Moderated Answers to Questions from readersThis Message page is moderated and only genuine greetings, comments and questions are posted. They are selected and posted periodically to give visitors the benefit of solutions that may help your problem. I remove your surname and email address for privacy. If you object to your message becoming public please let me know and I'll make it anonymous.
address any greetings, comments or questions regarding woodwork related topics to:
Please include your home town and country and it would help me if you could say how you found my web page and the search engine you use. I am sorry but I cannot always reply to your questions.
I am very keen to design and construct my own bedroom furniture but unfortunately I am only a very keen DIY fan and do not feel that confident with the design I have in mind. Without purchasing a £20 book is there any websites were I can find a step to step guide and/or an option of various ways to construct such a beast....
I hope I am asking the right person as I am surfing this web without much success
It is not an easy task but I have listed below some web pages that provide plans for various furniture.
However, they don't always tell you HOW to make them.
On my web site I introduce you to basic techniques for you to develop but the process of actually making furniture is beyond the aim of my articles.
I think your best bet is having a look at Practical Woodworker or Woodworker, or Cabinet Making magazines in Smiths and see what they are currently featuring. In such magazines they do show you how to make things and lead you through the processes.
You may even buy past copies of articles of features that you are attracted to.
I do hope that you can find a good article and follow it with my tips. Once you have made one piece I am sure that it will snowball to many more.
Your site has been most helpful thus far while making the uprights for an office table.
I now want to make the table top as illustrated in the picture.
It shows a Japanese privacy screen used as a base to carry glass for a table top.
I thought of routing a dove tail joint but this will be hard work.
A mitre saw seems essential but I cannot see any joints besides the cross lap joints.
To be absolutely flat and straight as well as strong enough to put on 6mm plate glass requires something more than butt joints. Do you agree?
Please do some thinking for me.
I am sure that the screen will make an adequate top and you could fix glass to it. You will need some brass or chrome fixings or perhaps wooden moulding to enclose it. At a push you could even screw it down with mirror screws.
For the base you will need a firm carcase or table construction. See http://www.geoffswoodwork.co.uk/carcases.htm for some ideas.
You are right; you will need more than butt joints. Good old mortise and tenons seem more appropriate. Mitre joints are decorative but do not transfer much weight. Slotted angle plates would suffice to fix the top to the leg assembly.
Simple Coffee Table
I have just stumbled across your site and find it very intriguing. I have recently developed an interest in wood work, but now realise I know nothing about it. I was never interested in it at school; therefore I don’t have a clue what I’m doing! But I am really keen to make amends now.
Do you know where I could find simple step by step instructions on how to make a simple coffee table - basically, an Idiots guide to making a coffee table!!
I would be really appreciative if you could help.
what you need is to subscribe to a woodworking magazine who specialise in these kind of articles.
If you go to your local W.H Smiths branch have a look at their magazine shelves and see what the various publications are currently featuring.
Otherwise you could buy a plan from the various sites on the web or from advertisements in the magazines.
You may find recommendations to magazines and plan services on my web site.
I enclose construction plans for a bedside cupboard. It is copyright by A Gregory in his book Constructive Woodwork for schools, Dryad Press. Long out of print.
Construction is a straightforward box construction with a framed door and already covered in my notes on the web but I would offer the following:
Middle drawer may be fitted in a stopped dado of fitted loose onto wooden cleats.
Top is secured by screws through front and back top rails. Top may overlap by half inch front and sides only.
Back should be of approx quarter inch ply or MDF and grooved or rebated into the back. But in cheaper work it may fixed by pinning on flush. Shelf should allow for this
Top rails may be halved dovetails.
The Bottom should normally in top class work, be dovetailed. However see alternative set up where the bottom may again be fitted onto cleats fitted onto the side. The plinth is grooved into the sides. It looks better for the plinth to be set back about half inch max.
Door is framed (haunched M&T) with a panel grooved or set into rebate with mouldings to secure. It should be set in and not flush front fitted.
You could raise the shelf and fit a drawer instead and in this case a frame could be substituted for the shelf board for the drawer rail and runners.
Materials - what ever you have or want to afford!
It could be in pine boards and painted or in a local hard wood and varnished.
Hope this helps, best wishes,
Grand Father Clock Plans
I'm in South Africa and am very interested in woodworking. I already build some stuff but want to build a grandfather clock but I want a plan for that.
Is it possible that you can help me please?
It seems that here in South Africa is nobody who can help me
Try these links. I have also included Craft supplies who can supply the mechanism.
One of my students recently made a grandfather clock. He first bought the mechanism, pendulum, face, hands etc, and then designed his clock around the parts. He got the ideas from antique clock pictures. See the results at: http://www.geoffswoodwork.co.uk/photopage3.htm
My name is Suzi and I am studying Resistant Materials at GCSE level. My project is on a storage system. My theme is to store my horse riding equipment, as I am a keen horse rider and have been for many years. My problem is that I gave my teacher my work, as he said that his friend could do some improvements on it and help to do my lid of the project. I have had no response from him, and am getting concerned that I am not going to get it finished. I have until the 24th March. Could you give me any advice on how I could make my lid as a saddle shape that would be fast and easy to make, but still look good and gain me good marks in my exam? I would greatly appreciate it if u could email me back as soon as possible with any advice you can give.
Why not make the saddle shape out of papier mache? This may then be painted into your wood shade. I would use a ply flat bottom for the lid and use some wire netting to get the initial shape and then finish with the paper, etc.
Hope this helps,
I am currently in third year in St Declan's College, Dublin and will soon be sitting my Junior Cert Examination. One of the subjects I am taking is woodwork. For part of my woodwork exam i must design and make a book/magazine holder. For this book/magazine holder it must hold no more than 10 books and 5 magazines. I would be very grateful if you e-mailed me back with the answers to the following questions.
What would be a suitable wood to use for this book/magazine holder?
Also some design ideas for the book/magazine holder as described above.
Can you give me some suggestions for a literary theme for this project
Suitable finishes for this book/magazine holder.
I would appreciate it very much if you could answer my questions as soon as possible as I am stuck for time.
Many thanks for your time.
