About the Course
The Welsh stick chair is the vernacular style of Windsor chair that evolved west of the border several hundred years ago. They’re simple but striking, and will grace any hearth with a charismatic presence.
Over this seven-day course in a beautiful woodland workshop you’ll be taken through the process of crafting a Welsh stick chair from log to finished piece. You’ll fashion the legs, spindles and other frame parts from locally sourced ash using a range of simple tools, including drawknife and spokeshave. You’ll also use an adze and travisher to ‘bottom’ the chair seat to a comfortable form. The highlight of the course, apart from going away with your own heirloom, is the process of steam bending the graceful bow that forms the distinctive arm of the chair and the comb that tops off its back.
This is an intensive course, but is suitable to beginners with no prior knowledge of chair making. More challenging variants on the Welsh stick theme may be possible for woodworkers with some existing skill.
Ben Willis was mentored by the green woodworking legend Mike Abbott. He has been making chairs and other green-wood furniture for over 10 years.
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?
A simple lunch will be provided each day as well as copious quantities of tea, coffee and biscuits to keep your motor running.
Basic materials will be provided, but there will be an additional charge for the timber used to make the chair seat. This will range from £25-40 depending on what I have in stock at the time.
I had a great week on this course, and can thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in working with wood. The workshop is lovely, equipped with all we needed, and the woods are a stunning setting. Ben is an excellent tutor - the course is well planned and structured and though it's a lot to fit into a week Ben ensured that we all did it and we were really pleased with our chairs. Ben was good at teaching all the many new skills involved, he was calm and patient and very encouraging and was skilled at keeping an eye on everyone and knowing when help was needed.
Can't recommend it enough!
Helen Brent-Smith - - #22680
This is a great course, making a really nice chair, and I would highly recommend it. It's well structured and Ben is an excellent tutor, clear and patient. The outdoor workshop is in a beautiful piece of woodland and is a lovely place to spend the week. Sign up for the next course as soon as you can!
Sarah Phillips - - #22556
Really good course-great woodland setting, excellent tutor who took the time to explain, demonstrate and assist with all the skills which we were introduced to during the week.
It may feel a bit daunting at the start- you see examples of finished chairs , and probably think 'I can never make that ', but all of the different processes come together and you will achieve a lot of satisfaction from producing a really lovely unique piece of furniture by the end of the course.
Whilst the course does involve hard work , it is also very relaxing and therapeutic - no-one will 'get left behind 'any stage.
Many thanks Ben, I can highly recommend the course to anyone interested in green woodworking
Phil Venables - - #16938
Amazing!!! Such a fantastic course, I have never done anything like it, a truly wholesome experience! From start to finish I loved every minute. Learning new skills, working with wood, handling new tools, being outdoors, couldn’t really have asked for more. Ben is great, really welcoming, very patient and keeps the course running at a good pace, ensuring everyone is getting to grips with the tools and processes. The location is perfect and Ben does a pretty mean soup too! To be able to take away a beautiful chair that I already treasure will be a lasting reminder of a week well spent! I’ll be back! Thank you Ben
Rob Eagle - - #16876
I think the other reviews here cover things nicely - I'll only add that I've done a few woodwork courses and this wins hands down - in terms of setting, teacher, and finished product!
Edward - - #15780
As someone who has never done much woodworking before, i was amazed that i came home with a hand crafted heirloom that i suspect the kids will be fighting over when I've gone. May have to return to make another one!
Setting was fabulous as you will see from the photos.
Group size is limited so help always at hand.
The best course I've ever attended.
Thanks again Ben.
Pete Baldwin - - #15710
Crazy brilliant course!! I barely know where to begin writing this review there's so many good things about it!
I'll start with the area, the location of the woodwork course I attended was situated just outside Presteigne - a lovely small welsh town which has everything you need; spar shop, pubs, petrol station and friendly locals. The course itself is held practically completely outdoors in an open timber frame structure (with a roof for shelter) emerged in a picturesque woodland.
The entire process uses traditional methods of manufacture using manually operated tools and machinery - no artificial power is used at all. I found this fascinating and very inspiring. I didnt think it was possible to produce such beautifully crafted furniture with no powered machinery. The steam bending I found particularly stimulating alongside the wide range of processes taught on the course. The ecofriendly approach is very refreshing even down to the toilet, a luxurious hole in the ground.
Throughout the process of making the chair Ben was an exceptional tutor. A knowledgable, patient, down to earth geezer who's easy to get on with and clearly passionate about the subject. He gave clear instructions throughout and never grumbled to give a helping hand. Decent cook too, looked forward to every lunch with delicious soups and baguettes. I mentioned at some point Foxs crunch cream biscuits are the best and he actually brought a pack in the following day, absolute legend.
