Mastering Furniture Making Skills & Techniques

Foundation Course (Term One) 

Skill Level - All levels from complete beginner

Cost - £6,900  (2017-18)

Duration - 12 Weeks

Other - There are no additional charges,  materials for all projects are included in the price for this term. 

We highly recommend anyone considering this course visit the workshops to discuss the syllabus with John and have a chat with our current students.

Students are welcome to commence their course on any term start date to suit their circumstances. 


24 Apr – 14 Jul
18 Sep – 8 Dec

2 Jan – 23 Mar
23 Apr – 13 Jul
17 Sept – 7  Dec


About the Course

For some time now we’ve referred to the first term of the one year course as the “Foundation”, and that’s just what it is. It is the perfect way to give you a complete and wide ranging knowledge of the Cabinetmaking process and learn all the vital techniques and skills you will need to become an exceptional woodworker.

This course is much more than simply dealing with the processes of working with wood, it also covers all the essential components required to set up a workshop, and market yourself as a professional woodworker. The tuition is not merely based on theory, John has 25 years of practical experience of setting up and running a successful furniture business, and almost as much time teaching the art of fine furniture making.


The ‘Foundation’ course has always been intensive, and it has now arguably become the ultimate in concentrated accelerated learning. Training is a hugely expensive commitment particularly when loss of earnings and perhaps accommodation whilst training are taken into account so we understand our students are naturally looking for maximum value for their investment.

With this in mind, to make the very most of your first 12 weeks of training, we have extended the teaching hours from the standard 09.00 – 17.00 to 08.30 – 18.00, meaning you will, in effect, be given an extra day of teaching/workshop time every week. This adds up to an equivalent of over 14 ‘weeks’ of tuition time squashed into a 12 week period, and that’s without taking into account several machining sessions that will be scheduled outside of the normal teaching hours.


The content of the course is extremely wide-ranging but also very detailed. From understanding the basic tools, keeping them frighteningly sharp and how to use them effectively and efficiently, working on those vital hand skills, cutting a host of complex joints with astonishing accuracy, to using state of the art equipment, machinery and materials that, when combined with those hand skills, result in a perfect way to produce elegant, accurate furniture to an individual distinctive design in a commercially viable way.

During this first term, exercises will be set and a number of test pieces made to the high standard that we expect, and achieve, from all of our students. Exercises and test pieces will be assessed and graded, not to give you an unnecessarily ‘school-like’ atmosphere, but to give us both the opportunity to identify strengths and areas perhaps in need of attention.

In amongst the many hours spent at the bench there will be some educational visits to the all-important suppliers of materials and services that are all a vital part of the furniture making process, selecting and buying timber and veneer is of course at the heart of all furniture making and practical experience is essential. There will also be visits to specialist sub-contractors to look at processes such as CNC technology to give students awareness of the latest woodworking innovations.


To enable you to reach your full potential requires your tutor to be constantly to hand. You will be taught using both group and one to one sessions and to maintain this necessary level of attention we restrict the number of students on the course to a maximum of six. Training you to achieve the highest standard of woodworking is John’s number one priority and is not something that he will entrust to anyone else. Visiting tutors are engaged for specialist subjects such as Computer Aided Design which is much better taught by an IT industry professional.


This course requires your commitment and dedication, but the rewards are great: the attainment of a comprehensive set of skills, a huge volume of knowledge and formidably high standards. Don’t kid yourself that after 12 weeks you will be the finished article though, you’re going to have to put in a lot of practice to become a highly competent, skilled craftsman, but all the foundations will be laid and you will be working to an extraordinarily high standard!


What you will Learn

• TOOL SELECTION – how to choose a small but carefully selected set of tools
• TOOL TUNING – preparing, fettling and setting up planes and chisels to produce super-thin shavings
• SHARPENING – fool-proof systems that produce razor-sharp blades
• TIMBER TECHNOLOGY – if you’re going to work with wood you need to understand its behavioural traits and foibles
• PLANING TECHNIQUES & STRATEGIES – producing flat wood with a mirror surface
• MARKING & MEASURING – tools and methods used for accurate measuring and fool-proof strategies for keeping components under control and all facing the right way
• CHISELLING – techniques for safe, accurate chopping and paring
• SAWING – Japanese and Western saws need different techniques to get the best out of them – (includes sharpening Western Saws)
• MAKING TOOLS – e.g. Winding Sticks; Bench Hook; Scratch Stock; Panel Gauge – making some vital tools that can’t be bought are great first exercises to develop your new hand skills
• VITAL JOINTS – THROUGH & LAPPED DOVETAILS – planing, sawing and chiselling practice to make various forms of this hugely important, elegant joint.
• BOX EXERCISE – Combining several tools and techniques – this simple dovetailed box exercise is the perfect way to check progress
• EDGE TREATMENTS – BEADS & CHAMFERS – using hand tools to cut corner beads and chamfers (straight and tapering)
• VENEERING - HAMMER VENEERING – using traditional tools, glues and techniques to lay veneers by hand. Making and letting in decorative inlays
• VENEERING – PRESS – making a veneer ‘lay-on’ and pressing using a vacuum-bag system
• TRAY EXERCISE – making a veneered tray with a solid wood lipping and some elegant hand-cut chamfers
• LAMINATING – CAULS & FORMERS – making and using shaped cauls and cramps to make curved solid wood components. Making a former and using a vacuum press to make shaped veneered panels
• VITAL JOINTS – 6 VARIATIONS OF THE MORTICE & TENON – another timeless joint, the classic way to joint any frame. Introducing the Mortice Chisel and Shoulder Plane
• FRAME EXERCISE – MIRROR FRAME WITH CROSS GRAIN MOULDING – mortice and tenon joints and an elegant, hand-cut moulding to make a rebated frame
• GLUES – an in depth look at the many glues that are available. Different glue properties, strengths, open times, shelf life………..Choosing the right glue for the job
• CRAMPING – A mixture of traditional and high tech cramping systems. Techniques and strategies for stress free glue-ups. Getting the pressure in the right place, choosing the right cramp for the job
• MACHINING – HEALTH & SAFETY – the rules that will keep you safe
• MACHINING – BAND SAW; TABLE SAW; CROSS-CUT SAW; SPINDLE MOULDER; PLANER THICKNESSER – the safe, effective use of all the main pieces of woodworking machinery
• POWER TOOL JOINTS – BISCUIT JOINTER; ‘ZETA’; ‘DOMINO’; appropriate use of these cleverly designed power tools and jointing systems open up all sorts of design possibilities
• TURNING – WOODWORKING LATHE – techniques required to make legs, spindles and delicate drawer-pulls
• TURNING EXERCISE – drawing full size templates to make a leg and a drawer pull
• TECHNICAL DRAWING - using a Drawing Board and instruments to create accurate working drawings
• CAD – an introduction into Computer Aided Design
• VISIT – TIMBER YARD – selecting and buying timber from a specialist timber merchant is a sometimes daunting but absolutely vital part of furniture making – we go through the process
• VISIT – VENEER MERCHANT – we visit what is probably the country’s largest veneer merchant – the choice can be inspiring (although it’s almost overwhelming)
• VISIT - CNC – how CNC (Computer Numeric Control) can be used to make components
• STARTING A FURNITURE MAKING BUSINESS – It’s never too early to start thinking about setting up and marketing a new business


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