Brian Collins knows a good piece of timber when he sees it. For 49 years he’s been making sticks and dolls, amongst other things, in his workshop.
He started when as an apprentice his chargehand passed down the ‘stick making’ to him. He started making them by hand and was working until 11.30pm when he needed to be up for work at 6am. He realised he couldn’t sustain this after a friend who sold dartboards was also pushing Brian’s sticks. He rang at midnight asking for some sticks for the morning! Brian decided he needed to go full time with his woodworking business.
It takes about 15 minutes to make a set of sticks on the wood turning lathe. That’s the easy bit – finding the right wood and of good quality can take a while
That trusty lathe was bought for £100 in a tool sale after a friend who made fishing floats took him on a trip to Gloucester. That was over 12 years ago.
Of course the turning is just the end of a long process of carefully selecting and seasoning the wood and Brian knows his wood from the trees! He knows the best wood for sticks and the problems with not caring for the wood properly.
Certain woods can split and splinter if they are not kept cool and damp so sticks made of this, which gives a heavy 2lb stick, need to be cared for
Nowadays its easier and more accurate with his trusty lathe so much so that one day a chap turned up for some sticks and asked “Are they 2 inches diameter?”. “Yes” says Brian “I measured them with the tape and callipers”. The chap promptly took out a micrometer with which to measure the sticks! Needless to say he went away happy and with a set.
In the early days Brian used to collect timber from the, now gone, Watkins of Appleton and Ladderhill,Wheatley timber yards. The latter was a steam driven yard with steam powered crane. He used to ride his motorbike and side car complete with trailer secured by scaffold pole to the side car and pick up 250 2 inch by 18 inch ‘squares’ to turn into sticks. He used to charge 6s (that’s 30p) a set.
At one point he produced do it yourself kits for spinning wheels for spinning wool and yarn. The producers from The Generation Game (with Bruce Forsyth) came to see him to see if putting a wheel together could be one of the games. Alas the kit completion time was just too long to get the ‘slot’ on the show so we never saw Brian on the box.
Brian still makes sticks and dolls and items can be purchased – see Buying Kit.