Jamie Ward – University days part two

Well continuing with my memories of my university  days. After two years studying on HND Furniture making course, I then gained a place on BA Hons Furniture Design and Craftsmanship Course. It was a brilliant experience, with motivational tutors, excellent facilities and a varied cohort of fellow students.

Our first project was to make a dining chair, we didn’t have full rein over the design, just design the back splat and top rail. Well my chair was not earth moving but I enjoyed making a chair, upholstering the drop in seat and French polishing it too.


European Ash Fraxinus excelsior dining chair, first piece on my degree course, including the French polishing and drop in seat.

So we were off with the making and we had three pieces to make each year. Whilst making this chair we had wood machining sessions to introduce us to the machines, not that machining was new to me, I had spent 9 years as a machinist before going to uni, but its good to get refresher training! During the machining sessions we made a games table, so a reversible top with a chess board on one side and a book matched veneer with banding on the other. I also enjoyed making this fairly straight forward design from European Oak Quercus robur. This was the first time I had used Oak, during my joinery days we used mostly Redwood pinus sylvestris, so it was great to be using these heavyweight hardwood’s.

games table

Wood machining project – an European Oak Quercus robur games table with bog oak/oak veneer.

So we went through the three years designing, making and finishing our projects and learning so much. Using solid timber and understanding timber movement, using veneers and getting to use vacuum presses and making formers. In the first year we also did upholstery, including a drop in seat and a tub chair, not forgetting, making our own buttons. A very thorough education in furniture making and associated trades.

IM000179Staining components for my union flag table (see top picture).

IM000026Getting to grips with various furniture making skills including hand tools.

glassLoved using colour on some of my work, here is a screen I designed and made, influenced by Paul Smith


Finished ‘Stripes’ Screen.

So university was great, we did so much including learning about:-

  • Wood working hand skills
  • Wood machining skills
  • Cabinet construction
  • Visual studies
  • Veneering
  • Laminating
  • Metalwork
  • Upholstery
  • Finishing, French polishing, oiling, spray finishing
  • Technical drawing
  • CAD
  • Business studies
  • Historical and Critical studies (HACS)
  • Design
  • Water-colouring
  • 3D Studio Max
  • and more…………………………………………………

Jamie Ward -Researching Uni

This is the start of blogs by Jamie Ward Course Leader at Warwickshire College, the first offerings will be about my start in the furniture industry and in particular my university days.

After 9 years working in the joinery industry I decided to give up my job, sell my house and go to university. No-one in my family had been to uni and I was not close to anyone who had. So I felt it right to research my next home and degree course, but how? In the UK we have an organisation called The Universities and Colleges Admissions Services   back in 1995, when I was researching, this was just a very thick book with lists of colleges and universities and the courses they offered. I ran my finger through this directory looking at courses, facilities and some imagination of what these places of learning might be like.

I whittled the list down to 3 colleges that offered furniture making,  Shrewsbury College, London College of Furniture (LCF) and Buckinghamshire College (Bucks College) in High Wycombe. After visiting Bucks College degree show, I instantly knew this was the furniture course for me. Why? well, High Wycombe has a long history of furniture making, that I didn’t know until my research began. Secondly, I was very impressed with the course manager Prof. Philip Hussey, he spent an hour with me showing the degree show and the workshops and facilities, I felt comfortable and it felt right, I do often go on ‘gut feeling’ to make  decisions.

So sunny High Wycombe became my home for the next five years! 1996-2001

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Here I am on the first course I completed at uni, a HND  (Higher National Diploma) or as some say HAVE NO DEGREE. I used this course to ease me back into education and to ‘warm’ me up for the pending degree course. It was such a great way for me to start my training in furniture making.