Not all saws are mass-produced in Far East factories. Kathryn Bradley-Hole spoke to the craftsmen at Thomas Flinn, a Yorkshire firm who still do things by hand. Photographs by Richard Cannon.
Sparks fly as Chris Ellis fine tunes one of the handcrafted hand saws that have made Sheffield firm Thomas Flinn & Co a world leader for its range of specialist wood-craftsmen’s tools.
Mr Ellis represents the third generation of his family’s involvement – his grandfather, Frank Ellis, was an apprentice from his mid teens to Thomas Flinn, who started the company in 1923.
By the time he was 26 in 1936, Frank was sufficiently focused on traditional saw-making to buy out Flinn. His son, Phil, followed him and broadened the business while continuing the high-end range.
Despite the decline in steel making in Sheffield in the late 20th century, it’s still a hub for the creation of very high-quality items and, with the incorporation of the historic Pax and Lynx brands, Thomas Flinn & Co exhibits unmatched heritage status in its field.
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Mr Ellis was also 16 when he began saw-making. ‘My favourites are the top-of-the-range Pax saws, with handles in black walnut,’ he advises. The splendid, ornate Pax branding on the blade is, these days, more safely etched with lasers, instead of corrosive acid.
‘One of the benefits of our saws is that they can be re-sharpened,’ he points out.
His sister, Katie, who handles the e-commerce side, adds that it’s very much a growing market.
‘Cabinet makers and hobbyists love these tools – a lot of doctors and surgeons buy them,’ she says.
‘Wood working can be a contemplative, soothing pastime. The American market is huge; they really appreciate that our heritage goes back to the 1700s, like their own.’