When Craftsmanship Meets Technology - Commission for a 16ft Illuminated Dining Table

When Craftsmanship Meets Technology - Commission for a 16ft Illuminated Dining Table

When Craftsmanship Meets Technology - Commission for a 16ft Illuminated Dining Table


The school shares a workshop with the commercial arm of Williams and Cleal. This augments the learning of our students, who are able to observe our master craftsmen working on a range of different commissions, or to access expert help from our furniture makers in addition our tutor’s time.

Often a commission comes along that breaks the mould of regular work. It demands a combination of technology, craftsmanship and use of alternative and modern materials – and involves a good deal of careful design, research, and expert collaboration to bring the piece together.  These commissions make excellent case studies for interested students, particularly when the processes that we use are at the forefront of developments in industry.

Our recent commission for a 16ft long colour changing illuminated dining table has been just such a project. The client’s specification detailed a dining table with glass legs that would make the table appear to be floating. For the table surface, they wanted a purple eucalyptus veneer with two central glass panels, on which an ‘ethereal’ swirl design could be illuminated by hidden LED’S. The purple veneer was chosen for its rich colour that by contrast would enhance the lit glass panels.

The glass elements of this table required us to work at the leading edge of glass technology. Taking advantage of new laser systems in Europe, we subsurface engraved the clients chosen design into two huge 1580mm glass inserts for the table surface. In subsurface engraving, the lasers are focused below the surface of the glass to create small fractures. This makes visible structures appear inside the glass whilst leaving the surface free of any abrasion. Cerion lasers create four or five layers inside of the glass, as opposed to just one layer on the surface seen in normal Co2 engraving. Therefore there are greater points within the glass to pick up the light, and it creates a cleaner etching to minimize distortion of the design.

Similarly, the floating glass legs were designed and sourced in collaboration with specialist manufacturers in Europe. Superior technology enabled us to source the correct clear structural glass, and to cut the table leg design with unrivalled precision and accuracy from Jane’s drawings.

Williams and Cleal sourced and installed all the LED electrics for the table illumination, and it took a good few tests to achieve a level of illumination that we were happy with. Achieving the optimal lighting level, required the right power of LED’s matched with the position of the LED strips on the glass. We had to find the right distance between diffusion panels and the LED strips hidden in the table recess - to blend out spotlighting effects otherwise seen at the edge of the table. It was important to the client that the lighting source was not visible at the edges of the table -  in order to enhance the magic of the engraving being illuminated.

Jane’s design included a central column underneath the table concealing the LED technology. Williams and Cleal rigged up the technology that enabled our client to change the colour of their table to millions of colour variations by voice command, and by manual control of a colour wheel on a mobile phone app.

The client’s colour preferences were of soft whites, pinks and golds and we were able to preset these choices and store them for their convenience.

The table surface was made here at the workshops from a core of purple Valchromat – chosen for its consistency and density across both the board and colour. It was veneered with Tabu Purple eucalyptus veneer as chosen by our client.

The finished result is an elegant showpiece dining table, with a unique level of interactivity afforded to dinner party hosts and guests in the changing colour features of the glass.

It’s been a pleasure to make another commission that draws together new processes in materials, components and technology – and a fine example to our students how design can incorporate these different elements to make a truly unique piece.

See our colour changing table in action here!

Shortlisted for the 2017 Wood Awards

Shortlisted for the 2017 Wood Awards!

Shortlisted for the 2017 Wood Awards!

We are thrilled to announce that student Damian Robinson's Hex Cabinet has been shortlisted for the 2017 Wood Awards!

The Hex Cabinet was Damian's final project during his course at Williams and Cleal. 

The inspiration for the Hex Drinks Cabinet comes from the colour and uniformity of bees’ nest found in the Damian's garden. Hand cut veneers in contrasting timbers and grain patterns were used for the honeycomb. Damian laid the veneer hexagons out in sequence while referring to the actual nest. The edges of the doors were designed to meet in a line that followed the interlinking hexagons.  The inset brass levers devised to open the doors were made in the same size of the hexagons to mesh seamlessly with the overall design. English bog oak, dating from 3,300BC, was selected to set off the complex honeycomb pattern without interference.

