3 decades of excellence: Meet the Melbourne School of Fine Woodworking
For going on 30 years, the Melbourne School of Fine Woodworking in Box Hill has proven itself an enduring institution. The not-for-profit school hosts over 70 students weekly for morning and evening classes, in addition to a wide range of weekend short courses.
We met with husband and wife team Rob and Kym Fabris, who act as Operations Manager and Administrator respectively, to talk to them about the school and its students.
Rob, please give us some background.
Cole’s School of Fine Woodworking was founded by Richard Cole in Fairfield, opening a Box Hill branch in 1997. Richard left the business in 2000 and it now operates a not-for-profit club – The Melbourne School of Fine Woodworking.
Rob, how are your classes run?
Our 5 Tutors, who have an average of over 25 years furniture making/teaching experience, each supervise up to seven students per daily session. Our 9am-1pm morning classes are typically populated by retired or semi-retired students.
We’ve created a real sense of community – so after the classes the students often stay on working together and assisting each other.
Our 7-10pm evening classes are mostly attended by professionals seeking some respite from their busy working lives: barristers, orthopaedic surgeons, vets – we give them a place to escape and a deep sense of satisfaction from creating a piece of fine furniture, however long it takes!
The primary weekend course we run is Introduction to Fine Furniture Making. We recommend this as a prerequisite for any student hoping to join a weekly class. This gives students a realistic view of what is involved in making fine furniture.
Kym, is this a ‘purely bloke thing’?
Not at all! Almost a third of our students are now women. They can have a better attention to detail and are making some beautiful pieces.
Rob, what are the School’s values?
Our aim is to provide a supportive environment where students can acquire the skills to design and make their own furniture to a high quality. We cater for all skill levels and endeavor to pass on traditional hand tool skills which unfortunately are not often used in the furniture trade today.
Rob, what part does Carbitool play?
We’ve been associated with Carbitool from our beginnings. It’s great to deal with an Australian company – but we wouldn’t have a relationship unless the quality was good. Carbitool offers two ranges, and we encourage our students to build up their equipment over time.
“While our students can use anything we have, they typically want to set themselves up with some basic routing tools. Here are some essentials we recommend they start with.”
1. Straight Bits in various sizes
2. Flush Trim Bits with bearing on bottom and bearing on top
3. Beading Bits
4. 45ᴼ Chamfering Bits
Kym, how do you manage the Carbitool relationship?
I order Carbitool products daily for our students and to restock our display cabinet. The service is fantastic – I email an order and the products arrive by 2:00pm the next day, Australia Post willing!