How to Get Started in Furniture Making?

If you are reading this, I’m guessing you are considering a career as a maker, or thinking about getting into furniture making as a hobby or side hustle. While the two pathways are interconnected, they are not identical; each requires a different approach.

The Professional Maker

If you plan to get paid for your efforts you need a combination of technical skill, supporting knowledge, speed and accuracy. In other words, you need to understand how furniture is made and how to be efficient in the way you go about it.

Apprenticeships 

The most effective way is to combine formal instruction with work experience. This is something that apprenticeships excel at. Apprenticeships give you a chance to earn a wage while you learn on the job, giving you valuable real-world experience. The Gov.UK website has helpful links to get you started.

T- Levels

The new T-Level qualifications are due to start soon. These technical qualifications are the equivalent of 3 A-levels and will offer subjects such as furniture making and restoration. If you are 19 or younger it will be worth finding out what your school or sixth form college has available.

College, University or Furniture School

But what should you do if you are older? Relevant training and experience will always be attractive to prospective employers. There are several routes you could go down. For example, a degree in Product and Furniture Design at London Metropolitan University will help you develop your making skills alongside developing your style. The downside is you might not spend enough time working on your practical skills to make you fast enough to be industry-ready. 

Shorter alternatives are the Building Crafts College two-year Fine Furniture Design and Making diploma.

If you don’t want or need to study in London there are several excellent schools where you can hone your making skills to a very high level.

Robinson House studio run by Marc Fish has a long track record of training some of the country’s best new makers. Students from their 2 year Furniture Design & Makers’ course always rank highly at the annual Young Furniture Makers Exhibition. So too do students on Rycotewood’s Foundation Degree: Furniture Design and Make which has a similar reputation for delivering courses with a good balance of design sensibility and high-level making skills. West Dean College in Sussex also run a Foundation Degree in Furniture Making over two years.

If two years is too long, think about the 12-month Design and Make courses offered by Waters and AclandWilliams and Cleal and Rowden Atelier. All are known for their exceptional skill as designer-makers.

Keen to get started in just 6 months? If so, The Sylva Foundation’s – Professional Course might be just what you are looking for.

Cost

The Sylva Foundation’s course comes in at £6495 for 6 months, Rycotewood’s degree course costs £7,570 per year, the Building Crafts College charges £13,750 per year, while privately run courses at Robinson House Studio, Waters & Acland etc cost around £20,000 to £24,000 for 12 months. 

Funding 

If you can afford to pay for the course and keep a roof over your head you will be rewarded with a life-changing experience and the confidence to walk into a furniture-making workshop knowing you have the skills to tackle high-end work.  Finding the money to make this a reality can be difficult so it is worth asking the institution if bursaries are available. 

Don’t forget to seek advice from places like The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) who may be able to help with grants or funding to get your career off the ground.

Bespoke Cabinetry

Fitted furniture tends to be overlooked when we talk about making furniture but it is a big part of the industry. Employers in this sector are looking for people with a good grounding in machining manufactured boards, who can read technical drawings, and work quickly and accurately, both in the workshop and on-site.

Fitted furniture straddles furniture making, carpentry and joinery with employers expecting a reasonable understanding of how buildings are constructed. Knowing your way around tools such as the Festool Domino Jointer, and innovative fixings such as Lamello’s Clamex will be advantageous. Unfortunately, there is very little specialist training in this area. We aim to help fill the void with the Core Skills: Fitted Furniture course, which serves as an introduction to the subject. 

Keeping up to date with technology is increasingly relevant to work that used to be considered strictly manual. Learn how to use computer-aided design (CAD) and computer numerical control (CNC) machinery and you will find your combined skill set in high demand.

My Furniture Career Website

The My Furniture Career website – run by the Furniture Makers’ Company – connects new entrants with training providers and employers. It’s free and has a ton of useful information for you to access.

But What About the Amateur Maker?

Using a track saw

Not that long ago it was easy to find a woodwork course; almost every London borough had an evening class and the fees were affordable.

The landscape has changed over the last thirty years and local authority provision is virtually nonexistent. In its place, small privately run schools such as ours have taken up the slack.

All the aforementioned training providers run short courses; you can add the Goodlife Centre, The School of Stuff and ourselves to the list.  The Goodlife Centre delivers a wide range of craft skills including sewing and furniture making, The School of Stuff leans towards upholstery, restoration, and furniture-making. At the LSF we focus on furniture making and making tools.

Craft Courses at the LSF

As our name suggests we are dedicated to furniture making. We aim to cover all the aspects of the craft you would expect to find on a full-time course but in short intense sessions. It’s a format that allows for some flexibility; students can choose classes that suit their schedule. The short course format is affordable with our Core Skills classes start at £365.

But being affordable does not mean we skimp on quality. The workshop is kitted out with top-quality tools from brands such as Festool, Lamelo and Veritas. We also keep up with current trends in technology so that we can stay relevant to the interests of our members.

Luckily, we have good relationships with suppliers and can offer our students generous discounts on tools and materials.

We cater to adults of all ages and backgrounds. There are no entrance requirements or interviews, choose your course, pay and show up.

Check out our comprehensive range of Core Skills and Make a Project Courses