vs veneer!

For some there is a stigma surrounding veneer, and a belief that furniture made from it, is something to avoid. This rather unfair perception is often not helped by the adverts we see on television, which can also be unfavourable towards veneer.

The negative associations with veneer started after World War II. Good timber was difficult to obtain and was often expensive. The use of veneer was a cheaper, available alternative. However, the adhesives used for attaching veneer to wood or chipboard was poor at that time and resulted in an inferior performance and finish. Veneer’s reputation was further damaged in the 1970’s, when some cheaply produced veneers meant that it became synonymous with inferior quality.

Very cheap furniture, was also often not even made from wood veneer – but instead a laminate material or paper (foil), a faux surface that contributes to giving real wood veneer it’s bad rap.

Trying to turn that tide of opinion has been hard – I can still hear the advice of my parents ‘Always buy solid, never veneer’ passed down through generations , but lets look instead to the huge benefits and quality that the use of veneer can bring.

On quizzing our tutor Justin about veneer, there are many positive reasons for using it - not least because nowadays the very highest quality logs are sold to veneer merchants.

Veneer merchants have very exacting requirements and look for logs that are uniform in colour, have uniform growth rate, centred pith, no shake or mineral streaks or stains and nominal external defects. A good deal of high end furniture is now made from veneer  - partly for the reason that the quality of the wood used for the veneer is of the highest grade, but also for reasons of design, minimal movement and availability of exotic and unusual timbers.

Veneers can also have a specific purpose, i.e. helping to keep a wood panel stable as it can’t move when glued to a substrate.

Solid wood, even kiln dried, is subject to expansion and contraction as the wood continually changes with the amount of relative humidity in the surrounding atmosphere. Wood moves as its moisture content varies, swelling as it absorbs moisture and shrinking as it releases moisture. The grain structure causes wood to move differently in three directions. Wood will move much more across the grain, tangentially along the growth rings; but there will also be some movement in the radial direction, and a very tiny amount longitudinally.

This movement will also happen in veneer, but since veneer is much thinner than solid, the movement is minimal; and the expansion and contraction is limited by the relative smaller mass of the leaves of veneer compared to solid.

In one of the pictures above, you will see a beautiful round Rippled Sycamore and Maple table made by Williams and Cleal – the radial design would be impossible to create in solid wood because the joints would crack open in dry spells and swell tightly shut when damp. Since the veneer used for this table is thin and glued to a substrate, it allows for this design and arrangement of wood, producing a surface that is no longer prone to warping, splitting or seasonal movement.

Working in solid wood is lovely, but it can some times be restrictive in terms of design. Veneer is more forgiving with regards to movement and therefore increases the range of design possibilities.

Veneer also wins environmentally. Choosing veneer rather than timber makes the world’s trees go further, because it’s possible to yield more veneer than timber planks from a log – much more. When we visit our local veneer merchant with the students, Mundy Veneers Ltd, we learn that:

1 cubic metre of timber = 20 square metres of timber
1 cubic metre of veneer = 900 square metres of veneer

This has even greater significance with rare, or endangered wood – such as Macassar Ebony or Rosewood – which would be hard and very expensive to acquire in solid, but more accessible and affordable as veneer.

It’s possible to find many more species of wood in veneer than found in solid, lending furniture makers more variety in their choice of materials. Furthermore veneer merchants who are unable to source a species which is either certified or sustainable, can produce replicas (usually made from  Ayous or Poplar), which have been colour stained or processed to look incredibly close to a number of species. Tabu are a company that are leading the field in this area.

Veneers are also essential for special techniques such as book matching and marquetry. This is achieved by using consecutive leaves cut from one log that perfectly book-match. Equally, veneering gives opportunity for generating a pattern in furniture like slip-matches and radial patterns. Diamonds and more complex shapes can also be generated using marquetry and parquetry techniques.

We are advocates of using both high quality veneer and solid wood at Williams and Cleal, and we encourage our students to explore the value of both veneer and solid wood in equal measure. The material that our students choose is thus often dictated by the requirements of each individual design. To see more of our students work, please view our gallery at or for more information on veneer, we recommend visiting

Welcome to our One Week Introduction to Cabinetmaking Students

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Welcome to our One Week Introduction to Cabinetmaking Students

We are really pleased to welcome our six new One Week Introduction to Fine Furniture Making students to the school this week.

The students, hailing from both local and international destinations, from Borneo to the US have come - largely as complete beginners -to learn about the sharpening and use of hand and measuring tools, understanding basic workshop drawings, techniques for chiselling and planeing, timber selection and identification and understanding basic joints.

Our new tea tray project will put them through their paces on cutting accurate and sharp dovetails, and at the end of the week they will have produced this item to take home with them. It's a project that draws in all the new hand skills and techniques that they will have learnt during the week here.

You can follow more of their progress on our instagram and facebook pages.

Trip to Vastern's Timber Yard

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Trip to Vastern's Timber Yard


Throughout the year, we like to take our students offsite on trips that will enrich their learning and understanding of timber, materials, cabinetmaking and the bespoke furniture industry.

A particular favourite is a trip to Vastern Timber in Wiltshire, the countries largest and most established hardwood sawmill.

Vastern's Timber is a family business, owned and run by three members of the Barnes family; Peter, Jon and Tom. Yesterday, Tom Barnes took time out of his day to show our students around Vasterns and to share his incredible and detailed understanding and knowledge of timber with us. We always look forward to a visit to Vastern's, as the information that we learn there is always incredibly interesting and valuable to us in terms of understanding and selecting the best wood as furniture makers.

