I was very impressed and quite envious of the space available. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, a new simmering passion for woodturning has turned almost to an obsession.
You run an excellent and tight ship, very understanding and tolerant, very good personal skills, clear and precise instructions, safety and presentation very good but above all, a great and enjoyable time to gain new skills and stop bad practice.
Colin Edwards, Eltham, London.
Excellent course providing plenty of skills to start me off on the right track. Good teaching and broken up nicely with a bit of banter and humour.
Great facilities, great fun, great sandwiches!
Richard Larner, Chatham, Kent.
Having never turned wood before, we were amazed at the quality of the finished results we were able to achieve with a lot of guidance and a little help.
The course pace was about right and Dave certainly has an extensive knowledge of the subject and of wood.
David and Stephen Hirst, Bexley, Kent.
My expectations in coming on the course were exceeded. I have a DIY lathe and have tackled a few projects successfully but I wanted to learn the correct way of cutting wood and sharpening the tools before I picked up too many bad habits. I am now busy making various jigs for my grinder and linisher to get my tools into acceptable shape before embarking on some more practice. I time I am sure I can tackle more demanding projects with competence, confidence and safety, thanks for your help and tips!
John Greenhill-Jeffery, Herne Bay, Kent.
I have scratched and scraped lots of blanks for the past two years and after two days have learnt to turn properly. I am sure that with a lot of practice of my new skills I will turn good quality work and get more enjoyment.
Thank you, not only for the knowledge, but for the sense of humour. It made a very pleasant two days!
D Watson, Canterbury, Kent.
What a fantastic course! The workshop is perfect, being light, warm and well equipped. I was thinking of buying a lathe but was not 100% sure. The course was a great way to make the decision and now I can't wait to be up and running with my own equipment.
Even though I was the only person on the course without my own lathe, I didn't fell left out and the learning pace was comfortable.
There are skilled people, and there are those who have a gift for teaching. Dave Bates is one of those rare individuals who are both.
Rob Pickering, Reading, Berks.
I enjoyed the course very much. It was well structured and the workshop facilities are excellent.
I would recommend this course to anyone who has bought a lathe and wants to get the best from it.
David Elliott, Sidcup, Kent.
I found the course had the right balance - the number of students, practical and theory. Plenty of tea and sandwiches, a nice touch.
Thanks to Dave's easy manner and content delivery I gained more insight into the 'mystery' of turning than I ever thought I would and took home a bowl that far exceeded my expectations.
A brilliant course and one I would recommend to anybody thinking of taking up this engaging craft.
Simon Mill, Dover, Kent.
What can I say? I am absolutely delighted with the knowledge and skills that I walked away with after attending your excellent two day course.
On reflection, I realised I was probably going to benefit from your course after only having been there for two hours. I was not disappointed.
I found that you had a natural way of communicating the course content without making me or any of the other student inadequate, a very important aspect for a complete beginner such as me.
The workshop facilities are superb - very important I believe when you are just getting to grips with a new hobby.
To sum it up, a very enjoyable course and money well spent.
Phil Taylor, Smeeth, Kent.
I had a great time. I started off never having used a lathe and was taken though all basics. The approach was clearly demonstrated and explained, the hands-on practical opportunities really set things into the memory. Nothing was too much trouble for David – help and advice were always available.
I really learnt a lot on the course and the big bonus was actually making something that looked half decent. The surprise from family and friends was worth the course fee alone.
Adrian Wright, Dover, Kent.
A really enjoyable course. The pace is excellent, Dave’s explanations very clear and his demonstrations well presented.
His guiding hands during practical work are very helpful even though it probably gives you a false sense of your abilities.
Lovely setting, great workshops, very friendly.
Nick Baggott, Reading.
I am sending this email to compliment you on the beginners/refresher wood turning course. It was intense, full of very useful facts and information, and nothing was too much trouble. Dave made the whole process very approachable and was patient with mistakes, questions and repeating information and techniques as often as needed! I came away feeling a fairly competent beginnner, able to start and complete a basic project on my own at home. We were even given homework (in the form of exercises). A great couple of days!
