We had a wonderful time in this automata toy-making course. We enjoyed using the woodworking power tools to create the pieces of the mechanical toy and Stef was a brilliant teacher guiding us all the way through. He created a relaxed atmosphere with his friendly manner and his attention to detail meant that in the end, we came away with a very professional looking toy even though some of the tools we had never used before. It was definitely one of our favourite craft courses!
Response from Penlan Crafts:Dear Christa, thank you for your kind review. It was a pleasure to meet you and Ed and I’m sure your lovely daughter will love the beautiful mechanical toy you built for her! Warm regards, Stef
Well, that was an interesting day.
Looking at the picture of what I was to make, my initial thought was that's a tad simplistic. This is based on the fact that I make theatre scenery and props, along with assorted boxes, toys and other wooden items as a hobby. Whilst I admit each part of the process for me was relatively easy the theory and application of each process were what made the day interesting, and educational. Steph is a very methodical tutor ensuring each step is carried out in the relevant order, and able to provide hints and tips on the best way to achieve this. At no point did I feel this course was beneath my ability, despite as I say extensive experience, albeit self-taught. The course was pitched exactly right and given time allowed a single shaft automaton is probably as complicated as a single day will allow, especially when you take into account painting and glue uptime. Equally, if you are a beginner as I am when it comes to painting projects, Steph has the knack to get the information across in a manner that would make you feel proficient enough to undertake this project. So is this suitable for all levels I would say yes? Is this a fun and entertaining insight into the myriad world of automata definitely, would I like to learn more about these and make more complex items definitely. If you are thinking about doing this, just do it I very much doubt you will be disappointed.
Response from Penlan Crafts:Dear Paul, thank you very much for your enthusiastic review! I’m very happy you enjoyed your birthday present … even more considering that you are an expert woodworking aficionado. It was a pleasure working with you (and thank you for your tips regarding the scroll saw!) and I am glad that I was able to show you the “magic” of automata. Happy Christmas! Stef
You just have to do this course if you like making things out of wood. Quite simple techniques using pillar drill, band saw, belt sander and hand tools. But the resulting automated hand cranked toy is an immensely rewarding achievement. Stef is patient and encouraging. He can put right any mistakes which the unpractised student might make. I was so pleased with my effort that I have taken home the materials and instructions to be able to make the dancing sheep toy (with two shafts!!) in my own time. Stef says to bring it back to his workshop if I want to, in order to make sure it is accurately glued together once I have done the initial work so that I don't mess it up. What more could one ask for?
Response from Penlan Crafts:Dear Jeremy, what can I say…. Thank you very very much for your kind comments. I am happy you had a great time. I enjoyed working with you too. And I am glad I was able to convince you to paint your toy, you underestimated your artistic skills! I look forward to getting in touch with you again to assemble “The Dancing Sheep”… I’m sure it will be another beautiful creation!
This was the most enjoyable day I have had in ages! Stefano was such a wonderful tutor - he was patient, informative and very encouraging. I made the fishing cat and each stage was so much fun - from cutting and sanding the mechanical elements to carving and painting the decorative cat and waves etc. The time simply flew by and I didn’t look at my phone once! It was very therapeutic! And I got to take home a lovely handmade toy to enjoy (or maybe, maybe, give to a friend with children, 😉). I would definitely recommend this course and may even have to come back myself for something more complicated! 😀
Response from Penlan Crafts:Dear Alice, thank you so much for your enthusiastic, very kind review! It was a pleasure working with you… and you’ll always be welcome if you decide to come back for the advanced course 😀
Thanks Stef for a brilliant day.
I was a bit dubious at the start whether I would be able to complete the Frustrated Fisherman as there were numerous intricate parts to cut out, clean up and paint before assembling the automaton.
Stef was very patient and meticulous in making sure that I had copied everything exactly as per his written drawings and instructions.
He is a very cheerful and attentive tutor and I thoroughly enjoyed my day out.
Thanks to Stef, he made the final inking-in outlining the expression on the Fishermans face and changing my painting into a real work of art. It all works perfectly and I will proudly show the Grand- Children when they next visit.
Response from Penlan Crafts:Dear Geoff, thank you very much for your kind review! Your positive comments are even more important since they are coming from an expert woodmaker like you... thank you again and I'm sure your grandchildren will love "The Unlucky Fisherman"!
