Let me just say that I've spent my entire life correcting people on my surnames pronunciation. Trust me it's a lost cause.
But for your own satisfaction and knowledge, it's pronounced Est-LEE.
I am a woodworker, tutor, and online content creator and have somehow been fortunate enough to find myself standing at a workbench making things for a living.
While this page is mainly autobiographical, I relish the idea that someone, somewhere may read this one day and feel inspired to pursue the life they want to live. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying my life is perfect. But I am someone who is able to wake up at stupid hours in the morning and still look forward to going to work.
I want you to achieve the same. Whether that's developing the woodworking skills to build a little side hustle, or completely jump ship and start a new career. It's entirely possible to earn an income from making things with your hands. In fact, there's no better time than now!
Alternatively, if you're retired or simply looking for a fun, creative and rewarding hobby to take up. I can certainly help you get started on the right foot. Have a look at my Free Online Woodworking School!
My passion for craft has always been there. Growing up, I always enjoyed getting my hands dirty and making things and although I partook in sports and was somewhat academic, neither were my passion.
It was during my GCSE Resistant Materials classes that I was introduced to fine woodworking by a bespoke box maker. He helped us with our studies, pushed us to try new things, and inspired us every time he bought in one of his creations. Although I had seen work of a similar quality before, I had always taken it for granted. It had never clicked that a human being actually made it with their own hands.
I was approaching my final year at secondary school and had my further education all lined up: History, Astronomy, Electronics and Music. What a mix. Naturally, I was following all of my friends as opposed to doing something I was actually passionate about. It was only when I casually enquired my teacher about his career in woodworking that I realised this is what I need to be doing. He said:
‘Matt, you'll probably never make millions, but you'll never have to work a day in your life.'
Sold. I got onto Google, searched for Woodworking courses in the UK and after a bit of browsing Rycotewood Furniture Centre in Oxford popped up. A few days later, I was having a tour of the workshops. Three months later, I was enrolling there. I didn't even bother calling the previous college to tell them I wasn't showing up.
I started Rycotewood somewhat prepared. Throughout the entire summer prior to enrolment I was watching woodworking videos on YouTube, reading my favourite woodworking book, and trying to absorb as much information as possible so I could be prepared for what was to come.
The first year covered a City and Guilds Level 1 and 2 qualification. It consisted of repeatedly cutting joints by hand, sharpening and setting up tools, learning how to use basic machines, timber technology, and making a small dovetailed jewellery box and a cabinet with a veneered marquetry door.
The second year covered a City and Guilds Level 3 qualification. This focused on more challenging projects such as a games board, model making and a demilune side table with three curved fronted dovetail drawers. This was also an opportunity to refine some of the skills we learnt in the previous year.
It was during my second year that I made a Bass Guitar as a side project, which is something I always dreamed of doing, and managed to get a part-time job at Axminster Tools and Machinery in Basingstoke.
In my third year at Rycotewood, I progressed to study a Foundation Degree which was a two year course. This was in a different workshop within the building, new classmates, new tutors, and was an opportunity for me to put my design skills to the test. It was also where I started my Instagram profile.
My first project was called ‘Origin‘ which was inspired by Astronomy. Followed by ‘Scriptylia‘ at the start of my forth year and ‘Cognition‘ towards the end.
I was going through a pretty rough time during the period between these two projects which left me feeling incredibly low. I had always wanted to film myself making things but was always scared of other peoples opinions. However, my state at the time made me feel like I had nothing left to lose so I just rocked up with my camera one day and got started.
The first few weeks were pretty weird. Having a camera plonked next to me everywhere I went took a little bit of getting used to, even more so for the other students at Rycotewood. My friends had a laugh about it every now and then, the tutors didn't really know what to make of it, but overall everyone was really supportive. By week three, it became the norm.
In my fifth and final year at Rycotewood, I made a Krenov Cabinet and a Roubo Workbench. The latter being for my dissertation titled ‘Can social media be used in a way to supplement the furniture making industry?' I chose this subject because it allowed me to justify the absurd amount of time I was spending on content creation as opposed to my uni course. Now I could do both at once!
There are a few reasons why I chose to make a workbench for my final project at Rycotewood. The first being that workshop projects are extremely popular on YouTube. More so than furniture projects in most cases. There was also a small spike in Roubo Workbench trends at the time which is still quite prominent nowadays.
The second reason was because I had access to the machinery at Rycotewood. It would have been a struggle to make the workbench without being able to use an industrial drum sander, spindle moulder, and a morticer!
Finally the third reason was simply because I needed a workbench for when I finished Rycotewood! I worked every weekend and had purposely saved my student loan throughout the year to spend on something worthwhile, which turned out to be a pallet full of wood!
After graduating from Rycotewood, I managed to secure myself a place as an artist in residence at the Sylva Wood Centre. This space was sponsored by Rycotewood and gave me a chance to build up my equipment without having to worry about the overheads when renting a workshop.
Up until this point, I figured that a lot of my videos were quite ‘me, me, me'.
Watch me make this Curved Cabinet with all these expensive vacuum presses! Watch me make a massive Roubo Workbench using all this equipment you probably can't afford!
Over the five years of training I had at Rycotewood and the four years of employment at Axminster, I figured I probably had quite a lot of information that could be taught. So 2 weeks prior to moving into the new workshop, I sat down and planned out every single video I wanted to film and what order I should post them in.
One of the things that really annoyed me when learning from videos on YouTube was the tutor assuming you already knew how to do something perfectly.
For example they would film themselves laying out a dovetail perfectly and turn around and say ‘Now you just have to cut to the line!' Which as we all know, its much easier said than done. I decided to order my content in such a way that when I filmed my video on How to cut a dovetail joint, I already had a backlog of supporting content for the viewer to refer back to. Such as how to saw correctly, how to sharpen a chisel, what marking gauge to use, what dovetail ratio to use etc. Everything was ready to watch in case the viewer wasn't confident on a particular process. What's more, most of these pieces of supporting content had their own supporting content! For example my video on how to sharpen a chisel had a supporting video on what honing guide to choose. My video on how to saw correctly had supporting content on what saws do you need. It was all laid out in such a way to make the process as easy as possible to navigate, learn from, and understand.
That backlogged content will always be there and I am always adding to it in case I find another gap to fill. I find it works particularly well in project videos as I don't have to talk about the process over and over again. I can simply refer to my pre-recorded videos and the viewer has everything they need at their disposal.
I am now in my own workshop where I post a mixture of projects, tutorials, reviews and anything else I believe will be useful to my viewers. My aim is not only to improve peoples woodworking, but get them started in the first place. Particularly with the younger demographic in this digital age.
Following on from that, I previously taught Levels 1, 2 and 3 Furniture Making at Rycotewood, which was the exact course I studied at the beginning of my woodworking career. However as of September 2021, I am now working on my business full time!
It's a lot of work but I thoroughly enjoy every moment of what I do. I'm incredibly lucky and grateful to have such a supportive community behind me and I wish there was more ways to say thank you. I can't wait to see what else is going to be added to this page as the years progress.
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