Good bedside manner

Like any sensible educational establishment, we always look closely at our curriculum to see where we can improve the teaching and learning experience.

Rather than simply duplicate what we’ve always done, the Chippendale school is therefore always seeking to innovate, do things differently, or bring in new specialist tutors from overseas.

That’s why last year we altered the initial few weeks of the professional course to task our students with making a bedside cabinet, complete with drawers and doors.

While it’s a relatively compact piece of furniture, making a bedside cabinet involves learning a whole array of basic skills including turning handles, French polishing, spray lacquering and how to fashion strengthening keys.

Further complexity is added with the top of each cabinet comprising five pieces of wood held together by loose tongue, tongue and groove, dovetail and domino fixings.

Adding to that, each cabinet door is fixed with mortice and tenon joints and the drawer box with half blind dovetails.

It is therefore a challenging introduction to the fundamentals of cabinet making, and is intended to give our students the basic skills and confidence to begin designing and making more complex pieces after the Christmas break.

The success of our professional course is based on a constant process of building our students’ confidence in their design and making abilities, and teaching the fundamentals on a challenging but practical task makes a lot of sense.

We’ve also introduced an element of competition into the project, because next week we’ll be judging what our students have made.

The winner will receive a No. 4 smoothing plane, 2nd prize is a block plane, and 3rd prize is a combination set square.

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