Richard Kell Sundials and Handtools

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About Me

the dial on its pedestalThe base plateMy Dad always had a home workshop with an engineers lathe along with boxes of old magazines 'Model Engineer', 'Woodworker' and 'Practical Wireless'. These  formed the basis of my interests when younger. Following from that wood and metalwork at school were perfect for me, Mr Yellowely being a first class instructor; we were lucky.

I served a 5 year apprenticeship at Hardys of Alnwick plus four years in their design and Development Department. Lots of hands on high quality benchwork, in those days not a screen in sight.

I started self employment in January 1983 making original design small jewellery containers for posh galleries, showing at Prescote just before it closed, Contemporary Applied Arts  and in 1982 was awarded a Crafts Council Setting-Up Grant, a wonderful vote of confidence. I developed my passion for craftsmanship, realised something called design could be read about in books and for saleable product started my range of high quality marking and measuring hand tools and more recently three unique new designs of honing guides for woodworkers.

From 1986 until 2000 I produced masses of tooling for high volume circuit board assembly, principally Welwyn Systems at Blyth, we dovetailed together very well, was good fun actually as I enjoyed 'being the man' for this type of work and was left alone to devise whatever I thought appropriate; quickest, best and probably lowest cost, any Buyer thinking all three points being irreconcilable !

Around year 2001/2002 I developed and made six kinetic sculptures/mobiles for David Linleys London showroom. A fascinating project of 600 hours that led us into some very interesting areas of design and problem solving. Lots of original solutions. I think we worked together very well. I enjoyed sharing my knowledge with them.

I've covered lots of design development and craftsmanship including, during the 90's my own range of highest quality hand made fly reels but after 2,000 hours of development and tooling over three years became tired of it.  

My handmade fly-fishing reels represent two thousand hours of design development and tooling up, much of the tooling being quite unique; the working miniature silver reel as with most of my products very much of my own signature, unique to me... so copyists beware!  During the early 1980's I occasionally repaired Hardy fly reels for Jamie Maxtone Graham; it was a pleasure to work for him. Little did we realise when he visited thirty something years ago that it was his grandfathers treadle lathe that was set up in the middle room of my house, an Edward Hines of Norwich, no. 196 ornamental turning lathe of 1895; Jamies dad had been a Lloyds name and in the 1950's was 'called' and so unfortunately lost everything. About ten years ago say 2005 Ysenda Maxtone Graham wrote 'The Real Mrs Miniver' and well worth reading. His mum wrote the material originally a small regular column in 'The Times' that turned into 'Mrs Miniver' a famous wartime film from Hollywood to boost the War Effort.  They knew Donald Campbell Sr and would buy his road cars from him. Link below needs tweaking  .....,_ Miniver

I was interested in model engineering before I could read, boxes of old  'Model Engineer'  magazines fed my brain, I started by thinking in pictures and still do. I was lucky that these things were available to me, but a lot was self taught, my dad was not a good teacher. I learnt the hard way. From fifty years ago I became fascinated by making things, modelmaking, using hand tools; later on with workshop equipment such as building three different lathe oval chucks, including one for between centres (this would be the Holtzapffel and eighteenth/nineteenth ornamental turning work creeping in). Other completed working equipment of thirty and forty years ago included a filing machine to cope with the column apertures in the Steeple Engine I sold at Christies, Edgar T. Westburys 1/4inch drilling machine from ME; all sorts of things!  My advice now would be to buy the commercial machine tool if at all possible and resell later to recoup your capital, homemade items have near zero value, yet at the time limited (practically non-existant) funds precluded any such option; if we wanted it we made it.... the olden days !!

My standards are high and I will not tolerate any deviation from "as good as can be done". In other words its in my blood to make an effort, I follow on from my auntie Annabell Kell (born 1917-died 2015) a very accomplished needlewoman, gardener (keen golfer too) and likewise her own mother a most virtuous and lovely person Bella at 'Ugiebrae'  North Sunderland, an incredible cook and homemaker; in domestic service from 1904 when the Wright brothers first flew, she was born 1890; my dads dad R J Kell was born 1870 in Morpeth and I have old fashioned joiners tools from him with even the marking stamp to put his name onto them. His own father born 1840 a joiner to trade was Isaac Kell and I have moulding planes of his here who in turn was the son of a husbandman at Cambo; maybe thats why I've spent 17 years on horse charity work near where I'm sure my grandfather would have cycled before the First War. I actually know someone from Cambo and by goodness he's like my dad who in fact died forty years ago. I think when you lose people it fires you up to make an effort. Likewise my dads uncle, Andrew Fawcus with engines and threshers again in North Sunderland, all craftsmen or on my paternal grandmothers side inshore fishermen (and craftsmen too, try mending a net!)  from Beadnell and formerly Newton. My mothers family in Whitby also had a big sea connection, her father and grandfather were in the Royal Navy, my mothers dad (over in the Japan Sea at fourteen) was one of only three to survive mistaken friendly fire on minesweeper HMS Skipjack (the 250 men rescued form Dunkirk were trapped, lost) and his own father was a sailmaker in Whitby. Later my maternal grandmother when her husband was missing presumed dead received a postcard with only a one word message 'Moses' ... of his name Moses Arthur Smithson from being named after a boy drowned in Whitby harbour ...and he was still alive somewhere in northern France having swam a great distance. I'm very aware of the people that went before us and the need to give them reason to be proud of us, to make an effort.

I would like to include two photographs of our first beagle 'Snuffy' Rossmaith purchased as a puppy from Mrs Anderson at Yarm in 1992 and as with both beagles from her are tip-top most entertaining companions, good lookers too! The first beagle passed away peacefully aged 13 years 4 months while on holiday in Cumbria 8th September 2005, buried in the garden of our friends John and Edna at Netherclose, Loweswater; a place we rented for many many weeks during his lifetime. We were always together, excellent company, he led a full and active life. Lots of people knew us, I'm sure they're pleased to see his photo on the web!snuffy

My wife passed away Christmas morning 2015, we were together 38 years, the beagles were her idea. Luckily our second beagle Smudge Rossmaith (not an easy pet) but identical physically to our first as pictured is here with me and in writing this ie November 2017 feel as if I have 'turned the corner today' the 5th. To all my stockists and customers that have had to extend patience in waiting for my product I hope now to be rid of the devastation of bereavement and be back to the old 'Richard Kell' ie fast, accurate, grounded and reliable.

Incidentally, our second beagle was not an easy pet, low protein feed is essential, as is cod liver oil as per autistic kids to help with coping with the world; lots of hierachy and NO meat or bones.

I have been supplying my woodworkers hand tools to Robert Larson - San Francisco and others since the early 1980s so you can buy with confidence knowing you will be getting a quality service and outstanding product. And I get better at making this stuff as I get older!

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