Furniture Making Apprenticeship

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An Edward Barnsley Workshop furniture making Apprenticeship provides a thorough practical training in a commercial environment. In 1924 Edward Barnsley engaged his first apprentice. Today, the tradition of high quality training continues, supported since 1980 by the Edward Barnsley Educational Trust (EBET). The training of more than sixty people has been supported by the EBET. So far, nineteen of them have gone on to set up their own furniture-making businesses. Of the others almost all are working successfully as furniture-makers. In recent years two of our apprentices have represented the UK in cabinet-making at the WorldSkills finals.

“The Barnsley Trust is an embodiment of the idea that knowledge is not owned but is there to be shared for the benefit of all”

Adam Gamble, 
Adam Gamble Furniture
(Apprentice and Craftsman from 1987 to 1994)


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The Foundation Apprenticeship

The Foundation Apprenticeship is an intensive one-year course for people who possess some furniture-making skills but want to learn how to work to the very highest standards. Foundation Apprentices work alongside experienced furniture-makers. They make a wide variety of Barnsley designs guided by Stephen Rock, the craftsman-tutor. They work on each piece from start to finish, mostly one-offs but occasionally a small batch run. They are taught not only how to make top quality furniture but also how to make it quickly. We do not teach furniture design because we think good making-skills should come first.

For the first three months Foundation Apprentices use only hand tools. They then learn how to use our machines safely and spend the rest of the Foundation year perfecting a broad range of Barnsley techniques, making furniture of increasing complexity. The programme is finished off with a larger piece that will look impressive in their portfolio. All their work is sold by the EBET from the Barnsley showroom, next door to the workshop.

The majority of the apprentices’ time is spent at the bench. The rest is spent in the machine shop and helping with jobs around the workshop. Apprentices are expected to do some essential workshop tasks including sweeping up and machine maintenance. This thorough and comprehensive training teaches the skills needed to succeed as a professional furniture-maker.


The EBET offers Foundation Apprentices a bursary of £600 per month to help cover their living expenses.


We cannot provide accommodation for all our apprentices. We sub-let a nearby cottage to three of our apprentices. All other apprentices have to find their own place to rent, but we help them by sharing our local knowledge.


There is little public transport in Froxfield. Apprentices are expected to make their own arrangements. Apprentices generally use their own car or bicycle.


The Workshop day is from 8 am to 4.30 pm. Holidays may be taken by prior agreement. It is a condition of the award of a bursary that Foundation Apprentices take no more than 20 days holiday in a year. In addition, the Workshop is shut for all 8 bank holidays each year.

Private Work

Apprentices may use the workshop after hours to work on their own projects providing they have obtained permission and there is another person in the workshop.


Apprentices have their own bench and tool storage area. We provide all the tools apprentices will need. They gradually build up their own kit but are advised to try out workshop ones before buying their own.


The EBET presents certificates to apprentices at the end of their course. In addition, apprentices are provided with photographs of their work for their portfolio.

Beyond the Foundation Apprenticeship

At the end of the Foundation year, apprentices can use their Barnsley training to help them find employment in another workshop. Sometimes, Foundation Apprentices are invited to extend their apprenticeship with a year of employment and further training at the Barnsley Workshop.

“My training at first taught me a great deal about manual skill. I was then taught a great deal about humility and the degree of focused discipline needed to achieve those levels of skill. The motivation came from being inspired by the craftsmen I was working alongside and the extraordinary furniture they made. This is why the apprenticeship system works and why the Edward Barnsley Educational Trust continues to teach by example.”

Hamish Low
Adamson and Low Cabinet Makers

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How to Apply

Step 1

We want applicants to have a clear idea of what it would be like to train in the Barnsley Workshop. The best way to find out is to look round the workshop and meet the craftsmen and apprentices. People who are interested in the Foundation Apprenticeship usually visit the Workshop first. If visiting is difficult because you live far away or are not a UK resident please contact Craftsman-Tutor Stephen Rock by  (preferably) or by telephone before formally applying. Prospective applicants often visit on a Workshop Open Saturday or as part of a group visit organized by their college. Alternatively, they can contact Stephen to arrange a weekday appointment. If you are thinking of applying for our next intake please contact him no later than Monday 15 May 2017.

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Step 2

Having contacted Stephen, the next step is a formal application. To be eligible for the September 2017 intake applicants must submit a completed application-form and present examples of their work before Friday 26 May 2017. We are not expecting perfection in the work applicants present to us. Pieces do not need to be large or complicated but we do like work to be neat and accurate. We prefer not to see torn out grain, gaps in joints or thick glue lines. An example of a well-fitted drawer or door impresses us. If bringing in work will present a problem please let us know. We also like applicants to provide us with either digital or printed photographs of their work.

We usually take on two Foundation Apprentices each year and have ten or more applicants for each place. We welcome applications from talented, aspiring furniture-makers who have a strong desire to improve their skills and want to establish a career making high-quality furniture. We look for evidence that applicants enjoy making things well. We are looking for potential and enthusiasm rather than qualifications and experience. Usually, applicants will have completed a college course. However, we will consider anyone who wants a career in furniture-making, is keen and can show us some furniture they have made to a good standard. There is no age restriction on applicants.

The final selection procedure takes place during June when we draw up a shortlist of candidates and ask each of them to come in for a trial day. We then choose the new Foundation Apprentices who will start in mid September.

Currently we do not have a complete up-to-date list of further education colleges that run furniture-making courses. However, anyone interested in college training could start by looking at the list below. It includes colleges where recent apprentices have studied.


Bridgwater College

Building Crafts College

Burnley College

Chichester College

Cornwall College Camborne

Hereford College

Moulton College

City of Oxford College (Rycotewood Furniture Centre)

Warwickshire College

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