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:

The Next Steps - The Incubation Workshop

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Next Steps – The Incubation Workshop

Taking the next steps - the incubation workshop...

There’s always a mix of feelings on a student’s last day – we are always sad to say goodbye – but equally excited to follow their progress out in the real world.

Student, Jan Lennon, has impressed us since day of her one year furniture designer maker course.

Joining us from a CGI and product designer background, Jan’s ability to use drawing and 3D visualisation software to develop and plan her designs, has been nothing short of impressive. She has a natural flair for design, and she is inquisitive about a variety of technologies that has subsequently enriched her practical work. It’s been a pleasure to teach Jan the high level cabinetmaking skills to help realise her designs.

So it is with great curiosity we follow Jan’s next steps. That is even easier since Jan has decided to take on bench space in the Williams and Cleal incubation workshop!

We know that the start-up period for any new furniture business is costly, and it can be challenging to equip any new workshop space. The incubation workshop is part of our continuing commitment to help our students, and with the school only a few miles down the road, we are always very happy to help and advise those in the incubation workshop on their projects - even after their course. We look forward to Jan popping in for a cup of (proper) coffee to show us her future designs and projects.

Jan will be using the incubation workshop bench space to make a wardrobe in Sweet Chestnut – and it will feature 3D printed handles depicting an alpine mountain and hut landscape.

Jan will also be sharing the incubation workshop with two of our past students – Maria and Charlie – who have been operating their successful furniture business out of the incubation space for two years now.

Charlie and Maria have worked hard to build up their business, Byron and Gomez, and have built up a good client base – promoting their brand at numerous exhibitions and trade shows. They have also been proactive at applying for and winning a place on craft business development schemes such as the Crafts Council’s Hothouse development programme - raising the profile of their new company within the craft community.

You can find out more about Byron and Gomez at or follow them on Instagram @byronandgomez.

If you would like to find out more about our furniture making incubation workshop, or are interested in renting bench space, please contact us on 01984 667555 or


Top – The incubation workshop

Bottom – Jan Lennon working on her Walnut and Olive Ash Dressing Table

Improving and broadening your skillset - Short bespoke woodworking courses tailored for you.


Improving and broadening your skillset - Short bespoke woodworking courses tailored for you.


Sometimes it is difficult to find a woodworking course that fits around your specific time constraints or commitments. Let’s face it, life gets busier and busier – especially if you run your own business, work full time and/or have family commitments – and it can be hard to find time to build on your skill set despite your best intentions to make time to do so.

Even if you have time on your side, the issue can be finding a short course that picks up specifically on the content that you want to learn -  without covering a list of skills that you are already well versed in.

If this is your experience, then Williams and Cleal could be for you. We offer an unusual tailor made service - which allows students to select both the duration and content of their own course as best suits your requirements.

December is shaping up to be a good month for our bespoke courses and we’ve had great interest from beginners, hobbyists and more experienced woodworkers looking to develop their cabinetmaking skills.

In the first week of December, we will be welcoming up to four students on a three day wood finishing course. This course originally came about after an enquiry from one student looking to build on his knowledge of finishing techniques, and the interest grew from others wanting to learn more in this area. We’ll be covering:

  • Pre-finishing such as sanding
  • Oil and wax finishes
  • Traditional oil finishes and modern oil finishes
  • Touching upon spray finishes
  • French polishing
  • Fuming
  • Bleaching
  • Scorching
  • Gold Leaf

Following this course, we’ll be welcoming an intermediate skilled student to a four day tray making course that introduces laminating, veneering, marquetry and inlay skills.

(We have the opportunity to join a further student to this course, so please contact the office on 01984 667555 if this would be of interest to you.)

Perhaps you have a specific area of your skillset that you’d like to develop further; or would like to attend one of our courses, but need the flexibility of a different attendance pattern?  

The best thing to do is to drop us an email or call us for an informal chat, and availability allowing, we can look to put a woodworking course together to suit.