Margaret Wallace, Gloucester.
Thank you for enabling me to be able start woodturning with knowledge and confidence and with safety.
Michael Whitney, Thiers Sur Theve, France.
Overall, a fantastic two days, good instruction in a friendly and hospitable atmosphere. A very well equipped workshop and the fun of turning with others of the same level of experience. Thanks for your time and obvious enthusiasm for the subject.
Howard Guppy, Chelmsford , Essex.
I did enjoy the course. I’ve developed so much confidence that I can’t wait to start practising the knowledge gained during the course [which] is good value for money.
Adebowale Ajayi, London.
The course was excellent. From start to end, everything was explained very well. I will have no hesitation booking another course at a later date.
Derek Brightwell, Grays, Essex.
We are told that time passes quickly when you are enjoying yourself ! Thursday and Friday just rattle by for me and Saturday proved to be a let down as the course had finished and there was nowhere to go! I cannot thank S&B enough, for their help and support in making the Beginner Refresher such and enjoyable and informative time.
To Dave I offer my special thanks for the superb instruction we were given and add a request: Please don’t change a thing as the course is so well balanced . . . To Janet I also add my thanks for more than adequate sandwich lunches and to the rest of the staff – well someone has to prepare the blanks, hone the tools and prepare the workshops etc etc - what a great team you all are!
Bob Barrett, New Romney, Kent.
I felt immediately comfortable with the facilities and trainer. Very please with the products I achieved in only two days. Highly recommended.
R. Dumont, Dartford, Kent.
Before attending the beginners course, I made a point of reading two books on wood turning, one by Keith Rowley and another by Phil Irons. Halfway through the morning of the first day I realised that reading about woodturning was no substitute for a hands-on course. Dave is a first class tutor, and in my opinion has the happy knack of telling how a project should be done then showing how it is done. He also goes to great lengths to show how to handle tools and the things you can do with them. I would recommend anyone who is thinking about taking up woodturning as a hobby to attend one of these courses.
Cecil Armstrong, Deal, Kent.
Excellent course, first class tutor, super workshops. I gained some knowledge of woodturning, now to practice.
Maurice Gilbert, Ash, Kent.
I thoroughly enjoyed the course, the professionalism, the friendly, informal atmosphere – I very much look forward to returning. The safety aspect has been imprinted into my brain! I look forward to trying out my new found skills.
Mr R Brooks, Tenterden, Kent.
It was a real privilege to have such an expert woodworker giving lessons for beginners. The instructor also has all the interpersonal skills and human qualities to make him an exceptionally good instructor. The facilities could not be better in terms of modern, quality machines and the layout of the workshop. Thank you and your tem very much, including the lady who made the sandwiches.
John May, Ashford, Kent.
I had a brilliant time – as happy as a pig in shavings! To take home my ‘works of art’ at the end put the icing on the cake. Many thanks again.
Alison Andreassen, Rochester, Kent.
I feel that anyone like myself that had no previous experience in woodturning, this course is totally necessary, not only [for] the skills but from the health and safety aspect.I really enjoyed the course as Dave, who enjoys his subject, went into depth about the make up of the wood, seasoning and the use and maintenance of tools. I will recommend this course to anyone that I hear is thinking of taking up woodturning.
Dave Milstead, Kingsdown, Kent.
I really enjoyed my 3 days at the lathe and would have so much liked a week. You have the right mix of fun and work.( I made my comments [on the day] I would like to say that I was the only one who would have liked more time at the lathe). To get six people together with such different level[s] of skill to work together and have a laugh at our mistakes is not easy and goes to your credit for your skill and teaching ability. Many Thanks also to your wife Janet for feeding us all so well.
Terry Stower, Guildford, Surrey.
I learnt more in 3 days than I've learnt in the last 3 years working on my own. Thanks very much. John Keem, Canterbury, Kent. I was very impressed that despite having to provide every bit of equipment multiplied by seven that no corners had been cut in providing everything necessary for the course. It was a real bonus to learn woodturning in surroundings that are so complimentary to a craft based skill.
