A former Moulton College furniture student has won the gold medal at the prestigious UK National Skillbuild Finals for Furniture and Cabinet Making.
Thomas Gibbs, who completed his Level 3 Furniture Design and Making course in the summer, represented Moulton College in the finals, which took place at the WorldSkills UK event at the NEC in Birmingham. He fended off the competition from seven other of the best young cabinet makers in the country that had also progressed from regional finals.
Thomas said: “It was overwhelming to find out I’d won because I was competing against some great people. Everyone had pluses and minuses in their work so you couldn’t tell an obvious winner, but I thought I might get a medal. When they called out who came third and then second I thought I might not get a medal at all, but then they called my name as the winner and the endorphin rush was amazing!”
The eight finalists had no idea what they would be building before the final, and were given a technical drawing for guidance and some semi-prepared timber for their cabinet when the clock started. They then had 18 hours across three days to complete the task, which might sound a lot, but is a lot less time than a build like this would usually take!
“It’s definitely not enough time, especially as most of it is handmade,” Thomas said. “If we were given a task like this at college we would normally do it over the course of a month, so you would be able to take more time around each section.
“I am pretty competent with looking at designs and being able to make them, but there are always things that can go wrong, especially with the time element and I got nervous about meeting the quality required within the time we had.
“The final day was only two hours, so it was a bit daunting the night before worrying if I would finish in time. Those two hours flew by, but does make you realise how much you are capable of and somehow I managed to finish it.”
Thomas studied A-levels before coming to Moulton College, where he spent three years honing his craft on Furniture Studies courses, which culminated in reaching the Skillbuild regional, and then national finals.
“I really enjoyed the course at Moulton,” he said. “The first year is all about hand tools and how to cut wood properly which is really interesting and gets to the heart of the subject, and then as we went on we started designing and making bigger and better things. The tutors know their stuff and are very helpful if you have any problems.”
Bruce Marsh, Furniture Studies lecturer at Moulton College said: “The whole team is really proud of Thomas and his amazing achievements. He was a fantastic student with us for three years who really developed and progressed well and we are so proud that he has gone on to win the gold medal in the national finals.”
Thomas wasted no time in getting a job after finishing at Moulton, gaining employment straight away at Silverlining, a company in Wrexham that specialises in bespoke furniture designs for yachts, aircrafts and private residences.
Despite his cabinet impressing the judges in the national finals, he admits it isn’t his best work. “I have other projects that I’ve taken more time on and see as better quality, but this has the sentimental value of winning the competition with it,” he said. “I’m keeping the cabinet in my room with the medal on at the moment, but I’ll put it to good use at some point and it will always remind me of when I won the nationals!”
Applications are open for Furniture Studies and other Construction courses at Moulton College for September 2019. Click here for more information on upcoming Open Events and click here to apply for courses.