Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes, but the important thing is to recognise it when you see it.

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

The roofing project might not seem similar to a garden bench, but many of the joinery principles are the same.

His bench is held together by mechanical joinery, pegged mortice and tenon joints, without glue.

That’s not a hundred miles away from a medieval roof!

The first basic skill that our professional course students learn is the how to accurately visualise their ideas and express them in 3D drawings.

Each year, we bring in Isa Dorster, who has taught at the lycée des métiers d’art georges guynemer near Montpellier for 19 years.

From Isa, Tom learned the importance of scale in visualising his bench, taking proportions and ratios, and determining its height against width.

The result is a monumental bench, in green oak to better withstand the British climate, and which would grace any garden.

He came to the Chippendale school having served with the Royal Engineers, and having already taken evening classes in woodworking.

His bench has 23 backrest slats and everything on a curve, making it a symphony in precise steam-bending.

After graduation, Tom has already found work in a woodworking business on the Black Isle, a peninsula within Ross and Cromarty in the Scottish Highlands.

We put him in touch with the woodworking business, Allangrange Furniture Restoration, which is run by our first ever student, Jayjay Gladwin.