At the end of the course I couldnt believe the chair I produced, I cant stop sitting on it, its given me a great sense of achievement and wellbeing.
Bottom line is I had a great time and learnt a great deal while on the course. I highly recommend whether youre into woodwork or not; it's great to be working outdoors in the fresh air and learning with a group of great people. If youre even remotely considering this course, do it! You wont regret it!
William Gibson - - #15680
Impossible to praise this course highly enough. A truly special, highly rewarding experience. Enjoyed every minute of it.
As well as an obvious master of his craft, Ben is an outstanding teacher - the essential ingredient which so many courses fail to offer. (Plus he's a really great bloke to spend a week with.) He knows just what and how much guidance to give; a helping hand and an inexhaustible supply of expert knowledge and experience when you need it, yet essentially leaving you to get on with it. As a result I feel that really learned my stuff, and I came away with a huge sense of achievement - not to mention a beautiful chair.
The setting is beyond beautiful too, and if you stay on site as we did (very highly recommended indeed) the whole thing adds up to an unforgettable week.
Andrew Allberry - - #15671
What a tremendous week! Hands-on and hard work, in a small group, and with all the materials and tools you need to make a lovely chair, even if you've never picked up a drawknife in your life!
I've been on a greenwood chair-making course before, so had some rusty skills and foggy memory of how it's done when I arrived, and knowing this, Ben took a very sympathetic approach to imparting his knowledge and ways of chair-making to me. He was more than happy for me to make a modified version of the chair he normally teaches (in my case a side chair variant with a high back but no arms), and he allowed me to get on with it when I wanted to, and gave freely of his knowledge and experience when I asked for help.
Seeing how another teacher goes about the chair-making process was hugely useful, and I learnt much more than I would have done by repeating the course I'd done previously. As the chair he teaches is a Welsh stick chair, the course also focussed more on drawknife, spokeshave and seat-shaping skills than the other course I have done, which was great. The other difference is that, with the exception of the seat blank Ben provides, you make all the other components yourself, including cleaving the comb from the same log as the sticks and stretchers before steam-bending it and fashioning it with a spokeshave, and carving your own hardwood wedges.
The workshop itself is accessible, yet feels properly "woodland", and the grounds in which it is set are beautiful. If you need accommodation there are a couple of spacious yurts in a woodland valley and a woodland cabin perched high on a bank with views through redwoods, right on site, as well as B&B accommodation in nearby Presteigne.
If you are considering going on a greenwood chair course I can highly recommend this one. Be prepared for hard work and long days, and you'll come away with a huge sense of achievement and a new interest in traditional skills, not to mention a lovely chair!
Rob Cock - - #10617
If you are looking for a form of woodland therapy away from the rat race you could do no better than sign up to Bens woodcraft course. Not only that you will construct a piece of furniture to use for a lifetime!
The peaceful and beautiful woodland workshop always has the fire kettle on. Ben is a great instructor and even if you are the most accident prone student in the world (me) you will construct something elegant.
Although as a word of warning: this course will begin a lifetime interest in green woodwork and a tool addiction no rehab can fix.
Josh Yaxley - - #9558
Just emerged from a week in the woods with a beautiful chair that I can hardly believe I managed to make myself (but I definitely did, my new muscles are proof!).
Armed with very little woodworking experience but lots of enthusiasm I was slightly apprehensive about retreating to the Mid Welsh woodland for a week on my own to make a chair. I needn't have worried, I've come away having had one of the most rewarding weeks of my life.
The setting was absolutely perfect for a green woodworking course - deep in the woodland with only the sound of birds and sheep baaing in the background.
Ben is the perfect balance of teacher - if you come expecting him to do the hard work for you to get the glory don't bother coming. If you want to come away with a beautiful piece that you know is yours, blood, sweat and tears (ok, no tears, promise) right down to the tiny wedges in the seat then this is for you. He makes sure you understand, learn and actually physically do the entire process from beginning to end, from splitting wood, axing, shaping, turing on a treadle lathe, adzing, seat shaping, measuring (and in my case remeasuring ha) - every single bit of making what will become your beautiful chair.
He's patient, calm, funny and clearly an unassuming master of his trade as well as being a top notch teacher. It was an absolute joy to learn from someone who has so much love for green woodworking and is so passionate about passing it on.
Passed it on he has and I'm already looking to do more green woodworking and as soon as he releases the next dates for his woodland courses I'll definitely be there.
If you're thinking about doing this don't think twice, just do it, I can absolutely guarantee you won't regret it. You're almost certain to find a love for green woodwork that you didn't know you had....
Oh, and Ben is also a master at soup making and his lunch spreads were well needed and very much savoured and appreciated after a long morning axing wood!
Alison Lockett-Burke - - #9548
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