Course Start Dates
About the Course
My name is Simon Vowell and I am a traditional pole lathe turner that has been introducing the craft back to the general public for the past ten years. This beginners course will cover the basics of green wood-turning with all tools and materials provided. No previous experience necessary.
The course content will include the selection of materials, tool types, techniques and their safe use to create a finished item by the end of the day. The emphasis on this course is to provide you with the knowledge and confidence to carry your new found skills forward into a new and rewarding hobby.
There are no more than two students on this course at any time although I will teach a student on a one to one basis when booked according to my advertised dates. I am also happy to take couples / family members (adults only) for a fun days wood turning tuition.
I am based at Snelsmore Common Country Park near Newbury, Berkshire. This is a S.S.S.I. (Site of Special Scientific Interest) managed by BBOWT (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust).
Courses are taught in a relaxed woodland environment at Snelsmore Common regularly unless otherwise committed to other events.
If booking with a CraftCourses voucher for part or all of the course fee, please fill in the contact form above. Your voucher code must be provided at the point of booking.
What's included in the price?
All tuition, tools and materials.
Tea and Coffee provided.
We had a wonderful day with Simon, with him taking us through the process of using pole lathes to create our own dibbers. It was so relaxing, therapeutic, educational and a fantastic way to spend a day. And Simon is a fantastic teacher - so knowledgeable, patient and kind. By the end of the day I was really itching to have another go and sad that it was over!
Stephen Russell - - #27727
I can only re-iterate what the reviews point out. A very enjoyable, instructive and productive day from Simon, who is very patient and encouraging to a student with no previous knowledge of woodturning. A new enthusiasm is born !!! Highly recommend !!
Chris Allin - - #15784
A thoroughly enjoyable day. Perfect setting, a good brew or two from the wood fired kettle and more importantly some brilliant tuition on the craft of green wood working. Simon is a great teacher with a vast amount knowledge that he has a passion for sharing. I'll be going back.
Roland Askquith-Ellis - - #14335
Great day's course at Snellsmore Common. Really great setting. Supreme welcome with a brew over a wood burning fire. Soon into creating our dibber for hole making. Simon was an excellent teacher, chatted the process through and yet was very much hands on with the wood. Good pace and very productive. Having just 2 on course meant lots of tutoring time. Superb value for money!
Very relaxing. A supreme way to spend the day. Thanks very much, so enjoyed it.
I would highly recommend the course to others. Bring on the bowl making next time!
Robin Howard - - #13413
It's a great course. Simon is very knowledgable in both the skill of turning and of the wood itself. The day will run at whatever pace you're comfortable with and you'll end up feeling confident and inspired.
Joe - - #13335
Simon (aka wood god) was an amazing teacher, with so much knowledge!! Highly recommended what a great day!
Lewis gallagher - - #13084
I took this pole lathe course on a damp January day so the exercise from treadling the lathe and the tea from the fire kept you warm. Simon is an excellent teacher, breaking down the steps from a billet to creating the final dibber so it was easy to understand and seemed like the right pace; certainly with only two students you get plenty of attention. You need good technique to turn on a pole lathe and it was great way to learn to turn.
John Latchford - - #12626
I had never used a lathe in my life before but have always been fascinated when seeing one used. The course was most enjoyable from learning about trees and wood to the use of tools and equipment including safety. Not only was Simon a good teacher but an enjoyable person to be with and at the end of the day I came away with a dibber that I had made and an enormous amount of new knowledge. I only wish that I had gone on the course when I had first retired as the cost of setting up is quite small compared to say, golf. I am now 79 years old and think it is too late to take it up further as an enjoyable pastime. Don't leave it too late to learn this new skill. However I really enjoyed my day in the woods and meeting Simon.
David Marks - - #11902
This is a very informative course with a very knowledgeable teacher. Simon makes sure that you not only understand what you need to do but why.
I would highly recommend that anyone interested in learning the art of pole lathe turning attends one of Simon's course.
Trevor Gill - - #10539
An excellent introduction to the craft, under the tutelage of Simon. He is a great teacher, and his passion and knowledge of both the craft and the forestry that supports it shine through. A great relaxing, learning day. Thanks Simon.