I cannot give my full name due to Junior Cert Examination ruling, my exam No.11062
Please read my
notes on design on my web page and the basic construction
What would be a suitable wood to use for this book/magazine holder? Redwood pine, Red Meranti, or Japanese Oak depending on availability and what you can afford.
Suitable finishes for this book/magazine holder: 3 coats of matt, silk or vinyl polyurethane.
I have been asked about this a number of times and you all get the same answer.
Rocking Chair plans
I am making a rocking chair for my GCSE project. I need some plans and advice on how to make one. Can you help me?
You should study the Stanley Tools How to do it series and my foundation and planning pages all on Foundation course subjects to get a good oversight of what to do.
Go to a Search Engine such as Google and
search for free woodwork, or more specific 'free rocking chair plans' and
find one that you can follow.
I want to make a work surface for my kitchen. Is there any special treatment required for the timber?
Kerensa & Antony,
There are two main concerns, sealing the grain particularly end grain to stop ingress of water and moisture and hygiene. For hygiene make sure there are no cracks or crevices to collect dirt and bugs.
You will also need to have a certain overhang to prevent drips and capillary action as the board meets the sink areas, etc. It would be prudent to use a sealant between the opening of the board and the sink unit and it must overlap the edge of the sink at least an inch. The weight of the board is usually enough to locate it but a wall fixing is probably necessary. I recall years ago it use to get rather black and smelly in this area if you were not too careful. Fashion ruled that we threw all the natural beech draining boards together with the Belfast sinks and replaced them with Formica and stainless steel.
Regarding the treatment. I would go for one of two options.
a. A good external grade polyurethane using a number of rubbed down coats - at least 4. I would start with 50 : 50 varnish to white spirits (turpentine). A plastics varnish may also be available. Rustins use to do a preparation in two parts (cold cured lacquer).
Or b. The natural route; using an oil of which there is numerous available. Have a look at the catalogues for a suitable one. Again Rustins is one that use to be good and again four coats.
In both cases make sure there is good cover, particularly end grain. Make sure also that you coat certainly 50 mm (2 inches) underneath because you are bound to get moisture getting under. I would coat underneath too at least two coats.
By the way, if you could get it, Elm doesn't mind too much moisture. (It was used for coffins)
With all natural timbers especially wide boards the timber may warp or cup. The only way to avoid this is to have well seasoned timber and seal it well and maintain it. If you are jointing the timber make sure you arrange the timber end grain alternatively to reduce the effect. (but don't be too surprised if you do get some movement)
Also, in use don't allow pools of water to build up. Always wipe dry and wipe over occasionally with oil. If you are concerned about foodstuffs use kitchen oil rubbed on with wire wool (such as sunflower seed, etc) - it will be fine but don't allow it to build up or it may go rancid.
In all cases follow the manufacturers’ instructions for the particular product you are using. I am afraid I cannot guarantee anything of the above but is given in the best intentions.
Types of Joints
I wondered if you could help me by telling of the different sorts of joints I could use to secure rails to a table. I am currently in my G.C.S.E Design Technology course. This would be a great help.
Go to my site at http://www.geoffswoodwork.co.uk/stanley.htm and have a look at the listed frame and carcase constructions.
Dear Geoff Malthouse,
I thought I would send you an e-mail to congratulate you on an excellent web page. I am currently working at Burton College and wonder if it would be possible to use some of the pages as handout to my 1st year students. I will be giving the details of your web page to the students so they can see for themselves.
Thank you for your comments.
You may use the Stanley pages and freely distribute them.
My material you may use provided I am attributed and that you do not use them for resale or profit.
Can you point me in the right direction? I have a piece of furniture with badly marked and scratched veneer. I would like to strip off the varnish/polish and re-polish - what is the best method?
Quite a question.
My first answer would be to leave it alone unless you have some experience!
It depends on the value of the piece. Is it antique or contemporary?
However if you are determined to have a go I would first learn as much about veneers and finishings as you can and try out some of the techniques on some thing that doesn’t matter too much or on scraps of polished or unpolished boards, etc.
I would not remove the veneer unless you have had extensive experience and have some form of press or lots of cramps and 'cauls' etc to glue down the replacement. Please leave it on and if necessary, repair it.
I think your best bet would be to cut back the old polish and fill the scratches and defects with a coloured matched stopping or if smaller wax crayon or beaumontage.
Consider painting it if it is contemporary and not an expensive piece. A vinyl emulsion, silk or matte in a coloured hue sometimes looks good in a modern setting.
Read up on the subject starting here http://www.furnitureknowledge.com/how_to_refinish.htm and find more on the subject.
Find a friendly local cabinet maker and or restorer and talk to them about it.
Are there any local classes at College?
Think it all out before you commit yourself.
Cutting a straight edge with a jigsaw
I love the website, and will no doubt make use of it.
I am a single mum who decided to make a rabbit hutch for the fun of it. I have lots of ideas and other websites to look at for ideas, and managed to complete one for my rabbits, and then went on to make a collapsible run for them. I attach photos.
Remember I am a complete novice and have never done anything like this before.
A couple of friends have commented how good it is, and asked if I could make one for them. I am quite happy to try anything involved with DIY, I love it!
However, I have found a problem in cutting neat edges, and getting straight cut edges. I purchased a jigsaw under guidance of my local DIY store, but I have to use a rasp and sandpaper all the time to get them neat. Staff at various stores are always helpful, but never seem to have any specialist knowledge, they are mainly young people who tend to read the boxes, which doesn't help me.
I am really enjoying myself, you never know it could be a new career for me, - I love working with wood. Making a hutch for me is one thing as it doesn't matter if it is a bit uneven, but making hutches to sell to friends is another, and I really want to get it right.
I have found a great timber yard where they are really helpful, but wonder if you could recommend a tool, presumably some sort of electric saw, which I could use to get nice straight neat edges.
Hope you can understand the above.
You seem to be doing quite well with your hutches. They look good!
I think you need a guide for your jigsaw. I have sent you a catalogue page about the ProGrip Clamp Guide from Axminster Power tools. Or you may find one locally.
A straight edge is best done with a portable circular saw though. You could buy a small one for about £50 in B&Q or Home Base etc. Don’t buy a large one. They are heavier and less handy. The saw will work better with this guide also.
Hope this helps,
Thank you so much for all the info you sent me. Have investigated the guide clamps and found prices much cheaper at www.toolstation.co.uk for the same thing, but different make. Ordered some hinges from them recently, had good service.
The hutch may look ok, but close up there are gaps where the wood doesn't meet as it is not straight. You would not believe the silly things I have learnt by trial and error (or maybe you would ha ha) such as always drill a hole before putting in screws or the wood will split. It's all good fun!!
Am investigating possibility of doing a course in woodwork, would love a course for women, but seems it's the wrong time of year.
The Coronet Consort Universal Woodworking Machine
I found your website when I was searching for Coronet.
I have the Coronet Consort with the Planer.
I find this a superb piece of equipment - why can't we buy equipment like this today!
I am thinking of adding the Thicknessor attachment.
How good do you find this item? Does it really work?
Also, you mention an extension to the Planer table for jointing.
How did you do this?
Your opinions would be very welcome and much appreciated.
Thanks for your comments.
The Coronet was certainly a very well made and engineered product.
Unfortunately it went out of business because I believe; they found that it actually cost a lot more in production terms than they were selling it for. The true costs apparently were too high for the market. Record tools bought it out together with the Arundel Lathe. Their current lathes show features of these two makes.
Despite it being a first class machine I think it would have some difficulty getting up to a modern specification to satisfy fully the HSE?
The overhead thicknessor attachment works very well and is accurate. It is a bit on the hard going because it is hand fed so it is prudent to take small cuts at a time. There is the 4 ½ inch and a 7 inch version.
On the 4.5inch self motored version, the Sovereign; they factory built on a longer bed to make it a jointer. You can get on quite well with the shorter attachment though. I think the 7 inch independent version was called the Capital. You could get a bolt on extension for this but rather than being solid it had a roller on the end of the out-feed and on the in-feed table to extend it. I have seen both a Capital and a Sovereign being sold on Ebay. The Sovereign went for about £120 and the Capital wasn’t sold.
Hope this helps.
For any further info I suggest you get in touch with Derek Pyatt at http://www.coronetwoodworking.co.uk/Home.html
He now flies the Coronet Major flag and is able to provide maintenance and supplies for this machine although in limitations.
Many thanks for your reply.
I will visit Derek Pyatt soon to see what else he can tempt me with.
Making Fence Panels
I don't know of any such machine that is specific to 'making' fence panels. I wouldn't have thought it was completely mechanised process. However I am in the small semi-mechanised workshop trades and could have overlooked such manufacturing processes.
I would imagine that pre-prepared material of the right section size and profile would be cut into lengths using a radial cross cut saw (or 'chop-saw') with a length stop fitted to cut all the uprights and a similar set up for the rails. These panels are quite thin so I suppose they order them from the timber supplier as a 'special' or cut them from thick stock using a rip saw.
They could then be set out on a steel jig to get the appropriate spacing and layout and an operator go down the lines firing in nails from a compressed air gun.
The whole fence could then be dipped into preserver tank and stacked.
I hope this helps.
Choice of tools
This is a marvelous site! I am fairly new to woodworking, and am thrilled to have a resource like yours. Excellent.
Your opinion would be valued on this question:
I have enough funds for the following tools and wonder which group you think I should purchase first with the rest to come later (I currently own a 10" contractor table saw, .)
Choice A: Jointer, Planer, Drill Press, Clamps
Choice B: Drill Press, Band Saw, Jointer OR Planer (not both), Clamps
Next year (6 months) I will have the capacity to buy the "other" choice. I guess the question really is, Band Saw now? And if so, which to drop out, Jointer or Planer (or both). I know that it will depend a lot on the kind of woodworking I want to do. I want to get into cabinetry and furniture. However, I am just starting out, and I don't know which I might more valuable straightaway.
Your thoughts genuinely appreciated.
Glendora, California, USA
Thank you for your comments.
Before you buy more machinery I would make sure that I had the basic hand tools and portable power tools. Especially the setting out tools such as gauges, squares, etc. I presume you have a powered drill, jigsaw, sanders, perhaps a circular saw, biscuit jointer, and router with a selection of cutters.
Next you need a good supply of Clamps now. (you cant make anything without clamping up after applying the adhesive) My next choice would be a crosscutting arm (attachment?) for the saw or buy a radial or crosscutting saw or chop type saw. (accurate end grain cutting is paramount for jointing cabinets, drawers, and boxes, etc.
How about setting up your router now on a shop made router table?
Then the jointer and thicknessor. (you can get away with buying ready planed timber in this experience seeking period)
Next the band saw and finally the drill press. You can get on without these and use the portable drill or jigsaw in the early stages.
No matter what I say there will be always someone who will differ though! But I have given my reasons.
Hope this helps,
Using the Surfacer
I am from Botswana and I am busy trying to make a Crib Bed from plans my sister-in law sent me from Canada.
I have made two coffee tables out of Mukwa for my two sons, but I have a problem in trying to work the wood to make sure that the timber Is straight.
When one buys timber here in Botswana the planks are generally slightly twisted or bent.
I have a 10” planer/thicknessor to work the wood with, but no matter what I do I can not seem to get the pieces flat and straight.
I would appreciate some help.
Have a nice day.
We seem to have the same problem in the UK. I think that we expect timber to be perfect and it isn’t. When you buy your timber it should be stacked on well supported stickers and allowed to finish off its drying and settle down. Unfortunately in today’s fast pace it is not always possible to ‘lie down’ timber for another day.
Now about your planing.
The main thing to realise is that the surfacer doesn’t flatten wood for you. You have to position the timber so that the high spots are planed off first in a similar way that you would if you were using a bench plane. Until you get the high spots off which are normally at opposite corners, in the case of 'winding' boards, you cannot hope to get the board flat.
The surfacer should only be used to flatten the face and one edge. If you are not careful you may loose most of your thickness trying to flatten the board and there will none left of it. So sometimes you have to compromise. If you have a decent flat well prepared surface it is not always necessary to have the other side perfect? It will, perhaps be underneath or at the back? Once you have flattened it and produced a square edge the board has probably an irregular thickness. The thicknessor is used to bring the board to your required thickness using the surfaced face against the in feed table to get it parallel to the face.
When using the surfacer please make sure the bridge guard is always in position covering the revolving blades and never allow your fingers to cross the blades whether they are covered or not.
You should get hold of the book "Machine Woodworking" by Nick Rudkin and published by Arnold. You should be able to get it via your local Amazon site. It will prove very useful for all your basic wood machining techniques.
Hope this helps,
Hi, My name is Hamantha, 29, from RUGBY, I have been looking for a chance to get trained in this industries, because I have a born talent for wood working, so I really need professional help to develop my skills. To day I got the opportunity to go through your web, to tell you I'm so please with your courses. Decided to get train with you, but I couldn't find a place close to my home. I’m hoping to get trained in cabinet, furniture or pantry cupboard making, so could you help me to find a place near to my home. Also can you send more information about your Institute?
I have no knowledge of your locality however; have a look at the prospective of your nearby colleges. You could search the web for the colleges or call into your local library. Sometimes there are some computers in Job Centres, etc that allow you to search for training.
You may even be able to get a free course if you are unemployed or other situations. There is usually a full time course which is about 3 days per week. Ask about Bench joinery or cabinet making/ furniture making courses. Bench Joinery is about making door and window frames etc. But at least it will give the basic woodworking skills. Carpentry site skills is not what you appear to be looking for that is usually site work just fitting wood with hammer and nails (flooring and roofs, etc.) (don't quote me!)
I do hope you find something.
Try http://www.hotcourses.com/ for a search in your area. Input 'woodwork' for a general trawl and whether you want full time, part time or evening courses.
On the other hand you could teach yourself. Set up a workshop in your garage, spare room or shed perhaps. Follow my basic course on the web and buy some good books. I have listed the major ones. They are not always available in small town shops but if you have Smiths they usually will order them for you if you give them the details I quote. I buy a lot of books on the internet and find it convenient and often cheaper. Try Amazon or Abebooks for second hand books. Both addresses are on my Resources page on the web.
Practice your techniques and make things. When ever you have made something have a good look at it and list your mistakes and what you could do to improve your techniques and design.
You could when you have a bit of skill and confidence seek out a local woodworker, perhaps a small business and see if they would take you on. Indeed some employers would prefer a mature improver than a school leaver with all the associated problems. You can always start as a labourer or helper until they see your worth and take you on as a bench worker. Be prepared to get your hands dirty! Many people come this way into the trade.
Have a firm and resolute determination for what you want to do and go for it.
I teach Carpentry and Joinery at college to level 1,2 and 3 students I am finding it hard to source any visual aids to help my teaching. I am looking for videos or DVDs' or posters, etc. do you know of any on the market or where to find them.
Looking forward to your reply
CITB do some good videos for C&J. I had a set covering, hanging doors, locks, architraves and skirtings. They also do a manual for each one and the student may go through the manual, watch the video and then have a go at hanging the door, etc. They are very good for the one or two students who come in who have missed the lesson or for ‘self paced learning’.
GMC publications do lots of videos and DVD’s especially like sharpening tools, varnishing, etc. Probably more towards the DIY but nonetheless quite interesting if they are discussed before and after. Some are a bit over the top. I had one on a radial arm saw which did every thing. I mean everything. Videos on routers are much the same – they include processes that could or perhaps should be done on a specific machine. Still as long as you discuss the features it will help in the teaching process.
If you telephone CITB publications they send out a catalogue.
Then again they are a bit on the expensive side……
Hope this helps,
If you download these Stanley sheets and print them out at about A3 they will make good posters; go to http://homepage.ntlworld.com/g.e.malthouse/
18 year old Carpentry/Joinery student seeking an apprenticeship in the Warwickshire area. Has completed one year of Furniture Craft & Design. Half way through first year of Carpentry & Joinery course at Rugby College. Has written to many local companies without success. Any advice would be appreciated.
Your training is showing a little of a mixture. I see design, furniture, carpentry, joinery all of which are different. You must try to dedicate on one subject and concentrate on that. I know the right courses are not always available locally and you have to take on the closest. I would go for Bench Joinery. That would give you the most flexible training to specialise in later. It is easier to convert to cabinet making and even site carpentry from joinery but very difficult to go from carpentry to say cabinet making or even bench work. Try also to get your wood machining units while at college.
The first rung of the ladder is always the hardest and not necessarily the right one. You must keep on trying even taking up labouring but in the trade or workshop where you want to be. Then at least you will be in a position to prove your talents and obtain internal vacancies that are never advertised.
Don’t rule out setting up yourself and taking on jobs yourself.
Get all your tools together. If possible set up a workshop at home, in the garage, shed, etc.
And read, read, read books and magazines of your chosen trade.
In the mean time keep on writing and knocking on door. Someone turning up asking for the chance of a job is still quite effective. Be prepared to put yourself out until you have proven yourself.
Hope this helps,
Training for C&J
I am very interested in becoming more skilled in carpentry & joinery and gain a qualification in the trade, if you can help in this mater please contact me.
I would recommend that you enrol at your local college on a day release or evening class in Carpentry and Joinery. However I would recommend you take the Bench Joinery option because this would give you more transferable skills. If you already have your NVQ's try to find a college that offer Institute of Carpenters exams.
I recommend you buy these books and read them through and through:
Brian Porter & Reg Rose ~ Carpentry Joinery - Work Activities, Arnold, 0 340 69241 3
Les Goring ~ The Arnold Manual of First & Second Fixing Carpentry, Arnold, 0 340 67773 2
At work try to get varied work in order to gain experience and work out who are the better craftsmen and try to get teamed up with them and learn from them.
Hope all goes well for you,
Redundant and seeking retraining
There are I am afraid, not many places that offer distance learning courses for the crafts. My Institute (IOC) has considered offering such courses and I have been involved writing for them but they are not close to getting them out.
I have put together quite a lot of material on my website and if you download all the notes you should be able to follow the theory required.
