How William Firth Woodcraft could be at a dining table near you
PUBLISHED: 00:00 24 October 2018
William Firth crafts high end products that help food and drink companies make their products shine.
Emma Mayoh reports.
It’s not just the food and drink that makes an impression in hospitality. Everything from the welcome, the designs and even the fabric the furniture is made out of all contribute to the experience you can expect. Talented woodturner William Firth has been helping bakers, brewers, restaurants and craft gin companies to create the right impression.
The 27-year-old, who runs William Firth Woodcraft from a small workshop in Scorton, creates bread boards, bespoke beer tap handles and pump clips, beer paddles and caddies as well as a catalogue of other products..
‘I love what I do and it’s really exciting to be able to create items that work well for food and drink companies,’ said William. ‘It’s a pleasure being able to make things that really complement what they are already doing.
‘These are people who are really passionate about their products. It’s great fun and a thrill to be able to work together.’
William, who lives in Lancaster with partner Jess, works with companies including Bells of Lazonby, Quite Simply French in Lancaster, Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery and Unsworths Brewery in Cartmel. He’s also been commissioned to create bespoke items for a clutch of London restaurants and crafts everything from kitchen utensils and chopping boards to cake knives and honey dippers for his online shop.
He’s already attracted an impressive line-up of stockists too. Tebay Services, Gloucester Services, Rheged and Low Sizergh Barn in the Lake District sell his products. His work is also sold at Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester as well as a handful of stores in London who celebrate British makers. There’s also plenty of other household luxury food and drink brands he’s done custom designs for - but he’s required to keep those under wraps. It’s an impressive achievement for William who only started the business in late 2016, aged just 25.
‘I made a chopping board as a wedding anniversary present as a gift to some friends,’ said William, who worked as a car mechanic before launching his own business. ‘They were absolutely amazed by it and it made me think that there could be something in it. I’m so glad I went for it.
‘It’s makes me happy to know that people are using my work. Things like my wooden spreaders. They’re made out of a solid cut of hardwood and they’re great for dolloping peanut butter, buttering bread or spreading jam. Or my hand whittled cooking spoons that are great for cooking up a feast.’
William’s enthusiasm for wood turning was first fired as a young boy. He used to watch his grandad, Eric, when he was turning bowls on his lathe. In fact, William was so taken with the skill that he made his own bedroom furniture as a teenager. He did this with his dad, John, who also does woodturning.
‘My grandad did it as a hobby for 20 - 25 years,’ said William. ‘I used to watch him, absolutely enthralled with the process and with what he could do. I inherited his machinery for the business - the old stuff really is the best stuff.
‘When he gave up he also gave me lots of the wood he’d saved up over the years. It’s was all local wood, including huge tree trunks. It feels special to have that connection with my grandad. He got the opportunity to come over to my workshop. It was a fantastic moment for me. He loves that I’m doing it, he’s dead proud. My grandad taught my dad and my dad taught me. It’s definitely something that’s caught on in our family.’
Much of the wood William uses comes from his local merchant and friends, family and customers also supply him with pieces to work his magic on. As well as more traditional materials like European oak, beech and maple, he also works with exotic woods including Purpleheart. When it is cut, a deep eggplant colour is exposed and Zebrano, an African wood, provides a mellow, pale golden yellow finish.
William spends long days in his workshop crafting the different pieces of wood into special items to be treasured. He uses traditional methods that have existed for centuries.
‘The quality of materials is really important to me,’ said William. ‘If the wood doesn’t come from the merchant then I find it in Lancashire. I’d love people to ring me if they are felling a tree so I could use that local wood.
‘I really want to keep woodturning going too. I’d love to work with an apprentice. It really is possible that in a decade these skills will be at risk of dying out. It’s important to keep them going and I’d love to be a part of that effort.’
William has exhibited at prestigious trade shows including Top Drawer, the UK’s leading international design-led event which takes place at Olympia London. There are more exciting customers on the horizon.
‘It’s fantastic to have such a promising start and for things to be going so well,’ said William, who also makes bespoke furniture. ‘I’ve spent a lot of time working hard and to see it all start to come together is really fun. I’m lucky to have a hobby that’s turned into a job.’