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Greedo

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I've played around for years and now want to take my woodworking to the next level and take it seriously. I have been looking around at private and academic courses.

The private courses are expensive but I would be willing to pay for the right training and course.

The 3 I have narrowed it down to are
* Waters and Acland (private)
* Robinson House Studio run by Marc Fish (private)
* Rycotewood in Oxford (academic)

I would really appreciate if anyone has attended one of these courses and could give me feedback. The dilemma I have is W&A have a year long course that is 44 weeks. Robinson house offer a year and a 2 year and their courses seem more intent at 50 weeks per year.
The Rycotewood one is a 2 year foundation degree course linked to Oxford Brookes University and the option is there to do a 3rd year for the BA Hons in Design and Making.

I am 43 and don't want to waste time. The private courses are 5 days per week 9 to 5 and there is a lot of bench time and the Rycotewood one is 4 days pers week and has all the usual holidays that colleges and unis take plus there will no doubt be course work etc....

Any advice and help would be great. I am financially able to do either so it's not a money option as I've semi retired due to the sale of my business and what I want to do after a course is set up on my own making my own designs.

Cheers guys and hope you can help me as I'm confused what course to pick.
 

woodbloke66

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I would't go to Waters & Ackland, having seen the time consuming and wrong way (IMO) instruct their students to cut dovetails, nor would I think about Marc Fish. The two I'd be interested in are Peter Sefton of this parish, who runs a very comprehensive and rather excellent series of courses and John Lloyd, both of whom come highly recommended - Rob
 

Greedo

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woodbloke66":36v6vtsi said:
I would't go to Waters & Ackland, having seen the time consuming and wrong way (IMO) instruct their students to cut dovetails, nor would I think about Marc Fish. The two I'd be interested in are Peter Sefton of this parish, who runs a very comprehensive and rather excellent series of courses and John Lloyd, both of whom come highly recommended - Rob
Cheers for the reply. Why would Marc Fish not be an option?

W&A do seem to spend the first 3 months pretty much teaching hand skills only and then in the firt projects after that seem to encourage short cuts with biscuiters and dominos etc... I know that is the modern way for a lot of people but why learn a skill in 3 months and then hardly use it. Seems weird.

Had a look at your 2 recommendations and John Lloyd seems a bit too traditional and Peter Sefton looks okay. What would you say are their strengths
 

woodbloke66

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Greedo":13ld81g4 said:
woodbloke66":13ld81g4 said:
I would't go to Waters & Ackland, having seen the time consuming and wrong way (IMO) instruct their students to cut dovetails, nor would I think about Marc Fish. The two I'd be interested in are Peter Sefton of this parish, who runs a very comprehensive and rather excellent series of courses and John Lloyd, both of whom come highly recommended - Rob
Cheers for the reply. Why would Marc Fish not be an option?

W&A do seem to spend the first 3 months pretty much teaching hand skills only and then in the firt projects after that seem to encourage short cuts with biscuiters and dominos etc... I know that is the modern way for a lot of people but why learn a skill in 3 months and then hardly use it. Seems weird.

Had a look at your 2 recommendations and John Lloyd seems a bit too traditional and Peter Sefton looks okay. What would you say are their strengths
Not too sure about Marc Fish, but to be fair I haven't looked in depth at his course(s) but rather the type of work he produces. I'd recommend learning the basics which of course includes hand skills and traditional jointing techniques and then go onto using machinery (domino etc) to shorten the build time. Peter holds a very good Open Day each year which is well worth a visit (I've been a couple of times in the past) and his courses again start off with hand tool techniques and long course students produce their own major piece of work. I think Peter also has the largest woodworking school in the country and his set up is certainly very impressive; no affiliation btw - Rob
 

Noho12C

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What about Chippendale school of woodworking ? Might be a bit far (in Scotland, near Edinburgh), but it seems to be organised around bench time. Been considering it at some point.

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Farm Labourer

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I understand that Chris Tribe has postponed his retirement - so is about for a few more months. I learned quite alot from him on a 5 day router-skills course. The only thing to bear in mind is that with 4 students to a course, one progresses at the rate of the slowest.

I'd wholeheartedly recommend Roger Berwick in bucolic Norfolk, too. His one to one courses are tailor made to the stude's exact requirements.
 

RogerS

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woodbloke66":35tjvme6 said:
I would't go to Waters & Ackland, having seen the time consuming and wrong way (IMO) instruct their students to cut dovetails, nor would I think about Marc Fish. The two I'd be interested in are Peter Sefton of this parish, who runs a very comprehensive and rather excellent series of courses and John Lloyd, both of whom come highly recommended - Rob
I'd second this recommendation. I've been on separate courses run by both Peter and John. Both are excellent. If you have the time, why not go on one of their short one week courses that they both run from time to time and see firsthand if you like their teaching style/if you click which is an important factor.
 

