A safe way to learn a new skill and try your hand at green woodworking!

Little Acorn Furniture courses have been postponed until after the February half term in line with the current lockdown restrictions. Beyond this, we are hoping to run the scheduled courses as planned assuming that the government restrictions are relaxed sufficiently.

During this time your safety is of absolute paramount importance to us. Courses will only run if everyone feels safe and confident in the workshop setting. It is also essential that you are able to get the most out of the experience and thoroughly enjoy your time with Little Acorn Furniture. 

If you have any questions about attending a course over the coming months please do not hesitate to get in touch.

I appreciate that travel and accommodation can still be problematic and that everyone has their own unique situation in terms of vulnerability and risk. If you would like to secure your place on a course either for your self or as gift, there is no need to worry about coming along until you feel absolutely ready. All courses and vouchers are valid indefinitely and you can book your course at any time. It is entirely possible to book a course now for next spring or summer, as we all need something to look forward too at the moment.

Our teaching space is a very airy and open environment completely open on two sides to the outdoors with large windows and open cladding to the other sides. There is plenty of outside space for us to use with stunning views of the Teign Vally and the spectacular Fingle Wood.

Safety measures will be in place in line with current guidance and these include social distancing, equipment will be spaced at 2-meter intervals and where required we will be using the ample outdoor space around the workshop. All of the equipment is easy to move and rearrange so family groups will be able to work comfortably in closer proximity, with individuals able to make the most of the space available.

A one-way system of navigating the workshop will also be implemented to maintain social distancing as people move around the workshop.

The workshop has two modern toilets with hot water and an additional sink for drinking water.

As well as bringing your own lunch, it is now suggested that you bring your own drinks including a flask for hot drinks as we will sadly not be able to supply the usual continuous flow of tea and coffee. When it is necessary to gather as a group we will make use of the open areas outside the workshop, this will include introductions, lunch and briefings throughout the day. For this reason, we may have to postpone or delay courses if the weather is bad enough to prevent this.

Rather than a single cleaning station for all to use you will be issued with your own personal supply of hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, face mask and gloves to use throughout the day. These will be clearly labelled and will prevent queueing to use a cleaning station. You will also get your own supply of basic measuring equipment for your personal use throughout the course and self-adhesive labels to ensure there are no mixups (and so we can find out exactly who it is that loses all the tape measures)!

All tools, equipment and surfaces will be sterilised before, during and after each course.

Depending on your course, you will also be provided with a personal supply of basic equipment for your exclusive use throughout the course. This will include, pencil and notebook, tape measure, ruler callipers and gauges.

There will be sufficient hand tools for everyone to use one each with no need to share, but I would still recommend that you try a few as they are all very different, these will be thoroughly cleaned and sterilized after each person has used them and you are welcome to stick to the same tool all day if you prefer.

It is likely that during the course I will need to be closer to you than guidelines suggest in order to provide suitable instruction and demonstration of the finer techniques. In these brief moments face masks will be worn by both parties and the degree to which this happens will be entirely in your control.

These measures will be monitored and updated as the guidance is altered. We are confident that you will be able to have a safe, enjoyable and rewarding experience with us and hope to see you soon!

Things are not as we anticipated this year!

Things are not as we anticipated this year!

The current situation with regard to restrictions put in place due to COVID 19 is likely to impact on all scheduled courses this year.  For the immediate future, all courses are postponed. This will be the case until the restrictions are sufficiently eased for us to resume. All current bookings will be rescheduled (if needed) and new course dates will be published in due course. Although existing bookings will take priority we are still happy to take new bookings and will be running more frequent courses once the situation changes. As ever all of the course bookings both new and existing are fully transferable so rest assured that you will receive your ‘Greenwood course’ as soon as it is feasible and convenient for you.

Original dates are given below but watch this space for rescheduled and new dates as the situation progresses.



Fame at last!

I am incredibly pleased to have been featured in the April edition of Devon Life Magazine. The article really hits on what Little Acorn Furniture is all about. We have had some fantastic courses already this year, I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has come along and added to the creativity in their own way.

We also have big plans for our first appearance at the Devon County Show this year. It looks like this summer is going to be a good one for Little Acorn Furniture.

Chairs as individual as you are!

It’s been several months since I last wrote something in this section of my web site, and a lot has happened in that time. After a very quiet summer last year, I really had to take a close look at what Little Acorn Furniture was doing and where it was going. No one thing changed but over the winter several things seemed to fall into place. I am immensely great full to a number of people for this and couldn’t possibly thank them enough for their invaluable support and input. The start to this year finds Little Acorn Furniture with fully booked courses and a string of fantastic reviews and comments from all who have attended (Thank you, everyone). More contract work and clients than ever before, and a new commitment and partnership with White Wood Management that promises a very exciting and diverse future for both of us.

