Our fourth instalment of Handmade in the UK - Hamblin (Norfolk)
Paul (44) Ellie (his partner) friends and family members make up the Hamblin team.
The Story by Paul:
I had a plastic banana board in the seventies, I guess you would call that a Penny board now. I rode that thing so much as a kid I still have it hanging up in the workshop, it pulls a bit to the left now maybe because one of the trucks has corroded and cracked in half. The eighties and nineties I was heavily into BMX ramp riding. I built a half-pipe in my parents back garden so it made sense to ride a skateboard too. I’ve been a (very) amateur surfer for over 20 years and been fascinated by board shape and design.
I’m quite a hands-on, practical person. I used to help my dad fix things in his garage and fix up bikes all the time. Building the ramp taught me a lot.
In 2014 I finished a degree in Environmental Science at the UEA, Norwich. I felt pretty fried after 4 years of academic study so whilst I was looking for graduate work I rented a small workshop and started experimenting with wood.
The moment I knew I’d be making boards was when a friend who runs a Surf shop in Cromer asked if I could make some belly-boards. My partner Ellie was on-board with an amazing amount of encouragement. My eldest son helped out in the workshop and at our trade stands. We soon had a range of belly-boards ready for Hamblin’s first summer as well as body surfing hand-planes. Then came the skateboards.
This is our first year of trading and pretty hectic learning as we go. We traded at loads of summer fairs and festivals during the summer here on the East Coast and the feedback is awesome. We also get a lot of people sniffing our boards at trade events, especially the bellyboards because of the Tung oil. It's become our in-joke, you can spot a sniffer a mile off! We often get asked to make pretend surfboards or skateboards to use as props or decoration. Skateboarding and surfing is a lifestyle, a lot of people who don’t actually skate or surf can see the beauty in the craftsmanship, design and shape and want to bolt it to the top of a camper van or hang it on a bedroom wall.
The one thing you should never under-estimate is the amount of time it takes to run a small business. Every evening I’m either in the workshop or on my laptop doing something, the list is endless. We both have full time jobs and a family so it is full on. I can’t remember the last time I switched on the TV during the week.
It can be hard to find the balance at first. You are doing something you’re passionate about. When you get to see the board develop from a sheet of ply and after all the stages and hard work, you hold a shaped deck in your hands it can be mind blowing, it is addictive. When we’re out trading and people are looking and touching the boards it feels really good that other people get it too.
It’s still important to find the time to ride. I thought I would miss the freedom of popping out for a cruise as so much of my time is spent making, but I get the same kind of buzz from making decks, just different.
The name is from Ellie’s side of the family. Her grandfather was a carpenter and we have some of his furniture in our home, his family name is Hamblin. It’s a great name which works as a brand and is personal. Behind every small business there is a Kick-Ass woman and Ellie is that person. Her role is varied she does the book keeping, chasing invoices, booking events, marketing, graphic design, art work and helping at trade events. It really is a family affair.
I wanted my degree to play a part in Hamblin. I looked into making boards and running a business sustainably which is tough in the unsustainable world of commerce. We make sure our wood is 100% FSC approved and fully traceable. We also use new old-stock wood and source from local suppliers. We’re starting to get involved in local volunteer and environmental campaign groups. We offer up products to help raise money for some of the causes we believe in. All our marketing and promotional stuff is made from recycled products. We also have some t-shirts that are fair-trade with organic cotton.
I went a bit crazy when we got our hot branding iron. I don't think there is a wooden chopping board, spoon or spatula in our kitchen without our logo branded on it!
We now have a range of Okoume ply cruiser skateboards and a pintail longboard with Cedar and Mahogany inlays and we’ve just started a range of Birch ply cruisers and longboards.
The boards we make out of Okoume ply have an amazing grain pattern. We didn’t want to hide it with grip tape so I started experimenting with sand as I liked the idea of a more natural grip. We ran some prototypes and it works really well.
For 2016 we’ll be dialling in some new longboard designs. We’ve also got some nice slabs of reclaimed mahogany and Cherry wood to play with so looking to do some solid wood beauties.
Future Workshops (Watch this space)
We are hoping to start running workshops, People would get to design the boards, learn to use the tools, create some artwork and then go out and shred. There is a real interest in getting creative and hand-crafting wood again. It will be great to teach children how to make skateboards.
We don't have a date to start the work shops yet. We have approached some local schools and a technical collage to see if it would work as a class. The feed back is very encouraging. Hopefully we will be starting mobile workshops at weekend music/surf festivals and other large summer events. Over three days people could cut, shape, finish and varnish the decks from pre pressed blanks. On the last day the decks would be built up and the whole class would go out for a ride, it will be so rad. The logistics and planning is very challenging and it is early days but keep your eyes peeled.
For product details:
Phone : 07519 472783