Wig making

Currently viable crafts

 

Wig making

 

The hand making of bespoke wigs, postiche (facial hair) and hairpieces.

 

Status Currently viable
Historic area of significance London
Area currently practised London and Bristol
Origin in the UK 17th century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 201-500
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
101-200
Current no. of trainees 1-5
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

The craft of wig making is thousands of years old. Some similar techniques are still used today which are in evidence in surviving wigs from ancient Egypt. The craft reached the height of popularity between 1760 and 1800, as wigs were fashionable for men and women. After this period, smaller, more natural looking hairpieces continued to be made into the 1900s, falling out of fashion in the early part of the 20th century, with a brief resurgence in the 1960s. Most professionally made wigs are now made to service the theatre, film and television industries, however there is also a branch of the industry which services alopecia suffers, Orthodox Jewish women and people undergoing chemotherapy.

 

Techniques

Constructing a base from fine net and hand tying hair (human, animal and synthetic) into the lace net using a very small hook (this process is called knotting in the UK and ventilating in the US). Each wig is made to measure and constructed to design requirements (usually to replicate natural hair growth).

Weaving involves knotting the hair between strands of thread under tension, then constructing wigs and pieces with these lengths of weft.

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

  • Knotting
  • Foundation making
  • Weaving
  • Switch making
  • Diamond cluster making
  • Hair mixing

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Raw material (hair) has increased in price in recent years. Cheap, lower quality wigs are now readily available from China and India.
  • Changes in vocational training have lost some aspects of teaching the craft.
  • Many practitioners are freelance and work from home, which makes traineeships/apprenticeships difficult.

 

Support organisations

 

 

Craftspeople currently known

  • Campbell Young
  • Ray Marsten
  • Peter Owen
  • Alex Rowse
  • Royal Opera House
  • English National Opera
  • National Theatre
  • Raoul
  • Bloomsbury of London
  • Banbury Postiche
  • The Wig and Makeup Studio – Corinne Young and Philip Carson-Sheard, run wig making courses
  • Ede & Ravenscroft (legal wigs)

 

Other information

The entertainment industry currently provides enough employment for the craft to continue. The National Theatre has an apprentice programme.

 

References

Taxidermy

Currently viable crafts

 

Taxidermy

 

The preservation of the skin of an animal which is modelled onto a body form to create a lifelike representation of the living animal. This includes the replication of fish, reptiles and amphibians by casting the actual animal.

 

Status Currently viable
Historic area of significance UK
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK Late 18th century. Unsuccessful methods were attempted from the 16th century.
Current no. of professionals (main income) 40 (numbers sourced by Guild of Taxidermists 2018 as evidence to DEFRA)
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
21-50
Current no. of trainees 0
Current total no. serious amateur makers
1-5
Current total no. of leisure makers
101-200
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Taxidermy grew through the first half of the 19th century and fine examples were shown at the Great Exhibition after which it became very popular. By the First World War many homes from the highest to the very modest had pieces of taxidermy as interior decor/interest. After the First World War interest declined except for field sports fraternity. By 1950s only two large firms in London and a very small number of solo operators remained and by late 60s only one London firm. At this time there was renewed interest and numbers grew (mainly professionals) through the 70s and 80s.

 

Techniques

Birds and small mammals are mainly mounted by fitting an anatomically correct body made from balsa or styrofoam into the cleaned and washed skin using galvanised wires for the structure. Larger mammals are mounted putting the tanned skin onto a sculpted mannikin or form. This is anatomically accurate to the specific animal and is commonly made from PU foam. Commercial forms can be bought for many species. Whist fish and reptiles can be prepared using similar methods the preferred technique is to mould the actual specimen using silicone rubber and then make a replica with epoxy resin or similar.

 

Local forms

Taxidermists have different strengths and specialisms.

 

Sub-crafts

  • Tanning, but not chrome as is used for sheepskin rugs. Some UK taxidermists send their larger mammal skins to Germany as there are no longer any suitable tanners in the UK. The method needed is the same as used for fur dressing.

