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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2018

    Default An amazing weekend

    Quite by chance, I stumbled onto this course announcement by Peter (Ozartisan) of Artisans on the Hill. I must confess, I'd never heard of a bandsaw box at that stage, but I live by a general principle that if you're vaguely interested in something - like woodwork - and you get a chance to learn from a true expert, you have to take it.

    She Who Thinks She Must Be Obeyed has shown a vague interest in woodwork lately, so on impulse, I signed both of us up for a weekend of bandsawn boxes with Alan Williams, whoever the bloke was. What a great decision it turned out to be.

    I had a look at some youtube videos of these strangely named boxes, but nothing could have prepared me for the things that Alan creates, and what he would be able to teach us ignorant savages in such short time. The man creates things that look and feel like nothing you've seen. He's a true master of his craft.

    alan williams nautilus.jpg
    I challenge you to try to work out how he cuts this nautilus out on a bandsaw. It's even more amazing in the flesh. The wood feels 'soft'. Every drawer is perfectly balanced and the finger handles are exactly where your fingers feel they should be. And the incredible thing is he'll happily show you exactly how he does it if you ask.

    We turned up in Tinonee (like the backwoods of Georgia but with fewer banjos, I suspected) with no expectations and less knowledge. I hack savagely at wood with a variety of tools, and the Girl had not even touched a bandsaw in her life.

    Within a couple of hours, we were both well into our first bandsawn boxes (There were two more to follow, each one increasing the complexity and introducing new skills and techniques). This little guy is about half way through the 5 finishing steps:
    fish box open.jpg fish box closed.jpg
    I'll remind you that I've never produced anything 'fine' in my life.

    Alan is a great teacher. It's never a given that someone who is good at their craft is good at teaching - I've sat through countless mind-numbingly boring lectures by erudite experts, wishing I had a Stanley knife handy so I could saw through my wrists and end it all quicker. Alan manages to transfer his knowledge effortlessly, and adapt what he's saying to all levels of skill and experience. Whether you're an absolute beginner like SHTSMBO, have a vague idea like me, or much more experienced like some of the others doing the course, Alan will teach you, and teach you well.

    He covers everything from setting up the bandsaw, to using it, to carving, sharpening, finishing, welding blades, and so much more... so many things, and so much that is transferable to other areas of woodwork. I've learned skills that I'll use in a thousand other areas and projects for the rest of my life. The finishing mix of oils and potions, and the process of applying it is probably worth the price of the course alone!

    Way back in the dark ages when I was at Uni, there was a fellow student who was an amazing guitar player. But do you think I could get that bugger to show me a few tips and tricks? No. Way. Every little riff was a closely-guarded secret. Every little tinkle, Classified - Eyes only. Alan is the exact opposite: No Secrets! If you want to know something, he'll tell you. If you want a copy of his patterns, he'll give them to you. Want to see how that nautilus is cut? "Come over to the bandsaw..." He's completely selfless with his knowledge and skill, and he'll show you two or three different ways to achieve the same result, so whether you're keen carver or a power tool fanatic, there'll be a way for you to use your favourite technique.

    It's incredible to see how quickly he works - wood chips flying everywhere, and a work of art emerging in a cloud of dust. It's almost unbelievable. At one point, close to lunch when everyone was slowing down and tummies were grumbling, he ambled into the shop with a few old pieces of wood and a log from the junk pile, called us over to the bandsaw, and proceeded to turn that junk into beautiful boxes, completely freehand. A real revelation of true skill.

    It's an amazing weekend, and if you have even the vaguest interest in making beautiful things from wood, you'd be daft to miss it. I believe there are a few places on the next course in June, and if I wasn't working, I'd have signed up for another crack at it so I could carry on from where we left off. There's no one else in the world that can do some of the things Alan does.

    The setting is great - Artisans on the Hill has excellent accommodation, the lunches cooked by Peter and his wife are so tasty, and the workshop is fully equiped and easily has enough tools and machinery to accommodate the six disciples the course allows. All six of us stayed on site this course, so we got to know each other well, swap ideas, and learn from each other as the weekend went on.