We should all make time for the things that are important in our lives, if developing your skills and knowledge as a cabinetmaker are important, then some time on our bespoke courses could be the key to unlocking further potential in your capabilities as a designer maker.

Applying Gold Leaf in Furniture Making


Applying Gold Leaf in Furniture Making

Of all the optional set projects on our courses, a particular favourite is box making. Why?

Well because this project, is one of the earliest opportunities for newer students to flex their design skills. This project not only brings together essential basic skills like measuring, cutting, dovetails, interpreting drawings, choosing materials and veneer -  but it also offers the student  design freedom with regards to veneer cutting and marquetry on the box lid.

Students take inspiration from a number of sources. We’ve had Viking inspired symbology, designs in the style of Banksy, Orla Kiely inspired repeating patterns and a whole host of contemporary and more traditional box lid designs.

In addition to the marquetry on the box, students are encouraged to explore a range of finishes and detail. For our student Tim, the technique of applying gold leaf in furniture making was something that he was keen to explore.

Guest tutor, Maria Del Mar Gomez of Byron and Gomez, came into the furniture school to demonstrate the technique of applying gold leaf to wood. Within her business, Maria produces many pieces that feature the application of gold leaf, and she had much experience and advice to share with our furniture students on the subject.

Although a seemingly straightforward process, it has a number of nail biting moments – such as when an unexpected breeze in the workshop catches the gold leaf foil…. just as you are about to place it onto the adhesive!

Maria taught our furniture students best practice in Gold Leafing, from application through to burnishing and sealing. Then it was Tim’s turn to have a go (pictured!). Gold leaf was the perfect choice to compliment the rich tones of Tim’s sunburst veneered box lid.

Box making is an optional set project on our 40 week Fine Furniture Making course -  but did you know that you could also opt to make it on our bespoke furniture programmes?

Depending on how complex you want your box design to be and your making speed, it could be achieved on a 5 – 6 week bespoke course.

Interested? Give us a call  to find out more -  or contact us here.

What will your box lid design be? 

Tick Tock...designing the Grandfather Clock

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Tick Tock...designing the Grandfather Clock


The Grandfather Clock.

A piece that is arguably described by some woodworking publications - as the ultimate project -  on account of the advanced cabinetmaking skills that can be involved in the making process.

Also known as the longcase clock, or tall pendulum clock, the name ‘Grandfather clock’ was adopted after the well-known song ‘Grandfather’s Clock’ written in 1876 by Henry Clay Work.  

“My grandfather’s clock

Was too large for the shelf,

So it stood ninety years on the floor.”

Fitting to the namesake of the song’s writer, our student Henry, happens to be in the early stages of planning his very own design/make of a Grandfather clock.

Henry has been inspired to make this piece by his own grandfather’s love of the longcase clock and the numerous clocks that adorn his grandparents’ house.The clock case design is an excellent study for Henry, because it calls for two very different functions.

The first is practical – how to enclose the clock, protecting the movement from dust and displaying the dial.

The second is the aesthetic function; how the case design and timber will reflect the owner’s tastes and interests - and the impression that it will create in a room.

Over the course of centuries, the practical and functional role of clocks has been masked by design and embellishment. In the nineteenth and early 20th century most clocks were made to convey an impression, usually of opulence, to make a statement about the owner. The lavish designs and exotic timber of some clocks made them more of an ornament, than a timepiece.

From a practical cabinetmaking perspective, the grandfather clock will present many interesting making challenges for Henry, including mouldings, veneering and jointing.

Moreover, Henry’s grandfather clock project is a great example of the freedom our students have on our bespoke and full time courses -  to choose and drive forward their own ideas, projects and designs.

If there is something you want to make, we will get you there in terms of both practical and theoretical assistance. 

From planning through to completion, our teaching team are there to support, advise you and demonstrate the techniques you need realise your designs  - while all the time broadening your skill set.

If you too are passionate about a beautiful piece that you’d like to make and feel that one of our courses may be for you, then please feel free to call us for an informal chat on 01984 667555  or e.mail us on

School Visit to 100% Design and TENT for London Design Week


School Visit to 100% Design and TENT for London Design Week


 On Friday 22nd September, Jane Cleal took four students to London to visit the 100% Design exhibition and TENT.

