After leaving school at sixteen with good results in woodwork, technical drawing and art, I started a five year indentured apprenticeship with a joinery manufacturer in Hibaldstow, North Lincolnshire, making doors, windows, cabinets for local building companies. At that time we also carried out specialist cabinet work in hardwood and formica. Many of the hardwood furniture had to be stained, sealed with a hard finish for protection. After two years in the workshop I was sent on site carrying out 1st & 2nd fixings along with traditional roof work and also some shuttering, so over the five year period I had covered most work in the trade. During this time I also attended a local college two evenings a week and one day release, learning more specialist work including brickwork and specialist wood finishing.
After getting married and starting a family, I was to enter self employment making pine and oak kitchens with furniture and bespoke products to match. I then introduced a finish to new wood that had an aged process and saw an opportunity to adapt this to new products including beams, planking and easy to fit wall panelling. This was then sold through various showrooms in London, Nottingham, Leicester, Sheffield, Scunthorpe, Doncaster and was asked by housing units in Failsworth to design and fit a main display showing many of my products. Also at that time I was to take on a contract for the conversion at RAF Bentwater, near Ipswich for an American airbase. The project was to convert an aircraft hanger into a new feature eating place for the officers, using beams, planking, plate racks and wall panelling. This involved twelve joiners on site for a period of thirteen weeks. I have also supplied major house builders with similar products which were specified by Wimpey Homes, Bovis, Fairclough and some of the breweries when they were converting their pubs into eating places.
I was then asked to take the floor above a stove showroom in Sheffield, using it as a design studio where I worked for three years as a fireplace designer, selling and installing stoves, fires, and special features. I also designed a number of displays for a company in Harrogate, which at the time was the largest fireplace showroom in the UK covering three floors.
My first fireplace showroom was opened in Scunthorpe on the Skippingdale Estate and brought in my two sons to help run the business. I remarried to my present wife Yvonne and bought an old hoover business in Brigg, North Lincolnshire. We renovated it into a new showroom specialising in the restoration of old fireplaces and incorporated more displays. Within six months we also opened up a display at Hemswell Antique Centre displaying over fifty fireplaces. After trading for three years the Brigg showroom was extended to sell fireplaces and stoves including fireplace surrounds which I manufactured and still sell today.
I am also proud to be one of the first installers to go on the Heta’s registration scheme under Mick Waumsley in Derbyshire at Surefire. This now owned by the Docherty Chimney Group and run by Chris Whitcombe and Keith Pettinger.
After trading for ten years I decided to slow down as I was always booked up three months in advance. The bookings slowed down and saw a change in the way customers were ordering. The internet was affecting the showrooms and decided to close two showrooms and slow down giving me time to carry out a passion of mine, renovating a boat. I did over a period of three months, sold it very quickly and bought another. I kept this one longer mooring it in the Brayford in Lincoln. Sold it to a marina in York, then bought a beast of a boat. This was made of steel so it had very different problems. I gutted it completely and totally redesigned it. Three years later this was to be taken down to a new marina in South Wales overlooking the black mountains. I had booked a mooring only to find, some months later the canal was breached so the marina was to close for some time.
Within that time I managed to design a new product that simplified the stove installation process. I had interest from four firms to manufacture and distribute it. I decided to go with Percy Doughty/Mac Metalcraft. They were going to get this made in China and distribute this product through their chain of showrooms they already supplied to.
This was going to be launched at the Hearth and Home Exhibition in June 2011, but they decided at the last minute not to proceed. It was then I decided to launch the product myself calling it 'The Stove Box', and formed a company under the name Unique Stove Products Ltd.
The Stove Box has developed over the years and we have added many other designs which have patents or registered with the IPO, eg; register plates, angled adaptors, fire surrounds, etc. We are at present working from our showroom in Gainsborough, displaying a range of our products and also designing feature fireplaces, specialising in no chimney situations, eg false chimney breasts, the eco-spacesaver using our Stove Box products.
I am also working on two new products at the moment:
I have existing agreements in place for registered designed products that are being made and distributed by Schiedel Chimney Systems and Focus Fireplaces and in talks with another flue company at the moment with other products.