The Apprentice – Episode One – Carpentry


2014 was quite a year for Chippendale International School of Furniture graduate, Fergus McCoss.  Not only did he manage to upcycle a 10-pound table into a 1,200-pound showpiece (to prove that “old and useless furniture is simply new and beautiful furniture in disguise”) he also decamped to Mallorca to take over the reins at 18-year-established Cormorant Carpentry – all before turning 24 years old.

  Former superyacht deckie Fergus invited me to his (freezing cold) Poligono Can Valero workshop to try my hand at carpentry.  ‘The Apprentice’ series begins…


Only recently, I have expressed grave concern at the fact I am not particularly good at anything – apart from writing (I think, I hope, I pray).  I can cook, but not in the grab-random-things-from-the-larder-and-create-a-Michelin-star-style-masterpiece-without-a-recipe-book way my Aunt does.  I am a pretty strong swimmer, but only breaststroke since as soon as my face goes underwater I forget entirely how to breathe.  I sing, at my desk, in the shower, around Mercadona, but no one would turn around for me on The Voice. 


You see the dilemma.  So I am looking for a hidden talent, a natural skill, and The Apprentice is going to help me find it.  Could it be carpentry?


I could keep you in suspense until the end of this piece but I will come clean now.  It’s not carpentry.  Here’s the rub:  a) the workshop springs into action at 7.30am, my brain doesn’t fire on any more than one cylinder til 9am, therefore I would have an hour and a half of cheating certain death by circular saw to contend with,  b)  there was a lot of tape measuring and calculating, numbers and I don’t get along, words are my friend,  c)  Neil (my ‘boss’ for the day) casually mentioned “any seasoned joiner or carpenter will be happy to show you his war wounds”, my rowing-machine-callused hands are ugly enough, I don’t need to be chiselling lumps out of them as well, and, d)  I mentioned it was cold.  Although I am assured the workshop is t-shirt territory in the summer, on a cold January Wednesday it was like entering one of those cold stores you see on Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.  I kept volunteering to make tea (like a proper Apprentice) so I could hold something warm.  Eventually I pretended to take an important call so I could go outside and warm up.  Tough guy northern Neil from Sheffield was in a t-shirt throughout, naturellement.


But let me tell you, there is also a lot to love about carpentry.  I discovered quite quickly that it’s one of those trades that requires a great deal of skill and care.  Neil has a four-year coachbuilding apprenticeship at South Yorkshire Transport, a City & Guilds in Vehicle Body Repair and Refinishing, undertook a conversion course to joinery and spent several years working at a bespoke kitchen company before he came to Mallorca seven years ago to ply his trade.  (‘Ply’ – do you get it?!  Crikey I am funny.)  As we went through the process of making a 150mm x 150mm box (my very own box, to take away, it’s beautiful) he reeled off lists of baffling terminology and went from sander to planer to saw to mug of tea with efficiency and purpose.  And how wonderful to do a job that has an end product you can touch, feel and be proud of.  I got the sense that job satisfaction at Cormorant Carpentry was a daily affair.


So what do they actually do?  In the workshop I spotted a bespoke sleigh (handmade for Father Christmas – and Calvia Council), two exquisitely-shaped surf boards, endless sections of rotten yacht flooring being replicated for new, solid-wood doors for luxury villas, tailormade shower trays for superyachts and cranky kitchen cabinets being restored to perfection.  With winter being busy refit and repair season, most of the Cormorant Carpenters were out in the field, at various shipyards from Port Adriano to STP, and you got the sense that there was no such thing as an ‘average day’ – another big bonus, but not enough to tempt me into the world of wood. 


I will return nex
t week to varnish my box and then leave wonderful Neil and the team to their early starts and heads full of figures while I continue my search for that elusive talent…

Sarah Drane             


Also read

Get your hard-copy now!

Your advert in The Islander Magazine?

Get your hard-copy now!

Your advert in The Islander Magazine?

and receive your invitation to our events