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • The vast majority of the experienced, qualified professionals are of the age 50+. Many of these entered the craft in the 1970s and 80s. Of those who have become interested recently only 2 or 3 are showing signs of being able to progress. It is the loss of quality, experienced people through age (retirement) that is the biggest threat at the moment. In 10 years time the number of really good experienced taxidermists could be 10 or even lower.
  • Whilst taxidermy as a hobby is currently very trendy the actual fashion for quality taxidermy in the home which sustained much of the increase in the trade through the 80s and 90s has gone. This leaves the business that comes from field sports which itself may prove difficult as public opinion goes against blood sports.
  • In the 1980s there were over 30 taxidermists employed in UK museums; there are now none. This pool of experience and skill is no longer available to provide training, advice and experimentation.

 

Support organisations

The Guild of Taxidermists

 

Craftspeople currently known

The Guild of Taxidermists has a list of qualified current members on the FAQs page of its website. Virtually all practitioners are now sole traders.

 

Other information

 

 

References

Steel pan making

Currently viable crafts

 

Steel pan making

 

The making of steel pans, a percussive instrument originating from Trinidad and Tobago (see also percussion instrument making).

 

Status Currently viable
Historic area of significance Mostly London
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK 1950s
Current no. of professionals (main income) 21-50
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
21-50
Current no. of trainees 51-100
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Unknown
Current total no. of leisure makers
Unknown
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

The steel pan, also known as pan, is the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago and was invented in the late 1930s. The steel pan developed from the Carnival, which slaves in Trinidad could not take part in so they formed their own, parallel celebration called Canboulay. The first instruments developed in the evolution of steel pan were Tamboo-Bamboos, tunable sticks made of bamboo wood. These were hit onto the ground and with other sticks in order to produce sound. Tamboo-Bamboo bands also included percussion of various metal and glass objects such as spoons and bottles. This then lead onto the invention of the first steel pans. The Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (known as TASPO) attended the Festival of Britain in 1951 and was the first steel band to perform in the UK.

 

Techniques

To make a steel pan a 55-gallon oil barrel is stretched into a concave bowl or dish shape. Depending on the type of pan being made, the barrel’s side (or ‘skirt’) is cut to the proper length. The panmaker uses hammers of various sizes and ‘pongs’ the traced notes making them stand out like bubbles. Each note is then tuned by using a variety of hammers until it reaches a perfect pitch.

 

Local forms

The hand drum is the newest kind of steel pan instrument.

 

Sub-crafts

 

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Most of the training for tuning and making steel pans take place in the USA or Trinidad.
  • Steel pan making does not currently enjoy qualifications from a recognised body such as ABRSM, Trinity or OCR.

 

Support organisations

 

Craftspeople currently known

 

 

Other information

The latest invention is the E Pan and electronic steel pan that operates like a keyboard.

 

References

 

Quilling

Currently viable crafts

 

Quilling

 

The rolling, curling, looping and otherwise manipulation narrow strips of paper to make designs, also known as paper filigree.

 

Status Currently viable
Historic area of significance UK; England mainly
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK 17th century
Current no. of professionals (main income) 1-5 known (11-20 estimated) (See ‘Other information’ for details)
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
11-20 known (101-200 estimated)
Current no. of trainees 1-5
Current total no. serious amateur makers
6-10 known (11-20 estimated)
Current total no. of leisure makers
501-1,000 known
Minimum no. of craftspeople required 10 highly skilled quillers who are willing to teach to ensure that technical skills are passed on

 

History

Paper rolling, paper scrolling, filigree, mosaic and quilling are all names which have been given to this art during its long history. Some sources suggest that many of the techniques used today were originally practised in Ancient Egypt.

The popularity of quilling has fluctuated. Work of high quality was achieved by French and Italian nuns in the 16th and 17th centuries, genteel ladies in the Stuart period, ladies of leisure in the Georgian and Regency periods – and it is currently enjoying a modern revival.

