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Anonymous

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Hi all,

I have an opportunity to take some time and study woodworking more seriously than I have been up until now, just working at it at home. I'm looking for courses in the 8-12 week range, full time, preferably in cabinet making or other fine woodworking.

So far, I have found:

http://www.davidcharlesworth.co.uk/davi ... sworth.htm
http://www.chrisfaulkner.co.uk/courses.html
http://www.michaelsscott.co.uk/

and they are the sort of thing I'm looking for. I'm looking to see what other alternatives there might be.

The idea for this is that in a few years I may have the option to make a big change in my life. My thought is that I might take a year or two and retrain for a new career.

I've also looked at some 1-2 year courses, such as

http://www.finefurnituremaker.com/teach ... ochure.htm

plus the ones offered by the other people above.

In the meantime, I want to find out, with a shorter course, if it's something I really wish to pursue, or whether I will forever stay a moderate bodger in my own little workshop.

Does anyone know of other, similar, courses to those above, or has anyone attended any of these courses. I'd be grateful for any information you could let me have.

By the way, I can't go out and do weekend courses because I live in Brunei, Borneo at the moment and will be here for the next 3 years, but I have the option of taking a short break.

thanks,

J.
 

johnelliott

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mr_magicfingers":1d1c5qbw said:
The idea for this is that in a few years I may have the option to make a big change in my life. My thought is that I might take a year or two and retrain for a new career.
I whole heartedly approve of people attending good quality courses to develop and improve their woodworking skills. A very good foundation for a HOBBY. As a career, woodworking in the UK is a no-hoper. Even the people who are really good at it (the people who provide these courses) are unable to make real money as woodworkers, and have become woodwork teachers instead.

I make money and am involved with wood (I make kitchen doors etc), but the more I tend in the direction of finewoodworking the less money I make. If I started doing hand cut dovetails then I would lose money
John
 

Alf

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Welcome to the forum, J.

Mr Bookmarks :wink: there has done the job, but just to add that I think some of them might have waiting lists.

Cheers, Alf
 
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Anonymous

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johnelliott":3tb78cij said:
As a career, woodworking in the UK is a no-hoper.
John, do you mean that there is no way to make a living, or no way to get rich? Given the amount of wood products available, and the fact there there are many specialist workshops around suggest that a living can be made. Will I be able to afford an aston martin and a big house in the country, no I doubt it, but that's not what I'm looking for.

I've spent a lot of time doing jobs I don't enjoy. I've worked and lived abroad for the last 11 years, and have a few years left. What I'm looking into, is a change of pace, an opportunity to settle, and a chance to do something more satisfying.

I'm not looking to get rich, and I doubt I'll do more than be quietly comfortable, but that's what I'm looking for.

Do you think that's possible, or can it just not be done unless you resign yourself to mass producing things with machines.

Not a flame, genuinely interested, as I don't know anyone in the industry itself. Also, the short course would be a chance to talk with people who do the sort of work I'm looking at, and also find out if I'm cut out for it. At the very least, it'll make me a better hobbyist.

Thanks,

J.
 

johnelliott

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Yes, well, interesting subject this. I suppose what I am saying is that the type of woodworking taught at courses such as the ones linked to above are not going to lead to the student being able to make a living in the UK.

What do I mean by living? I'm assuming that the person concerned is not in some especially favoured situation, that they are having to pay commercial rates for their premises and their marketing, and that they have NO other sources of income. Show me someone who claims to be making a living doing FINEwoodworking (by which I mean the type described above) and I will show you someone who enjoys some special advantage, free premises maybe, perhaps a flow of commissions from excellent contacts, etc etc
A friend who has a woodworking business near me is a good example. A lifetime spent working in a large WW business has left him with the contacts that ask him to quote on special projects such as alcoves etc. He doesn't have to pay for his marketing. Never-the-less he still works mainly in MDF.
At one time I thought perhaps I could make and sell furniture, and get by, not get rich, just survive. I soon learnt that that well off people who I would need as customers cost a vast amount to contact. The competition for their custom is fierce. The cost of advertising in Country Life etc is staggering. Even if you could get a flow of interested customers you would then face the problems of the time it would take to design and have approved a commission, and to get paid.
Got to go and earn my own living now, look forward to discussing this further
John
 

Aragorn

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Magic Fingers
John has written a fair bit before on making a living from woodwork. Have a search through some of the past threads.
I believe that in summary, John feels strongly that people don't and won't pay for custom built furniture (John - by all means come in and correct me on this) but that he is now doing really well making kitchens doors and re-facing kitchens.

I think your distinction between getting rich and making a living is important. I made a living and supported my family for 10 years doing just woodwork, and I know several people who do the same. One person does almost entirely restoration and french polishing! Another does only fine furniture making. I did whatever woodwork I could find - mostly fitted furniture, home office that kind of thing. It can be done and you can go at your own pace.

