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Saturday, 28 March 2015

Tom Fidgen @ Warwickshire College

The courses run by New English Workshop last summer were a roaring success, both were well oversubscribed and the lucky ones that did get a place had a fantastic time. With the Anarchists Tool Chest built by Chris Schwarz going under David Stanley's auctioneers hammer today (March 28th) it occurred to me that I'd better get my finger out if I want to snaffle a place on one of this years summer schools.

Last year I mentioned to Paul and Derek how amazing it would be if Tom Fidgen could come over from Canada to teach in the UK. Tom is probably the coolest woodworker on the planet, his work is fast, accurate and meticulously well planned, but I'd swear his heart rate never climbs above 60 beats per minute. If you're not already subscribed, take a moment to check out his youtube channel and website

Anyway, to my surprise they did ask him, to my even greater surprise he agreed, and then to top it all the course location was changed to Warwickshire College, which is just up the road from Workshop Heaven, talk about the stars coming into alignment!

The project is a sawyers bench - kinda like a 17th century Black and Decker Workmate. Tom has made a few significant tweaks to the traditional design which will make this a fantastic addition to the workshop that will earn its space many times over.

For me the course isn't really about the project though, it's all about sharing and enjoying the creative process with likeminded souls and picking up a few wrinkles of experience from one another. 

From that perspective, a huge extra bonus is that another woodworking legend Peter Folansbee will also be teaching at Warwickshire College the same week, so with any luck I might get to enjoy a brew and a natter with him and the people attending that course as well.

The New English Workshop Summer School offering has grown from two woodworking courses last year to ten available this summer, spread across Kent, Sussex, Warwickshire and Somerset. All of the courses are led by world class woodworking instructors and hosted at well equipped workshops.

If you'd like to book a place, I'd recommend getting your deposit in fairly sharpish. Spaces are limited and opportunities to share time at the bench with woodworkers of this calibre are few and far between.

Here's Tom with some more details about the course, for more info about the other woodworking courses available, visit

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Waters & Acland Furniture School

Cumbrian furniture makers WATERS and ACLAND​ are well known for creating exceptionally elegant modern handcrafted furniture. Their furniture has drawn the attention of the Royal family, the bespoke guild mark committee of the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers and graces well appointed homes up and down the country.

When I visited their light and airy workshops in the village of Staveley last October, I was surprised to find something even more impressive than the covetable furniture in their showroom.

Waters and Acland don't just make commercial handmade furniture and commissions, they also deliver some of the best furniture making training courses available. The thing that really struck me was the astonishing rate at which students in the adjoining training workshop acquire the skills of fine furniture making and the standards that they achieve right from the word go.

After a week, students are able to complete an immaculate pair of matching dovetailed and mitred oak bookends. By the end of week two, they will have finished a stool with double wedged through tenons.

With those two test pieces perfected, it's straight into their first box - a dovetailed and mitred wall cabinet with morticed panel doors, made in the student's choice of materials. 

Chris (left cabinet), who also made the two pieces above, had done a bit of making before but was looking to up his game. Keira (right cabinet) achieved this standard in 9 weeks flat from a cold start. I have seen both cabinets up close and the details reward even the closest inspection.

You could be forgiven for thinking that making this much headway in a few short weeks must involve compromise, but you only need to look at the standard of Waters and Acland furniture to see that they are not really the compromising type. In fact the opposite is true. This astonishing progress is the result of being uncompromising, very high staff ratios, beautifully maintained high quality tools, and lots of one on one tuition with professional makers. 

The Waters and Acland team believe fervently in getting it right first time and checking their work at every stage. The same standards are applied to the job of training as they are to the job of making furniture, with layers of perfection locked in at every stage.

Both Chris and Keira have since gone on to make progressively more complex pieces and worked with progressively greater autonomy as they completed their 24 week course of training. I would like to wish both of these calm, confident and competent new makers every success in their future careers. For the last word, I'll leave you in Keira's capable hands:

If you would like to receive further information about training as a furniture maker with Waters and Acland please visit:

You can also get some free tuition by subscribing to the