You can read more about the 2017 Wood Awards Shortlist here.

You can also visit Damian Robinson's company website - Blythehart Made at:

or follow Damian on instagram at:

Well done Damian!

2017 Somerset Guild of Craftsmen Furniture Prize!

2017 Somerset Guild of Craftsmen Furniture Prize!

2017 Furniture Prize Blog Photo.JPG


Drum roll please.....

We are pleased to announce that student Alistair Buchan received second prize for his Jurassic inspired table in this years Somerset Guild Furniture Exhibition.

The table was made in English Oak and sandblasted to give a weathered appearance. Patinated Bronze Supporting Fins were used to support the table segments and it was a great exercise in solid wood construction.

In the exhibitions 'People's Choice award' we are also thrilled that Williams and Cleal students received the most votes, Alistair for his table. Alberto for his 'La Negra' chair and Laura for her folding table.

Alberto Perez'  stunning La Negra chair was Alberto's first project and the design really challenged and pushed his making skills - with beautiful results. Made in Walnut.

Laura Aldrich Blake's retro style drop leaf table with formica surface was made to a brief about batch production, so was made using various jigs so that it could be easily repeated in small numbers. It was a challenging piece to make with tapered cylindrical legs and lots of angles.

The photo shows our Lead tutor, James Ralph, accepting awards on behalf of the students.

Student Submit Enteries to the Alan Peters Award for Excellence and The Somerset Guild of Craftsman Furniture Prize.

Students Submit Enteries to the Alan Peters Award for Excellence, and The Somerset Guild of Craftsman Furniture Prize.

We wish student Finn James the best of luck with the entry of his low coffee table in the 2017 Alan Peters Award for Excellence.

Finn laminated his table from 10 laters of 5mm flexi-ply and it was veneered in beautiful figured quarter sawn oak. To emphasize the shape the edges were coloured a very light grey.

The  Alan Peters award is designed to encourage and promote emerging young talent within the bespoke furniture industry. It gives up to three new designer-makers the opportunity to win free exhibition space for their entry at Celebration of Craftsmanship & Design. This allows winners to exhibit and network with established and highly regarded professionals within a selling environment, gaining valuable experience and exposure to a very discerning and knowledgeable audience.

Fingers crossed for Finn!

We also wish the very best of luck to students Laura Aldrich Blake, Jan Lennon and Alberto Perez for their entries into the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen Annual Students Furniture Prize. The students all took their furniture to the Wells Exhibition Gallery last week. We eagerly award the judges decision in a few weeks time.

We actively encourage our students to enter furniture prizes and to exhibit their work, to get their design style and name out there - to become visible as emerging makers. It is also an important opportunity to network and make contacts, or to generate publicity in starting out your career as a furniture maker.

Our Spring 2017 Newsletter is here!

Our Spring 2017 Newsletter is here!

Our Spring 2017 Newsletter is now out! 

This year, is the Williams and Cleal 10th Year as a fine furniture making school - read all about how the school came to be. Watch our Steam Bending demonstration to the students, read about our offsite visits to Artichoke and Vasterns Timber, and see the recent article in Furniture and Cabinetmaking about our students work!

This and lots more in the Spring Newsletter. See more here.

Students Ali and Damian Awarded Joint Second In The Somerset Guild of Craftsmen's Furniture Prize

Students Ali and Damian Awarded Joint Second in The Somerset Guild of Craftsmen's Furniture Prize 2016.

Congratulations to current students, Alistair Buchan and Damian Robinson who have been awarded joint second in The Somerset Guild of Craftsmen's Furniture Prize 2016!

