It’s untrue to say I grew up in a workshop – joiner’s shops are not places for young kids and my ten remaining fingers would probably testify that. But I’d visit Dad in the workshop, often with strict instructions to stay rooted on the spot whilst circular saws cut and mortisers morticed.
He started in 1972 in competition with the many other small joiner’s shops in the town – all now lost to the might of mass production – and expanded organically, eventually occupying a small workshop at our current premises at Redesmere Farm in 1988.
We’re still here.
Running your own business takes up an inordinate amount of time: one way of seeing more of Dad was to go to work with him. Aged 13, I brushed up, painted the workshop walls and could turn a mean rolling pin – everyone got one for Christmas that year – and unsurprisingly I ended up an apprentice. Dad-bosses and single-minded teenagers don’t always mix, and Mum gave it six months. That will be thirty years ago. Luckily, Stan, Dad’s right hand man, was always on hand to step in and offer guidance.
He’s still here too.
We grew together in the business, and we grew the business together. The premises expanded year on year, occupying further workshops on the site, building a new workshop and storage shed in 2004, and finally taking occupation of the farmhouse in 2016, restoring it with the same care that goes into all of work.
In those years it would have been easy to grow exponentially further in the way business grow – more staff, lavish showroom, cheaper production, outsourcing, layers of management- but something would have been lost. That something was the ability to actually make things. Neither of us wanted to be big boss, desk jockeys, and so we stuck to the core values and continued to get our hands dirty in the workshop.
Those core values have remained to this day – to make things in wood, in the traditional way, to the best standards we can possibly make them. No CNC machines, repetition, or standardised production. Mortices and tenons will not be replaced by screws and dowels. It may take a little more time and therefore cost, but the money goes directly into the quality of the product, rather than keeping the lights on in a high street showroom. Or a marketing budget for that matter – repeat business is incredibly high and we haven’t advertised for years.
Dad retired years ago. Now its just down to Jane (my partner in life and in work) and I. Having already made his first coffee table aged 9, who knows, maybe third generation, Thomas, will follow in our shoes.