Canterbury College - Ex-student saws above competition
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Ex-student saws above competition

A former Canterbury College student has been making waves on a TV woodworking competition.

Jacob Bell has progressed through the first three episodes of Channel 4’s Handmade: Britain’s Best Woodworker, using skills he first picked up during his time at Canterbury College.

The 22-year-old was one of 10 people from across Great Britain selected to take part in the show’s second series.

All images copyright - Channel 4

Of the experience, Jacob said: “It was weird. Although you'd imagine it'd be very distracting to stop and talk about your project, I normally narrate myself all the time anyway. Being able to do that all day, and being around people who have the same passion and who are making stuff alongside you, meant the show was just a lot of fun.

“Because of this, the competition aspect kind of faded into the background for all of us until someone had to leave.

“Because you don't think about it at all, all that tension and emotion comes down to the point where they announce who'll be leaving - so it's very intense. You start to think ‘Oh, could it actually be me going this week?’”

Last week saw him create a miniature workbench and tools for children, which he says is his favourite piece he’s ever made.

His first experiences with the craft were at Canterbury College, where he joined the Level 1 Carpentry course in 2016.

He recalls: “I always had a curiosity and interest to do carpentry at school but didn't have the chance until I reached college age, which is when I thought I'd give it a go.

“I got a merit on my Level 1 Carpentry, and really enjoyed being at the College. So I decided to stay there and that I wanted to specialise, so I joined the Furniture Making course.

“It's a hobby as much as it’s a profession, so I was trying to be as much of a sponge as possible to learn all I could. I always went to my lecturer Barry with questions and got caught up in conversation with him, and he helped me out quite a lot.

“Barry was incredibly knowledgeable about everything and very supportive. I am still in contact with him, despite me having moved to Norfolk since, and he's been cheering me on throughout the show.”

Upon completing his Level 3 in 2018, Jacob worked at a timber mill in Canterbury before becoming a caretaker at a nursing home. Since moving, he continues to be a part-time caretaker - now at a school. But he still enjoys spending time in the workshop in his back garden, where he makes furniture as a hobby.

He has joined the show with the aim of showing you don’t need to have a Masters’ degree to be a skilled practitioner. He also has advice for budding carpenters, saying: “I would say, if you want to go down the route of furniture or another specialisations you have to start with the basics of carpentry.

“Whether that's site carpentry or joinery, you have to start with the basics and College courses are perfect for that. If you find it's something you want to do - and then choose to go into something more detailed - you've already got that foundation, that first steppingstone, and you can go on to do anything.”

If you want to follow in Jacob’s footsteps, you can discover our Carpentry courses here