Furniture making for beginners – a side table with Tom Kealy

Ref: S5D29554

Location: West Dean
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About this course

Learn hand skills as you construct a side table. You are shown the principles of sharpening and maintaining tools. Learn about wood grain, setting out and cutting mortise and tenon joints and oil finishing.

Course Description

This course is designed for those with little or no experience of fine woodworking or cabinet making, who would like to explore working with hardwood timber and to acquire the skills which could lead on to making your own furniture designs. During this course, through demonstrations and practical work, you will make a small side table – a project designed to take you step-by-step, through all the various processes necessary to produce a table.

Working with traditional cabinetmakers hand tools, which are sustainable in a home workshop, you will construct a side table from hardwood. The principles behind all important sharpening and maintaining tools, using your own or the College's, are also covered. Other topics include understanding wood grain, setting out and cutting mortise and tenon joints and oil finishing. This course could be a stepping-stone to making your own furniture.

During the first evening session you will consider the table design and discuss the stages involved in its construction, and you will be introduced to the tools that you will be using. The primary focus is to be able to work to a high degree of proficiency and accuracy, which are sustainable in a non-commercial or home workshop.

At each stage the tools required, and how they should be used, will be covered. You will learn the basic principles behind sharpening and maintaining the tools used. If you want to buy your own tools in the future, the course is also an ideal opportunity to learn about the various factors to consider when purchasing tools.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • Some sundry materials supplied for the workshop are included.

What students need to bring

  • HB Pencils
  • Reading glasses, if worn
  • Sturdy comfortable and covered footwear is essential (not sandals)
  • Any tools you already own which you think may be useful to bring, including planes and chisels

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • The shop stocks some of the additional materials required for this course.
  • Available from tutor:
  • The tutor will supply timber for the project. This charge will be approximately £95, this should be paid to the tutor before the end of the course, by cash or cheque.

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear (no open toes or sandals).


Tom Kealy

Tom Kealy has designed and made contemporary furniture since training at Parnham College in 1979, and for ten years was senior craftsman in the John Makepeace workshops. He runs furniture making classes from his workshop, and teaches at the Centre for Furniture Craftsmanship in America and the Building Crafts College, London.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

Courses of interest

Interested in a career in woodworking?

Our Foundation Degree specialising in Furniture is designed to give you well-rounded woodworking theory and craft skills to become a self-employed maker or craftsperson, to continue your studies in higher education or to find employment in the creative industry sector. Find out more