I have tried to explain the practical basics but it helps so much if you have someone to show you and put you right. Go to http://www.geoffswoodwork.co.uk/page%20two.htm to get my notes. They are free but I offer no personal tuition.
Have a look at the prospective of your nearby colleges. You may be able to get a free course if you are unemployed. If they do not offer cabinet making or hand crafted furniture making try Bench Joinery. That is making door and window frames etc. But at least it will give you basic woodworking skills. Carpentry and Joinery site skills is not what you are looking for that is usually just fitting and fixing on a building site.
I do hope you find something.
Thank you for returning my e-mail. As you suggested I requested, received and studied number of prospectuses from local FE Colleges. Moreover, I had a chat with my local employment agency and I am pleased to say that because of my current employment status and age, I am entitled to a waver of fees provided that I remain available for work whilst carrying out any part-time course undertaken.
In view of this I have enrolled with a local FE offering a part-time evening course in basic woodworking skills and furniture design. The course lasts for a period of 10 weeks. This now gives me a foundation and platform to take the studies further at a later date.
Please accept my sincere thanks for the time taken to read and return my e-mails. I shall continue to visit your website and links provided in the hope that I shall be able to absorb and apply the principles outlined to my own and the benefit of others.
Part Time evening courses
I am trying to locate the best woodworking course to attend on a part time (evening) basis. I already have knowledge of basic techniques through school and practical application. Through my own experience I have constructed radiator cabinets, shelving units and a few other items of furniture, as well as construction in renovating my own and friends house's including kitchen worktops, cladding, false ceilings, skirting, door hanging etc.
I am looking for a course that will allow me to understand how to use bigger machinery like spindle moulders, panel saws etc, better techniques for furniture construction and knowledge of wood as a material and its applications.
Some of the courses I have looked at look a little basic and others have stipulated entry requirements. Can you recommend anything? I do not mind paying tuition fees if private colleges offer a better course.
My home town is Kingston in Surrey, although I work in the city, and would favour colleges in the area in between.
If you go to http://www.hotcourses.com/ you can search for a course in your area. Of course check your local college and see what they offer.
Many colleges do evening courses and it isn't always necessary to have industrial experience. Go for a 'Progression' or other non NVQ'S course that is available. A relevant course is Hand Crafted Furniture making and colleges offer upholstery as well as cabinet making. Do not take the 'Site Practice' units of Carpentry & Joinery but the units of ‘Bench Joinery' may suit you because they make doors, windows, kitchen units etc. They may not offer wood machinery although it is possible to 'bolt' it on.
If however you can get a C&G 6955 Progression Award in Hand crafted cabinet making that would suit all your bench and machinery needs.
But anyhow, buy and read some good books. See my recommendations. Get your basic set of tools and a bench space in your garage and keep on making things and improving your techniques and expertise. Examine what you have made and try to do better each time and use more advanced techniques. It is surprising what you can do with basic tools. I've had them all but I have sold off many tools and machines I didn't really need. You can do anything if you really want to!
If you have any more questions please feel free to ask.
My father will be visiting from the US in November. He is interested in taking a short course or two on woodworking while in the UK. However, I'm having trouble finding a good resource to browse available courses or even schools. Can you please recommend a few for me?
Try searching using http://www.hotcourses.com/ at the places you are staying.
Or, write to FFINTO the furniture trades national training organisation at the link at the bottom of the page at http://www.ffinto.org/
Craft Supplies do some short courses at Craft Supplies and John Boddys at JOHN BODDYS FINE WOOD & TOOL STORE LTD. Boroughbridge North Yorkshire YO51 9LJ
Tel: (01423) 322370 E-mail: email@example.com
Advice on carpentry careers and training
Firstly I'd like to say what a great site you have. You must get inundated with questions.
I'm a 27 year old career changer keen to develop a career in carpentry. I'm interested in so many areas (traditional restoration/timber framing, bespoke furniture, fitting out high quality interiors, boat building) that I don't know where to start. I'm hoping to find an intensive course that will develop my core carpentry skills and gain necessary qualifications as quickly as possible. My redundancy package means I have the time and funds to re-train. The other option is to find an employer now and do day release.
In your opinion what would be the best route, and do you know of any intensive courses in my area?
Really hope you can help.
thanks for your comments.
I think if you wish to train I would opt for the trade of Carpenter and Joiner but with the Bench Skills options rather than 'site practice'. Site Practice is really only fitting pre-made joinery into buildings and Bench Joinery is actually making joinery and includes fitting 'second-fix' on site which includes skirtings, architraves, hang door and fitting locks etc. This will give you far more 'transferable skills' and enable you to then go to site or cabinet making later as the market opens up.
There are some full time courses available at colleges which are usually about 12 to 16 hours a week. Part time courses are only one day per week and available to someone employed on a day release basis. You may find also some evening courses that do vocational courses.
I suggest you get the prospective of all your nearby and a bit further colleges in your area and see what they are offering.
If you search the internet for your local colleges you should be able to access their programmes.
Having a job in the trade certainly helps and if they send you to college you should have a good chance. However if you can afford it try to go full time and take two years to get qualified and then go out and get a job for experience. Try to get a job as an unskilled labourer in a workshop or whatever until you get some hand on experience before you try for a joiners job.
It is not always wise to say that you are college trained and have no experience on site or in the workshop though! Sometimes it is wise to keep quiet especially the smaller employers.
Hope this helps. Please let me know how you get on.
Cabinet Making Courses
Dear Mr Malthouse
I would be very grateful for your advice, after my disability forced me to leave a career with the Inland Revenue; I started to "dabble" with woodworking. That was twelve years ago, I have recently applied to Carlisle college Cumbria and was accepted on a fine cabinet making course. Due to lack of interest however the course was cancelled. I am unable to travel or study away from home due to family commitments, can you tell me if there are courses that can be taken from home. I have built up an extensive range of tools so working from home would be ideal. The course I was due to start, was equivalent to an NVQ 3
There are I am afraid, not many places that offer distance learning courses for the crafts. My Institute (IOC) has considered offering such courses and I have been involved writing for them but they are not close to getting them out.
There are a few on the internet but I can’t vouch for them.
I have put together quite a lot of material on my website and if you download all the notes you should be able to follow the theory required.
