Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Doing it the Wright way

Sheffield has been home to England's blade-making industry since the 14th century and is where stainless steel was originally invented in 1912. In the 1970's, there were 150 small-scale scissor workshops in Sheffield but now there are just two, one of which is Ernest Wright and Sons.

The Wright family have been involved in the boring, hardening and tempering of scissors since at least the 1800’s. As far back as records go, Walter Wright – a renowned ‘Little Mester’ of Sheffield – specialised in finishing scissor blades as an outworker and was also referred to as ‘Master Scissor Putter-togetherer’.

A scissor putter-togetherer is the title given to the holder of a five-year-to-fully-apprenticed skill set and trade, known and still used by our craftsmen today.

Since Walter Wright moved into the scissors industry, successive generations joined the trade. Walter’s son, Ernest, followed in his father’s footsteps to ultimately found the company in 1902. After him, Ernest Wright Jr and his sons Graham and Philip Wright all took their turn in running this family business. Finally, fifth generation scissor maker Nick Wright stepped in.

Cliff Denton is one of just two master putter-togetherers left. Both in their 70s, the masters are the only ones skilled enough to undertake the final delicate part of the process: the assembly of these scissors, or putting together.

However, after a short film called 'The Putter' featuring Cliff went viral in 2014, the business that had once been so slow that staff were only working two days a week, received two years’ worth of orders in a single day. Two years later in June 2016, the company launched a Kickstarter campaign for a throwback pair of kitchen scissors and ended up making four times their goal from more than 3600 backers.

Tragically, Nick Wright, the last of the Ernest Wright family, took his own life in February 2018, and wrote in a parting message “I tried so hard, this was no scam, I just could not make it happen. Too much pressure, not enough resource or time. I am so very genuinely sorry to you all.”

The light in the dark is that a pair of Dutch entrepreneurs have purchased and invested in the company, releasing this statement regarding their goal to 'Keep the Heritage Alive.'

When we acquired the assets of the company, there had been decades of decline and recent tragedy. The machinery was in neglect and although the workers had done all they could to keep the ship afloat, the heritage was slipping away.

To make sure that Ernest Wright continues to manufacture quality, handmade scissors, we’ve invested heavily in the workshop. By researching how to improve production, new machinery has been introduced that salutes the heritage and skill of our Putters. We’re working hard to keep the craft alive. Cliff Denton and Eric Stones, each with over 60 years’ worth of experience, are currently passing on their knowledge to new apprentices.

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