Continuing my condensed apprenticeship at Wigan, I am now looking at spade and fork production in some depth. After spending my time with the engineers last week it was my turn to make a spade and fork of my very own. To achieve this, I would be spending time at all stages of manufacturing from the forge through to final assembly. The idea being that I could manufacture my own spade and fork from the raw materials of steel and timber through to the finished article.
Stamping Out From The Steel Bar
I was going to manufacture a shrubbery spade! Despite its small size it still requires a lot of work. At the start of production, the bars of steel are heated by gas burners to approx 1100 degrees, when they are red hot! At this point the steel is soft enough to be stamped into the ‘T’ shapes that will start the production process to make the spade head. Once cut these “T” pieces are taken to the main production cell area in the forge where the sockets are made.
Creating The Socket
The socket is the piece of the spade head that creates the fit between the spade head and the handle. It is formed through a number of processes. First the smaller side of the ‘T’ is stamped into shape, then drawn out to the required length and thickness through a pair of ‘chills.’ If you watch our video, you’ll see that chills are two rotating steel blocks, which draw the red-hot steel into shape. It is key to insert the hot steel into the ‘chills’ at the right moment, so that the correct length and thickness can be achieved.
The socket is then stamped to shape, with the excess material removed and recycled as scrap. The newly formed socket is still flat at this point, and is stamped with the year of manufacture, Bulldog name and model number. It is then that the flat piece of steel is closed up into a socket. This is done through a series of presses, depending on the size of socket required. It is checked for quality and moves onto the next cell for the creation of the blade.
Creating the Blade
The tools is again re-heated on a rotary furnace, to ensure the steel is hot enough for the next process.The blade of the spade is then drawn out in a similar process as the socket. This time it is placed on to a “truck”. This is a slide that is operated by one of the forge workers. The “truck” will slide the newly formed blade into another pair of ‘chills.’ The worker slides the blade into the chills a total of three times. Each time the ‘chills’ are pneumatically placed closer together to draw the blade out to the correct thickness and length.
Stamping Out The Blade Shape
The desired shape of the blade is now stamped out. You will now see something that looks like a spade with its completed socket and correct head size. The next step is to press the spade to the correct angle and once this is done, the finished head is ready for hardening.
As we use Boron Steel, the hardening process is very simple. The tool is heated and then quenched in a water bath. If we did not harden the blades, then they would be weak and bend on the first application.
Shot-Blasting & Painting
Each tool is shot blasted to make sure there are no blemishes or rust on the steel. Once placed on to the painting conveyor, the spade is taken through a series of sprays which coat the spade in powder coating, it is then heated in an oven to give the required finish and durability.
Our handles are all made from the raw timber at our factory in Wigan.Our timber comes from FSC sources in Europe and also from renewable sources in America. The handles are turned, stained and varnished on site. Starting as a block of ash timber, the handle is spun on a lathe and depending on the handle required, a set of tools is used to cut the wood to the correct shape. It is then stained and varnished as required. Due to the time involved in making an MYD handle…… in the style of Blue Peter, I used one they had made earlier!
The head and the shaft are pneumatically pushed together to ensure a snug fit. the shaft is then drilled and riveted. After being checked by quality control, the finished product is ready to be sold.
On paper, or in the blog in this case, it may seem that the tools are relatively easy to manufacture. This however is not the case, it takes months of training and years of practice to get the product to be manufactured to high standard that Bulldog Tools require. allowing us to be sure that they are made to the top quality and with pride by the workers at our forge.