Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Portland works- Andy Cole.

I have known of Sheffield' Portland Works for sometime but a few months ago I decided to head down and check the place out for myself.

The heritage of this place is impressive, being the main building associated with original conception and implementation of stainless steel.

The premises is also unique as it is the only property of it's type still standing in its original use as a site of metalworking and cutlery. all others having been demolished or converted.

This time, I came to meet with  tool maker who occupies the original 19thC smithy in the centre of the courtyard- Andrew Cole.

Andy first started working at this forge in 1978, first under Wigful Tools and later his own company.
Whilst I was there we discussed the kind of work he had on at that time, which included forging several hundred socketed wood carving chisels.

I took some footage of him working that shows his well rehearsed and impressive "spinning" technique that means the work is put into "closed dies" that are each one half of the final form you are making. By keeping the work turning evenly you create a smooth finish on the work.

Loud video


I had some real envy over some of Andy's gear, particularly his larger Paterson mech hammer but his more unusual equipment included his old fashioned saddle grinder.

These large wheel stone grinders used to be common around Sheffield and other blade making centres around Europe but have now largely disappeared. Its always impressive to see them running...  and to think that there used to be many, very much lager stone wheel in use.

Andy's knowledge and breadth of experience is impressive and his workshop is pretty much an ideal set up for forging tools.

Im a little jealous....


  1. Hi Josh

    Sounds like a great setup going there. Would be interested to know what tools / cutlery they are making now? Can't be many of these places left in Sheffield now.

    1. Youd be surprised! I've been getting to know people there over the last 18 months or so and get the impression that there are quite a lot of wshops that never went away and some amount of a resurgent interest in making cutlery. look up Will Ferraby and sturat Mitchel, Grace Horne, Ernest wrights scissor makers... Brian t'grinder (who grinds blades) stan the buff ( who buffs blades...)

      and so on.

      There is indeed less hand forging going on, but numerically- Sheffield is making more knives than ever. Or so I am told.

      Ta again

  2. Also see http://www.sheffieldknives.co.uk for Adams and Nowhill, who also make plane blades for some other famous Sheffield makers Clico. Hammers abound man, or at least dropstamping and grinding. Now then, now then. Keeping my ear t'the ground for dem hammers