Ali entered his Torii Gate Table, which was the first piece of furniture that Ali designed and made with us on course. Ali said:

"Thanks to everyone at Williams and Cleal - Jane, Justin, Jim and all the other students. It's a great place to learn and make furniture and I couldn't have got this second prize without them. And congrats to Damian Robinson who I shared second prize with."

Damian's desk was also his first project design and make with us.

Student Field Trip to Halstock Ltd

Student Field Trip to Halstock Ltd - bespoke luxury interior company.


This week our school visited Halstock, a company that design, manufacture and install luxury bespoke interiors.The students got a real feel for the work carried out at Halstock with talks covering all aspects of production from consultation through to design, to creation and making. We look forward to working with Halstock going forward to enhance our students learning experience and employment opportunities.

Student Awarded Bespoke Guild Mark by The Furniture Maker's Company

Student Awarded Bespoke Guild Mark by The Furniture Maker's Company.

Former student, Charles Byron, has been awarded Bespoke Guild Mark #459 by The Furniture Makers' Company for his log stack cabinet. Charlie made the log stack cabinet while on course at Williams and Cleal. This is fantastic news and we are all really pleased for Charlie! Well done!

Read more about Charlie's award here

Students selected for Crafts Council Hothouse 2016 programme

Students selected for Crafts Council Hothouse 2016 programme

We are delighted that former students of the Williams and Cleal Furniture School, Charles Byron, Maria Del Mar Gomez and Thomas Wittingham have been selected amongst 41 other maker businesses by the Crafts Council to take part in the creative development programme Hothouse 2016.

This is the first time in the history of the Hothouse programme that five furniture makers have been selected for the development programme. You can learn more about Hothouse 2016 and our former students by visiting:


Student's work makes front page of Furniture and Cabinetmaking Magazine

Student's work makes front page of Furniture and Cabinetmaking Magazine

Congratulations to Charles Byron, whose 'log stack' cabinet has recently been featured on the front cover of 'Furniture and Cabinetmaking' magazine! 

The article writes about the highlights of the Somerset Guild of Craftsman Furniture Prize 2015. We are proud that Charlie was the winner of the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen Judge's Choice and winner of the Popular Choice Award 2015.

To find our more information about the 'log stack' cabinet head to



The Art of Making Exhibition

The Art of Making Exhibition

'The Art of Making' is an exhibition of work by students Lauren Goodman, Maria del Mar Gomez, Irene Banham and Charles Byron. Their work can be seen at the Paper arts Gallery Bristol between 16th-29th June. This is the beginning of their professional careers as designer-makers.

George complete's his first design and make project

George complete's his first design and make project

In Georges own words - "by combining a natural, free-form top with precisely turned legs – crisp white with rich walnut – I wanted to showcase the different elements but also show them coming together and working in harmony. This coffee table needs no fixtures or fitting, its completely self supporting. The legs just slip into place.

Well done George on a very successful piece

Students Complete our Course and Start their own Business

Students Irene and Stuart set up their own businesses.

Irene and Stuart have now come to the end of their time with us and will be greatly missed. Irene has moved back to Bristol and is now running her own furniture business. Stuart will be renting our fully equiped new workshop 1 mile away from the school which has been set up to support our students for that first period working for themselves. We wish you all the best in your future endeavours.

See their work at

Dovetailed box in a week!

Dovetailed box in a week

We've just completed our latest short course where you can make a dovetailed box in only five days. It's a great way to build on your woodworking skills or pick up some new ones. 

Congratulations to Anna, Adam and Ted on their fine work.

Dates for our next short courses coming soon...

Commercial Success for Student

Commercial Success for Student

George has re-designed his handmade desk No 27.9 to meet the brief of small batch production. The results can be seen at Nina's House on the Kings Road London. Nina's House is a new concept shop retailing exclusive individually designed furniture.

Well done George !

What next?

What Next for Tom?

Tom's completed his occasional chairs and now come to the end of the course . He has made some exceptional pieces over the past 40 weeks and will be missed in the workshop. Tom has accepted a great opportunity to work for Cimitree. We wish Tom all the best for the future.