Sometimes it’s good to take a step back and consider the beauty of a manufacturing process that doesn’t involve such modern technology.
Take scissor manufacturing at Ernest Wright and Son Limited, a family company that has been hand-making scissors and shears in Sheffield since 1902.
The short film below shows Cliff Denton hand crafting pairs of scissors. His job title is ‘putter’, literally a ‘putter togetherer of scissors’.
The scissor industry in Sheffield was once booming. Within the city walls there were over 150 small scissor-making companies. This was in 1970, today there are just two. One being Ernest Wright & Son and the other Whiteley’s, which was established in 1760.
Of course cheap imports have had a significant effect on this small scissor industry. But Ernest Wright and Son have managed to keep its head above water with a catalogue that boasts 150 different pairs of scissors. These scissors are made to last a lifetime, not to break after a few years.
Watching the film you can’t help be mesmerised by this process, which has remained the same for decades and demands a high level of skill from the craftsman.
Denton is one of the three ‘putters’ left at the company, in its 1960s heyday there were over 80. He has been doing this job for 55 years so there’s no surprise that he does it all by eye.
The film was produced earlier this year by Shaun Bloodworth, as part of Storying Sheffield, an initiative by the University of Sheffield. It caught the attention of many people who had no idea about this firm and soon Ernest Wright & Son were flooded with orders from afar afield as the US.
It goes to show that some people still hold handcrafted manufacturing very highly and can see the quality that it results in.
The film also caught the attention of the BBC, which did its own video documentary below.
The documentary features an interview with another of the firm’s ‘putters’ – Eric Stones, who has been making scissors for 58 years and still loves his job and keeps learning all the time.
In the video he describes the process and then at the end, puts a finished pair of scissors to one side and says “every pair a jewel.”
Now if that isn’t love and pride for what you do I don’t know what is.
With two new apprenticeships at the company, hopefully these skills will be passed on and not lost.