Fine Woodworking Incorporating Furniture Design

The 12 week course ‘Fine Woodworking incorporating Furniture Design’ gives people a substantial set of woodworking skills. Bella Bathurst wrote an article for Hole & Corner magazine about her time as a student here.  It sums up both the spirit of the course and what we hope people will take away with them. Click here to read it.

The ‘Fine Woodworking’ course has nothing to do with boats and is run entirely separately in its own dedicated workshops.  But it does follow the principles that over the last twenty years have built the Academy’s reputation as a world-leading vocational training college.  Mark Ripley, the Fine Woodworking Instructor, spends forty hours per week contact time with the students.  Students spend the majority of their time at their workbenches, learning through hands-on experience of making.

Level 3 Diploma

The Level 3 Diploma was developed by us in partnership with awarding body PIABC.  While pieces of paper are not vital to everyone (you can choose not to take the Level 3 Diploma) for people starting their woodworking career, at whatever age, the Diploma proves that their skills have reached a nationally recognised level.  It is also important to us that the Academy is subject to scrutiny and its qualifications verified by external professional bodies.

Course content

The course is suitable for absolute beginners as well as the more experienced, but if you are nervous about the intensive nature of the course joining the two day ‘Introduction to Woodworking‘ or five day ‘Basic Woodworking 1‘ courses will help your confidence.

You will make a number of pieces to take away with you:

A dovetailed, lidded box
Small table (compulsory for the Level 3 qualification.  More information below)
Small cabinet with a door and drawer (compulsory for the Level 3 qualification.  More information below)
Personal project piece

As with all of our courses, the 12 week course starts with tool selection and sharpening before moving on to the following skill areas:

Identifying and selecting timber types
An introduction to technical drawing
Producing joints
Fixings and fastenings (including adhesives)
Use of hand tools and machine tools (including an introduction to large machinery in the Academy’s machine shop)
Producing rods and cutting lists
Curving and bending timber
Health and Safety
Personal Project Piece

Students research, design and make a personal project piece as part of the course.  This might be a toolbox (a classic apprenticeship piece), something for the student’s home or a piece that demonstrates the skills learnt on the course to potential employers.  The complexity of the piece is discussed with the Instructor at each stage of the design and make process.  It is important that students are aware of any extra hours they may need to realise their design by the end of the course.

Mark gives ‘hands-on’ demonstrations of the skills as the course progresses.  There are outings to local tool suppliers, to a wood yard, where students can see a wide selection of timber and choose the wood for their personal project piece (some students have been so inspired by wood they have discovered that it has formed an integral part of their design) and to Hooke Park, the Dorset campus of the Architectural Association.  Work at Hooke promotes and experiments in the sustainable use of timber by application of technology.  The campus buildings are extraordinary, as are the three buildings commissioned by John Makepeace in the late 1980’s and 1996, during the time that Hooke was allied to Parnham College.

The Furniture Archive shows  personal project pieces made here at the Academy since 2008.

(We want people to make the most of the Academy’s facilities and expertise while they are here and so students have access to the workshops in the evening and at weekends, on condition that Health and Safety requirements are satisfied).

Qualification options

All students undertake the Level 1 6219-08 City & Guilds Certificate in Construction Skills.  Students then decide, in conjunction with their Instructor, whether to undertake the Level 3 Diploma and the personal project piece, or whether to concentrate on the personal project piece alone.

More information about the course can be found in our prospectus, which also gives details of what ‘Woodworking Skills’ students have gone on to do after the course.


Read more about the people that join us on the 12 week Woodworking Skills course on our Woodworking Skill Students and Graduate Case Studies pages.

2019 course dates

21 January – 12 April

20 May – 9 August

9 September – 29 November

The course and its Level 3 diploma (mapped and quality assured to the Regulated Qualification Framework) are exclusive to the Boat Building Academy.  A maximum of eight people are accepted onto each course.