Nuns on the continent decorated reliquaries and holy pictures, adding gilding and much ornamentation. The ecclesiastical connection was maintained when the art spread to England with the development of paper, though vellum and parchment were also used. Poorer churches produced religious pictures with rolled decoration. When gilded or silvered, it was difficult to distinguish it from real gold or silver filigree work.

Quilling was never practised by ‘working-class’ women in the past. Indeed, it was a decorative art which ladies of leisure would use to work panels and coats-of-arms. Later it was extended to include covering tea-caddies, workboxes, screens, cabinets, frames etc. Backgrounds for these often included foil, mica or flaked shells. Beautiful boxes were made by cabinet makers, with recessed sides. These were advertised and sold, often to boarding schools for young ladies. ‘……it affords an amusement to the female mind capable of the most pleasing and extensive variety; and at the same time, it conduces to fill up a leisure hour with an innocent recreation…’ (The New Lady’s Magazine, 1786)

In 1875 an attempt was made to reintroduce the art of quilling by William Bemrose, who produced a kit called ‘Mosaicon’, together with a handbook. Another reference has been discovered in an Edwardian book of household management entitled ‘Floral Mosaicon’. In the article mention is made of pieces being purchased by Queen Mary and Queen Alexandra.

Enthusiasts include Elizabeth, daughter of George III, Joseph Bramah (the famous locksmith), Mrs Delany (pioneer of other paperwork and friend of Jonathan Swift), Jane Austen (who mentions it in her novel Sense and Sensibility) and the Bronte sisters.

Two major exhibitions of quilling have been held. One was in 1927 in London, when mention is made of two Charles I pictures. Another was in New York in 1988, at the Florian-Papp Gallery, when some superb examples were on exhibition and sale. Most of these were of European origin. In 1992 and 1997 the Quilling Guild staged International Festivals of Quilling, the first at Ragley Hall and the second at Chesford Grange in Warwickshire, when antique pieces and a great many items of modern quilling were on show. The third International Festival of Quilling was held in York, North Yorkshire, in 2002, the fourth in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, in 2007, and the ’30th Anniversary Celebration of Quilling’ was staged in Liverpool in 2013.

 

Techniques

The Quilling Guild has a list of techniques that it has verified as seen in historical quilling (there are many variations of these techniques.):

  • Closed loose coil
  • Open coil
  • Tight coil
  • Ring coil
  • Fringed flower
  • Pom pom
  • Wheatear
  • Alternate side looping or husking
  • Tendril
  • Crimping
  • Bandaging
  • Zig-zagging
  • Pixie hood looping

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

Many contemporary artists use quilling techniques to produce paper sculptures and graphic art. There is often debate about what should and should not be classed as ‘quilling’.

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • There is a lack of demand for products, or rather, most people would not pay enough to buy a piece of quilling work to sustain a business selling it. Most who are earning a significant income from quilling are doing so by selling design and instruction books and teaching. In those cases it will not be the person’s main income source. The demand for quilling teachers is sometimes not high enough because quilling is not a widely known craft and so people are less likely to be looking for a quilling teacher.
  • It takes a lot of technical and design skills to make high quality, quilled pieces work and it is not always possible for the general public to recognise quality quilling work and therefore it affects the amount that a professional maker can charge for their skills. Because the general public don’t usually know much about quilling, it is hard for them to understand the amount of time and the skills needed to produce high quality quilling work. It is relatively easy to find leisure makers selling quilled work at low prices, maybe because they are pleased to have an outlet for their work rather than wish to make a real income and so this can make it difficult for makers who wish to sell their work at a price that reflects their skills, experience and time taken.
  • In many areas of the UK there are no professional quilling tutors. This also means that if someone was keen to become a professional quiller themselves, they may not be able to access face to face teaching.
  • Another problem is that quilling, as with other heritage crafts that have historically been prasticed by women, can be perceived of less importance and value than other artforms to the wider art world. This effects the demand and appreciation of high quality quilling work. Quilling is marketed widely as a leisure craft, which is good for attracting more people to try it, but can limit the general public’s understanding of how far the craft can be taken to make innovative and important artworks.
  • There is a lack of information available about the importance of quality materials. Many people who quill would not know how good quality materials could improve their quilling and are also limited by their knowledge of where to buy quilling materials. Often the easiest way to access information is via the internet, as craft shops will have limited supplies to choose from and mail order businesses will advertise mainly via the internet.
  • The problem with there being a lack of teachers and quilling groups across the country means that people are less likely to try quilling.  The Quilling Guild often receives requests asking for information about local tutors and are unable to advise of any.
  • The majority of quilled pieces being made are non-functional. Quilling work is often made as a card, which for some is seen as disposable or made into a picture. This can affect people’s interest in the craft, because of the current trend to make and buy functional craft items, as opposed to purely decorative items.