I have much admiration for you to have the courage to give it all up for something that you enjoy. And you seem to be tackling it the right way.
Very best of luck with whatever you choose. I'd be mindful of all the less positive stuff you'll hear about how hard it is, but that's not necessarily your fate!
 

Aragorn

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Hi John - my post crossed with yours. I take your point about having that "other advantage" especially for fine woodworkers.
 
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Anonymous

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John, Aragorn,

thanks for taking the time to add into this thread, it's just the sort of feedback that's useful to hear. I'll go and do some searching for some of John's previous posts, it sounds as though there will be some very interesting and illuminating reading to go through.

For now, I'll look at the short course and work at improving my hobby, then see where I am in a few years. Information is always helpful.

Thanks once again,

Justin.
 

johnelliott

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Justin
Aragorn is right to remind me that there are people who can and do make money from woodwork. Perhaps my comments earlier were a little too pessimistic- there are niches and if you can find one you might well be alright.
I suppose my real gripe is against those organizations, especially colleges and such institutions, that offer course in furniture making and imply that it is possible to follow a career as a cabinet maker. Some colleges even offer guitar making courses! A person would have more chance of carnal relations with the Pope than of making money making guitars and yet these organizations will cheerfully sign students up for a year or two. Still, I suppose it's more useful than studying mediaeval German etc.
Good luck whatever you decide to do
John
 
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Anonymous

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I've now heard back from all the people mentioned, and they're booked for at least the next 12 months.

I'd never have believed there was that much demand. Now having to look elsewhere (put a similar query on the australian version of this forum) to see if there's anything else out there that might do the trick.

I'm amazed.

Justin.
 

Steve James

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Hi all

Mr Magic Fingers!!!

What type of woodwork are you hoping to do?
reading the threads, it seems to be assumed that you have in mind workshop joinery, is this the case?
Has the possibility of site joinery or shopfitting entered your mind?
It would be easier for you to "blend in" to a site enviroment than a workshop, and you would probably make a better living for less of an outlay!
The downside is that us old hands can spot a "chancer" a mile off.
If this is the path you choose to tread, I would suggest getting friendly with a local builder and come clean about experience (or lack of) and hope for the best.
I lurk in a lot of forums and this type of thing seems to crop up a lot, the office people thinking the grass is greener and that they can come onto the industry and compete with older more experienced people.
This is not a flame BTW, just (I hope) a realistic viewpoint from a time served chippy with over 20 years in the game.

Steve
 
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Anonymous

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Hi Steve,

thanks for taking the time to reply. The honest answer at the moment to what type of woodwork would I like to do is that I'm not sure. My feeling is that I'm drawn towards cabinetry, making freestanding and custom built in cabinetry. These are the things that I've enjoyed doing most, although I'm still very much the newbie.

I have contemplated site work, although more the idea of fitted custom cabinetry rather than trim type work and, as such, I've considered shop fitting as I figured that there might be more one-off work involved in that.

Most of this is a fair way off in the future, and I'm not even sure if I would be suited to it, which is why I'm looking for something like a 12 week course to start. I'm trying to find out if I'm capable of working well with my hands at a higher quality level. I may find out, even under decent tutelage that I'm just naturally cack handed, and that I'll never have the temperament to do fine work. The idea is to take a few small steps first. If I find I have a reasonable ability to work well, then the 12 week course will teach me the basics of using the tools to a high standard, and I can use that in my hobby over the next few years and experiment with the type of work I do and see what really appeals.

I don't even know if I will have the opportunity for a career change, it's just a possibility at the moment. I understand about chancers, and office workers etc. I've worked several different types of job over the years, and at the moment I change countries every 3-4 years, which means it's rare for me to be able to stick at one particular thing, as some of the countries we spend time in are not conducive to a single career path.

I understand that it is easy to seem to be thinking that woodwork is an easy option, but I've done some construction work (steel) in the past and know that these things aren't easy and that experience counts. I had been considering the idea of apprenticing in a cabinet shop but that's rare nowadays, particularly when you're older. It's just that staying with a single career is not always an option. If we ever settle down in one place, I'll have been out of the UK for the best part of 20 years and so am trying to think of something that I might be able to do when I eventually return.

And just in case people are wondering, no the foreign working lifestyle hasn't allowed me to stack up vast riches to retire early on. I will still need to make a living, but if your experience is primarily offshore then it's not that easy to transfer to a land based occupation.

I hope that this gives some sort of insight into my motives and why I'm looking for the length of course I've suggested. If I was based in the UK, I could do weekend courses around the country and build skills that way, but being in Borneo I don't have that option either.

Thanks for listening.

Justin.
 
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