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Starting woodworking - Perth Wood School


As a woodworker, starting out in this vast hobby with a blunt chisel in hand and no concept of what a jig is, we often stumble into the path of looking for a teacher. In my case, the teacher stumbled into me. One of my first meetings with David Howlett from Perth Wood School was when I was very new to the job at Carbatec Balcatta, and very, very green in the woodworking department. Unbeknownst to me, David was very much part of the furniture at the shop, and a long time customer of Carbatec. I was having a chat with the store manager James about router bits, and this cheery bloke walks in, and with great exaggeration sneaks behind the counter and pretends to rifle through a bin. Thus, with utter confusion, I was introduced to David.

David Howlett - Perth Wood School
David Howlett
Perth Wood School

Within the woodworking world, there is a barrage of misinformation being hurled at our faces around the clock, particularly with the advent of YouTube. To try and navigate the good from the bad and the downright dangerous is time consuming and frustrating. That’s where Perth Wood School comes in. I was lucky enough to do the Introductory Woodworking Course when I was first starting out in the woodwork world, and I could not believe how much well informed, useful advice, techniques and encouragement could be crammed into such a short period of time. My personal favourite course was definitely the Tool Sharpening Course because, like many, I had been tearing my hair out in frustration over increasingly blunt tools. After 3 hours my brain was exploding with excitement to sharpen everything in sight and I was confident in the best way to get my tools sharp, an integral skill which saw my woodwork improve out of sight.

Tool Sharpening Course
Tool Sharpening Course

Cat Cook is Davids’ trusty offsider, originally from Pietermaritzburg South Africa, she moved to Perth at 11 years old. Growing up in a small cul-de-sac, a neighbour had a small workshop where Cat had a fascination with the offcuts bin, and all the potential these little bits of timber have to offer. Cat has been at the Wood School since 2017, having started out as a student at the school, doing the Workbench Course and then deciding to stick around a little longer. With her background studying visual arts and photo media at university and industrial design at TAFE, her creative focus has since turned to timber. Like many of us, some of her first tools were a Stanley no.4 and no.5 plane, though if she had to pick a favourite, Cat would reach for a Lie Neilson block plane. As a staunch Veritas fan, I find this a little hard to hear, but Cat is such a talent I will forgive this one little discrepancy. Cat describes woodwork as more of a collaboration between the timber and her ideas, and finding joy in overcoming the tricky little niggles and hitches that pop up as a design develops and is fashioned into its final form, finding a way to get the timber to work to her advantage. Cat is a very patient teacher, and with careful guidance she loves to watch her students grow in confidence, and experience the immense satisfaction and sense of achievement that comes with good teaching. Cat tells me she hopes her students can attain the satisfaction and sense of peace that woodworking gives. The feeling of the whole world disappearing as you shave a dovetail shoulder, and being completely absorbed in the methodical process of creating. When Cat is not at the School, she doesn’t mind a little whittling with her giant dog Bigby, who has an abnormal talent for napping.


Workbench Course

David credits creating Perth Wood School in 2007 as his greatest woodwork achievement, rightly so, as he has created a pillar of the woodwork community which introduces effective and well informed woodworking to the larger community. David has been a one eyed woodworker since his first foray into it as a four year old belting into a bit of timber with a claw hammer. These days his techniques are a little more refined, and he hopes to pass on the immense satisfaction of a well fitted joint, the ability to create, and the endless enjoyment that woodwork gives. David taught Design and Tech in secondary schools for 12 years before embarking on his own to create Perth Wood School in 2007. David describes woodwork as his driving passion, and his vast and innate knowledge of timber is evident to the students he teaches. He hopes to teach them the ability to create their own masterpieces, and dive into the wonderful hobby of woodworking.

The wood school is located at 1/119 Welshpool Road, Welshpool, Perth, and offers a wide variety of New Courses and also has a great selection of timbers for sale, including Canadian Rock Maple, American Black Walnut, French Oak, European Cng workshop, with discounts available for pre-paid hours. I highly recommend popping along, I never leave the wood school without learning something new.

Written by Steph 
Carbatec Balcatta