Trips like these are optional at the school, but Jane Cleal is a real advocate of our students attending design events and exhibitions because they improve awareness of production manufacturing techniques, keep students aware of the current trends in design and interiors, offer good design inspiration and are a good insight into how industry presents itself in terms of stalls, branding etc.

It’s also a jolly day out from the workshop!

Our students really enjoyed both exhibitions and got very different things out of both 100% Design and TENT.

From 100% design, many of the students found inspiration in the pieces that they saw – but also found it very beneficial for making links with suppliers. Tim was interested to discover veneer suppliers and leather manufacturers that were in the locality of where he lives – and he was able to talk to them about new production processes and advances in leather printing that he was unaware of before his visit.

All of our students found TENT really interesting, with some preferring it over 100% Design for the reason that you can meet smaller makers and have a better conversation with them about their design and making process. Our students commented that TENT felt like a better place to network, and that in being able to talk with the smaller makers, there were useful discoveries to be made such as new and interesting materials being used in design - and how to work with different materials.

As such our students came back with ideas incorporating new materials they had not been aware of before their visit.

It also shows just how important it is to take time out of the workshop to connect with other makers and experience where the industry is - and where it’s going.

For more information about other trips that we offer our full time students, feel free to give the office a call on 01984 667555.

A great deal can be achieved on our short furniture making courses...


A great deal can be achieved on our short furniture making courses....

"The course was incredible. Everybody was really accommodating and approachable, including fellow students. It was great that so much was covered in a very short time, and in lots of detail too. I would return in an instant!" Dan, August course 2017

"Just a note to say thanks to  you, Jim and Justin for the course last week.  I very much enjoyed it and given my lack of experience and skills was amazed and delighted at how well the bookends turned out." Allen, August course 2017

Five new students gave up a week of August sunshine (....well sunny spells amoungst cloud!) to come and try their hand at cabinetmaking on our One Week Introduction to Fine Furniture Making course. 

Helen, Tom, Dan, John and Allen came to the course as beginners or with a few basic skills, and after completing the week with us saw their skills and knowledge advanced considerably. By the end of the week, they were all turning out dovetails with the same precision, accuracy and beauty as our full time furniture students. The course fired their enthusiasm for furniture making, so much so, that they are tempted to rejoin us for future bespoke courses! In fact - we welcome Allen back for a two month course in October!

Year on year, we evaluate and refine both our long, short and bespoke courses to ensure that our students are getting the very finest experience and tutoring in making high quality bespoke fine furniture.

This year, we've decided to have a change to our set project. We considered a range of small projects very carefully for the opportunities that they would provide to the students in terms of knowledge, hand and measuring skills, understanding of basic joints, understanding basic workshop drawings and choosing/working with different timbers.  After careful deliberation, we settled on making a pair of bookends -  which as well as being incredibly useful  - provide a wide scope of learning experience in the making process.

Your beautifully dovetailed bookends can also be displayed as pride of place in your home and your work admired by all those who visit you.

For more information on our next short woodworking courses, or short bespoke programmes. Please call us on 01984  667555 or e.mail us on

Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design 2017


Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design 2017


Last week the annual Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design took place at the Thirlestaine Long Gallery at Cheltenham College in Gloucester. CCD is the largest exhibition of contemporary desigher-maker furniture in the UK and it draws visitors and exhibitors from around the world. The exhibition showcases the work of the very best makers and emerging talent in the world of furniture design and making.

It is a really important calendar event for our students - and  we strongly encourage our students to not only submit their work for entry into the Alan Peters Award for Excellence (which gives three new designer-makers the opportunity to win free exhibition space for their entry at the Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design) but also to visit the Celebration of Craftsmanship and immerse themselves in the design styles and work exhibited there.

Our current students attended the show's VIP opening evening, and met with several past Williams and Cleal students - all now successfully running their own bespoke furniture companies and exhibiting their work at the Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design.