I spent last Sunday learning about automata and making a ‘grumpy fishing cat’ (at least he was grumpy the way I painted him!). It was the most fun I’ve had in ages, and I loved rediscovering how much I enjoy working with wood to create something, and yes, you do make everything from scratch, learning new skills as you go, so a great sense of satisfaction at the end.
Understanding how a simple story can be told through the use of various mechanisms to produce the desired effect gave me a better appreciation of the fascination with automata; I can see how it becomes addictive.
This is a brilliant course to do, with so many different creative elements to it. Stef is a calm and patient teacher, reassuringly attentive to the safety aspects of using the various power tools, very encouraging throughout, and delightful company.
I can’t recommend this enough. Thank you Stef for a thoroughly enjoyable day!
Response from Penlan Crafts:Dear Sarah, thank you very much for your amazing review! I’m glad that by building “the fishing cat” you rediscovered your creativity. You are very talented and it was easy (and a pleasure!) to be your tutor and to guide you through the different steps of the automaton construction. Thank you again! Stef
A lifelong wish to build an automaton was brilliantly delivered by Stef. Great location, workshop, tools, advice, help and tuition. All proper wood, so the final toy is beautiful, and the personal achievement immense. You have to choose one of the standard designs, but perfectly possible to have dancing elephants if you prefer to dancing sheep…. Just ask Stef. I wanted something complicated - and we did it.
I had a lovely time.
Response from Penlan Crafts:Dear Kate
The tutor, Stef, was very organised contacting me in plenty of time to arrange The Day with does and don'ts.
On the day of the course, which was just Stef and myself, he explained Health & Safety and then we started the build.
The workshop is big enough. All the tools were clean and he unwrapped new hearing muffs and goggles for me.
Whilst I chose to build what looked to be a simple fisherman it did in fact take until 5 pm to finish with lunch eaten on the go.
Stef was at pains to make sure that I made all the parts and I was instrumental in putting it all together at the end. I also had to paint the fisherman. Stef tried his hardest to make sure that I enjoyed the day.
I had a fantastic day. Stef was easy to get on with and he was very attentive to the construction and my wishes.
The course was bought for me as a birthday gift. It was brilliant. I’ve now got an automaton
Response from Penlan Crafts:Thank you Andrew for your kind review. I am very happy you enjoyed building your mechanical toy. It was a pleasure working with you! All the best
A thoroughly enjoyable day's learning with Stef who made automaton-making accessible to me, a beginner woodworker. He is a patient and enthusiastic teacher who clearly loves what he does. He has designed his class as carefully as his automata, of which there were plenty of delightful finished examples in his workshop. After the safety briefing, Stef took me through the basics of cams and gears so that I understood the mechanism I was about to build. Then it was on to a full and engrossing day of making, at the end of which I took home a completed automaton that is joyful, intricate and colourful. I appreciated being able to practise with the hand tools and power tools in his well-equipped and well-kept workshop and look forward to using my brand new skills on other woodwork projects as well as trying to design my own automaton. Stef's workshop is centrally situated in Bristol and easily walkable from Temple Meads train station. Would recommend his course to anyone who enjoys working with their hands and appreciates the imagination and creativity that goes into making toys.
Response from Penlan Crafts:Dear Cat, thank you so much for your wonderful review. Your talent and commitment made my task as teacher very easy and pleasant. I am happy you are enjoying your beautifully-made automaton! Best regards, Stef
From the first stage of exchanging emails and booking, Stef was so very helpful. On the day, we met at a pre-arranged location where we could park our car and it was just two or three minutes walk to the studios where Stef has his workshop. There were toilets and a small kitchen area which were all clean and functional.
Stef’s workshop was clean, tidy and well laid out, with good quality tools and equipment. Stef ran us through a safety briefing and had clean safety equipment for us to use (although we had our own).
Stef is a great guy, friendly, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and very talented. He demonstrated the techniques and use of the tools clearly and then let us do the work on our own toys. I had used woodworking tools before but my wife was a complete beginner. With Stef’s guidance she picked up the skills quickly, likening use of the band saw to guiding fabric through a sewing machine. We cut all the pieces for our automata from scratch, no pre-cut kit pieces here. It was good quality wood, not MDF too.
It was a full days work but we left very proud of our finished pieces.
A big thank you to Stef for a great class. We’ve done around 10 different workshop type classes and this was the best. Would definitely recommend to both complete beginners and those with some woodworking skills.
Response from Penlan Crafts:Dear Rob and Lou, thank you very much for your kind words! It was really a pleasure to have you in my workshop. Your passion, hard work and commitment paid off, your automata are beautifully made! All the very best