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MADE IN SHEFFIELD: 268-year-old cutlery firm building a future on traditional skills

Cutler Paul Weatherstone grinding blades at Chimo Holdings based at White Rose Works, Sheffield. Pic Dean Atkins.
Cutler Paul Weatherstone grinding blades at Chimo Holdings based at White Rose Works, Sheffield. Pic Dean Atkins.
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Cutlery company Chimo Holdings is having its best start to the year in memory – and with a history dating back to 1750 that’s saying something.

The Sheffield firm is riding high thanks to an obsession with traditional skills and craftsmanship, all housed in modest city centre premises.

Rosie Howcroft in quality control at Chimo Holdings, Sheffield.

Rosie Howcroft in quality control at Chimo Holdings, Sheffield.

Productivity, automation, ‘just in time,’ all the 21st century business buzzwords seem irrelevant as silversmith Ian Platts hand files copper rings for a bowl, Paul Weatherstone grinds a knife blade and Philip Benton buffs a trophy.

Layer upon layer of dust, ‘swarf’ – debris from grinding – and grime are matched only by the apparent chaos of each little workshop where tools and materials are piled high.

But it is that dogged attachment to – and unshakeable belief in – traditional methods which are so in demand from customers the world over, from the Queen to the House of Commons, from Canada to Japan and from Australia to the palaces and embassies of the Middle East.

As a result, Chimo – through its brands William Yates, White Rose Silverware, and Tricketts – has an international profile many times bigger than its 15-strong workforce might suggest.

Chris Hudson at Chimo Holdings with an old fish knife in for repair.

Chris Hudson at Chimo Holdings with an old fish knife in for repair.

The firm restored the Cromwell Cup, a contest that pre-dates the FA Cup and belongs to Sheffield Wednesday.

It also made the prize cup for the Santa Anita Handicap horse race in California on March 3, in which will be a winner’s cheque for $750,000.

Princess Anne dropped by in 2013, a visit that is still bringing in business, as have television motorbike racer Guy Martin and the Storage Hunters programme.

And each year, the new Master Cutler spends a day in the workshop learning the cutlery trade so he or she can talk with authority in the guildhalls and liveried companies of London.

Chimo is a thriving part of Sheffield’s proud industrial history.

Boss Chris Hudson received an MBE ‘for services to export and to Sheffield’ in the New Year’s Honours.

He said: “I’ve never known it as busy in January and February, we have orders in from all over the world

“Our customers want ‘Made in Sheffield’ on every one of our products. I’m immensely grateful to our forefathers for establishing the brand because it makes my job so much easier.

“It sounds very posh, but our cutlery is used in embassies and palaces in the Middle East and if they are not being built the requirement for top quality cutlery goes down too. And that’s all down to the oil price.

“Our reputation is built on the skills of the lads and lasses, they are some of the best in the world at what they do, without having high academic qualifications. I think it’s so important young people in this city know there are jobs where they can learn hand skills and become craftsmen and women.”

History is everywhere.

Chris points to a knife in a large cabinet display, designed, he says, for Admiral Nelson after he lost his arm. It has teeth on the end so he could cut and fork up food one-handed.

The cabinet glass has a crack from when a bomb dropped nearby in the war, he adds.

Ceilings are kept black to highlight imperfections when polishing silver.

And although they aren’t gleaming or hi-tech, the factory has thousands of pounds of machines including linishers, buffers and lathes, as well as die sets and rolling plates.

MADE IN SHEFFIELD BRAND CENTRAL TO OUR SUCCESS

Cutlery and giftware company Chimo Holdings trades on the Made in Sheffield brand like no other company – and the boss is ever grateful.

Chris Hudson said: “We make a big thing of Made in Sheffield, it is central to our story. I’m a great believer in what’s happening on the Advanced Manufacturing Park, it’s the future. But we shouldn’t ignore why we are where we are in this city. People have been dealing in and manufacturing metals for hundreds of years. We are part of that ongoing story.”

Chimo also does a nice line in restoration through its Cutlery Hospital. Items with sentimental value are sent in for repair from all over the world.