David Ramsden - - #9909
Simon is obviously a very knowledgeable, skillful and patient teacher and craftsman who made my first introduction to woodworking yesterday, extremely fun and rewarding. I would have no qualms about recommending this introduction into the art of Bodging to almost anyone!
John - - #9672
I have just attended Simon's introductory green wood turning course and can heartily recommend both the course and the instructor. As a trainer myself (in a very different field) I was impressed with Simon's skills as a trainer, as well as a craftsman. He took great care in assessing my "skills" at each stage and helping me to improve throughout the day, while giving me time to develop the different techniques. I learned lots and thoroughly enjoyed doing something different & creative. Thank you, Simon.
Chris Wade - - #9538
Brilliant manual lathe bowl turning course, great teacher. Thoroughly enjoyable course, lots to learn and about the history, techniques and skills of this type of turning. The ability to create something of beauty and practicality without using any machines at all is a great experience. I would recommend this course to anyone.
John Mason - - #9533
Simon is an excellent, patient teacher who shares his passion for working green wood. The woodland setting, his knowledge of forestry, the first class support and his ability to tailor his course to the varying knowledge and capability of his two students make this a day to remember. Taking home a garden dibber you have fashioned yourself from a log of wood is the icing on the cake. I was given the course as a present and would highly recommend it to everyone.
Amanda Ellison - - #9020
Simon is a very good teacher, a real expert and enthusiast for his craft, and provided an excellent introduction to green wood turning. The location is excellent, a woodland compound - with plenty of shelter - and tea. I use power lathes, but found many of his tips useful for any lathe. A very worthwhile day.
Martin Chapman - - #8710
I just finished Simon's introduction to Traditional Green Wood Turning Course and loved it. Simon was very patient and thoughtful in his approach to teaching. He taught and emphasized safe tool then his nice calm teaching style was used in the actual functional wood working techniques. Clear demonstrations were the beginning then observations of our attempts with helpful tips when needed. Simon was always available for questions and happy to assist if issues arose. The day flew by and at the end I have something that I was quite happy with and can use - great stuff!!
Rian - - #8705
Simon is a passionate teacher with a deep love and appreciation for his craft. I arrived at Snelsmore Common with little to no experience with woodwork, let along green woodworking. Simon patiently took me from log selection, through to billet, shave horse, lathe, and then shaping techniques with ease. Beautiful surroundings, pleasant company, a warm cup of tea and a fantastic learning experience.
Thank goodness people like Simon are willing to share their passion. Highly recommend this course!
Hugo S. - - #8027
Simon is an excellent teacher; knowledgeable, patient, calm and explains everything clearly.
I started the day with a log and ended up with a garden dibber which my wife was delighted with!
It was a thoroughly enjoyable day in an ideal setting - working on wood in woods with a whiff of woodsmoke.
Chris Nutman - - #5966
This course was fantastic!
The welcome was great with Simon staying on the phone for directions when I took a wrong turn and a lovely cup of coffee brewing on the fire when I arrived.
Simon is highly knowledgeable about the subject and is a very patient teacher. He is astute in assessing what a student needs in order to feel comfortable with all stages of the process, from cleaving a billet to creating a final product. As a result, you come away from the day with a good understanding of the history of green woodworking, a knowledge of the technical aspects of wood as a material and most importantly an understanding of the best way for you personally to approach pole lathe turning.
Simon is an intuitive teacher and offers advice on the best stance to take when operating the lathe and treadle, the best way for you to comfortably hold the tools and the best way for you to develop and shape the piece you are working on. As a result the course builds confidence and is extremely accessible for participants of all abilities and practical skill levels.
The icing on the cake is that Snelsmore Common is a lovely setting! A great place to spend a relaxing day working outside in the woods.
I would thoroughly recommend and will be going again at some point in the future.
Sarah Beven - - #5833
A very enjoyable day was spent with Simon and his pole lathe. I found him knowledgeable and patient with my requirements. His explanations were crystal clear without being patronising. I came away with my "ownership" of the piece intact ! He knew when to step in with help and advice without taking over.
John - - #5205
I have just spent a most enjoyable, informative and satisfying day attending the 1 day beginners pole lathe course. Simon is an extreemly knowledgeable and engaging tutor whose patience and concise direction allowed the day to fly by.
The day was also complimented by good tea ,anecdotes and Simons enthusiasm for his craft and the surrounding countryside.
