Four Day Green Wood Workshop - feedback. Tutor: John Waller

General comments:
“Loved it! I just need more spare time now, to make all the things I’d like to make. Please can you move closer to East Kent, so I don’t have to drive so far! Had a lovely welcome from Arthur each day and loved Beth’s cookies and cake. 
Loved the course and the weather was perfectly planned too! Thank you” Debbie 2014

“An enjoyable and informative time in the company of good people, and in a delightful location.” Roger 2014

“Lovely setting, lovely weather. Nice relaxed approach to teaching. All very nice and a wonderful contrast to everyday life :) Arthur was lovely too!” Lindsay 2014

“The course was great, John is a very easy going teacher who always took care suggest methods rather than be too prescriptive. The size of the group meant he was able to divide his time between the independent students and the more needy ones very effectively. John is such a mine of information that I think I learned as much chatting over coffee as on the course itself. Tea was always forthcoming, Beth’s cookies were delicious. All in all a very enjoyable four days. Possibly a bit more in depth tuition on the actual process of turning would have been beneficial but perhaps that is a different course.
My only criticism and it is a small one, is; the lathe is obviously a tool of the trade and as such does not need to be perfect as long as it functions well, and I imagine the wearing out and replacing of wooden parts is all in a days work for a professional green woodworker. However, I expected the whole pole lathe construction to use hardwood rather than the ‘A’ frames being cheap softwood, some of which was untreated, and the welding and bending of the crank handle is really rough. I’m probably being fussy and need to be a bit more of a ‘bodger’ but it is a big expense (for me) and the part of the joy of making is in the quality and care of the tools we use.

Sorry that sounds really negative! So I’ll reiterate it was a fun, informative course with good company and I came away refreshed and enthused. Thank you.” Jonathan 2014
[REPLY: the A frames are made from softwood specifically to keep the costs of materials as low as possible  We are aware that 60 is already a large amount for some people to afford!]

“Thanks, John (and Burt) - A great way to mark my 40th - I’ve learnt a lot of skills and, more importantly, the confidence to put them into practice. [John has] a great “can do” approach - and is a great cider maker too!” Emma 2011

“See you again soon!”
Alexander 2011

“Overall a great experience.  Very happy to go away with a lovely pole lathe and shaving horse. Thankyou!”
Anonymous 2011

“Everything was great.  Really enjoyed the course and will be back in the future”
Dave 2011

“I really enjoyed the course, hence the positive feedback.”
Kevin 2012

“I think John is  an altogether superb teacher; knowledgeable about his subject, very able to put it across,  helpful, observant, clear, articulate and very attentive to each and every person's needs. He is also aware of the thirst for knowledge people such as myself have about his whole profession and way of life and he is  generous in his willingness to share his experience.”
Nicholas 2012

I recently attended the above course and like the Chair making course I previously attended, really enjoyed the whole experience. John is very knowledgeable, and approachable and made me feel at ease, even when I made a mess of something!
All the booking and information was clear prior to the course, and coming home with both a pole lathe and Shaving horse, I felt I got real value for money.
Thanks again, and I will probably need to call John to acquire some wood for my new hobby. “ Andy 2013

I thought the course was excellent.  I enjoyed it, learnt a lot and was thoroughly impressed all round.  That is reflected in all the scores and answers below.  Where the scores are not 100% it is because of one point which I will try to elaborate on.
I was very pleased I chose to do the ‘make a shaving horse’ rather than ‘make a pole lathe’.  I chose rather randomly.  The former involved quite a bit of converting green wood (logs) to usable timber planks, and a lot of pole lathe work.  I had never done any of that before.  Whereas, the ‘make a pole lathe’ was much more of a carpentry project (or so it looked to me), and I had done quite a lot of that before.  Generally it used tools with which I was familiar.  Whereas the shaving horse project work involved using: axes to split logs, axes to shape planks, a froe to split poles, a shaving horse to shape further and then the pole lathe to finish round sections, or tools like an adze to finish square/rectangular sections.  I had done none of that before.  I have a huge array of tools at home and do quite a lot of various kinds of DIY.  But (apart from a draw knife, which I had, but had never used, and have used at home now) most DIY people don’t own the tools like a froe, lathe, shaving horse or adze, so this will be new to them. I was not able (at all or easily?) to gather that from the marketing material.  Perhaps the marketing material should be in 3 phases. 

