Project Description


Designer Maker Courses

Designer Maker Courses

This course is where it all started for the school. We wanted to design and deliver a course that gave all that attended  an intense and rounded education in what it takes to become a Furniture “Designer Maker’. We wanted it to be open to students from varied backgrounds, with varied ambitions and with varied levels of experience. From total beginners to experienced makers and / or designers, the course was designed to push everyone to achieve great things. We were adamant that the mission of the course was to bring our students up to what we would describe as reaching professional standards as quickly as possible and not to cut any corners along the way. And the results speak for themselves. Our student pieces are spectacular and even under the closest of inspection reveal a high quality in both making and design. What’s more our students have gone on to work for some of the worlds leading workshops, won numerous awards, set up their own ‘Designer Maker’ businesses and even win medals at the World Championships of Cabinet Making. Of course many others just went on to continue to enjoy furniture making as a hobby that will remain a passion for a lifetime. All of these outcomes are things we work hard to make possible and we are proud of the on going achievements of all our students. Each and every one becoming part of the ever growing Waters and Acland family!

Although the course began as a full year course only we now offer our students the ability to attend either 1, 2 or the full 3 term version of the course.

So let’s start with a brief description of the course content before going on to look in more detail via a description of some typical days in the life of a Waters and Acland student.

Term 1 ‘Total Immersion’

This is the most intense period within the furniture school. The first term is all about total immersion in all aspects of furniture making and furniture design. During this 15 week (term lengths can vary) term our designer maker students will devote hundreds of hours to learning the core cabinet making hand skills. They will work closely and intensively with our vastly experienced workshop tutors and through the carefully designed set projects develop high level skills in areas such as tool preparation & sharpening, accurate hand planing, precision chisel work, marking and measuring, jointing, carcass creation, making and fitting doors and piston fit drawers, inlay, veneering and much more.

Running alongside this essential ‘core handskills’ training we run a series of ‘specialist training days’. We cover areas of furniture making that will both inform and inspire our designer makers. Topics such as laminating, shaping, carving, surface treatments and creative finishing, advanced veneering and marquetry, jig creation and much more are covered. These ‘hands on’ days are designed to expose our students to what is possible. To inspire. To sow the seeds of future designs.

And let’s not forget the machine shop and the use of portable power tools. The set projects are designed to introduce and then master the use of the machines in our machine shop. We are realists. We understand that ‘core handskills’ are at the heart of every maker of fine furniture but we also understand that woodwork machines and portable power tools are an essential ingredient in the modern designer makers studio / workshop. By the end of the winter term our designer maker students will have received detailed training in the safe use of all the machines and power tools within the furniture school. Culminating in the occasional table project’ which is made almost entirely by machine but which is always finessed with hand tools. This combination of fine hand skills and the skilled use of power tools forms the basis of all that we do within the ‘pro workshop’ and furniture school. This is real life and often cutting edge furniture making.

Technical Design training is just as intense. Every project is drawn up on the computer. Starting with the simple ‘Chinese puzzle’ project, head design tutor Will Acland walks our designer maker students through the use of Sketch Up and Layout. Workshop drawings, cutting lists and an order of process are created for each and every project made within the furniture school and this level of professional practise is insisted upon throughout the duration of the course. An essential ingredient in building confidence and self reliance within our designer maker students. The mission being to have at least one ‘self designed’ project meticulously designed, drawn up and well on the way before the end of term. For those that are only here for the first term we strongly advise that this first project is finished before they leave. For those staying for the spring and summer terms this project can be a touch more ambitious and run over into two term. 

The mystery ingredient in this most intensive of times within the furniture school is creativity. It is important to us. We encourage it. We teach it. We inspire our designer maker students to express themselves and to develop their own design style. From Holly Acland’s drawing classes to Will and Olivers twice weekly one on one design development sessions our mission is to empower our students to make  considered design choices. To create pieces of beauty and integrity. To create the antiques of the future. To become true DESIGNER MAKERS.

Term 2 ‘Building Confidence’

So our designer maker students now have excellent core hand skills. They are confident around woodworking machinery. They are proficient in the use of design software. They understand processes and professional practise within a designer maker studio / workshop. They are fizzing with design concepts and importantly they have ‘self designed’ project 1 nearing completion and design 2 ready to go as this forms the basis of what’s to come in term 2. Designing and making ever more complex pieces of furniture in conjunction with the tutors within the school. Each project being designed alongside Will Acland in the design studio. Each project being made with one on one guidance from our amazing workshop tutors in the bench and machine rooms. Each project being designed for good reasons. To introduce new skills. To embed core skills. To practise traditional and contemporary joinery techniques. To build confidence in all areas within the workshop and school.

The specialist training days continue but their focus changes. Less focus on the technical aspects of furniture making and more towards design, inspiration and for those wanting to turn pro, starting your own designer maker business. We organise trips to galleries and exhibitions as well as visits to other designer maker workshops and timber suppliers. The purpose of these trips are clear. It’s to empower our designer makers. To build confidence and to show them that the dream of becoming a true designer and maker of fine furniture is very much achievable.

Term 3 ‘Taking the lead’

Being a designer maker of fine furniture requires a number of things. The ability to make to a high level is a starting point. So is an eye for design and the ability to turn these ideas into working drawings. Problem solving isn’t far behind and an understanding of how to run a small business and sell your fine furniture is another key skill. But one theme that runs throughout all of these concepts is ‘self reliance’. The confidence to make decisions, to design, to make independently is absolutely key to future success, and it is this ‘self reliance’ that is at the heart of term 3 on the designer maker course. During terms 1 and 2 we have worked hard to give you the skill and the knowledge to design, make and if desired sell furniture. We have walked you thorough the design and build of a number of set and self designed projects. It’s now time to go solo! To drive your projects independently. The resources will still be there. The same level of access to teaching exists. The big difference is that the designer maker student now sets the agenda. From the design, to testing, to the final making, we now want our students to lead. The school and tutors are now a resource. A resource in terms of the quality workshop facilities but also a resource in terms of knowledge. The same level of tuition remains but instead of us running the show, it’s over to you. The DESIGNER MAKER!!!

Term dates and costs for September 2022.

We currently have just a couple of places remaining for Designer Maker courses starting September 2023. Please contact us if you would like to apply for this in take or if you would like information about courses starting in 2023.


3 Term Designer Maker Course (terms 1,2 & 3) £19750

2 Term Designer Maker Course (terms 1 & 2) £14750

1 Term Designer Maker Course (term 1 only) £10750


Term 1 (Autumn) Monday 5th September – Friday 16th December 2022

Term 2 (Winter) Tuesday 3rd January – Friday 31st March  2023

*Half term week is the week commencing Monday 20th February

Term 3 (Spring / Summer) Monday 17th April – Friday 28th July 2023

*Half term week in term 3 is the week commencing Monday 29th May