With Simons guidance I produced a dibber and some hazel flowers ( after a number of hazel weeds!!!!!) but I was really chuffed to produce a captured ring - great feeling of satisfaction.
The day was filled not only with practical tuition on the lathe but great information on health and safety, tools, timber and finishing.
All said and done a great day - but don't take my word go and find out for yourselves - you won't regret it.
Will Birrell - - #5011
This was an extremely informative and enjoyable day. I’d had an interest in wood turning for a while but never actually done it before. The beginners course was just right for me, Simon was an excellent teacher and good company with lots of interesting information and anecdotes. I went away with a dibber, the fruit of my labouring during the day. I would definitely recommend this course to anyone with an interest in wood turning, or, traditional crafts in general.
Chris Woodford - - #4891
I spent a day with Simon turning a bowl on the treadle lathe. He is a great teacher and put up with me asking questions all day long! Some of the techniques are quite tricky but Simon has incredible skill and patience, helping you to progress throughout the day. I really enjoyed it and cannot recommend it highly enough.
Tim - - #4759
I've just completed my 2nd course with Simon, and am now the proud owner of a Gorgeous (even though I say myself), bowl made of beach wood.
Again a completely awe inspiring day, Simon even took the trouble to rig up another treadle so I could use both my left and right leg when one or the other got weary!! How thoughtful is that??
A very enjoyable day with a very patient tutor with a good sense of humour and soooo much knowledge. Fully recommend these courses for anyone wanting to try something completely different
Genine - - #4515
We had booked a beginners green woodturning course with Simon, slightly nervous but excited and not really sure how it would go. Well we shouldn't have worried…i think this rates as one of life's most enjoyable days! Starting with a lump of wood, we were guided step by step through the process of wood turning….oh, so absorbing! We came away at the end of the day with a very beautiful and handmade dibber (yes, we were so proud of what we made!!!)
Simon was wonderful and a brilliant and patient teacher….would we go again??? Absolutely, we would come back within the blink of an eye! The tea and coffee were good too…
Dont hesitate…go book a course!
Karen and Nevil Florey - - #4313
I've just returned home from the basic pole lathe course, proudly showing off the fruits my labour, a dibber and flowers. An excellent day, Thankyou very much.
Simon has excellent teaching skills plus a Lot of knowledge.
If your thinking of trying something different, Definately try this, you'll love it :0))
Genine Ferguson - - #4213
Simon was friendly, relaxed and full of interesting information. He was an excellent tutor and I thoroughly enjoyed my day with him.
Steve Matthews - - #3693
First class, patient and tailored tuition in a pleasant, easily accessible woodland environment. The day passed in a blur and I was thoroughly enjoyable.
I would highly recommend this course to anyone who would like to try a new skill.
Bert Broadley - - #3568
It is a very enjoyable course and I had a lot of fun making something to take home with me.
Mary Critchley - - #3505
Had a fantastic day with Simon. He laid on a bowl turning day me and took me patiently through the the whole process from selecting and splitting a log, shaping the 'blank', mounting it on the lathe and turning a finished bowl.
I'm delighted with my final bowl which is seasoning following the instructions Simon gave me.
Simon proved a very good judge of my experience and ability knowing when to leave me to master the techniques he'd taught me and when to step in with further advice and tutoring.
I can highly recommend on on Simon's courses to anyone with an interest in green wood working.
Adrian Bickers - - #3480
I attended Simon's Basic Pole-Lathe Taster course. This was a really good introduction to basic green wood techniques for the complete novice. Simon takes you through the skills needed to use a pole lathe and you get to use those skills to make something to take home. He is an excellent instructor but made the whole day interesting and fun so that you come away inspired to do more. A great day out.
Mike Hamblin - - #3335
I knew i was going to enjoy the day, what i didn't expect was how great the trainer would turn out to be. Simon was brilliant, he was very approachable, patient and definitely knows his stuff. What i created was beyond my expectations and i now truly appreciate the beauty and dedication that goes into every piece of product.
I surely aim to go back. I will recommend my friends to book a session with him.
Thank you for making my day and thank you for making me more interested in greenwood carving
Faustina Bayo - - #3114
Had a really fun day yesterday with Simon trying the Pole Lathe (#2899).
