Furniture making – individual projects or improving skills with Bernard Allen

Ref: S5D09300


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2 places available

About this course

Good craftsmanship is the focus of this course, whether making furniture to your own design if you have plenty of existing skills, or building a tool cabinet to practice key furniture making skills.

Course Description

This is an opportunity to focus on good craftsmanship and to develop your practical skills in designing and making furniture. Those at intermediate level will be supported to select a suitable project commensurate with their skill base. This will be discussed with the tutor on a one-to-one basis well in advance, and includes help and guidance with preparation and sourcing material, so that making can begin at the start of the course. Alternatively you can build a useful tool cabinet, which has through and lapped dovetails to develop your skills. Sharpening essential hand tools, will also be covered.

If you already have a sound understanding of furniture construction, you can design your own piece of furniture. Plans are drawn up with the tutor in advance, to maximise construction time during the course. This option is ideally suited to those who have attended previous furniture making courses at the College, or gained woodworking skills elsewhere.

All students will need to liaise with the tutor well in advance of the course to discuss ideas and plan your work programme according to their abilities.

Due to the many variables, you are likely to need to be prepared to complete your projects at home or return to a subsequent course, these are currently programmed twice a year.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials

What students need to bring

  • It is essential that you contact the tutor as soon as possible to discuss ideas for your own furniture project/design, or if you wish to make the tool cabinet project. Please email an outline of a project idea, with a rough sketch via email to Also include details of your past experience of woodworking, joinery, cabinetmaking or furniture making and your contact details. This will be passed to the tutor who will then contact you directly to discuss your project.
  • It is essential to wear sturdy covered footwear in the workshop.
  • Wood and materials: it is essential that you obtain timber or any other special materials for your project (glues, hardware etc) prior to the course. The tutor can help you with this if requested. You will need to reimburse him for any timber he purchases on your behalf.
  • Tools: ideally you should bring your own hand tool kit to this course (marked with you name). All tools brought should be tuned, ready for use. In addition, please bring any sash cramps and quick release cramps you have. The College will provide electric tools needed. If you bring your own electric tools they will need to be pat tested before use at in the College workshops for health and safety reasons.
  • Other materials: a wood machinist assists the group at the start of the course. Some general materials supplied by the College for the use of the group as a whole is included.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Abrasive papers
  • Available from tutor:
  • Timber, if ordered in advance

Student Reviews

" Bernard Allen is highly skilled as a furniture maker, he is also the most inspiring, patient and endlessly encouraging tutor I have ever met. After an office based career, he has helped me realise, and develop a talent for design and furniture making that I never knew I had "

Jim 2019

" Bernard Allen is a consummate craftsman who rejoices in sharing his unique skills. His approach embodies the ethos of a West Dean. The promotion of arts and craft by the enthusiastic dissemination of knowledge. This is a wonderful antidote to the packaged, 'make a widget' approach, that has crept in with some of the newer tutors. I feel qualified to make these comments, having regularly attended West Dean from its early years in the 1970's

Elliot 2019

" The quality and variation of courses on offer "

Michael 2019


Bernard Allen

Bernard Allen is a designer-craftsman. He produces traditional and modern furniture, screens, architectural and ecclesiastical commissions and small turned items.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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