I have tried to explain the practical basics but it helps so much if you have someone to show you and put you right. Go to http://www.geoffswoodwork.co.uk/page two.htm to get my notes. They are free but I offer no personal tuition.
Have a look at again the prospective of your nearby colleges. You may be able to get a free course if you are unemployed. If they do not offer cabinet making or hand crafted furniture making try Bench Joinery. That is making door and window frames etc. But at least it will give you basic woodworking skills. Carpentry and Joinery site skills is not what you are looking for that is usually just fitting and fixing on a building site.
Buy also the Joyce book. It is very good and also look at the other titles I recommend on my Resources page. http://www.geoffswoodwork.co.uk/pagefive.html
I do hope you find something.
Looking for College in London area
I'm looking for full or part time woodworking courses in the central London area.
I have developed an interest in the subject through refitting a boat & learning by the seat of my pants.
I would now like to learn properly as I have also become interested in furniture making.
As I already have a degree in design I feel that a course which would teach me the fundamentals of constructing would be more useful than anything too artistically orientated.
Can you help?
The main colleges in London offering C&J courses are:-
Hammersmith & West London, Lambeth, Richmond, Hackney, Lewisham, College of N W London (Wilesden), College of N E London (Tottenham), Macbeth Centre (comes under Hammersmith & Fulham Council), Croydon, Ewell, Building Crafts College (Stratford). You may find that most of these colleges have waiting lists
Messages about Wood and Materials
The Plane Tree
I'm in the south of France.
The local lumber yard has some beautiful ‘Platan’, or 'plain tree' I think it's called in English, in 38mm planks for sale. I would like to use it for my kitchen worktop but it is only 2 years dry. I imagine I would slice it into strips and glue it up, alternating the growth direction to prevent it from warping but I'd like to keep these strips to a maximum width as the grain of the wood is so impressive. Furthermore, will the treatment of the top face lead to cupping or warping in the years to come?
I welcome your suggestions on the issue.
Radial cut will distort far less and shouldn’t need cutting into smaller boards. These boards will also show signs of a 'lace' pattern especially those close to the quarter.
If the boards are tangential they would benefit from cutting into strips and as you say jointed with alternating faces.
If the boards are going to be in contact with moisture perhaps you should 'cleat' underneath with a strengthening piece screwed through elongated holes to allow some movement. (See http://www.geoffswoodwork.co.uk/joints more.htm ) Who knows what wood is going to do in the future. You just have to work out the possibilities and try to work the best possible solution.
Try to get the timber seasoned to its 'equilibrium moisture content' for the environment it will be living in. Therefore perhaps a moist kitchen does not need bone dry timber? Once you have completed your joinery, seal it well with a varnish or oil, top and bottom.
Hope this helps.
Lightweight wood for Yoga Blocks
Hello I ran across your website in a Google search. My question is about lightweight hard wood. I am making some yoga blocks. I don't know if you know what they are but they are props used in yoga. The dimension of the block is 3.5"x5.5"x9". Most of the hardwoods I find will end up weighing around 9 or 10 pounds. That is a little heavy. I am trying to find a wood that is not to heavy, that has and interesting grain and not just insanely expensive. Actually I guess it doesn't have to be a hardwood now that I think about it. Pine just doesn't work for me. But is there is a good hardwood that is light let me know. If not then I guess I can move on to looking for a softer wood. I have to admit I don't know anything much about wood. This is a new project. Just thought I might get your input.
Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA
Well, you are asking someone who lives on another continent and not familiar with your local species.
However, I will try to help but you may well be advised to ask locally.
American Red Oak has a density of approx 790 kg/cubic metre (sorry I also work in metric) but you may use this as a comparison.
Regarding hardwoods: Red Alder is 529 kg/cubic metre – pale yellow to reddish brown and is soft and weak.
American Whitewood is 510 kg/cubic metre – sapwood whitish, heartwood – olive green to yellow – brown.
Softwoods you may want to consider:
Cedar spp., say Western Red - 390 kg/cubic metre
The true Firs such as: Balsam, Grand and Noble, etc. – about 450 kg/cubic metre
All these appear to be lighter and weaker than the majority.
Hope this helps,
I am building a chest using cherry. The side panels are veneer on MDF.
When finishing, I sanded a portion of the veneer too much. When I applied stain, the softer (sanded too much) area became much darker than the surrounding.
I tried adding more stain to blend the colour, but I am having no success.
Do you have a suggestion on how I can improve the mess I made?
It appears you have got a problem. Can you consider a different finish?
Why not completely re-veneer over the mess?
Some people can paint on a fake grain effect with feathers?
Can you insert a thin cherry veneered ply sheet?
How about sticking over a fabric or leather material?
If you can cut back all your varnish and stain you could seal the grain with a PVA solution, let it dry and then the stain won’t penetrate through the thin veneer.
Sorry Howard, that's the best I can think of.
I came across your website while trying to discover more about Resorcinol-Formaldehyde adhesives.
My particular interest is snowboard manufacture, which uses a vertically laminated wood core, encapsulated in composite materials.
Some of the requirements include the ability to steam-bend the core following lamination, and for the core to remain durable and have good fatigue performance. This led me to believe that RF adhesive might probably be the best solution for this application.
Can you recommend an RF product available on the market in the UK?
In case you're interested I also have a website related to snowboard manufacture at www.grafsnowboards.com
I am sorry but I do not have any experience with the RF end of the adhesive market.
I do know that it is of the 'engineering adhesives' and has very good properties but I have no experience of using it in the applications I deal in.
I have however a possible product which may give you a start:
Aerodux is a resorcinol-phenol-formaldehyde adhesive see their data sheet at http://www.sky-craft.co.uk/acatalog/Skycraft_Sales_Adhesives_177.html
I am sorry that is the best I can do for you.
Many thanks Geoff.
That was exactly what we were looking for !
An excellent website. I live in Bristol, UK and generally use Yahoo as my search engine. My question was answered vaguely by the website but I would like to check something with you. I have been given the trunk of a felled plum tree; it is about 7' long and 5-6" in diameter, complete with bark, some root, and 'Y' branch at the top. I intend to use this for woodturning so how should I season it properly at home? It was my original intention to leave he bark on, cut it into 15" lengths and seal the ends, then store it in my shed for a year or so before bringing it into a centrally heated workshop. Sometime later I would use it to make small items for use inside. What do you think?