As someone with a background in building, I could see that the quality of restoration oozed from every detail. Although it was obvious that S&B have taken Health & Safety very seriously, I appreciated the fact that we were not molly coddled during the course. Enjoyed the little tour of the yard and looking at the equipment and wood store. Great sandwiches, thanks for a great course Dave.
Simon Burren, Westerham, Kent.
Thank you for an excellent course, not only with the skills and enthusiasm shared by Dave, but by the quiet and efficient backing given by the remainder of the staff - what a team!
J.B , Haywards Heath, West Sussex.
The course was an excellent introduction into wood turning and I would recommend it to anyone taking up wood turning. As a foundation course, the tools and techniques covered will stand me in good stead for a project I was rather reticent in doing. However, I now have the confidence to take it on.
George France, Aldershot, Hants.
I could not have wished for a more enjoyable 2 days. It was much better than I could have thought possible, we had fun, learned a lot ( I can now use a skew) and my wife was impressed by the two pieces I took home.
C. Dowsett, South Ockenden' Essex.
A well structured informative course which more than helped me to learn new (proper) techniques on spindle turning which was my main weakness. Dave is an understanding, patient tutor and although we were fortunate (for us) in only being three on the course, I imaging Dave equally managing six turners with no problems. Thanks to Janet for the excellent sandwiches - in the words of Arnie Schwarznegger, " I'll be back!"
Tim Roberts, Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich
Totally absorbing and enjoyable. Not everyone has the ability to point out where you are going wrong without making you feel a complete berk. Dave Bates has the ability and it makes all the difference. Many thanks, I had a great time!
David East, Folkestone, Kent.
A fantastic course in lovely settings! I was a little concerned at first when I realised that I was the only person who had a lathe already, but at no time was I made to fell that I should have known how to do anything already or my apparent lack of skill mentioned. I have been using my lathe for eight months and now I feel I know what I should be doing and how I should be doing it. The course covered all aspects of the craft from the tree to the finished item. The extra knowledge really helped [me] to understand the way the wood behaves.
Dave Spitter, Greenhythe, Kent.
Brilliant, brilliant,brilliant. I had some interest in wood turning before the course but now I can't wait to get some gear and continue practising what I have learnt. Pat and Den were great, leaving us to get on with it but on hand if help was needed. . . I would strongly recommend you to anyone who may have an interest.
Steve Church, Brighton, Sussex.
Excellent two days, we certainly got a lot for our money.
Alec Marriott, Dover, Kent.
I enjoyed every moment. Den and Pat were patient and very good all round.
Y P Smith, Faversham, Kent.
A very rewarding couple of days spent learning new skills. Enjoyable and informative.
Wendy Lloyd, Granada, Spain.
The course was excellent - venue, workshop, attitude ie. friendliness of all involved, food, materials and yes, even the weather was superb. Denis and Pat were perfect instructors, they gave everyone the level of attention they required; They were always ready to help and answer questions. Their teaching manner was relaxed but professional and their skill at the lathe very, very good. Could not fault any aspect from booking to completing the course. Thanks for a very enjoyable few days.
Kevyn Brooks, Maidstone, Kent.
Pat and Dennis are excellent woodturners and extremely willing and able to pas on their knowledge. There was a definite structure to the course but it only became apparent at the end of the two days. Pat and Dennis are 'hands on' woodturners, not professionals [and] their one-to-one assistance was excellent... I thoroughly enjoyed the two day course, learned some new techniques, picked up some helpful tips and hopefully dropped some bad practices. An excellent course in the presence of like minded people - very enjoyable.
