This class was very interesting and I think the entire group were very impressed with Gray’s knowledge and ability to discuss woodworking in general. I felt the course was very clear. Gray is an excellent communicator and I think it’s a testament to him that for laymen like ourselves, he didn’t speak down to us and made sure that we were all keeping up.

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!


Introduction to Furniture Making

Working with wood has been a passion of mine since securing my first pocket knife as a child, I would chip away at small twigs to make odd play things. I feel the same pleasure now when using a chisel or plane to make odd furniture, even beautiful furniture.

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.


Monday PM Tutor Group

Wednesday night at MSFW is one of the highlights of my week. Our tutor Gray has a wealth of experience, tips and knowledge that he passes on with thoughtful and clear instruction. There is a great feeling within our group, a team spirit that makes every session fun and enjoyable. Patience is required on the course as nothing in fine woodworking comes quickly but the rewards for this are fantastic. In my relatively short time at the Club I have already seen some wonderful pieces of furniture being brought to life.

Wednesday PM Tutor Group

This class was worth every cent! The teacher had a wealth of knowledge and was a great communicator and teacher. It has definitely whet my appetite to learn more about furniture restoration and I have not stopped talking about it since the class. Since the class I have restored a beautiful table and am so happy with it.

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.


Furniture Restoration

I wanted to comment on the excellent workshop I attended recently. I enjoyed the experience very much. Gray was a very skilled and considerate instructor who catered for the varying abilities of the class members and was very generous with his time. I learnt heaps. When my life calms down I would love to participate further. Keep up the great work.

The quality of the pieces under construction and completed are inspirational.


Introduction to Furniture Making

I hadn’t understood how much there was to learn about fine furniture making. I am thankful that with the input from the tutors I am able to make pieces of a much higher standard than I otherwise would have achieved. I’m now always aiming for everything to be of heirloom quality!

President 2008/10, Thursday AM Tutor Group

Never having previously held a chisel in my life, I approached my first tutor group with some hesitation. Some two years later, and with the prospect of completing my first project now in distant view, not only have I learned how to hold a chisel, and also to sharpen it, but I now have a beautiful set of chisels all of my own hanging on the wall of my shed at home. I am a woodworker !

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.


Tuesday PM TG

When I started at the club eight years ago, I did not even know how to use a screwdriver. I was sceptical when a friend recommended me to the beginner classes where I made an occasional table for my first project. I was always lagging behind the rest of the group and made a lot of mistakes, but at the end of the three and a half days of classes, I did have a solid piece of furniture to show for my effort. I was hooked!
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.

Wednesday AM Tutor Group

Just a note to say thanks very much for the Plane Tuning course.  It was fantastic.  I’d never done any courses with Gray before, but he is a really thorough teacher and I got a lot more out of it than I’d hoped for.  I’ve got a few old planes to restore which I will now work on with confidence.

Plane Tuning

I found the Router Techniques short course to be ideally suited to my needs. I’m relatively new to woodwork and had no clue on the topic (routers). The information the tutor presented was well thought out, clear, well paced and covered what I needed. I believe other more experienced attendees would say the same too.

I have, and will continue to, recommend your school to other wood workers, based on this course.


Router Techniques

I recently attended the Router Techniques short course. Gray introduced us to the various types of routers, hand held and table mounted, and the development of them over the years. He also covered router bits; shapes, sizes and cutting speeds.

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.


Router Techniques

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.


Thursday PM Tutor Group

Today was a terrific experience.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and learnt heaps.

Plane Tuning

I recently attended your Introduction to Furniture Making course and I was very pleased with the way the weekend was conducted and the knowledge passed on to the attendees.

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.


Introduction to Furniture Making

I learnt a lot over the weekend, much more than I expected. I was pleasantly surprised that at the conclusion of the two days we had covered the basics of design and construction principals, as well as information about the use and maintenance of tools, and the selection and preparation of appropriate materials.

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.


Introduction to Furniture Making

Just wanted to thank you for today Ben. I got so much from the Furniture Restoration course and you presented it with such energy I feel completely reinvigorated about my furniture empire.

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.