Add to this a forthcoming article in Devon Life Magazine and a place on the Dartmoor Artisan trail and things really do look promising.

For the next few blog posts, I will be focusing on something else that happened this winter and that is the first of a brand new Chair making course. My aim has always been that whoever visits my workshop take away with them something unique that they have made from scratch themselves. This is not so much of a challenge for me when it comes to stools, pole lathed dibbers and bats or even tables. Chairs, however, pose a number of technical challenges and the obvious thing to do is to all make the same chair. on each course. This increases everyone’s chance of success and keeps my stress and preparation levels just about manageable. But that is not what I wanted for my visitors, they must make something entirely unique and to their own tastes. With this in mind our first Rustic Chair Making Course took place this February.

The Ingredients

I would start the course with a load of freshly cut logs left as long as possible, which is about six feet as I have to carry them out of the woods near the workshop. I would also have as many species available as I could, this very much depends on the time of year and the work I have been doing prior to the course. In this case, we had Ash, Sycamore and some rather nice Cherry. I also provided seasoned beech slabs, again these were left as large as feasibly possible. So we have all the ingredients in place along with the equipment.

Next came the recipe, could I really expect people to design their own chair, they had after all come to me to learn how to make the chair and designing requires a whole other set of skills and factors to consider. How then to ensure that each person could create their own piece of furniture in just one week and be certain that when it came to it the chair was comfortable and well proportioned?

The Recipe

I then set about listing the options available. I have no steam bending set up as yet in my work shop, so that simplified things a bit. Although steam bending is a truly wondrous thing to do it is time consuming and often slightly unpredictable, so bow backed chair was not on the menu.

Stick back or ladder back, that was a good start. Was a splat an option? I decided that only if people had their hearts set on it or seemed capable of achieving the extra work in the time given would this be added to the menu. This along with the number of sticks or rungs and the width and height of the back were limited only by the desire and skill of the maker. So far so good. There are several options for making and jointing the comb on a stick back chair and I listed these as part of the menu. The seat was quite simple all my chairs have a solid seasoned slab seat and as I was teaching the course that is what it would be. The size and shape of the seat could be a matter of personal taste as could the degree to which it is shaped and carved. Chair height (or leg length, depending on how you look at it) was quite straight forward as all of my timber was in long lengths, the stretcher arrangement is also easily adapted and I presented the options for square or H arrangements.

The Instructions

So I felt that I could deal with the mechanics and practicality of quite a wide range of designs, but how to ensure that it all came together in the end. All of the chairs that I have made recently were quite unusual and specific to the client’s needs, these would not do as templates for a course. So, I set about designing a chair that could be adapted, the spacing’s and angles were all worked out for a demonstration chair, an average chair that would be comfortable (I hoped) and fairly achievable in the time available. This was to be my starting point, it was an imaginary chair that could be made in any of the ways I have mentioned and still work. An ‘average’ to act as a starting point, it could be made wider, taller, deeper in fact altered in any way and by carefully tweaking the dimmensions and angles would still definitely be a lovely functional chair.

In doing all of this I did not in any way detract from or diminish the skills to be gained and determination needed by participants to complete their project, neither I hope did I limit there input or influence on the chair they chose to make. Rather, I tried in some way to provide as blank a canvas as possible with a number of options. It also encouraged a view of the bigger picture from the onset and allowed me, the teacher the time to focus on the detail of the process.

Perhaps, I should call the course ‘Design & Build Your Own Chair’ because that is exactly what happened.

I cant wait for the next one.

Five days, three very different chairs made by three lovely people.

And now for something a bit different

Increasingly I am being asked to make things that require the use of fully seasoned timber rather than Green Wood.  Unusually for me, the timber is seasoned before I get to it with my tools rather than afterward. As my workshop, tools, hands, and head are set up to deal with wood that is still unseasoned this poses certain challenges. With only the bare minimum of power tools and limited space, I set about making a fitted wardrobe for customers in Exminster.

As ever I was involved in the entire process from tree to bedroom and this is a brief story of how a bodger managed to make a very un ‘green wood’ wardrobe.

Once again Jim white of Whitewood Management was able to provide ideal material. Larch felled from near Okehampton and milled several years ago on his Peterson sawmill. This had then been air dried for several years in ideal conditions and then stored under load to prevent distortion or warping, perfect.

Dimensioned timber (Douglas Fir in this case) straight of the Peterson ready for the seasoning process.