WB, West Malling, Kent
I thoroughly enjoyed the two days and was amazed by what I produced - I had really only taught myself some spindle work before, so to come home with a bowl and a goblet was fantastic and a kitchen roll holder as well! The only improvement I could think of is I would find some course notes really useful as I cannot remember all the methods of chucking, tools etc. I'm sure it will come back to me, but it would have been great to have something to refer to. Not too detailed :- how wood was held in a lathe (which chucks), sequence of turning, finishing and which tools. An aide memoire as it were. Thanks for a really enjoyable of a couple of days, though I was shattered by then - too much concentration!
Mrs Hilary Gilmore, West Kingsdown, Kent.
A very informative and helpful, practical course. A lot was achieved and the majority of the time was spent using the lathe and practicing techniques and skills. The workshop facilities were very good. The instructors were very helpful, skilled and real experts. I would recommend the course to any turners. A thoroughly enjoyable day.
Roy Pickup, Canterbury, Kent.
Advice and tuition excellent. Friendly atmosphere. Thoroughly enjoyable day.
Lawrie Boston, Brentwood, Essex.
An excellent course, very friendly, good guidance and nice work produced at the end of the day.
R L Ashman, Ashford, Kent.
1 Day Hollow Vase and Hollow Form courses with Dave Bates.
We had an extremely full day and from my point (as an enthusiastic amateur) it was worth every minute. I felt I had achieved a new understanding of vase forms and felt really proud of my (almost) finished project. Dave has a great gift for teaching, combining excellent tutoring skills with a wonderful sense of humour and friendliness. The teaching workshops are second to none in the equipment, facilities and space.
Mike Hall, Whitfield, Kent.
A great day Dave. Don't worry feeling you gave us to much [to do] I would prefer that to the other way around. The vase is drying out nicely and has sanded up a treat.
Chris Scott, Chislehurst, Kent.
I have never learnt so much in a day! From the warm welcome to the friendly goodbye, the whole day was perfect.
Roy Smart, New Romney, Kent.
A safe workshop with enthusiastic instruction but very relaxed atmosphere.
A brilliant day course which I would recommend to anyone who may have an interest.
P Scott. Chatham, Kent
A Woodturning course report by Steve Grant
There must be thousands of would-be woodturners like me. My cheap lathe (well OK, it’s almost a lathe) was bought as a present some years ago, sans chuck but with a basic (as in awful) set of tools. The odd book, a few magazines, a couple of editions of the NYW and off I went, only to discover that this turning malarkey wasn’t as easy as it looks.
Though a keen and competent woodworker, the lathe was soon relegated to languishing in a corner, pressed into service only when a cylindrical part was needed for another project, or as the result of an occasional and ill-advised burst of enthusiasm. Everything I do involves the wood staying put and the tool on the move. In this woodturning lark, it's the other way round.
Centering the bloody timber is a problem. Finding the right speed is a problem. Sharpening the strangely shaped implements that turners call tools is a major problem. Getting a cut even approaching those you see made by an average turner at a country craft fair was seemingly impossible.
All the while – there’s something nagging in the back of your mind telling you that you really must get your head around wood turning. All those lovely pieces that could be made. All those off cuts and ‘scrap’ pieces that could be transformed into attractive object d’art. Those legs for that Windsor you’re going to make… some day.
The answer is a course, of course.
Beginner / refresher. That sounds about right. Three days on a farm in the Kent countryside under the tutelage of none other than Dave Bates.
That’s it then. Booked.
The day arrives. Five others and I, all looking somewhat apprehensive and not quite knowing what we were in for, make small talk and discover that we’re all in the ‘beginner’ category. We’ve all got lathes and tools of various descriptions, but we’ve all had about as much success as hopeful kids at a seaside crane booth.
We look lovingly at the seven lathes in the teaching workshop. Record CL4’s with electronic speed control. Chisels and gouges from Robert Sorby and Hamlet. Piles of blanks. Smocks. Dust extraction. A wood burning stove throwing out a lovely even warmth (it was December!) Loads of wonderful pieces on the side. Bowls, spindles, goblets – all with an elegance and form worthy of a gallery – or so it seems to us.
In walks the enigmatic Bates. Big grins, introductions, and we all watch as he strolls purposefully towards his lathe, walks straight past it and puts the kettle on.
