Wonderful Weekend Woodwork Course at The Woodlab in Dartington

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Four women stand outside of a workshop holding shelving units that they created on a woodwork course at The Woodlab iat Dartington in Devon

The results of our woodwork course at The Woodlab at Dartington in Devon

When I first started my blog way back in 2009, a time before blogging was an actual career option, I wanted it to be like a digital magazine. I wanted to share all the exciting products, projects, designers, collections, events and design news that I was discovering on a daily basis. I had no intention of ever sharing my own home upgrades or DIY projects (affiliate).

The majority of successful interior blogs do just this. They take you along with them on their home renovation journey, sharing their tips and advice along the way and teaching you how to do similar. But I’ve never been one for DIY. I didn’t think I had the skill or the ability to make things or even use tools. And this has stopped me from doing any kind of DIY projects at home for years.

Last year though, as I worked on my growth mindset I realised that this is just a story I have been telling myself and if I wanted to, I could learn how to use tools, make things and do DIY. The thought was quite scary though, and whilst I know you can learn everything on YouTube, the thought of learning how to use power tools (affiliate) scared me half to death. No, I needed a course, run by professionals who could teach me in a safe environment and make it fun.

Woodwork Course in Devon

So when a lovely woman came into my coworking space in Totnes and told me about a woodwork course near me, I had to find out more. She told me about The Woodlab in Dartington, a maker-space and wood-hub designed to help reconstitute regional wood-processing chains, and make the domestic timber industry more resilient.Β 

Based in a tractor shed on the edge of the North Wood at Dartington Estate, the Woodlab offers facilities and tools to local makers and woodworkers and has now launched a series of woodwork courses for beginners and those who are more experienced but maybe want to dabble with some new machinery or techniques.

Needless to say, I signed up for a weekend woodwork course immediately. Now, I didn’t think too much about it, I just signed up without really knowing what I was getting myself into. I knew if I started to overthink this I would chicken out…because power tools are scary!

Woodwork for Beginners

When I received the information about the woodwork for beginners course I was a little apprehensive to learn that I would be using a router (affiliate) to create a shelving unit. Firstly, I had no idea what a router was and I had to Google it. And secondly, a shelving unit sounded way more advanced than what I believed I was capable of creating in a weekend.

But I put any negative and critical thoughts out of my mind and vowed to just go along and give it my best shot.

When the day came, I headed off on the 30-minute drive excited and scared at the same time. Upon arrival, I was super happy to discover that there were only three other people on the course and they were all women. This somehow made it feel a lot less scary and more manageable.

The instructor, Sam, instantly made us all feel very welcome and put us at ease. He gave a very thorough introduction to the Woodlab, shared the background, the idea behind it, the vision and mission and helped us to understand why it’s so important that we work with our natural woodland and stop just seeing it as a resource that we can take from over and over again.

Crash Course in Using a Router

A white man demonstrates how to set up a router on a woodwork course at The Woodlab in Devon.

In the next segment, Sam introduced us to the router (affiliate). He explained what it can do and showed us how to put one together and use it. It was at this point that he let us loose with the router and allowed us to try it out. Whilst I did feel quite scared having to operate this scary bit of deadly machinery, I also felt very confident that Sam had given us enough information and training to use it safely.

And my god, how proud did I feel afterwards? I didn’t do a bad job either. The line I routed out of the wood was even reasonably straight to my surprise.

A piece of wood that has been routed on a woodwork course at the Woodlab in Devon

Next, Sam showed us the prototype shelving unit he had whipped up earlier and explained that we were all going to make one of these for our own homes. I couldn’t quite fathom how it would be possible in the remaining day and a half that I would be able to create something quite that complex. But I trusted Sam and his expert knowledge and decide to just do whatever he told me to do without hesitation. He clearly believed we could do this, so why shouldn’t we?

Making an Ash Wood Shelving Unit

Sam took us through every process and procedure slowly and step by step. With each new process, he allowed us to set the machinery up and have a trial run to make sure we knew what we were doing and could do it safely. There was never a moment when I felt in danger or that I couldn’t do something and Sam was always on hand for extra guidance if we needed it.

Using Other Tools in the Workshop

Whilst this particular woodwork course was all about using a router, we did get to work with other tools as well because there were other processes that could not be achieved with the router alone. We also had the chance to work with the band saw, the table saw, the oscillating spindle sander and an orbital sander.

A Steep Learning Curve

Given my very limited experience with woodwork and DIY, this woodwork for beginners course was very much out of my comfort zone and a very steep learning curve. There was so much to learn and it really made me chuckle when I saw the professional photos taken by local photographer Lucy Wallace. My face was a picture of focus and concentration as I tried hard to take it all in and operate the machinery safely.

An Empowering Experience

I am so pleased that I signed up for this woodwork course. It has boosted my confidence so much and has left me wondering why it has taken me so long to get on board with woodwork and DIY. Now that I know what I am capable of there are so many simpler and smaller DIY jobs that I feel confident enough to take on around the house.

Overall, this was an amazing weekend. I learnt so much from our wonderful teacher Sam, met some lovely women and came out of the experience with a shelving unit that I am extremely proud of. I haven’t yet put it up at home as I forgot to bring the brackets home with me but once it is up I will update this post with a photograph of it in all its glory.

If you live local to me in the South Hams, I can’t recommend The Woodlab enough. They now have a selection of woodwork courses for adults that you can book online. Whether you want to use a router to make a shelving unit like I did or you’d prefer milling wood to make a serving board or whether you’d rather make a picture frame on the table saw, there is something for everyone.

If you are more experienced in woodwork, there are also regular sessions for those looking to improve their hand tool accuracy, learn new techniques and joints and practice them. There are also tool care sessions where you can learn to sharpen your tools.

If you don’t live near me in the South Hams there are bound to be woodwork courses near you too. Simply search online for “woodwork courses near me” to find one close by. Even if, like me, you are convinced you are not capable of using power tools, step outside your comfort zone and give it a go. You never know what you might end up making.

Have you ever done a woodwork course? Would you consider doing one? If so what would you like to learn and what is holding you back? Let me know in the comments below.

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