Tom Smyth from Bristol has taken inspiration for his steam-bent oak garden bench from recent work he carried out repairing the roof of a listed 400-year-old timber framed barn in Hampshire.

Although the scale of the roofing project was rather different, the principles of fashioning oak into strong and enduring structures are much the same.

Tom spent last year deployed in South Sudan with the Royal Engineers, and during this time had the opportunity to get involved in various construction projects in support of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). He was also given the job of carving a wooden plaque for the front entrance of the British camp, which still stands there.

He came to the Chippendale school’s professional course having already taken evening classes in woodworking, and realising how much he enjoyed it. Working with the ‘chippies’ during his deployment made him realise that he would like to try and make a career from carpentry.

One of the ideas for his work-in-progress garden bench is that, as he explains, “people often have more room in their gardens than in their homes.”

His bench, with 23 backrest slats and everything on a curve, is being entirely constructed on mechanical principles, with pegged mortice and tenon joints and no need for glue.  It’s also made from green oak that’s been allowed to dry outside with no kiln drying required.

That will make the finished piece less prone to suffer the vagaries of the British climate.

After graduation, Tom’s current plan is to look for woodworking employment, so that he can continue to learn and develop as a woodworker.