In one month at Rowden, students uncover the foundation of precise woodworking with hand tools. They do so through a very structured curriculum. Every part contributes to achieving a professional grade of joinery and woodwork. Four weeks dedicated at the bench finds you a footing as a fine furniture maker.
This course does not teach how to make a ‘table’ or ‘chair’. Such an approach only leads to learning how to make that particular ‘table’ or ‘chair’ very well. That does not give a student a basis of knowledge to work from afterwards. Instead, we ensure the most fundamental joints, techniques and skills are fully explored, understood and can be applied when applicable. Each student leaves able to turn their skills to a wealth of different projects. They have a newfound confidence in their capacity to achieve excellence in their work.
The learning goes beyond the practical skills at the bench. One month students are party to our daily lectures with our full-time students. Accessing these lectures means exposure to a wealth of other advanced topics.
Below is an outline of the projects covered in a month. Each commands a high level of skill and explores techniques applicable throughout cabinetmaking.
A simple, widely used joint a crosshalving, or half lap, offers rigidity. The cross halving puts into practice skills such as how to plane, pare and mark out components. The fit of two intersecting pieces is challenging, either it is right or it’s not. You will have a much greater understanding of how to use your tools.
Winding sticks are a vital tool in the workshop. You need these to see twists in your timber, aiding proper flat and square components. Here you are making your own, planing to a specific dimension and inlaying dark wood into a blonde wood. The finishing in this project has to be right, ensuring you keep the dark timber dust from contaminating the blonde. This project is also the first introduction to polishing.
The breadboard requires precise application of marking and planing skills to create a hexagonal board. It has been a traditional apprentice piece since the Arts and Crafts period, and through the project, you learn to plane straight, plane on end grain and diagonally. It entails wide chamfers that need to be precise. If you lose accuracy, it shows very clearly where they meet. Hidden in this project are the key aspects involved in creating solid wood panels and surfaces.
A mallet is a quintessential tool for any cabinetmaker. The project hones the skill in chisel work. The flat working surfaces of the mallets are a challenge as are the dead flat faces across the piece. It is a demanding task that substantially improves your skill with chisels and planes.
Mortice & Tenon
A mortice & tenon is one of the longest standing joints in woodworking history. At Rowden, a through tenon as well as a wedged tenon version is applied in our students’ workbench underframes. The wedged tenon enables furniture incorporating it to be knocked down and moved around much more easily. This wedging turns a simple glue joint into a much stronger mechanical joint. This project refines marking and measuring skills and ensures mastery of a fundamental joint.
The Bookends are a chance to tackle perhaps the most celebrated joint in cabinetmaking. These accurately dovetailed pieces will be a challenge, regardless of your prior experience. Two pieces of wood, dovetailed together to create a seamless and strong joint. Here accurate sawing, marking out and fitting is further distilled. The bookends incorporate thick stock and set you up for traditional drawer work and cabinetry.
Further Hand Skills
As with all the learning at Rowden, we move at the pace of the individual. We emphasise the need for patience and attention. Progress focuses on quality, not speed. Moving forward depends on getting projects right, not just getting them done. Approaching the works this way means better results, better understanding and better retention. The above projects require the utmost skill and attention to be completed in the course of one month.
In the rare instance that a student does complete these projects in the time available though, we make full use of the time left. Veneering, mitres, box making, and a number of other skills may also be included in a month at Rowden. Like all of our courses, this is a packed and intense period at the bench.
John Greenwood is the bastion of accuracy and hand tools skills at Rowden. He will guide you over a month at Rowden, encouraging focus and thoughtful attention. You will also spend time with tutors Daren Millman and Ed Wild who will be lecturing daily on many advanced subjects in woodworking.
Logistics: Getting to Rowden
Every year around 99% of our students are coming from elsewhere in the UK or the world. Many are here with a previous career behind them, some coming as an alternative to university. Students at Rowden are anywhere between 18 and 80. Universally there are logistics to consider.
Can I do this? Where will I live? Where is good for my family? How will I get around? What is Devon or the UK like? We can help with all of these questions. Our FAQ’s page will answer most but get in touch if you would like to discuss your specific situation.
Course Tuition Fees:
One Month Woodworking Course: £3,486