 

Support organisations

The Quilling Guild is a charity that does work to promote quilling via its website and social media. It has members who are ‘Local Contacts’ who take on voluntary work to promote quilling, such as providing demonstrations and basic teaching. It also has a limited amount of funding, available to support work and events that promote quilling. The Guild provides a basic and higher level accreditation scheme to its members. It also provides a ‘Celebration Weekend’ once a year, which is held at different locations in the UK

 

Craftspeople currently known

UK Fellows of the Quilling Guild are:

  • Audrey Matthews
  • Brenda Rhodes
  • Josie Jenkins
  • Brenda Morley
  • Diane Boden
  • Jane Jenkins
  • Lesley Davies
  • Margaret Haigh
  • Paul Jenkins
  • Philippa Reid
  • Angela Herring

Other makers include:

  • Jill Chapman
  • Mary MacComasky
  • Carole Brown
  • Dagmar Walton
  • Anne Straker
  • Jill Lackford
  • Bill McBride

 

Other information

It could be argued that many people are quilling and it continues to be a popular craft; however, the number of professional quillers who have the skills and knowledge needed to sustain the number of quillers who make work at a professional level is at risk of decreasing and is already at a significantly low level. There are only a certain number of people who have a good knowledge about the history of quilling and historical techniques. There are very few published documents about the history of quilling and especially not those that would go into detail about techniques and materials used.

Quilling isn’t usually something people aspire to do to support themselves financially, as it is difficult to make an income from selling, and there is limited demand for teaching. Many mix it with other crafts they do, but do not see themselves specifically as quillers.

 

References

  • Information about quilling and The Quilling Guild, including a brief description of the history of quilling can be found on The Quilling Guild’s website.
  • There are many quilling instruction and design books available including a selection by Quilling Guild Fellows Jane Jenkins and Diane Boden (previously Crane).
  • Information about and examples of historical quilling is given in a chapter of Riley, Noel, The Accomplished Lady: A History of Genteel Pursuits C. 1660-1860 (ISBN 0957599293)
  • There is a catalogue of the exhibition Turin, Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli from
    05 April – 02 September 2012, featuring a collection of work by cloistered nuns made between the 17th and 19th centuries. It can can be purchased here.
  • Quilling Guild fellow Brenda Rhodes has carried out research about the history of quilling which is recorded in an unpublished document. The Quilling Guild is able to provide information from this document upon request.

Mosaic

Currently viable crafts

 

Mosaic

 

The juxtaposition of tesserae or tiles in order to create a pattern or an image to decorate the built environment.