The course was very well run and enjoyable, highlights for me were:
1. Teaching style, a nice balance of leaving you to try things and stepping in to guide when needed.
2. Simon's enthusiasm for all aspects of wood working and the forest (and interest to share knowledge)
3. Location, being in the forest for the course was very nice
4. Coming away with a nice finished product (a "dibber") after starting with no experience and a simple log was very satisfying
5. Approach to safety is sensible and clear without being over the top.
Overall highly recommended.
Tom B - - #3113
A very enjoyable day with Simon going through the whole process of producing an item from log to finished object. Simon’s nature allows you to feel very comfortable and relaxed despite having a to be aware of safety using tools which if not respected can do real harm. I felt Simon judged my experience & abilities well therefore the speed of the course was correct.
Simon’s communication is very clear and concise, you are able to understand the required action to bring about the right result. Simon explains how to use the tools clearly and keeps a close eye on you to make sure you are safe and also you are using the tool in the most efficient manner.
I certainly came away having enjoyed the whole experience.
David Ward - - #3021
What a great day. I still can't believe I somehow thanks to Simon's guidance and patience turned a log into a dibber and a willow stick into a flower. What a brilliant day in a lovely woodland location. Thanks to Simon's inspiration I'm now planning to build my own pole lathe and create more masterpieces in wood.
Paul Taylor - - #2899
A fantastic experience in a wonderful location with an engaging, enthusiastic and patient teacher. This was a perfect introduction to turning and carving and I can only echo what other reviewers have said. Simon is an excellent communicator and guide, teaching not just the mechanics of the skill but also its the background and history. He was spot on in gauging and re-assessing my ability throughout the day and struck a perfect balance between delivering a challenging yet always enjoyable experience. Above all he was also great company: a sunny day in Snelsmore with a fire going, a brew on and the lathe turning - what a great experience!
I cannot recommend this highly enough.
Jon M - - #2886
A wonderful, very interesting experience!
My grandfather worked with wood all the time in his little workshop. In honor of him I had a one-2-one training on basic wood turning. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The 6 hours flew by. I learned incredibly much and - being completely new to this - feel I have achieved something extraordinary. I had never done anything like this at all and was a bit nervous. Simon eased me into this, which encouraged me a lot. I got lots of praise, which motivated me to give it my all.
I really like the way he works and the good tips he gives. He knows so much about wood, it's amazing. Simon works very safely and gives a very good safety briefing.
This was certainly not my last session. I will definitely go back and learn more. The location is also very lovely.
I loved every minute.
Silvia Siret - - #2872
I have a (very) small amount of green woodworking experience and signed up for the basic pole lathe course as it's something I've always fancied doing but never had the chance.
The one to one tuition is excellent and Simon was able to answer all of my questions on how the lathe works and is set up and very gratefully gave me some pointers on tool sharpening and where to buy various bits of kit.
He took me through the stages of making a dibber. This was a great exercise - which although simple, has many different techniques which could be used for countless other projects and is something I feel I could now go away and make safely and efficiently by myself.
Altogether a great day. Highly recommended.
Andrew Hughes - - #2642
What a fantastic day!
I bought this experience for my 9 year old nephew, Eddie, as a birthday present and accompanied him on the course. Simon is a brilliant teacher and enthusiastic about his craft. Both Eddie and I learnt a lot about wood and wood turning. We each made a dagger-dibber and a couple of willow flowers (which I presented to my wife on returning home!) Simon's work yard is in an idyllic forest setting and we were accompanied by the sounds of birds singing the whole time we were there. The kettle is always on the boil on the open fire.
I would recommend this course to anyone who want to learn about wood-turning in a relaxing atmosphere.
Stuart Bates - - #2565
For an absolute beginner this was an excellent day!
Simon is a very patient and enthusiastic teacher and it was a joy to work with him. Atmosphere very relaxed but focused well on the tasks that Simon described very thoroughly. It was a real joy to see the Willow Flower and the Dibber emerging from the wood. I really enjoyed myself.
I would seriously recommend this to anyone, interested in green wood working - or not! A really positive experience and I am looking forward to returning for another session. Great stuff!
Richard Walden - - #2480
I was given this course by my wife as a birthday and Christmas present. Our daughter joined me for the day which turned out to be outstanding in all respects.
Simon is an excellent teacher who shows his personal enthusiasm for green wood turning throughout the day. It is well planned, entertaining and he provides all the support necessary to keep students happy and successful. We were delighted with our wood flowers and super dibbers which look and feel wonderful.
We highly recommend this course to everyone. You will love it!
Alistair Kirkpatrick - - #2294
As I sit in the kitchen admiring my freshly turned dibber I can't help but reflect on one of the most enjoyable days I have had in some time. Simon is a fantastic and patient teacher who is clearly passionate about his subject. This enthusiasm is so infectious, and the task so absorbing that, for several hours at least, the troubles of the outside world seem to be banished from this magical place. The kettle is always simmering over the campfire allowing refreshment when required, or a pause to reflect on the task ahead. I couldn't recommend this course highly enough, don't equivocate just book now!
Martin - - #1690
I gave this course to my husband as a birthday present who has been talking about wanting to work with wood for a very long time. I joined him for the day and am so glad I did. I knew nothing about wood turning when we arrived but this did not seem to matter and Simon was full of encouragement and a great teacher.
Such a peaceful spot in the woods with endless cups of tea from the old camp kettle made the day fly by and we couldn't believe the time when we were leaving with our very own dibbers.
Addictive? Well we currently have a pole lathe under construction in the garden!
Sue - - #1687
Did the introductory course last year and got the bug to do more. Now just finished the 2 day intermediate course and came away with a 3 legged stool!
Simons enthusiasm is infectious and he is a great teacher..Want to do still more now...I would highly recommend Simon and his courses to anyone.5
Chris Smith - - #1618
As a complete beginner Simon was a great teacher. He gives full and interesting instruction, explaining not just how to do things but why you are doing them. His easy going style and willingness to field any questions throughout made for a great day out. I would wholeheartedly recommend this course and Simon's enthusiastic tutelage, his pride in his work is infectious.
Adrian Thornberry - - #1600
Green wood – what’s that? And who’s a Bodger (as distinct from a botcher)?
Simon’s knowledge of the history of wood working and skills are fantastic – and imparted to me, a bit of a novice, in a clear and friendly way.
So many skills and techniques taught and learnt in one day – and all just using sharp tools, with no power other than the treadle.
A bit of a surprise to find no electricity, but actually you don’t need it: just use the hand tools and the treadle, and the fire for the kettle is forever on using wood remnants and shavings –as Simon says nothing is wasted with wood.
If you are at all doubtful about going on this basic wood pole lathe turning course, don’t be. Go. You will enjoy it and learn a lot.
Kevin Beare - - #1570
I had a great day learning to turn on a pole lathe with Simon , his course was full of content and full of useful tips, the facilities were very good tea on tap all day was most welcome . Simon was very friendly and informative , I was very pleased with my dibber that I made. I look forward to doing another course with Simon.
Keith Stark - - #1468
Just spent a day with Simon on the pole-lathe course and had a fantastic time! There was so much to be learned from Simon the biggest problem may be remembering it all. Simon is an excellent teacher, imparting so much information and with great patience and support.
We covered so much in the day from understanding of the wood itself, through use of froe, axe and producing the basic billet to shave horse and of course the lathe itself, learning techniques and tips all the way.
All in all an extremely enjoyable day from start to finish!
Phil Brownjohn - - #1421
Driving to Newbury in torrential rain might not have been an auspicious omen, but I need not have worried. Saturday was spent being initiated into the mysteries of the pole lathe under the watchful but unobtrusive eye of Simon. Somehow, he managed to coach me into producing a beautiful piece of work from a unpromising log. During the day we enjoyed a good laugh and numerous cups of tea, interspersed with visits from all sorts of people expressing their satisfaction with work he had done for them.
Obviously an excellent craftsman himself, Simon communicates his enthusiasm with patience and good humour throughout. Recommended if you are wondering what pole lathes are about but beware - it IS addictive and is likely to go on to cost me more now! Thanks for a great day Simon!
Dave Wills - - #1324
Attended this day course and highly enjoyed it, and would recommend it to anyone who is interested to find out if green woodworking is "for them". Simon was very helpful, encouraging and patient which made me feel that much more comfortable doing each task. He has a great manner for correcting mistakes so don't worry about getting something wrong! Again, would highly recommend. This course gave me the bug for traditional woodworking, I am going to save up for the next, two day course, whilst also engaging in more traditional woodworking projects and opportunities because of the day and how much I learnt on it.
