The student becomes the teacher

In a busy workshop, several first-year students are gathered around an original Sjöbergs 1900 bench, enthusiastically listening to the master teacher, Kaj Jakobsen. The demonstration is on how to create a perfect dovetail by using a caliper. Around them other students are busily at work doing carpentry, providing a lovely background noise to the Kaj’s lecture.

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The road to get to where he is today has been long. The first time he heard about Carl Malmsten was in various books and interviews with James Krenov, a famous carpenter who  studied at the Malmstens school in the 1950´s. Kaj wanted to find out more about this type of education and found Capellagården, which he eagerly applied to.

Kaj står vid sin hyvelbänk Sjöbergs Original 1900 och undervisar sina elever på Capellagården.
Capellagården verkstad och slöjdsal.

Kaj grew up in Canada, and was introduced to woodworking at a young age by his father, who was skilled craftsman of boats and furniture. From 10 years old his passion grew whilst working on the interior of the boats. So he already had a great deal of experience in carpentry and woodwork before he started studying. Kaj recalls.

-”My dad was born in Denmark and I have always had a great interest in the Scandinavian furniture Design. I wanted to have a traditional education in furniture making and was particularly keen to learn the style of my Scandinavian roots. In 2011 I applied and got a place on a 3-year course – the same one as I now teach.”

After three years in Sweden, he was both newly graduated and newly in love. During his three years of  study he met Kerstin, who was also studying at Capellagården, but at the Trägårdsutbildningen. Kaj took his Swedish girlfriend to Canada and they lived there for several years. He worked part-time as a craft teacher as well as running his own business making kitchen fittings and furniture.

In 2018, they moved back to Sweden and when the job as a teacher at Capellagården came up, it felt natural to apply. Now he and his family have a farm on Öland. The house is from the 1800s and they are currently renovating it. Everything is been undertaken according to building conservation methodology, with environmentally friendly materials and sustainable techniques.

Kaj is also very grateful for his work as a teacher. He loves to create things. Most of his ideas come straight from his head but sometimes he also sketches and plans his designs. He finds joy and inspiration from nature, his upbringing and the love of hiking in the mountains. He mostly works in wood but will incorporate both metal and textile if the project calls for it.


-”I find inspiration everywhere, it’s not something I need to look for, it’s already in me. Furthermore, I’m so inspired by the students at Capellagården, they always make such amazing projects. For me, it really doesn’t matter what material I make things out of, I don’t want to feel restricted but be free in my creativity. Here is for example a scythe I made in a combined metal/wood project,” says Kaj as he show us the beautiful result.”

Kaj also remarks on how he enjoys a range of hand tools and the varying techniques of how to use them. It is also an important part of teaching, to learn how the tools work so they can give you the result you desire, Kaj further explains.

Social media is important and big for the students, they both gather and share inspiration in different forums. He sees many advantages with this but is himself more traditional. When an idea comes into his head, it rarely takes long before his hands are in motion.


-"I spend a lot of time with first-year students teaching them the importance of the basics techniques.

Slöjdlärare visar elever hur han arbetar med trä
Capellgården workbench i trä

Kaj concludes by saying that the workbench is the most important tool for students throughout their training. At the beginning of each new term, students get to choose their workbench, which is the only time there is a hierarchal order in the workshop. Since so much time is spent at the workbenches, this is an important event when a new term starts. The students who have studied the longest get to go in first and choose their workbench. The first-year students have to wait until last and then only the most worn and oldest benches are left to choose from. Kaj remembers very well his first year when he really got a bad workbench.

Over the years he studied and when he had spare time, he made some renovations and adjustments to his bench. So, when he started his last year and got to choose first, he still chose the bench he started off with in his first year at school.

In other words, a good bench becomes ”a home away from home”.



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