It was great to see past students Damain Robinson from BlytheHart Made, Maria and Charlie from Byron and Gomez, Irene Banham from Irene Banham Furniture and Thomas from Thomas Whittingham Furniture all recieving great interest in their work. Congratulations to our student Finn James, one of the winners of this year's Alan Peters Award for Excellence who won the opportunity to exhibit his 'Brompton' coffee table at this years show.

The Crossover Between Cabinet Making and Digital Manufacture

Digital printing.jpg

The Crossover Between Cabinet Making and Digital Manufacture


In furniture design, the advent of CNC machines and digital printers have enabled designers to reinterpret the expectations of the medium. We can now combine traditional craft skills with complex contemporary twists made possible with elements that have been digitally manufactured.

There are some effects that are difficult to achieve solely with hand tools, and equally there are hand techniques that are not efficiently replicated well by CNC or digital printing – but the crossover of the two can push the boundaries of furniture design to make something truly unique and beautiful.

At Williams and Cleal, we have an expanding student library of design and furniture making books – which students are free to borrow at any time. The book that has the students talking this month is ‘Digitally Handmade’ by Lucy Johnston. The topic is particularly apt, since our student Jan is experimenting with digital printing to add a unique level of detail to the handles on her latest design, which would otherwise be exceptionally difficult to make by hand.

Jan comes from a background in Computer Graphic Imaging Design and Imaging, and has just invested in her own Prusa i3 M25 – kit build 3D printer. Jan has designed some drawer handles that take the shape of a small mountain range complete with contoured hills, tiny pine trees and a mountainside cabin – a scene in miniature that would be virtually impossible to create by hand.

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Jan has so far experimented with prototypes made in PLA - (PLA) or polylactic acid. It is a bio-degradable thermoplastic polyester derived from corn starch, sugarcane or cassava root. Jan is yet to decide what the final handles will be printed in. It takes about 4 hours for Jan's printer to create the handle prototypes. Jan builds the designs herself in software compatible for the 3D printer.

The crossover of digital manufacturing methods and furniture design is part of our design theory sessions here at Williams and Cleal. Jane Cleal has incorporated digital production methods into her own work and shares her experiences of these processes with our students. Jane’s most recent ‘Circle’ bowl coffee table, used CNC production methods to manufacture the stack laminated birch ply of the bowl and complimented by a lid made in Macassar Ebony Veneer. Many of our students also pick out Jane’s CNC cut bowl as a favourite from the W & C gallery.


Our tutors encourage and will help to nurture the designs of students who choose to explore mixing traditional craftsmanship with digital manufacture. We will also connect you with companies to whom Williams and Cleal outsource CNC or digital manufacture work. This way, the size and complexity of the equipment and skills that we have access to, is infinitely surperior to the machines we could accomodate at our own workshop.  

If you’d like to see more of the possibilities in furniture making enhanced by digital manufacturing methods, we suggest looking at the ‘Cinderella Table’ or the ‘Lectori Salutem’ by Jeroen Verhoevenm the ‘Three Drawer George’ by Gareth Neal or the ‘Fractal Table’ by Werteloberfell – or indeed many of the other artists covered both in Digitally Handmade and across the internet.

We’ll be posting more about our student Jan’s journey with her digitally printed handles in upcoming posts.

Kerfing and Free Form Laminating

Kerfing and Free Form Laminating

Kerfing and Free Form Laminating

On a Thursday, we normally have ‘Hand Tool Thursday’s’ where our tutor Jim likes to showcase various items from his collection of accumulated and inherited hand tools. However, this Thursday was all about demonstrating different wood bending techniques to the students.

First up was Kerfing. Kerf can be defined as the width of the wood that is removed by the cutting process.

Kerfing is the process of cutting a series of kerfs (cuts) along the side of a piece of wood in close proximity, in order to allow the wood to be pliable enough to follow a curve. When cutting kerfs, the wood needs to be cut  deep enough to the edge of the wood that the remaining fibres are free to bend. To cut too deeply will result in the wood breaking in two, or making cuts that are not deep enough will result in the wood snapping. It’s best to experiment, but you’ll most likely find that an uncut width of 1/8 in. or thereabouts works for most woods.

