Furniture making weekend course at Williams & Cleal Furniture School, Lydeard St Lawrence, Somerset.

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Jul 2, 2014
North West Somerset
Hi All,

Just a quick report on my weekend. I spent it learning to make a piece of fine furniture (a bench stool) at Williams and Cleal Furniture School, up the road from me in Lydeard St Lawrence, in Somerset. For those who aren’t that keen to read all the text, here are a couple of pictures of my stool, with the Osmo oil drying on it:

Bench Stool : designed by Jane Cleal, made by me :)


In the past my woodworking adventures - certainly as far as furniture went - have only ever been at the basic level, e.g garden furniture. I wanted to learn the skills necessary to bring my capabilities up to a better level, and so last autumn, I booked onto the weekend course for March this year. As to be expected the schedule changed quite a bit with the virus, and so the course was delayed many months until now.

The course has no pre-requisites for woodworking skills, and so although I know one end of a tool from the other, I was determined to get as much out of the course as possible. I was not disappointed. While some machine tools were used (router, mortise cutter, bandsaw etc), all of the other work was done by hand. We were given a plan drawing, and a suggested order of execution to get the piece made. After that we (there were 6 of us pupils) were drawn into the world of very precise measuring, marking out and hand working wood to very fine tolerances, where the thickness of a pencil line drawn with a propelling pencil was considered rather too clumsy. The pencil lead can be sharpened on sandpaper! I should say that marking out was done with bladed tools and the lines reinforced with pencil to make them more easily visible. While the precision required appeals to my engineering OCD-ness streak, actually transferring measurements to wood is a deal less straightforward, but I got there in the end.

We were supplied with all the materials (English Ash, sandpaper, wood glue, Osmo oil etc etc), and very good quality tools to use (Veritas and Lie Nielsen brands come to mind among many others). Thankfully all of the chisels and planes were perfectly sharpened for us in advance. We were taught how to set them up and use them all to their best effect. This was very important as I hadn’t ever used some of the tool types required, for example wheel marking gauges. It also became very clear that making good jigs was a key idea to getting the best out of machine tools such as the router. Definitely something I shall be looking into in my own small workshop.

We were taught by Jane Cleal herself, ably abetted by Sophie Moraveg. As is often the case with very experienced people both Jane and Sophie passed on many more tips and tricks than I would have thought possible in two day’s worth of remarkably patient tutoring (certainly in my case...), and plenty of tea and coffee was provided to and consumed by us thirsty students.

So, the course was two days in length, all materials, tools, ear defenders, masks and tea/coffee were supplied, and the necessary Covid precautions were observed. All done in a lovely workshop in the Somerset countryside. You have to bring your own lunch and wear sensible shoes. Cost? £310 including VAT. Worth it? In my case, definitely, yes.

I am now booked in for the box making weekend course, and the ‘total precision handtool techniques’ courses that are coming up. I cant wait :)


Cheers, Bob
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Jan 21, 2005
S. Lanarkshire
Sounds absolutely excellent.
Brilliant birthday or Christmas present for someone too.
I do like your stool, it looks 'right', it looks sound and a decent piece of practical furniture, a nice thing to have in the house.


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