I reckon you should at least split the logs through the heart line.
Leave the bark on if you wish and allow to dry as naturally as possible in the way you suggested.
Treat any success as a bonus!
But you should get some usable pieces. I use to turn some nice bowls out of half logs, the bark being on the rim, the heart at the base. I would start by drilling through the bark for a pin chuck and turning the base to fit my chuck. If the bark stays on in the turning it is a nice effect and well sought after.
My name is Dr Ken and I am a research scientist at the CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products division. CSIRO is an Australian government research institute. I am currently interested in the use of wood fillers and I came across your web page on a search of the internet. I was hoping you could provide me with some leads as to the names and/or types of wood fillers in the UK. Do you know of any reviews or comparison testing that has been done? Can you give me any details of people or organisations that I can follow up with?
I know this might be a bit of a strange request but I would be grateful for any assistance you could provide.
It has become apparent to me that there is some confusion over what to use for finishing, stopper, grain filler and 'filler. I forward these notes:
Use of Grainfiller and Woodstopping
To fill the grain/pores of the wood before coating with French Polish, Varnish, etc.
Some timbers can have large open pores, the use of Grainfiller minimises sinkage of the finish into the pores.
For cracks, dents and nail holes in wood. Sets quickly - does not shrink (if hole/crack is large or deep you will need to build up the layers).
Apply with a putty knife, forcing into crack or hole. Allow to harden then sand down smooth.
Woodstopper sometimes shows up even if the colour is correct because the filling hides the grain. Use artists water colours to disguise errors by painting the grain onto the dry stopper.
Unfortunately manufacturers/suppliers mix up these names/terms and confuse everybody. Use Rustins, Brummer or Liberon for certainty of the right stuff and try to use the same manufacturer for stain, finish, stopper and filler to ensure compatibility.
Shakes in floors
For cases like this you should go to your local trading standards office and ask them. If the supplier belongs to and perhaps displays a trade organisation perhaps Guild of Master Craftsmen, etc. You should refer the complaint to them.
Trading standards Officer will get someone local to have a look and assess the defects and advise and or support any claim.
Shakes are a natural defect but one does not expect them to detract from the purpose the timber/floor etc was designed to do. Perhaps small shakes are unavoidable. The fact that you are unhappy with the quality is something they should certainly be concerned with. It depends on the quality you agreed or should reasonably expect.
You must look at your agreement you made with the supplier/fitter and what if any statements of quality and warranties offered.
If you need an expert witness you may get a solicitor to appoint an 'expert witness' to make a report out. Usually the supplier will act on their recommendations and avoid a court case.
The Institute of Carpenters may help with an expert. Go to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask their advice.
I am sorry I cannot help or advise other than the above.
Warped external furniture
I would like to ask your advice about a major problem I have bumped up against.
I have just built a picnic table (A-frame type) from 4 x 2 planed softwood. (Yes, it's built like a tank!) When I bought the timber, I was careful to choose planks which were as straight and knot-free as possible, although inevitably most of them had varying degrees of twist. I assumed that when I got it all screwed together, the varying twists would cancel each other out. Having cut out all the pieces, cut the joints and drilled all the holes, I then took them all along to a local preservation company to be pressure treated with CCA. It came back very wet, and it took about a month in the garage to dry out. I then noticed that all the pieces were twisted the same way (and possibly worse than before it was treated), and when the table was assembled, the twists reinforced each other and the table was severely twisted. It rocks on its feet by about 3" - 4"!
What can I do now?? I tried applying weights to twist it slightly the other way, and after a day or so, although it was much improved immediately, it very soon went back to where it started. I have no confidence that weighting it even for several weeks would produce a permanent correction that will last the next 20 years standing out in all weathers. Would weighting it down and applying heat (using a convector heater moved around different areas) produce a permanent correction? If so, could you advise on what temperature and for how long? I am thinking along the lines of imitating the conditions of kiln drying.
I would be most grateful for your advice as I would be reluctant to throw away all that timber and hard work.
Yes we've been there!
I t is very disappointing when this happens. But in the end wood does what it wants to do and we cant stop it.
We have to know how wood moves when it dries out so that we can try to predict what it intends to do if indeed it does.
We need to know the moisture content (mc) of the timber you are using, the temperature and humidity of the workshop you are building in and the conditions which it eventuality will live.
Often we buy construction quality timber with a mc between 14 and 20 % and then take and work it in a warm workshop then outside in the late autumn into cold and damp conditions. (let alone dunking it in your CCA !) We then expect it behave ! Wood is hygroscopic!
However, going back to your problem. Normally wood when it is seasoned correctly and is reasonably dry and stable will not take on as much moisture even if it gets wet. Timber with a mc 16 to 20 % has lost all its free moisture and any left or absorbed is in the cell structure. It cant fill up the cells again. But it can swell/shrink/distort still within its limitations. Normally the tangential direction expand/shrinks most of all and it is this direction to expect the problems. So I don't think that the CCA dip was entirely to blame unless they soaked it. Next time send your timber to be treated before you build with it.
I think that you are wasting you time trying to change what nature is intent on doing. Accept what has happened and try to learn from it.
I would......... Loosen the joints if they are screws or nuts and bolts and se if the table can settle better and re bore the holes, etc.
Then chock up the legs until the top is reasonable level with bits of wood on a level surface.
With a piece of off cut of a height equal to the worst or highest gap use this as a level gauge (sliding along the floor) to scribe the horizontal level of the bottoms of the legs. And cut off the residue...........
I did this to a Windsor spindle chair someone had dipped some years ago. Although it has some strange angles it will be at least level and be a working unit again.
You must expect wood to move. Disappointing as it is you can’t always afford or need to buy kiln seasoned timber for every use especially that is to be used out doors. Even if you do get it level the home or base will not necessary be level!!!!
Hope all goes well. Let me know how you get on. Read my page on seasoning and more tips in 'conversations'.
