March 26th, 2019
Craftsmen of Britain: Robert Thompson’s
This is the section where we like to highlight English craftsmanship in all its forms – an opportunity to revel in the wonderful skills of others, not necessarily linked directly to the shoe trade. Our first choice was Andrew Richie and the story of his remarkable folding bicycles, which are made in London; this time, we want to focus on Robert Thompson’s Craftsmen Ltd., who make extraordinary oak furniture in North Yorkshire.
These wonderful craftsmen are making things that are both useful and beautiful and, like us, they are doing it from a natural material that is, by its very nature, difficult to work with. We know that no two pieces of leather are the same and each piece will react differently to the various stages of the shoemaking process – and behave differently when it comes to the finishing stages too. The trouble that we go to in order to acquire the best leather available would bore most people outside of the shoe-trade rigid. But, I’m sure it’s every bit as hard to find the very best English Oak, especially considering that the wood for one of Robert Thompson’s tabletops will take about four years to dry (naturally, with air of course – not kiln-dried), and the lengths to which they will go to get this material are astonishing.
Recently, they purchased an exceptionally large burr oak tree that had stood for over 450 years on farm land in Cumbria. The tree was starting to show signs of die back and root rot, so it was important that it should be felled, rather than leaving it to rot and decay. The log has now been converted into planks of varying thickness and these planks have been laid down for between 4-6 years to enable them to season naturally. When fully seasoned they intend to make the planks into some of the most amazing burr oak table tops that have ever been produced.
In all forms of art and craft, it’s right that we celebrate the special skills, knowledge and expertise of those who do really extraordinary things.