I really enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the course when we got the chance to work ourselves on some simple mortice and tenon joints. I think the course gave a really good feel to what we can expect if we decided to join one of the tutor groups, especially the time and effort that goes into it and that patience is a virtue when it comes to woodworking!
At MSFW I attend regular classes once a week. The workshop provides me with a sanctuary away from home, a place to learn and be creative, to produce something beautiful and tangible, to learn patience, precision and process, and a place to enjoy the company of like-minded people from all walks of life. We listen to background music and the occasional “dad joke”.
At these classes Gray guides us through the process of designing a piece of furniture, he encourages and nurtures our design ideas whether they are unique or traditional. We learn about different timber, how to choose timber and how timber movement affects our design. We learn to use hand tools and large standing machinery, we learn tool and machine maintenance, we learn what joinery to use and how to precisely mark it and cut it. We learn how to fix mistakes (sometimes known as new design features). We learn how to glue-up, sand and apply finish. Everybody goes through this process at their own pace and Gray is very skilled at sharing his time and knowledge.
I have made numerous pieces of furniture at MSFW and continue to thoroughly enjoy the process.
I would recommend this course to anyone looking for a fantastic and interesting experience. Many thanks for a great day and I look forward to taking part in more classes in the future.
The quality of the pieces under construction and completed are inspirational.
I have fought the good fight with my Tuesday night tutor, Gray, over those two years. I sought to persuade him of my comfortable mantra: near enough is good enough. For Gray, that is heresy. I have now given in and have come to relish his exacting and non-compromising high standards in workmanship. Gray is the complete professional not just in fine woodworking but a complete stickler in terms of safety around the machinery. I considered it to be a singular achievement to be left alone with the band saw after about 18 months or so. The bench planer may be a bridge too far.
The camaraderie of the tutor group is a real pleasure of one’s week, with an overwhelmingly positive and humorous environment. I suspect that being subjected to Gray’s grassroots (and worse) music selections (“is that really music they are playing?”) has a bonding effect on all tutor group members. And with every mistake I make on the tools, and there are many in any given week, there is empathy combined with pity from other group members.
I have derived an enormous amount of pleasure from my membership of the Tuesday night tutor group and having met other members of the School on other catch-up evenings.
I am awestruck at the fascinating designs of members’ projects and the wonderful skill with which the projects are created from rough-sawn timber into works of art.
I recommend the Melbourne School of Fine Woodworking to anyone who enjoys good company, fine craftsmanship, the beauty of timber and expert teaching.
I have progressed from those tentative early steps to more and more ambitious projects over the years. I enjoy the group atmosphere in my tutor group and bench sessions, and I have had some great tutors who have understood and worked with my limitations, and encouraged and supported me in my pursuits.
I have, and will continue to, recommend your school to other wood workers, based on this course.
As a number of attendees had brought along their own routers he was able to point out particular features of different models and assist owners to better use their own equipment. It also gave others in the group a chance to compare routers that they might consider purchasing themselves or to be better informed of features they would want.
The hands-on part of the day was most informative, as it is one thing to look at someone using a piece of equipment and think “I can do that” but to actually perform the cut, remembering the safety procedures discussed, the smooth movement to get the desired result, etc. is quite a different proposition.
I thoroughly enjoyed the day, learnt a lot about the right and wrong way to work with routers and router bits and had all my questions answered well.
At the beginning of my journey at Melbourne School of Fine Woodworking I had no experience in furniture design or construction, aside from that which I learned back in my school days. Throughout my time at MSFW, my instructor, Gray was super-helpful in educating me on materials, tools and process. He invested a lot of time in me to work through the fundamentals, which was essential to the success of my project.
I’m a 35 year old office worker, this course provided me the opportunity to put my mind into a clear head space once a week, escape normality and expand my knowledge on furniture design and construction. I initially enrolled in the Tutor Group to learn new skills, apply those skills to a hands-on project and create something that will take pride of place in my home.
What I didn’t really expect, were the bonds of friendship that I formed in my group. We shared many fun and enjoyable moments, making my time at MSFW fun as well as educational.
On reflection, I feel like my experience at MSFW was thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding. The piece I created is something that I will absolutely cherish forever. I would highly recommend this organisation to anyone interested in furniture design and construction.
Personally, coming into the course with none or very little prior knowledge of woodworking, I can say that I learned a great deal and was very pleased with Gray’s delivery of information. The practical side of the weekend was the most enjoyable part of the course, however I also enjoyed the theoretical aspect of things as well. I am very eager to gain knowledge and learn how to craft and fashion furniture.
Gray is a great communicator and was able to clearly explain and demonstrate all the different concepts he was teaching us. I really enjoyed learning about how to select and prepare materials – this was not something I knew much about and I found it really interesting. I also really appreciated Gray’s guidance on how to properly use hand tools.
Above all, I found this course to be informative, a great balance of practical and technical work. Gray was an excellent teacher and very patient with my complete lack of skills. The tools and equipment at MSFW were all excellent and as a short course participant, I felt like we were given the opportunity to learn in a top class environment.
I think even from the snap shot of learning you provided today, I will be able to work 100 times more efficiently and to a more thoughtful restoration standard.
I can’t thank you enough, I’m just re-writing my will as we speak. Hopefully see you on the next course.
The day was long but we needed that time to get things done and be rewarded for our labours! In fact, the time flew. I thought that the working space was very good: good natural light and sufficiently airy.
Ben was very generous in sharing some of his considerable knowledge and managed to blend it in with his great sense of humour. I would be very interested in doing further workshops with him.
I came to this place keen to learn the techniques of joinery. What I am being taught is the end to end process of creating something from concept through design to creation and appreciation. This, and the network of like-minded individuals, is the real long term value of being a part of the school. It’s not what I expected – but it’s much more valuable than I thought.
Ben’s talent and skills go far beyond this kind of practical instruction however. Ben’s knowledge of furniture history, his links with suppliers of those hard to get replacement items, and his understanding of the art of furniture restoration mean that every workshop with Ben is a fascinating and enjoyable learning experience. Ben delivers and shares this knowledge with humour, in plain language we can all understand, and in a way which inspires tackling other projects.
In Ben’s workshops, participants work on their own projects, but can also observe and engage with other participants and learn about their restoration projects. The small groups attending the workshops therefore get exposure to the breadth of Ben’s knowledge and expertise as it is applied to restoring the range of items in the workshop. Ben is invariably able to identify the origin and history of all items, and this all contributes to the experience.
The “secrets of the trade” Ben shares at each workshop produce superb results every time.
Just to say thank you for organising the course yesterday, it was awesome! Ben was such an enthusiastic teacher and I learnt so much in just a few hours.
I found the weekend really beneficial. I was able to consolidate and build on prior knowledge, and I really enjoyed both the theoretical aspects of the course as well as the practical. Understanding the way trees grow impacts the design and construction of furniture was fascinating. I thought Gray was incredibly knowedgable and explained all the content clearly and in detail.