    There's a gallery on site as well with samples from a bunch of Aussie artists, including some of Alan's work. When I hummed and ha-d over the patterns on offer for my third box, Alan suggested I pop over to the gallery and see if wanted to make any of the boxes on display. I found one, and the fun began!

    Can you see what it is yet?!

    comma box open.jpg

    I really can't recommend this course enough. I think that there are only two a year, so get in!

    (I have no affiliation to Alan, Peter, or Artisans. Although I kinda wish I did!)

    Some more pics:

    Alan showing us how he finishes one of his nautilus boxes:

    WhatsApp Image 2019-05-07 at 20.16.07.jpeg

    Speedy sanding (this guy does not mess around!)

    WhatsApp Image 2019-05-07 at 20.16.09(1).jpeg

    A certain hack having a go (quite a bit slower!)

    WhatsApp Image 2019-05-07 at 20.16.08.jpeg

    What's the collective noun for a bunch of ignorant enthusiasts: A gaggle? A vacuum? ....

    WhatsApp Image 2019-05-07 at 20.16.09.jpeg

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Hobart, Tas


    That looks like it was a fantastic experience. Great also that your partner joined you! Did she catch the bug?


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2018


    Quote Originally Posted by Xfigio View Post
    That looks like it was a fantastic experience. Great also that your partner joined you! Did she catch the bug?
    Yup. And now I have to share my tools. Or buy two of everything :/

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Sutherland Shire, Sydney


    Excellent write up on an excellent weekend of learning. I did the same course nearly two years ago, and concur with your positive experience. Peter's workshop is almost big enough at roughly 9metres x 30metres or so, plus half again on the side for car & tractor parking plus wood storage, gees I would like something around that size to play in. It easily accommodated 6 students plus Alan Williams and all the gear you could ever want/need.

    Bandsawn boxes seem to be flavour of the month at my woodworking club, mostly inspired by one of our members also doing Alan Williams' course. There is almost an endless array of designs and timbers that can be utilised for these boxes, and they are great fun to make.

    If Trend Timbers are at the upcoming Rosehill wood show, there is a good chance that Alan Williams will be demonstrating his skills on their stand. Well worth watching the master if you get a chance.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2004


    We had a really great weekend with the participants at Alan's last workshop - all newbies to the craft and all did extremely well.
    I really appreciate Bernmc's comments as it makes the work involved to organise and run these workshops very worthwhile.
    Glad you also enjoyed your experience at Artisans Alan.

    There are, as I write this, only 2 spots left in Alans next workshop in June (14th, 15th & 16th) available to the first 2 lucky applicants.
    Details are here:

    Was chatting to Adrian from Trend Timbers today and yes - we will all be there, including Alan demonstrating his bandsaw prowess.
    Artisans will also be there in our own right with Christine demonstrating how to turn "clay" into Pure Silver!!

    Make sure you come and say Hello.
    Artisans On The Hilll - Gallery, Manning Valley Hideaway Accommodation & Workshops.
    Ideal Family or Group Getaway!
    You all come & visit now - y'hear!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 1999
    Grovedale, Victoria Australia


    Bernmc glad to hear you and the good lady had an enjoyable weekend, you will always find most woodies very helpfull in all ways to get more people interested in the craft, There is no secrets.
    A big thanks to Peter and Allan for running the show, we can also vouch for Peters hospitality
    Jim Carroll
    One Good Turn Deserves Another. CWS, Vicmarc, Robert Sorby, Woodcut, Tormek, Woodfast
    Are you a registered member? Why not? click here to register. It's free and only takes 37 seconds!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Canberra, Australia


    I did this course last year and can only echo everything Bernmc has said. Alan is a fantastic teacher and a great bloke as well as being a true master of his craft. And Peter is a gracious and generous host. It really is a value-packed and most enjoyable weekend.



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