UK made power tools, hand tools and DIY tools for the home and garden.
Yes – we still make tools in the UK!
While the UK was once the workshop of the world, times change. Our economy is now more service-based, but we still have exceptional tools which are made and/or designed in the UK. Many companies are now looking for more sustainable production capabilities and are looking to bring manufacturing home. You can help generate and encourage a resurgence in UK manufacturing by supporting them.
Here are 10 brands with either 100% UK made products, or the majority of their design and production is UK based. They have one thing in common – high quality.
These brands are of huge importance to the UK economy. Some keep alive old skills that will always be in demand, and some take new globally-successful high-tech paths. All of them help create the conditions for new businesses to be built on engineering and manufacturing skills that would otherwise die. Buy their UK tools – tell you friends and family about them, and directly support their local UK communities and our manufacturing future.
A family business proudly designing and making tools in Sheffield since 1923. At the heart of a network of local suppliers and foundries, they are right at the centre of the hugely important Sheffield tool making tradition. Tools made with real craft, form and function, there is almost a temptation to simply put them on display!
As John Keats said, “a thing of beauty is a joy forever”. This is still a common refrain in workshops around the UK when things go well!
Footprint Tools have a history going back to 1760 as suppliers of wood-boring tools to the Royal Navy. They were there right at the beginning of the reign of George III – and they are still making tools in Sheffield today! Originally Alfred Ridge & Sons, the Footprint name emerged when a Sheffield grinder, Thomas R Ellin, designed the Footprint Wrench in 1875. It is still an absolute ‘must-have’ in every toolbox.
Footprint has remained proudly ‘UK made’ – with over 85% of everything on their product range made in Sheffield, where their forge remains hot!
Buy (through distributor): Footprint Hickory Handle Club Hammer
Buy (through distributor): Footprint Thumbturn Pattern Pipe Wrench
Founded in Sheffield in 1909, Record Power are specialists in woodworking tools. Now based in Barlborough, Derbyshire, their story is one of great hope for the future of UK manufacturing.
Record Power has always had a reputation for outstanding reliability and robustness, but much of their manufacturing went east. In the last 10 years however that has changed: their CamVac brand of dust extractors has been UK made since 2014, and they have just released their new range of woodturning tools, completely UK made. In the past year, they have further invested in CNC (computerised) machinery and are tooling up to produce other products. So not everything is UK made yet – but the current achievement and future direction are laudable.
All of this is very good news for UK manufacturing: companies are seeing a business model which keeps them closer to their customers by bringing manufacturing home.
Makita makes power tools for the DIY enthusiast and they are also popular with the trades, with a global reputation for high quality. They are a huge 100-year-old-plus Japanese brand, but Makita UK has a Milton Keynes HQ, and a factory in Telford, Shropshire. In the UK, they build over 1 million tools a year, including hedge trimmers, cordless screwdrivers, circular saw, sanders and jigs.
Buy (through a distributor): Makita Brushless, Cordless Combi Drill.
Buy (through a distributor): Makita Hedge Trimmer
Gtech design and make cordless household and garden tools. Their high-value R&D, creative design, engineering and model making teams, plus customer service, are all based in Gloucester. Most production is in China, but Gtech has recently moved some production back to Worcester. A step in the right direction!
Founded in 1840 by Joseph Marples in Sheffield, this maker of traditional hand tools celebrates 180 years of continuous toolmaking. In fact, before the founding of the company the family had been involved in the making of tools for a previous 100 years before! And the story goes on – it’s still run by the successive sons of the founder.
Their joiner tools are a delight – beautiful elements of brass, rosewood and beech are crafted together into top-class tools which are a delight to use and look at. And that is why Sheffield still plays a major role as a UK tool manufacturing centre of the highest quality and reputation.
Buy (through distributor): Joseph Marples Spirit Level
Buy (through distributor): Joesph Marples Rosewood Try Square
Lyte Ladders manufacture all types of ladders, steps, towers and access equipment in Swansea. Whilst making many trade products they also offer domestic products for the serious DIY enthusiast. Robust and high spec, they meet every need and every standard.
Birmingham, that great city of industrial invention and manufacturing, has been hosting King Dick tools since 1856 (their name and logo refers to an early owner’s prize bulldog!). Their range of engineering and precision hand tools is extensive – spanners, torque wrenches, tool cabinets, screwdrivers, pliers, podgers, socket sets – they have the lot, and nearly everything is ‘UK made’.
A favourite with car and bike mechanics both professional and amateur, King Dick’s worldwide reputation is based on one thing: quality.
Buy (through distributor): 1 for 6 Screwdriver
Shop (through distributor): Ball Pein Hammer – Hickory Handle
Buy (through distributor): Adjustable Wrenches
With origins in Birmingham in 1910, Thor Hammer moved all of 8 miles down the road to Shirley in 1957, where they remain. A family-owned and run business, they specialise in manufacturing soft faced hammers and mallets. Uses include metal forming, where the hammer provides a driving force, but won’t damage the surface, and mauls which stonemason’s use to drive their chisels. Generally manufactured with wooden handles, the various faces of their hammers and mauls are made from aluminium, plastic, copper, rubber, nylon and hide. Mallets heads can also be made of lead, hardwood and brass.
Each has a specific purpose, and this is a world of manufacturing craftsmanship where modern machinery melds with age-old skills and knowledge. As a result, Thor Hammer still exports to 80 countries around the world and exhibits at the Cologne Hardware exhibition in Germany.
Norbar design and manufacture all of their tools in Banbury. Founded in 1943, they were the first UK company to manufacture torque wrenches and are still doing it to very high standards, with offices in the UK, USA, Australia, Singapore, China and India.
There is an absolute science involved in correctly tightening nuts, you may have seen this process when car wheels are refitted. Too loose – bad; too tight – bad too! In industry and high spec engineering the torque systems involved are something else again. Precision and assured quality is everything: intelligent joint sensing technology, recording of operational data, air hydraulic systems.
Perhaps not for the average DIY enthusiast, but it’s great to see Norbar still doing their stuff and succeeding round the world!
Dyson is not strictly a tool or DIY manufacturer, but we include them in the list because they are hugely important: they are a remarkable global success story for the UK as a whole. Their innovative engineering design capabilities have revolutionised many household appliances, from the ubiquitous vacuum cleaner to hairdryers, air purifiers and lights.
It’s well known that Dyson doesn’t manufacture in the UK, however, the heart of the business is here, with 4,500 high-value jobs at their Malmesbury campus, which also hosts the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology. Other UK hubs are at Hullavington, Bristol and London. Much of the value of their products resides in the design, computer modelling and physical modelling and high-tech development work at Malmesbury. That, plus the huge tax payments which still accrue to UK plc, means they deserve our full support.
The Economics of Manufacturing
This is, of course, a big subject, but here are four trends which make ‘local’ manufacturing more attractive than it has been for 40 years:
- Wages are generally tending to equalise globally. As the local economy of a country improves, wages follow an upward trend. Meanwhile, wages in importing countries tend to increase slowly
- In any case, wages are of reduced importance to the cost of manufacturing as a great proportion is now related to the cost of machinery, which is fairly similarly priced around the world
- The cost of shipping, both environmental and economic, is increasing
- Having manufacturing under direct control means a company can be more responsive to local market trends
[Further reading: “From Global to Local”, Finbar Livesey, 2017]
Endymion, John Keats, 1818
A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits.