But for users of hand tools, Sheffield holds a special place of interest and nostalgia, principally due to one tool company. Stanley.
For many of us, you hear the name “Stanley” and you think blades. And when you think “blades”, you think Sheffield. Yes, Sheffield and Stanley seem to go together like peaches and cream.
And that’s probably because of steel. The steel industry in Sheffield dates back to around the 14th century. The city’s crown mark was – and still is – the hallmark of quality steel. So we were delighted to learn that Stanley is bringing much of its manufacture of steel blades for its knives back to the UK. Made in Sheffield. Well, Rotherham, to be precise.
Neil Bruce and I were travelling to Sheffield to spend some time with Stanley’s Mat Burke. Our objective was to shoot compelling video content for Toolstop TV.
Typically these trips involve lots of time spent in corporate training rooms being shown how power tools perform in hermetically sealed environments. Lots of lithium ion, very little elbow grease.
Therefore it was quite refreshing to be ushered by Mat into “The Shed”, an almost flawless recreation of a typical man-cave, complete with Stanley hand tools hung in an orderly fashion from hooks along the wall, and a battered and war-weary work bench piled high with chisels, screwdrivers, tape measures and the quintessential Stanley knives.
Check out Neil’s guided tour here.
Mat has a great operation there and it’s the ideal environment to learn about and get hands-on with Stanley tools.
First up on our list of Stanley tools we wanted to get on camera was the new Hi Velocity hammer range.
Hammers are hammers, right? You swing them at an object and expect to meet with little resistance. However, as Mat explained, fatigue is a genuine concern for any trades person who spends hours each day swinging a hammer, especially if they do so over shoulder height. Therefore we were intrigued to learn about how these hi velocity hammers are reinventing physics.
A new 14oz hammer from Stanley will provide you with the same force of strike as a 20oz hammer. And their 15oz will give you the same hit as a 24oz hammer.
So while we weren’t enchanted with lots of new lithium-ion battery technology in Mat’s “Shed”, we were suitably impressed with how Stanley are bending the laws of physics to allow you to hammer harder for longer.
See the hammers being tested here.
Because the Toolstop website stocks just about every variation of blade and knife manufactured by Stanley, we wanted Mat to give us the definitive guide through each range, but we could tell he was most enthusiastic about Stanley’s new carbide tipped blades.
He told us that Stanley’s manufacturing plant in Hellaby, just outside Sheffield, boasts the longest uninterrupted carbide laser deposit cell in the world.
Tungsten carbide is basically just grey powder. However, when it’s applied to the cutting edge of a blade it transforms said blade into one that will last up to 5 times longer than conventional blades, while being sharper and more durable.
Tungsten carbide coatings typically make whatever its applied to harder and stiffer. However, Stanley have only coated the blade edge, so the rest of the blade will flex as normal while you cut.
Check out our guide to choosing the right blade here.
Toolstop sells lots of laser measuring devices. They’re all the rage. However, there are enough of you out there that can’t see past a traditional tape that we were suitably impressed by the thought, care and attention applied by Stanley into the manufacture of these tapes.
Of course, the range isn’t straight-forward. Whether you’re an occasional DIYer, or you work outdoors atop platforms, towers or scaffold, Stanley has a tape that will meet your needs.
Take, for example, the Fat Max Xtreme tapes. These things are beasts, from the heavy-duty, slip-resistant casing with easy-grip rubber moulding, through to the 3 rivets on the end hook and the Mylar coating plus blade armour, we learned why it’s worth dropping extra cash on a stand out tape measure like this.
And talking of stand out on the FatMax Xtreme tapes, we enjoyed using our POV (Point of View) camera to test Mat’s claim of up to 4 metres of stand out.
If you want help choosing the right Stanley tape for you, check out our guide.
Putting tools to the test is something we’re passionate about, so it was great to join Mat on day 2 of our visit onto a local job site where our plan was to put Stanley tools into the hands of real, live joiners, electricians and plumbers.
Mat arrived in a car piled so high with Stanley products that he could barely see out the windscreen, and, as he unpacked the car, it quickly became clear he’d be heading back to base with nothing, such was the level of interest and the claims of “I’ll be having that” from the flock of chippies and sparks.
The site manager spied the brand new FatMax mobile workstation and immediately laid claim to it, but not before we’d filmed Mat taking us through a tour of its many features. What a great piece of kit, not only functional and elegant, but incredibly robust. No wonder it was so quickly laid claim to.
See what makes the FatMax mobile workstations so lust-worthy.
We then handed one of the guys a FatMax box beam level and asked him to “accidentally” drop it from the top of a cherry picker, which he cheerily agreed to do. Our video demonstrates that these levels could be among the toughest in the world as it stayed strong and true after its lofty fall.
Here’s the proof… (click to watch.)
By now it was almost time to leave Sheffield and head back north to Toolstop HQ. But not before we witnessed every scrap of Stanley kit being stripped from Mat before he got back to his car.
And why not? When you’re faced with the chance of getting free products from one of the world’s most trusted tool manufacturers, wouldn’t you jump at the chance?
A big thanks to Mat for his time and enthusiasm, it was a pleasure to visit Sheffield again and to be among British tool history. It made us proud.