‘Right then. Who fancies a cuppa?’
I was later to learn that not only is Dave Bates a helluva turner – he’s a helluva teacher too. For him, the kettle is as important a tool as any in the workshop. He uses it to ‘pace’ the day. To pull things together and take time to explain things informally and often on a one to one. He works his students like a sheepdog works his flock. Doesn’t miss a trick, and never lets anyone stray too far. He’s got ears like a sheepdog too. He can hear what you’re doing – his lathes talk to him. They tell tales on we students.
‘Speed your lathe up a little Steve, and use the bevel. You’re not quite rubbing the bevel'. All this, and he’s at the other end of the workshop looking the other way.
We all settled in really quickly, because it became immediately apparent that Dave is nothing if not informal. No high falutin’ nonsense here. Lots of banter, lots of laughs. We’re here to learn, but we learn best if we enjoy ourselves at the same time, says Bates. If only they’d inscribe THAT above the portico of every teacher training college in the nation – we’d all be a lot better off, says I.
We start by learning how to cut the wood. Far from being a chore, the entire process comes alive as he explains how wood is structured and how we can use the structure to our advantage. Work with it, not against it. We make our first tentative cuts. Within half an hour, we are merrily making the best shavings we’ve ever made, six Cheshire cats marvelling at our new-found technique and beginning to believe we just might be able to turn wood after all.
Dave goes from lathe to lathe, from person to person, polishing our technique, getting us to move with the gouge, making sure we’re rubbing that there bevel – and the whole object of the exercise is to make shavings. Great long thick shavings. Fine, delicate ‘Angel hair’ shavings. Everything in between shavings. But shavings.
He encourages even the most inept of us (which was me) by pointing out what we’re doing right and getting us to build on it. ‘That’s it – you’re almost there. If you just do this…’
Then comes the point when we actually start a project.Writing this now, it’s hard to believe that he managed to get all six of us excited about making a kitchen roll holder. Effectively a small platter and a spindle that then has to be put together. We could hardly contain ourselves – and I’m NOT joking!
The reason is that Dave had explained the techniques we would be employing to make said kitchen roll holder. There’s a parallel spindle with a cove and a bead at the top, and a tenon at the bottom. There’s a platter with a rounded edge and a mortice in the middle. We’d be using the pointy bits and the chuck thing. We’d be using the gouges and the scrapers AND the parting tool. We’d be varying the speed of the lathe. This kitchen roll holder meant we’d be introduced to a whole range of techniques that we’d all be using later and for ever more. As I said. We were excited.
By the end of the first day, we all had our kitchen roll holders formed to varying degrees of shape and perfection, nicely finished and totally individual. They were our own, crafted by our hands and eyes, with a little help from a few boys in Sheffield, of course. By now, we were a crew. Mates. The banter was good, there was a real sense of camaraderie and shared experience. Most of us hadn’t been anywhere near a tutor/student scenario since we were kids, and to a man, we were enjoying it thoroughly. We were looking forward to the next day, when we were going to tackle a bowl… then a box.
By the end of the three days, every one of us felt we had learned an awful lot, and we had the evidence to prove it. We had a much better understanding of wood itself – Dave absolutely loves wood and infected us all with a similar affection. We all knew what to look for and what to avoid when buying not just blanks – but when buying timber. In three short days, we had learned how to turn wood to the point where it looked almost finished on the lathe. We felt far more confident about the tools, about what they were for and about how to use them. Dave had demystified sharpening and relegated it from the realms of the black arts to a quick and confident touch on the grindstone. We had been introduced to form and figure, to proportion and balance. We had learned to appreciate a ‘good shape’, and learned how to approach achieving it. To a man, we had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and we all left brimming with inspiration and enthusiasm built on a solid understanding of the basics of what woodturning is all about.
All you’ve got to do is tip the water out, and follow the flute.
Nothin’ to it.
Note from S&B. We have since discontinued the 3 days courses because we were all shattered at the end of them!