Local BBC Sites

Page last updated at 14:30 GMT, Monday, 6 September 2010 15:30 UK
Brighter future for Sheffield scissor firm
Scissors made at Ernest Wright and Son
Scissors are made the traditional way at Ernest Wright and Son in Sheffield

Scissor-making is one of Sheffield's historic trades.

But there are now only two scissors firms left in the city.

And one of them, Ernest Wright and Son Ltd, had only three skilled scissor-makers at the start of 2010.

But the company, also known as Kutrite, has found a 20 year old apprentice to carry on their work and ensure the art of scissor making is not consigned to history.

The 'scissor putter-togetherers', as they're called at Ernest Wright and Son, are all in their sixties and due for retirement.

They have continued working because of a love of their job and a reluctance to see their art die out.

The company had struggled to find apprentices - but it has just taken on 20-year-old Mark Roberts - who'll be learning the trade and helping preserve its future.

Mark heard an appeal for apprentices at the firm in an interview on BBC Radio Sheffield and was keen to get involved:

"I just wanted to help keep an engineering business going in Sheffield.

"I'd recently worked at B Braun but got laid off.

"I've been here four weeks now and I'm enjoying it. It's really satisfying to do a job from start to finish."

Mark Roberts and Cliff Denton
New apprentice Mark Roberts learning his trade from Cliff Denton

Cliff Denton has spent his working life as a scissor-maker - he started aged just 15 at Morton Scissors on West Street in Sheffield.

He wants scissor-making to continue and is passing his skills on to Mark before he retires:

"I've spent 30 years at Ernest Wright and Son. I'm not ready to pack it in just yet, but a little bit further down the line I will be."

It will be up to Cliff and his colleagues to teach Mark the art of forging, glazing, setting and putting together scissors at the company's factory in Kelham Island.

The drive to recruit an apprentice came from Nick Wright, the son of the current owner, Philip Wright.

He is working on a voluntary basis to help the company through the current difficult times.

Nick was keen to look to the future of the firm and realised that finding someone to learn from their current employees was key:

"It is vital to keep these trades in Sheffield. We're known for the 'little mester' trades and I think it would be a terrible, terrible shame if they were to disappear."

In the 1970s there were at least 150 small scissor making companies.

Now only William Whiteley & Sons (Sheffield) Ltd and Ernest Wright and Son remain.

Mark Roberts and Nick Wright
New apprentice Mark has impressed Nick Wright from Ernest Wright and Son

Mark's progress at Ernest Wright and Son has impressed Nick: "He's doing very well. And he knew a few of the basics before he started. He'd done grinding, for example, in one or two jobs he'd had before, so it's all going very well."

"It takes 5 to 10 years to learn this trade, so I knew I needed to get someone in quickly to make sure that the skills set carried on here."

The company faces competition from cheaper mass produced items from overseas.

But Nick Wright believes there is still a demand for scissors produced in the traditional way.

"The cheap and cheerful stuff which you throw in the bin three weeks later - we don't deal in that sort of product.

"Our stuff is quality and is supposed to last a lifetime, so in the end, it is value for money."

And Nick intends to focus on internet orders as a way of getting growing sales for the future.

So although a new apprentice will help preserve traditional manufacturing methods - it could be the modern technology of the internet which is the key for the survival of the company as a whole.




SEE ALSO
In pictures: Sheffield's last scissor factory
11 Feb 10 |  Arts & Culture
Industrial Sheffield's last scissor factory
25 Feb 10 |  Arts & Culture
Listen: Sheffield's last scissor factory
03 Mar 10 |  Arts & Culture

OTHER RELATED BBC LINKS


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific