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Thursday, 12 March 2015

Waters & Acland Furniture School

Cumbrian furniture makers WATERS and ACLAND​ are well known for creating exceptionally elegant modern handcrafted furniture. Their furniture has drawn the attention of the Royal family, the bespoke guild mark committee of the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers and graces well appointed homes up and down the country.

When I visited their light and airy workshops in the village of Staveley last October, I was surprised to find something even more impressive than the covetable furniture in their showroom.

Waters and Acland don't just make commercial handmade furniture and commissions, they also deliver some of the best furniture making training courses available. The thing that really struck me was the astonishing rate at which students in the adjoining training workshop acquire the skills of fine furniture making and the standards that they achieve right from the word go.

After a week, students are able to complete an immaculate pair of matching dovetailed and mitred oak bookends. By the end of week two, they will have finished a stool with double wedged through tenons.

With those two test pieces perfected, it's straight into their first box - a dovetailed and mitred wall cabinet with morticed panel doors, made in the student's choice of materials. 

Chris (left cabinet), who also made the two pieces above, had done a bit of making before but was looking to up his game. Keira (right cabinet) achieved this standard in 9 weeks flat from a cold start. I have seen both cabinets up close and the details reward even the closest inspection.

You could be forgiven for thinking that making this much headway in a few short weeks must involve compromise, but you only need to look at the standard of Waters and Acland furniture to see that they are not really the compromising type. In fact the opposite is true. This astonishing progress is the result of being uncompromising, very high staff ratios, beautifully maintained high quality tools, and lots of one on one tuition with professional makers. 

The Waters and Acland team believe fervently in getting it right first time and checking their work at every stage. The same standards are applied to the job of training as they are to the job of making furniture, with layers of perfection locked in at every stage.

Both Chris and Keira have since gone on to make progressively more complex pieces and worked with progressively greater autonomy as they completed their 24 week course of training. I would like to wish both of these calm, confident and competent new makers every success in their future careers. For the last word, I'll leave you in Keira's capable hands:

If you would like to receive further information about training as a furniture maker with Waters and Acland please visit:

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