  • A course title (with all the other courses) with a few descriptive words of content. 
  • A slightly longer description of the specific course. 
  • If you enquire or book, a further longer description of what will occur on the course.  That way, the student has a really good grasp of what’s coming up and would unerringly choose between the two projects and be better informed (and so more likely to book) of what is coming up. 

In order to describe what I did to my friends who gave me the course voucher, I used images from the internet from other similar courses round the country, where there was a bit more description too.  But I do recognise marketing is always a balance between just enough information and overkill - not easy!
I will recommend (and already have recommended) the course to others.  In this modern world, the challenge is always the time available for such things.  So, as a just retired person, it suited me 100%.

I will always remember from the course:

  • How kind green wood is to some tools like a draw knife, but how mean it is to drill bits, for example, however sharp!
  • How easily greenwood splits down the grain, but how fickle the direction of split is.  The ability to steer the split is fantastic, and again new to me.  Practice makes perfect, but, few of us at home do that sort of thing in our gardens often.

Many thanks to John and your organisation for putting on a great course.  I was particularly impressed how you quietly and gently organised two parallel projects with a group of people of the full spectrum of backgrounds including different levels of: interest, strength, will power, aptitude, time, patience etc.  And, despite heavy/powerful, sharp tools - no accidents!” Hugh 2013

“I thoroughly enjoyed the whole workshop.  John created a relaxed atmosphere in which to learn, explained things clearly and gave me the confidence to have a go at new skills.” Annabel 2013

How did you rate the marketing of the course?
n/a (birthday present) (1 review)
ok (2 reviews)
accurate (10 reviews)

How would you rate the course booking process?
n/a (birthday present) (1 review)
ok (1 review)
excellent (9 reviews)
satisfactory (2 review)

Did you receive enough information about the course before the day?
Yes (11 reviews)
No (1 review) - see Hugh’s points above

Did the course meet your expectations, based on the pre-course information and marketing?
Yes (13 reviews) - “Exceeded my expectations, I can’t believe how much we all achieved.”

Did you think the price of the course was reasonable?
n/a (birthday present)
about right (10 reviews)
too cheap (1 review)
 

Did you think the group size was appropriate?
(1 review) “Perfect – easy to access tools and help, opportunities for mutual support and paired work, good group banter and we all fitted round the beer garden table!”
(11 reviews) about right
(1 review) about right/perhaps a little big

How would you rate the venue/facilities?
Excellent (11 reviews)
Satisfactory (2 review)

How would you rate the tutor?
 (7 reviews)
Informative    10/10
Approachable 10/10
Friendly  10/10
Supportive  10/10
Understanding of different abilities and needs  10/10
Tolerant   10+/10
“plus amusing, wise and kind” Hugh, 2013

Would you come on another course in the future?
(1 review) Yes absolutely, I’ll keep an eye out for upcoming courses
(9 reviews) Yes

Would you like to see any changes to the course, facilities, or teaching?
- Maybe if it was a day longer we would all have managed to get our projects properly finished (or maybe not!)
- Any chance of greenwood courses for scouts &/or scout leaders – Anything from basic axe/sawing skills to structure building?  A big ‘Yes’ to stocking a basic range of (new and reconditioned) tools that we’ve spent 4 days getting to know and trust.
- better response to emails enquiring about accommodation
- Dependent on student abilities, it may not be 100% feasible to build a pole lathe and a shaving horse in the 4 days, which is offered in the leaflet; perhaps just one of these and a smaller item [could] be offered or change to a 5 day course
- there could have been a few more hand tools.  Often found we were waiting for drill bits or chisels.
- A sheet of resources and other information links could be helpful
- The course was affordable though possibly John could have charged more. I am not asking to pay more but I did notice that compared to people like Guy Mallinson, John's  fees are certainly affordable and that is what enabled me to come; plus I hope to return for other courses.

 

Did you book overnight accommodation on site?
1 Review - Yes - Clean accommodation, welcoming and helpful staff.  Perhaps a local food guide would prove helpful – including promotion of honesty box purchase of Bore House produce, local shops/pubs and availability of Larkins’ Beer (Thanks Piers!)”
1 Review - “[ Accommodation] was excellent, except for email  correspondence [problems]”
1 Review - Yes - Stables, Bore Place - “Loved it!  Spacious, Excellent Facilities”
1 Review - “Didn’t stay, but it looked great.  Everyone seemed happy with it”
1 Review - “Stayed at Olde Crowne in Edenbridge and would stay there again”