Vastern's timber have four log-converting bandmills, computer controlled drying kilns and well equipped machining faciliities; which enables Vasterns to process both hardwoods and softwoods and they  cut and process their own logs. This means that they can offer a range of species, grades and specifications that may not be available at other merchants.

A trip to Vasterns is also a great opportunity for our students to stock up on materials for their upcoming projects. Henry had the opportunity to select and check several boards of Olive Ash for his Sam Maloof inspired rocking chair -  and came back to the workshop with a car load of beautiful timber to get started on.

For more information on other trips that we run to compliment learning on our Furniture Designer Maker Year long course - please feel free to contact the office for an informal chat.

Writing for Furniture and Cabinetmaking Magazine - Jan's gallery article on making her 'Meala' dressing table

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Writing for Furniture and Cabinetmaking Magazine - Jan's gallery article on making her 'Meala' dressing table


We are excited to read student, Jan Lennon's, gallery article in issue 268 (March edition) of Furniture and Cabinetmaking Magazine.

Jan has written a feature piece on how she made her 'Meala' dressing table, her final project on our 40 week course.

Jan's dressing table is an incredibly successful piece from design through to final product.

Jan joined us from a background in CGI and product design, and from day one, her ability to use drawing and 3D visualisation software to develop and plan her designs has led to some seriously impressive designs. Jan's attention to detail, natural flair for design and inquisitive nature about a variety of technologies enriches her design make projects - which are of a very high standard.

Jan's 'Meala' dressing table demonstrates high level cabinetmaking and is a testament to the making precision and high quality skills that Jan has developed in the last year. Made out of American Walnut and Olive Ash, it has a tambour style detail on the front rail. The 'Meala' table demonstrates a multitude of processes in one project, with a lot of work going into creating curves, seen on many components of the table including the shaped legs and main body of the piece.

Jan and some of our other students have been invited to write about their making experiences by Furniture and Cabinetmaking magazine - we we greatly encourage. Not only is this a fantastic opportunity to share the project with the cabinetmaking community, but it is great publicity, especially for students like Jan who are going on to create thier own furniture buisness start up.

If you'd be interested to read more about Jan's experience of making the 'Meala' dressing table, please grab yourself a copy of the March issue of Furniture and Cabinetmaking Magazine (Issue 269).

Learning the Art of Woodturning


Learning the Art of Woodturning


Woodturning is a unique and useful skill in the world of woodworking.

There will always be projects that call for shaped timber detailing – even if it’s something as simple, or low key as some feet for a grandfather clock, or hand turned fixings for an occasional table.

Woodturning is a challenge that some of our students choose to master, and as I write this, our student Henry is using some time in the workshop to turn some bowls.

Any beginner can learn the basics of the process - and in a couple of hours -  have something to show for their efforts. Henry learnt woodturning after a couple of sessions at the school with our tutor Jim; and student, Maurice learnt to wood turn fixings for his small glass table with our visiting tutor, Maria.

While woodturning isn’t a subject that we cover in great depth in our syllabus, a great advantage of our course is that our tutors are flexible and reactive to subjects that the students want to cover.

So if woodturning, or gold leafing (for example) are something you want to become skilled in - then we’ll go the extra mile in demonstrating that technique to you and helping you to learn about that subject in the depth that you’d like.

Henry’s growing woodturning experience is very beneficial to his current project. The grandfather clock requires a variety of shaped features in the form of feet, columns and mouldings – and Henry’s next challenge will be turning the columns that will be a decorative support for the face of the clock.

A few methods can be used to achieve the shape of these columns in woodturning. However, the one I’ve chosen to feature in today’s blog is a paper joint.

In woodwork, when we glue a project up it’s usually forever. However, in some applications it’s useful to eventually disassemble the joint - and this is where a paper joint comes in. Paper joints are a way of attaching a sacrificial piece of waste wood to a piece of work, often for the purpose of making it easier to turn or shape, or protecting a surface that you’d like to remain unmarked by screws.

A piece of porous paper, like brown craft paper, is glued between the waste wood and the work, clamped together and the glue allowed to dry. If the turning is thin, some woodworkers use thin 3mm craft card, which separates more easily than paper and puts less strain on your work. Then you work on your piece as you normally would.

When your work on the turned piece is complete, you can then separate the two halves by placing a chisel directly on the paper joint and gently tapping.

This causes the paper to split and the halves to separate, although it’s important not to pry the joint open, but use the chisel to drive a wedge between the sections. You can then discard the sacrificial piece of wood, leaving you with the required shaped piece for your project.

Henry’s grandfather clock columns, while appearing to be cylindrical, will need to have a rebate section cut out of the column to allow them to sit snugly against the clock face.

Henry could do this by cutting the rebate prior to turning the wood -  and paper gluing a sacrificial section of wood back into that rebate. Henry could then turn his column as he normally would. On finishing turning the column, he could then use the chisel to separate off the paper glue joint and ‘dummy’ wood, giving him a perfectly turned column with a clean rebate section to fit the clock face.

After separating a paper glue joint, the piece can then be finished off by simply sanding off any residual glue or paper.

Henry has got several columns and mouldings to turn, so keep an eye on Instagram to see his woodturning skills come together and the progress of his grandfather clock. Link here.