Mike turns in some heavyweight support for Weston Park heritage project
May 22, 2008
Once at the cutting edge of engineering, Mike Smethurst is now at the cutting edge of Sheffield’s timber industries, creating fine woodwork for everyone from Arab sheiks to kitchen designers and timber framers. Thanks to a state-of-the-art computer controlled lathe, purchased with 50% support from a South Yorkshire Forest Partnership Forestry Resource Grant, Mike is now in an even better position to support the work of local wood based businesses as he is the only person in the area equipped to take on large specification turning and routing work.
One of Mike’s first jobs using the lathe has been to turn massive feature posts for the oak bridges that are currently being installed in Sheffield’s Weston Park as part of the £2million Heritage Lottery Fund project, reinstating the park to its former glory. The re-creation of the park’s original bridges has also led to further collaborations between local wood businesses, with Handspring Design and Hector and Cedric Ltd each building one bridge. The project is a fantastic example of the timber industries network which has been built up by the South Yorkshire Forest Partnership and Working Woodlands Ltd to help connect local resources and produce high quality, sustainable, local products.
Graeme Ritchie of Handspring Design commented: “Both Handspring Design and Hector & Cedric work out of Ecclesall Woods Sawmill and regularly share lunch, but this is the first time we’ve been able to collaborate on a project: both businesses are part of Working Woodlands Ltd which won the contract for the bridges. Recreating these historic features has been quite a challenge and one that both sides of the Sawmill have risen to, but without Mike and his magnificent lathe, the giant newel posts would not have been possible to make as single solid pieces.”
Keen to maintain the beauty of the local area Mike buys timber from locally managed woodlands and seasons it at his workshop. Through links with Steve Booler at Rotherham Sawmill, he has sourced a variety of high quality native hardwoods which he literally ‘turns’ into products. Mike’s work produces plenty of shavings but even these don’t go to waste as they are used to heat the workshop and dry the timber using a specially designed biomass heater, installed as part of the Forestry Resources Grant. Mike said: “The support from the South Yorkshire Forest has been essential; the new equipment has allowed me to take on new staff, reduce waste, provide my own energy and significantly cut my carbon footprint.”
The new bridges will be unveiled at a public celebration in Weston Park on Sunday June 1st.