PS~: http://environmental-industry.com/ebj/caatwoodvoln.html and http://www.clu-in.org/contaminantfocus/default.focus/sec/arsenic/cat/Environmental_Occurrence/ suggests you shouldn’t be using CAA in domestic environments?
Many thanks for your reply, disappointing though the message is! The advice from both yourself and other sources seems to sum up as: As far as effecting any permanent correction of a twist, forget it! Like you say, that's how we learn - the hard way!
I have decided that the best way to retrieve the situation is to lay up the pieces loosely on a level floor and measure carefully the amount of twist in each one and at each intersection cut mini lap joints so that it screws together both flat and stress free. That will take me quite a time, but what's that compared to the 20 years it should last?
Thank you for your caution about CCA. I was already aware of the hazards, and it was heavily contaminated on the surface when it dried out. That I removed by thorough sanding all over (wearing a dust mask, of course). However, I understand that once inside the wood, it is pretty tightly bonded into the structure of the wood, and leaching is minimal. However, as an additional precaution, and for appearance, I have treated it with a couple of layers of a waterproof 5yr woodstain which forms an impervious but breathable lacquer type coating.
I puzzled for a while about exactly how the twist had occurred. I understand the differential rates of shrinkage in the 3 principal directions of the timber, longitudinal, radial and circumferential, but couldn't see how these could add up to a twist, until I realised that trees can grow with their long fibres twisted. You occasionally see ornamental trees with a really pronounced corkscrew twist. Then, if the log is sawn whilst wet and then dries out, the twist does indeed result from the differential longitudinal and radial shrinkage. Maybe I should have bought half my planks from the northern hemisphere and half from the southern hemisphere! Oh well, maybe I should stop cogitating and get out into the workshop!
Yours sincerelyGeoff top
My subject is - We have a 10 year old son, who, since he was about 6, is passionate to have a career in 'making things out of wood' Being 10 he doesn't know whether he would like to help build cathedrals, violins. He is careful and safety conscientious. School does not seem to have a club.
My questions are:
Can you recommend a useful child friendly book that will inspire and educate (Christmas is coming)? And /or chisel set?
Do you know of any wood working clubs that might be for, or welcome children either real or on-line?
We have a small range of power and blunt(!) hand tools, workshop with bench and vice.
I look forward to hearing from you.
I don’t know of a current book for young people that I would recommend but I can recommend an older book that you should be able to get hold of. "The Junior Woodworker" by Charles H Hayward. There are currently a number on offer at http://www.abebooks.co.uk/ from £5 to £9.00. They are a safe site so you don’t need to worry about giving out your cheque card details (with the usual safeguards) The book shows the tools to buy although the wooden planes are now metal of course and the drill may possibly be a small battery powered one. It then shows how the tools are correctly used and small projects. If you have any difficulties come back and I have another suggestion how to get the book. Most of these tools could be bought from Focus and you could get some pieces of wood there too. Please always buy quality tools. He may well be young but cheap tools can frustrate and some may be dangerous. By all means buy him a little folding bench similar to the "Work Mate" but it is preferable to have a wooden table bench with a nice vice where he can lay out his work. They may be cut down for his size and added to as he grows quite easily and safely with adult help. Naturally you may not want to buy every tool that he may need. I suggest you look at a project that he may be interested in and you are happy that it is safe and only buy the tools needed for that job. Then buy the additional ones needed for the next job, etc. Another important consideration is to select projects that you consider that he will stick to and has the ability to achieve. It is no good starting on a job that is too difficult and if failed may cause him to get disillusioned. Stick to the basics and achievable. He also needs to keep the tools sharp so he will need some extra parental guidance for this; perhaps you need to get some one to help you.
The Hayward book is rather dated (especially the wood machining and safety legislation) but its style and content is excellent for boys. And it teaches the correct way to woodwork - not the modern DIY fashion!
To be of more
interest for his age he could make some toys such as castles, garages,
"Woodworking for Kids: 40 Fabulous, Fun and Useful Things for Kids to Make
The Kids' Building
Workshop: 15 Woodworking Projects for Kids and Parents to Build
Backyard Play Areas You
Can Make: Complete Plans and Instructions for Building Playhouses, Forts
and Swing Sets
Woodworking With Kids
The Children's Room:
Step-By-Step Projects for the Woodworker
Regarding other advice for young people starting out in woodwork I don’t think that I could do better than give you a copy of the last message I wrote in similar circumstances which I include below my signature.
I do hope this
your difficulties and the current lack of 'proper' craft training in
If he was a bit older I would suggest getting a friendly cabinet maker to do odd jobs for but the mechanised workshop is quite potentially dangerous and legislation would probably be against such practices.
I suggest that you keep him interested in woodwork by getting him a monthly magazine, perhaps Woodworker or the Furniture & Cabinet Maker and perhaps Collins Woodworkers Manual. (Smiths usually sell them)
Are you able to get him a bench in the garage or an outdoor shed? A basic hand toolkit could be provided but keep out machinery or portable electric tools save perhaps battery drill and a sander. Please do not buy any power or portable saws or any planers they are far too dangerous until he is older and correctly trained. A powered fretsaw or jig saw could be considered when he gets some experience and someone has showed him how to use it properly and judges him safe. He probably would be allowed to use a band saw at school but this would be under supervision. If you do buy him tools please buy him adult tools, 'cut down' child tools are not any real help.
But the most important thing is to read, read and read books on the subject. See my book list in resources on my web site.
Also he needs to be able to draw, technical drawing with board and set square and sketching and in particular perspective sketching to visualise and plan what he wants to make.
Wow and thank you.
I will try to get the book you suggest, and have a look at Amazon. Perhaps also a chisel or two. I saw some in an antique/junk shop last week with clean looking edges - could well be better made that modern DIY shop version! May also get a carving chisel or 2. I still have the scar in my hand from when I cut through a piece of yew I was making into a link chain as a child - so will encourage the vice! (I still have the 4 linked rings - sadly the pinnacle of my woodworking!)
And I note the comment to read read read!
Thanks very much.
Return to Menu
all rights reserved by Geoff Malthouse ~ Last uploaded 1st December 2009