Your kerf spacing will affect both the maximum radius that you can bend, and how smooth your curve will look – the closer the kerfs are together, the tighter the radius you can bend. You can only kerf by crosscutting as to do so with the grain increases the likelihood of the piece splitting.

For the demonstration, Jim cut kerfs that loosely demonstrated the effect. In practice, you would normally use a formula to calculate the exact distance between your kerfs, to achieve the smoothness of the curve you require. Many kerf bending formulas are available online.

While kerfing is an easy and useful technique for bending wood, it is suited to applications where a curve is aesthetic rather than structural, as kerfing does not create a form with great strength.

The magic of kerfing never wanes and all the students (and office staff) were keen to have a play.

Next up…. was free form laminating.

Jim demonstrated a range of different free-form laminating methods using constructional veneer. Take a look at our Instagram feed to see the laminationsglued and clamped into shape, and vacuum pressed.

Constructional veneer comes in a variety of timbers and it is thin and pliable enough to bend. You can simply spread glue on their surfaces and clamp them in layers to the shape that you desire and leave in place for the glue to set. In Jim’s demonstration, the lamination was clamped and wrapped with a ribbon of old tyre inner tube to keep the layers tight together until the glue had set. It is the hardened glue between each layer of veneer that holds the shape of the twist or curve. The multiple glue lines between each layer make the assembly strong, stable and rigid.

As a variation on this method, Jim demonstrated the same concept, but using a vacuum press to hold the shape of the glued layers. The constructional veneer was glued, shaped and then pre-wrapped tight with release film to prevent the breather fabric getting sucked between the laminations, or sticking to the laminate while it is being compressed. As the air is being evacuated, the bag is smoothed out over the assembly to make sure there are no significant wrinkles where it touches the veneer.


The advantage of laminating in a vacuum press is that the process creates an even atmospheric pressure over the glue up, making for a consistent strong assembly.

Head to our Instagram page to see more videos and photos of Jim’s wood bending demonstrations. Click here.

Commissions Continued....The Art Deco Memory Box

Commissions Continued… The Art Deco Memory Box

Commissions Continued… The Art Deco Memory Box

One of the first projects that our students make here on our course is a box. This starter project is chosen because it introduces them to hand cut veneering and hand cut dovetails, and acquaints students with power tools like the router for the first time.

Furthermore, the box project is the perfect choice for giving them early design input on their box. They lead on the box lid design and have the freedom to arrange or detail the box interior to their own preference. It is also a great introduction to different types of timber, and each student chooses the wood or veneer that they feel best compliments their design or personal taste. Our students will then be shown wood finishing techniques, and are taught how to finish their boxes in the right way and how to apply an oil finish.

Much like the table in our last blog post, the commercial arm of Williams and Cleal shares workshop space with our students and often our commissions provide really interesting case studies.

Such is the case with our latest commission – an Art Deco Inspired Memory Box – which features a high gloss polyester finish that has sparked great interest from the students and our Instagram following.

The client’s specification was for an Art Deco inspired box, large enough to store keepsakes like DVD’s, CD, photographs, documents and small items. The lid is split and opens from the centre, and it is secured shut by magnetic closers.

The box is made in Macassar Ebony, with the Art Deco design picked out in Rippled Sycamore. The box interior is Rippled Sycamore a red Alcantara base.

The box was sprayed with a high gloss polyester finish which is really successful in bringing out the grain on the Macassar Ebony and Rippled Sycamore. It has been a good commission for our students to see how wood finishes can transform a project and draw attention to the rich tones and striking beauty naturally occurring in different woods.

Polyester has the highest molecular structure and strength of all the finishes available and therefore the finished surface is strong, making it less vulnerable to scratching and cleaning. Polyester also has a 100% sheen clear finish for a mirror-like gloss, and it works perfectly for the art deco style of this commission.

You can see a video of the finished box here.