Greedo

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Cheers for the tip guys. The only thing about most of these courses is they are in the middle of nowhwere and require accomodation on top of the course fees. It's not cheap.

Here's another idea I've mooted and not sure. I am pretty adept at the basics. Would I be better spent just practising, practising, practising on my own in my home workshop and using books, YouTube etc.... to learn and then when I have a specific skill set I want to learn like veneering etc.... Booking a one week bespoke course with one of these courses as they do seem to be open to tailoring a course to your needs.
 

woodbloke66

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Greedo":hdzfv4wo said:
Cheers for the tip guys. The only thing about most of these courses is they are in the middle of nowhwere and require accomodation on top of the course fees. It's not cheap.

Here's another idea I've mooted and not sure. I am pretty adept at the basics. Would I be better spent just practising, practising, practising on my own in my home workshop and using books, YouTube etc.... to learn and then when I have a specific skill set I want to learn like veneering etc.... Booking a one week bespoke course with one of these courses as they do seem to be open to tailoring a course to your needs.
Unless you find a course which is within striking distance of home, accommodation is something you'll have to factor in as well. The plan you mention is sound but beware of UToob; some of it's good, some mediocre and much of it absolute dross, not to say dangerous! - Rob
 

Cheshirechappie

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Greedo":2uxxzeb7 said:
Here's another idea I've mooted and not sure. I am pretty adept at the basics. Would I be better spent just practising, practising, practising on my own in my home workshop and using books, YouTube etc.... to learn and then when I have a specific skill set I want to learn like veneering etc.... Booking a one week bespoke course with one of these courses as they do seem to be open to tailoring a course to your needs.
That sounds as good a plan as any. You can tailor your researches into woodworking knowledge and your practice to the areas in which you're interested, and it would also give you some insight into whether or not you can cope with 40 hours or more a week on your own in the workshop, and the costs of making particular items.

There's an awful lot of 'knowledge' out there, but once you've edited out the 'woodwork as entertainment' and 'how to cut a basic dovetail' videos, there's less that's actually of use to an aspiring professional on YouTube, but a fair amount in book form. The problem is to sort the nuggets of pure gold in book form from the generic DIY stuff, so plenty of review reading and forum discussion.

That said, there's no substitute for getting stuck in and making mistakes (provided you learn from them!) while you can afford to. You can develop your own design and working style without being dragged kicking and screaming into someone else's.

Doesn't work for everybody, though. You do have to be quite self-motivated, and have a pretty fair idea of what you want to achieve, or you can end up just drifting along happily wasting time, and therefore money.
 

Greedo

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Cheshirechappie":muq6so13 said:
Greedo":muq6so13 said:
Here's another idea I've mooted and not sure. I am pretty adept at the basics. Would I be better spent just practising, practising, practising on my own in my home workshop and using books, YouTube etc.... to learn and then when I have a specific skill set I want to learn like veneering etc.... Booking a one week bespoke course with one of these courses as they do seem to be open to tailoring a course to your needs.
That sounds as good a plan as any. You can tailor your researches into woodworking knowledge and your practice to the areas in which you're interested, and it would also give you some insight into whether or not you can cope with 40 hours or more a week on your own in the workshop, and the costs of making particular items.

There's an awful lot of 'knowledge' out there, but once you've edited out the 'woodwork as entertainment' and 'how to cut a basic dovetail' videos, there's less that's actually of use to an aspiring professional on YouTube, but a fair amount in book form. The problem is to sort the nuggets of pure gold in book form from the generic DIY stuff, so plenty of review reading and forum discussion.

That said, there's no substitute for getting stuck in and making mistakes (provided you learn from them!) while you can afford to. You can develop your own design and working style without being dragged kicking and screaming into someone else's.

Doesn't work for everybody, though. You do have to be quite self-motivated, and have a pretty fair idea of what you want to achieve, or you can end up just drifting along happily wasting time, and therefore money.
Thanks for the detailed response. I'm very self motivated and that's why I will be okay on my own. I just keep thinking that the Rycotewood course will be full of a set programme and curriculum that, whilst I won't be dragged kicking and screaming into projects, will be full of projects that I could do right now. Teaching basic techniques and applying it to building a spice rack or small bathroom cabinet.

The private courses also seem very "set in stone" for the first 3 to 6 months and as you said I'm at the mercy of a tutor just imparting his knowledge and ideas on to me. I find for example a lot of the furniture coming out of private courses very similar.

If anyone else has any tips or hints or advice then that would be great as this is a big decision for me. I don't want to spend a year in the Lake District or Newhaven and come away with just another group of mates and good time memories but not much more to my arsenal of skills.
 