Furniture Restoration

When I started at MSFW, I had no idea about furniture making, and what was involved in making a piece of hand made furniture. All I knew was that I would like to be able to make furniture to my design and taste. After 12 months of attending tutor group sessions, I have really come to enjoy the process of furniture making in a group atmosphere and with a tutor who can meet the needs of even the most inexperienced furniture maker.

Wednesday PM Tutor Group

I recently attended the Furniture Restoration course with Ben Hodgetts and enjoyed it very much. I have no experience with this sort of work but found that Ben provided us with plenty of advice, instruction and supervision so that I felt comfortable at all times and more than achieved my tasks. The class was a good size: small enough that we all could have time for our own tasks to be addressed but with enough diversity that we could learn from each other.

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.


Furniture Restoration

The Melbourne School of Fine Woodworking is an eclectic collection of people focused on a passion for working with wood; but more than that, it is an oganisation that seeks to instill in people an appreciation for doing the right thing by wood and respecting highly evolved traditions of the craft. Designing with empathy and respect for function versus aesthetics, sourcing from sustainable origins and through people who share a similar appreciation of the quality of wood and wooden products.

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.


Tuesday PM Tutor Group

With the help of Master Restorer Ben Hodgetts, I’ve brought three family heirlooms back to life, and also worked on a number of small projects. Under Ben’s practical guidance, I’ve learnt how to repair structural damage; revive wooden furniture and apply a range of finishes; re-upholster with leather using traditional webbing methods and repair and replace locks and handles.

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.


Furniture Restoration

I found the Furniture Restoration course extremely informative.  I learnt a huge amount and Ben is a great teacher who is easy to approach and knows all there is to know about restoring furniture.  I really liked the fact that the course is only a one day course, held on a Sunday, where you get to bring your piece of furniture into the workshop to restore and at the end of the day you have an amazing restored (or almost restored) item.  Then you are able to apply all you have learnt to other furniture you may have at home.  I am looking forward to coming back for a second time.

Furniture Restoration

Day One of the Introduction to Furniture Making course was so interesting, learning all about the trees, how the wood dries, the different joins, etc.  Gray was really great in explaining everything to us and answering our questions.  He was excellent and we were very grateful for everything we learned.  We walked away with a much greater appreciation for the material and how to work with it.  Gray was really clear and obviously very knowledgeable.  He communicated all his knowledge to us in a very clear and patient manner.  I loved the combination of the theory on the first day and practical work on the second day – it worked really well.  Please pass on our genuine thanks to Gray.  We are really keen to join the tutor groups and hope that a spot becomes available for both of us in the near future.
Liz & Luke

Introduction to Furniture Making

I wanted to thank you for a great Plane Tuning course.  It gave me a much better understanding of planes and their uses AND I was able to bring my 100 year old plane, which was in pretty sad condition, and have it cleaned, tuned and operating by the end of the day.  A triumph!  There’s more work to do on it but I now understand what has to be done and what’s more, think I might just be able to do it.

Plane Tuning

A recent cold Melbourne weekend was made all the better by attending an Introduction to Furniture Making course. The course, over two days, was excellent. As a novice keen to explore the world of fine woodworking it proved a great entry point. I came away with the confidence and enhanced interest to take it to the next step of joining a tutored group next term. Gray our instructor has a wealth of experience and led us through demonstrations in such a way that we were all confident to test out new skills with hand tools during the hands-on second day of the course. His patience in instruction and passion for his craft encouraged all six of us to press on with our projects.

Introduction to Furniture Making

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.


Furniture Restoration

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.  


Introduction to Furniture Making

I found the Introduction to Furniture Making course to be a comprehensive, realistic and inspiring class.  It was a real privilege to hear from and see an expert at work, doing such fine and beautiful work.  I was really pleased to see something of how the experts work.  It was great to hear an overview of woodworking and to see something of the depth of skill and knowledge that is involved in making a fine piece of furniture.  It gave a clear and concise view of the work.  I appreciated Gray’s high standards and enthusiasm, his depth of knowledge and the fact that he didn’t dumb it down too much.  I loved being in the room with all the projects in the shelves and the tools and machines.

Introduction to Furniture Making