Jeremy Hunter - - #1244
I have just got back from a fantastic day with Simon where I was taught some great new skills. The pole lathe taster course is excellent. I would recommend it to everybody. Simon is a great teacher and immediately made me feel comfortable. He "office" in Snelsmore common is the perfect location for such a hobby.
Louis footman - - #1115
I had a great day, Simon’s mix of hands on work and history was just right. I would recommend this course to anyone interested in trying traditional wood working.
Brian Hempsted - - #904
Had a great day. Simon was a great teacher and I made something I didn't believe I could. Want to do more - perhaps the 2 day advanced course next year..
Jamie - - #741
My 14 year old son and I had a fantastic day. Never thought we could make something so nice from a log in such a short time. Simon's teaching was amazing. I would recommend this course to anybody.
Chris - - #740
Simon demonstrated at our gardening club meeting. His presentation was extremely clear and enthusiastic. He had gone to a lot of trouble to bring the equipment to set up in our village hall, and brought the craft to life. We all now appreciate how much hard work and skill goes into the making of craft objects. We would recommend him as a speaker at other groups.
Lesley Pace - - #675
I really enjoyed it. I'd like to do it again sometime.
Isaac Tapping - - #587
My son and I had a really good day with Simon. We worked hard and felt very supported and encouraged by Simon's attitude and confidence.
We've really got the bug now and I can't wait to have another go.
Rachel Tapping - - #586
I attended the taster course on Wed 21st August. I wasn't sure what to expect and had no experience in turning or green woodworking.
Simon gave an introduction to the tools and methods involved along with an in depth safety instruction.
During the day, Simon was able to explain and demonstrate the methods used before allowing me to use the equipment under his expert guidance.
I found the whole day thoroughly enjoyable and instructive and Simons infectious enthusiasm for his for work and green woodworking in general very professional.
David Holmes - - #581
A very enjoyable day with Simon going through the whole process of producing item from log to finished item. Simon’s nature allows you to feel very comfortable and relaxed despite having a to be aware of yours & Simons safety using tools which if not respected can do real harm. I felt Simon judged my experience & abilities well therefore the speed of the course was correct.
Simon’s communication is very clear and concise, you are able to understand the required action to bring about the right result. Simon explains how to use the tools clearly and keeps a close eye on you to make sure you are safe and also you are using the tool in the most efficient manner.
I certainly came away having enjoyed the whole experience and enthusiastic about in the future setting up a small wood turning set-up for myself.
10 August 2013
William Preston - - #572
Highly recommend this course to anyone no matter what their previous experiences are. Brilliant teacher, interesting to talk to, welcoming, and skilled at what he does.
After spending two days with Simon, Ive started looking up plans to make my own pole lathe for the back garden, despite what my parents say, so that I can start some of my own projects in my free time.
Matt Estlea - - #469
I can thoroughly recommend Simon's day course in green woodturning using the pole lathe. It is an excellent opportunity to learn about an ancient skill at your own pace under the expert guidance of someone who's clearly enthused and knowledgeable about his subject. The whole experience was so relaxing you lose all sense of time, and the setting (at Snelsmore) is idyllic.
Adrian Ford - - #416
Simon came to run a workshop for our Touch To See Art Club for visually impaired participants at the Corn Exchange, Newbury. Tactile resources are very important for this group and Simon very kindly provided examples of his work for them to handle whilst explaining the techniques he uses to make them. It was great that he could offer something so hands-on but with the opportunity to learn about the skills behind his work, and that he was so keen to answer their many questions!
The group are keen to have Simon back so they can try using some of the braid wheels…thank you for such an informative and engaging workshop!
Kerrie Walker - - #396
I had a great day on Simon's course, introducing me to wood turning. He was very welcoming from the initial cup of tea, right through the whole day.
Simon's enthusiasm and patience with me as a learner gave me a great experience, and inspired me to progress further. I now have my own lathe and do my own projects, and I have often called on Simon to give me advice and help as I get more experienced.
I would highly recommend Simon and his courses.
Huw Jones - - #367
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