Trevanion

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If you’ve got previous experience and reckon that the first “beginners” level of the course would not teach you much you could probably apply to join the second years in Rycotewood. When I was in college (Not Rycotewood, mind) there were a few people that “skipped the queue” and started at a level two or even three diploma.

I think Matt Estlea still teaches part-time at Rycotewood, he’s a good lad (Just don’t get him to build a shed :lol:) but some might consider him “barely out of nappies” as far as a tutor goes. I can see where people like that are coming from since he doesn’t really have much industrial or trade experience under his belt, he went from being educated pretty much straight into educating.
 

RogerS

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Greedo":1tnznjs4 said:
......
. I find for example a lot of the furniture coming out of private courses very similar.
....
Certainly not in my experience going along to Peter Sefton's Open Days over the years and seeing the sheer quality of work and design that his students had made.
 

thetyreman

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I'd be very scrutinising in asking questions if you go on any open days, there is a hell of a lot you can learn on your own with the right books and information, I'm not knocking any of the courses though, one on one tuition with an expert will be the fastest way to progress to the highest levels.
 

Peter Sefton

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Greedo

Joining a long course is a big commitment both in time and money, it would be worth you visiting the workshops and taking a good look at the students work and chatting to them. We always give potential students a tour and interview lasting between one or two hours so we and they get a good understanding of their needs. If possible go and take a short course to see how much tutor/student time you are given, are even you in the same building?

You are always welcome to come and visit or catch up at one of the shows I demonstrate at. We have the Midlands Woodworking show coming up followed by Makers Central, our July Open Day and Harrogate at the end of the year.

It is possible to learn by yourself in any discipline but most people benefit being taught by someone with experience showing the skills that have been passed down to them or they picked up along the way by making mistakes....

Cheers Peter
 

Greedo

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Peter Sefton":22byb178 said:
Greedo

Joining a long course is a big commitment both in time and money, it would be worth you visiting the workshops and taking a good look at the students work and chatting to them. We always give potential students a tour and interview lasting between one or two hours so we and they get a good understanding of their needs. If possible go and take a short course to see how much tutor/student time you are given, are even you in the same building?

You are always welcome to come and visit or catch up at one of the shows I demonstrate at. We have the Midlands Woodworking show coming up followed by Makers Central, our July Open Day and Harrogate at the end of the year.

It is possible to learn by yourself in any discipline but most people benefit being taught by someone with experience showing the skills that have been passed down to them or they picked up along the way by making mistakes....

Cheers Peter
Thank you for your kind and classy reply Peter. Not turning on the sales pitch and disparaging the idea of learning on my own shows confidence and humility.

I think the academic course at Rycotewood is off the table now. I just don't think I will get the things I want from a course like that and feel there will be huge chunks of time wasted with course work and I have been to Uni in my younger days. I think it's down to private course and yours has been spoken highly of on here. Good sign.

I just need to sort out if it for me spending a huge amount of time away from home as it's a huge commitment time wise as the weekends back home will become hectic trying to fit family, friends and my social things in.

Thanks again for your reply and probably pop down for a chat at some point.
 

AJB Temple

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I am in a similar position and it is difficult. I am quite an experienced woodworker (acoustic and solid guitars, one violin, quite a lot of timber framing, couple of kitchens etc) and have zero interest in "learning" basic things, but also conscious that I may have bad habits and be unaware of tips. I tried a couple of courses where the pace was tediously slow, caused by some people on just slow, lacking confidence with tools, clumsy (that was on a turning course) and so on. This is life but when you are paying for it and want to progress, then being held back is not good.

Let us know what you decide on and how it goes.

Something you might consider, if you have business flexibility, is looking at courses abroad. America or Canada for instance. Particularly with a skilled maker.

I have a bit of experience of this as I have done a course in Cremona and Japan (latter needed an interpreter). I would seriously consider say 6 months abroad.
 

shed9

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Another plus for Peter Sefton, I did a three day course last year and worth the cost and more importantly my time. Would and will use again in the future as my own needs develop.

Just my £0.02....
 

MarcFish

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Hi Greedo,

I agree with Peter check out the facilities and speak to current and ex students who have done long courses not just short ones. Check out what they are doing now, where are they working or running their own business. Not every course is suitable for every student, the schools can be very different, we are contemporary with an emphasis on design, quality craftsmanship but can also offer advanced techniques including mixed materials and modern technology including CNC,3D printing and laser cutting if the student is interested in this. Don’t make the massive decision without doing your research.
We are about to move into new brand new premises and would happily show you round.
Drop me a line and I would happily speak to you and answer any questions you may have. Marc Fish
 
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