 

Status Currently viable
Historic area of significance For ancient mosaics, around the UK south of Hadrian’s Wall.
From the mid-19th century, UK.
Important manufacturers, makers and installers of mosaic were located in Manchester (Oppenheimers) and London (several firms including Powell & Sons, Jesse Rust & Co).
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK From around 150 CE, after the Romans established themselves, to the 4th century. Modern mosaic in Britain began in the mid-19th century under the aegis of Henry Cole at the new South Kensington Museum (V&A). The first pavements and images appeared in the 1860s.
Current no. of professionals (main income) 21-50
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
101-200
Current no. of trainees 51-100 people taking courses at London Adult Education Colleges and one or two year Diploma at London School of Mosaic
Current total no. serious amateur makers
101 -200
Current total no. of leisure makers
501-1,000+
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

The craft was introduced and practised widely during the occupation of Britain by Rome. After they left it appears to have collapsed. There are some notable medieval mosaics, such as the Cosmati Pavement in Westminster Abbey. During the Victorian revival there was widespread use of mosaic to decorate public buildings; today a few practitioners create a few mosaics each year, but it is hard to make it into a business. What we argue for at London School of Mosaic is the renaissance of this art form to support modern urban development and create character and detail in our towns and cities

After the Great Exhibition of 1851, Henry Cole at the South Kensington Museum (V&A) promoted all crafts including mosaic, setting up a mosaic school in the museum. Floors and staircases in the museum were covered in mosaic and tiles from the 1860s. Mosaic portraits of artistic ‘Greats’ were commissioned. Experimentation in the medium was promoted.

Subsequently, from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries, churches, grand municipal buildings, wealthy owners of grand private houses all required mosaic decoration as a matter of fashion and prestige. This continued into the 1960s, a golden age for grand public mosaics: the huge mosaic walls designed by John Piper in the BBC TV Centre, White City (now listed) and the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce; the Merrion Centre Mosaic mural in Leeds by Eric Taylor; the Three Ships panel on the old Co-op façade in Hull, Alan Boyson. At the same time the great mosaic making and fixing such as Oppenheimers, Manchester, flourished.

That infrastructure has vanished. There are still professional mosaicists, municipal and private commissions, professionals to fix mosaics, but not on the old scale. Mosaic decoration is too expensive and takes too long. New materials are quicker and cheaper for commercial use. Mosaic decoration is not considered prestigious. Ironically, it suffers under the label ‘craft’ used as a derogatory term. The current focus is on community mosaic schemes, small businesses and the many leisure practitioners.

 

Techniques

Direct Method: placing tesserae or stones directly into concrete or mortar, in situ. The resultant surface might be irregular, which is aesthetically pleasing. Used for small projects on board, or covering 3D objects with tesserae.

Indirect method: creating the mosaic on a temporary backing before cementing into place. Tesserae stuck onto paper, using soluble glue, on the flat, in reverse; then glued paper sections turned over onto the wall or surface where the mosaic is to be permanently sited, sections pressed into the prepared mortared surface. The backing paper is washed off to reveal the backs of the stuck tesserae (which become the front surface) should be flat and smooth. This method allows the mosaic to be made in a studio and transported safely to site.

Most raw materials require cutting using specialist tools and equipment. Cutting marble using a hammer and hardie is a skill and art to be practised and learned. Cutting glass and vitreous tiles, ceramic tiles and Venetian glass smalti using various types and sizes of nippers and tile cutters, involves several hand techniques and knowledge of equipment and nature of the materials. Some tools are heavy, some small and precise.

Considerable skill is required to cut tesserae to shape so as to fit closely together. The rules and techniques for placing tesserae are as varied and precise as embroidery stitches, such as executing andamento lines. Colour, form, surface, materials have all to be chosen, weighed up against each other, mixed and mingled. Knowledge of the properties of materials is vital.

 

Local forms

Every region can use its own local stone. Dugald MacInnes in Scotland uses slate and granite in his work. Cleo Mussi uses broken pottery and china (pique assiette), an old and international variant. Maggy Howarth uses pebbles; the earliest Greek mosaics of 4th century BCE were made of pebbles.

 

Sub-crafts

  • Micro-mosaics
  • Pique assiette – using broken pieces of crockery, often own old items, making it very personal, or can be a very cheap way of procuring materials.
  • Opus sectile – can be of glass.