One wardrobe in kit form.

The timber was in large 8 by 4-inch sections some sixteen feet in length.  I select two boards that were straight and relatively knot free, cut them to approximate lengths and brought them home.  I was now in the happy position of having everything I needed for the job, well almost. Choosing the correct and most suitable piece of wood for a project is equally important whether it is small diameter green wood or seasoned boards. Any unforeseen defects can cause havoc with your plans later down the line. The Green-Wood approach almost forces you to work with and incorporate these defects or characteristics into your work. I handled correctly the end product is all the better for it.  What I needed now though was timber that I could bend (or straighten) to actually obey my wishes.

This piece of paper must not be lost!

These boards must be sectioned up and straightened so that when assembled the doors would line up, close (and remain) closed and the hinges would fit etc. I had already roughly worked out that I had enough material of the appropriate lengths and now set about my cutting list for the numerous individual components of the frame and six doors. The result can be seen the opposite, this was transcribed onto a full-length board to give the actual dimensions that were needed for the job.



I was now well and truly on the outside of my comfort zone, I have worked on numerous timber frame projects and have built several pieces of furniture this way for our home… But this was for a client… It had to be right!

Smaller bits of wood.

Having re-sawed the boards using my basic but perfectly adequate table saw and miter saw. I used a benchtop jointer plane and enlisted the help of a friend, who might have been an actual joiner.

Suppressing my urge to yell, “straight enough is fine” and “don’t worry I can incorporate that into the final design” I bit my tongue as we worked the individual pieces until they were straight square and true, oh and the correct size of course.

I have since reverted to a hand plane for squaring timber (there is a dining table on its way matching those chairs I made). That said I can not devalue the ease and functionality of a surface planer, they are simply not as pleasant to use.

The frame went together in a most satisfying way.

Now back in more comfortable territory, it was time to cut the mortise and tenon joints for the frame. I decided to follow the conventional rather than traditional route to do this and set up my table saw and miter saw to cut the tenons.  If you are going to use machines to do your work for you, the pleasure comes from using them to the best of their abilities. I spent a good while truing the fences, blades and calibrating the scales. All of this paid off as I was able to quickly cut all the tenons for doors and frames. My bench morticer did the rest. A quick and satisfying clean up with a favorite chisel and we were ready to put it together.

One of six doors ready for clamping.

To keep costs down for the client and to make life easier for me hardwood ply was used for the door panels. Recesses were cut on the table saw and finished by hand, I still don’t own or want to own a router. With the aid of a couple of quickly knocked up right angle jigs and a flat workbench, the doors went together. Against my better judgment, I used expanding joiners glue and have since vowed (again) never to use it EVER again. It may be effective but it is messy and unpleasant to use, being self-taught I have never shied away from the imperfections in my work and do not need a hideous chemical concoction to make me feel better about the slight gaps or miss alignments that inevitably (if very occasionally) occur.


By this stage, I was really enjoying myself.

We now have significantly fewer bits of wood laying around the “garage size” workshop which is now very full of a “bedroom size” wardrobe door frame. As predicted the doors almost but didn’t quite fit the frame, fine we can plain them down and square them up to fit! But we cant put the frame together, there is no way we could get it up the stairs to the bedroom. With no flat surface large enough to lay the frame flat on, the doors were planed (by hand) and fitted whilst the frame was propped up against the workbench.  I took great pleasure from the simple task of chiseling the recesses for the hinges, taking my time and reveling in the peace, quiet and the satisfyingly repetitive nature of the job. Would it fit? Would it all line up as expected, these were problems for another day, I had thirty identical three-millimeter recess to chisel out of this lovely wood, that was good enough for now.

I could, I suppose of fitted the frame in the bedroom and then fitted the doors on site! There was a very good reason for not doing this though. The client was very imminently expecting a baby and I did not want to be in part ownership of their master bedroom when the family suddenly got bigger by one. So came the day when the kids (mine) were speedily deposited at school, the van loaded and a mad dash through the village made with bits of wardrobe. Carried upstairs in the now quiet house it soon became apparent that YES it does fit and it is straight and YES the doors still go on and close, mostly. A few tweaks here and there and a slight upgrade of the latches to compensate for very minor twists in the timber (it wasn’t like that a few days ago, I assure you) and there you have it.  After another visit to fit some cunningly shaped cover strips, a shelf and rail my work was done. Lots of lessons learned and proof that determination can prevail.

And there we have it. I was very pleased with the outcome as were the customers, although they were far more excited about the beautiful baby girl that arrived at about the same time. I suppose I can forgive them though.