weekend course

Important notice: all face-to-face courses are cancelled until further notice due to the limits placed on us all by the global coronavirus pandemic.

Instead I am introducing smartBoxmaker distance learning
– one-to-one tuition via skype and Zoom.

Stay safe, but stay connected! More details posted very soon.

smartBoxmaker gift toens In the meantime why not buy a smartBoxmaker Gift Token?

… can be used at any time towards:

• a one-to-one online session
• anything from the smartShop


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full description

weekend box making courses:

box making workshopMy weekend box making courses offer a friendly and informal environment for learning some of the techniques that I regularly use to produce my boxes – and for meeting other like-minded enthusiasts.


box making courseThe weekends are project-based and are for a maximum of four people – everyone goes away with an [almost] completed box at the end of day 2.


where they are:


box making workshopThe courses are held in my workshop on the beautiful Acton Scott Estate, midway between Wenlock Edge and the Long Mynd in the South Shropshire hills AONB.


Acton ScottIf you don’t know this area, you have a great treat in store – the countryside around here is stunning!


what you make:


Each participant makes a simple box:

weekend course boxapprox 10″ x 7″ x 2 1/2″ with solid sides, veneered lid and base with a decorative line inlaid around the lid


… fitted with smartHinges and with a pig-suede lined interior.


To save time all the conversion and some of the machining will have already been done – these processes are covered in preparatory notes sent out before you attend. There are usually choices as follows:


main wood – walnut, sapele, maple or cherry
veneer for the lid – walnut, figured maple, sapele or cherry to match solid
inlay around lid – usually a choice of two or three
… and a choice of three or four colours of leather for lining.


what you learn:


•  How to veneer the panels to create the lid and base – simply, cleanly, reliably
How to glue up a box so that it’s absolutely square WITHOUT having to measure diagonals …
How to cut off the lid quickly, easily and neatly [the boxes are made ‘closed’]

•  How to accurately and safely cut the grooves for the inlays inverted on a router table ‘unseen’

•  How to trim the corners of router cut inlay grooves square


man on a galloping horse

•  How to make PERFECT mitres where your inlays meet at the corners – no men on galloping horses here!

•  How to sharpen and use the mighty scraper – the most versatile and best value tool you will EVER own

•  How to use abrasives to prepare for finishing properly

•  How to apply an oil finish


lining a box with leather
How to line your box with pig-suede.

… and many other tricks, tips and techniques along the way.

box making course
As well as these specific techniques there’s always plenty of more general chat about the design of the boxes, use of solid timber/veneer, handtools, abrasives, advice on which machines to prioritise in a small workshop and which hinges to use [admittedly a bit biased] and how to fit them, easily and quickly.


Usually sometime during the two days I try find time to hold a ‘clinic’ – this is so you can bring any work along that you’ve done in the past, or are doing currently. Any problems can be dealt with and queries answered.pub lunch

And there’s inevitably a bit of off-topic discussion, although I usually try to reserve this for the pub lunches that are always an enjoyable feature of these courses. We are spoilt around here for excellent pubs [each pays own].


the result:


box making course

At the end of the weekend you will have a beautifully inlaid box, with the machining for the hinges done and all the preparation for the oiling complete. But as the oiling takes three days [hard to fit into a weekend] and the lining can’t be done until the oiling is completed, what you take home is an ‘almost’ completed box.


All you will need to do is to finish the oiling, screw the hinges in place and complete the lining process with the leather provided, all of which are comprehensively discussed and/or demonstrated during the two days. In addition I send out detailed notes by email on the processes that we don’t quite finish, and I’m always available for after-sales service, either by phone or email, should you have any queries or problems. I also send out a list of useful suppliers which is being added to all the time, not least by course participants!


materials: Before you attend I send out a list of things to bring, together with plenty of preparatory information. You don’t actually need to bring anything and all main materials are supplied – although you will need to buy yourself a few inexpensive, easily available supplies afterwards to complete the project. 


experience: No experience is necessary – although most who attend will inevitably have had some experience in working with wood. Beginners are welcome.


what next?:


one to one box making tuition


The ground that can be covered in a weekend such as this is necessarily limited to the project in hand and some who attend are inspired to come and spend some one-to-one time afterwards [see offers below] so that certain aspects touched on during the weekend can be investigated in more detail. This can be making inlay lines, using burr veneers, curved-form boxes, learning french polishing, fitting complex interiors – or to make a special project from scratch.