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Patronage has changed. From the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries churches, grand municipal buildings, wealthy owners of grand private houses all required mosaic embellishment as a matter of fashion and prestige. Current large schemes are community based, relating to the history of the location and involving members of the local community. This is excellent for society, but it is sometimes limiting for the artist.
  • Nowadays, churches, apart from Westminster Cathedral, can no longer afford commissions; new commercial developments, transport hubs, no longer recognise mosaic as a viable medium of decoration. It takes too long to install and seems old-fashioned.

 

Support organisations

 

Craftspeople currently known

  • Tessa Hunkin
  • Gary Drostle
  • Emma Biggs
  • Joanna Kessel
  • Dugald MacInnes
  • Helen Miles
  • Rachel Davies
  • Katy Galbraith
  • Sue Kershaw
  • Elizabeth D’Ath
  • Ruth Wilkinson
  • Caroline Jariwala
  • Ed Chapman
  • Paul Siggins
  • Oliver Budd
  • Kate Rattray
  • Felicity Ball
  • Jim Anderson
  • David Tootill
  • Paula Ligo
  • Giulia Vogrig
  • Silvie Jacobi
  • Sue Penrose
  • Victoria Harrison
  • Julie Vernon
  • Denise Jacques
  • Joanna Dewfall
  • Sioban Allen
  • Martin Cheek
  • Concetta Perrot
  • Alison & Peter Massey
  • Tamara Froud
  • Norma Vondee
  • Sarah Stanley
  • Katie Hellon
  • Tracey Cartledge
  • Robert Field
  • Cleo Mussi
  • Elaine M Goodwin
  • Jane Muir
  • Julie Hand

Conservators and restorers include Gary Bricknell, JW Restoration Ltd and Tracey Cartledge.

 

Other information

Many professional mosaicists in UK have had some training in Italy, where there is a diploma course taught over 3 years at the Scuola Mosaicisti del Friuli. Adult Education colleges where mosaic is taught include City Lit (London), Morley College (London), Bexley College, Greenwich Communications College and the Prince’s Traditional Arts School.

Making a mosaic can be a slow and contemplative process. It was used in Woking Women’s Prison in the 19th century as a reward for good behaviour (called Opus Criminale), the results of which are now found in several V&A floors and in St Paul’s Cathedral. David Tootill works with young offenders on his initiative in his South Bank Mosaics and now London School of Mosaics workshop.

References

information provided by David Tootill, Director of  London School of Mosaics and President of British Association for Modern Mosaic.

  • Fischer, Peter, (1971) Mosaic History and Technique
  • Unger, Hans,  (1865) Practical Mosaics
  • Haswell, J Mellentin, (1973) Manual of Mosaic
  • Severini, Gino, (1955) Lezione sul Mosaico
  • Howarth, Maggy, (1994) The Art of Pebble Mosaics
  • Dierks, Leslie, (1997) Making Mosaics
  • Goodwin, Elaine M, (1999) The Art of Decorative Mosaic
  • Biggs, Emma, and Hunkin, Tessa, (1999) Mosaic Workshop
  • Fassett, Kaffe, and Bahouth, Candice, (1999) Mosaics
  • Goodwin, Elaine M, (2003) Encyclopaedia of Mosaic
  • Andamento – Annual Journal of BAMM, (2007 to date, continuing)
  • Mosaic Art NOW (MAN)
  • Mosaic Matters

Model engineering

Currently viable crafts

 

Model engineering

 

The making of scale models of machines such as steam engines, combustion engines, railways, railway equipment, machine tools, agricultural machinery and vehicles, aircraft, ships, boats etc from stock materials rather than kits.

 

Status Currently viable
Historic area of significance UK – chiefly in industrial or post-industrial areas.
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK Formally recognised in the 19th century with formation of clubs and magazines but individual practitioners existed in much earlier times.
Current no. of professionals (main income)
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
100-300 (See ‘Other information’ for more details)
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

The term ‘model engineering’ has been in use since 1888. While now mainly a skilled amateur pursuit, in the past engineering models were used as aids to technical education, either as apprentice projects or as classroom or public institutional exhibits. They were also produced as commercial props to support a patent, to visualise a proposed capital venture, or to advertise a manufacturer’s trade. Many museums house original collections of mechanical models stemming from the earliest days of the industrial revolution.

Model engineering remains popular despite major social changes over the past century. Among these changes have been the elimination of steam power (still the most favourite subject for model engineers) from rail transport and industry; and the widespread de-industrialisation of Western countries beginning in the 1970s, along with a shift to consumer society and the introduction of a wide new range of competing leisure pursuits. These changes, along with the older age of many model engineers and decline of new apprenticeships, have prompted a long-running debate among model engineers whether the craft will die out.

 

Techniques

  • Milling
  • Turning
  • Sheet metalwork
  • Thread forming
  • Riveting
  • Casting
  • Pattern making
  • Electroforming
  • Use of hand tools such as saws and files
  • Silver brazing and soldering
  • Woodworking
  • Draughting either using traditional drawing skills or digitally

NB: there are too many separate skills to list here

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

  • Model wheelwrighting (around 5 people making models, 3 to their own design, and 1 in the traditional way, with all dry jointing and conventional wheelwrighting). Although there are examples of model wheelwrighting dating back many years, it was probably only when the Model Horse Drawn Vehicle’s club was operating in the 1960s and 70s that the hobby was seen as a separate branch of model engineering. At that time there were probably in the region of 300 active members supported by those drawing and providing plans of actual vehicles, with a small support network of specialist parts suppliers. Following the demise of the MHDVC, the Guild of Model Wheelwrights came into being in the 1990s to continue support of the hobby, until now with the demise of members and advancing age. Without a follow-on of working members the hobby is very much on its last legs.

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • The public perception of this craft can often be inaccurate, as the word ‘model’ makes people think of toy making rather than the high level of engineering involved in making these models.
  • The craft is kept alive purely by amateur involvement as there is not really a market for the models, which are built for personal satisfaction, challenge and peer recognition.
  • It is a rapidly ageing craft, with the vast majority of its participants over 60.
  • Industry requires fewer people with traditional ‘bench’ skills due to the digital revolution in manufacturing. Retirees having such skills will become much fewer, endangering not only the hobby but the ‘experience base’ from which new younger talent can be drawn.
  • Whilst there are many people involved in the craft the majority are making from published drawings rather than creating their own.
  • Although the best engineering models are highly attractive aesthetic objects in their own right, they are not often appreciated in the wider craft world and not often welcome at general craft shows.
  • The craft requires access to expensive tools, such as lathes and milling machines, so is difficult for the beginner to enter the crafts without a degree of investment and commitment.
  • There are safety issues such as boiler safety and the risks associated with demonstrating working models to the public.
  • An infrastructure of suppliers (tools, materials, etc) does exist but is also diminishing, especially in terms of quality. In times past, everything was made in the UK. The serious engineer sometimes has to resort to making his own tools and fixings.

 

Support organisations

Until recently there were five annual model engineering shows in the UK – two in London, one in Bristol, one in the Midlands, and one in the North. The Bristol show has been temporarily cancelled and one of the London shows may not be continuing.

 

Craftspeople currently known

The Model Engineering website lists the clubs up and down the country.

 

Other information

The combined club membership may be around 25,000. There are many more who do not belong to clubs. It is thought that the number of active members (in the making sense) might be less than 10 per cent. Of these a tiny proportion could be considered highly skilled.

 

References

  • Model Engineering website
  • Magazines: Model Engineer, Engineering in Miniature, The Model Engineers’ Workshop.
  • The magazine The Model Engineers’ Workshop has published a series by Stephen Wessel all about the trade that outlines some of his working methods. This would be a good read for anyone contemplating entering the field.
  • The Guild of Model Wheelwrights Magazine, Wheelwrites, is still available as 70 issues on a disc.