Take control with the new KNIPEX Control Cabinet Key ‘Double Joint’

THE KNIPEX 00 11 06 Control Cabinet Key ‘Double Joint’ is designed to work across a range of utility and control cabinets, fitting locks made by different manufacturers.

This new product from KNIPEX is a universal swivel head wrench. It has four different rotatable closing heads and three closing heads with a double function. There are three profile types available: outside square (5-8mm capacity), triangle (7-9mm capacity) and double bit (circle with fins – 3-5mm capacity).

The tool contains strong magnets allowing it to open and close easily – and stay firmly in place. It can be opened fully to 180 degrees or held at 90 degrees giving it an easy-to-use handle. When folded back together, the key measures just 62mm. Weighing in at just over 100g it can be carried easily in a pocket.

With a varnished plastic body and zinc die-cast profiles, the KNIPEX 00 11 06 Control Cabinet Key ‘Double Joint’ makes it easy to access control panels, shut off valves and more.  


ToolKit launches rolling prize draw with a JCB combi drill set

AS part of the relaunch from ToolBUSINESS+HIRE, ToolKit is proud to run a series of prize draws throughout 2020, giving every digital reader the chance to win the latest cutting-edge tools and kit completely FREE.

In each of the 10 publication months, we will offer a new prize and select a winner from all ToolKit digital subscibers.

The prize for the January draw is the 18V Brush;ess Combi Drill Set from JCB Tools.

This set includes:

  • A JCB 18V Brushless Combi Drill
  • 2 x 5.0 Ah batteries
  • L-Boxx

This innovative piece of kit comes comlpete with a brushless motor, a 2-speed gearbox and an LED light, giving you drilling, screwdriver and hammer action whenever you need them most.


All subscribers to the digital ToolKit magazine are automatically entered. Each month they get the digital version of ToolKit magazine sent straight to their inbox as well as free entre into the draw.

You can subscribe to receive the digital version of ToolKit HERE.

The closing date for the January draw is 19 January.


ONS construction output data a ray of hope for the industry?

THE ONS today published UK construction output data suggesting that December's clear election result, adding more certainty to Brexit, may be helping the industry to turn a corner.

Gareth Belsham, director of the national property consultancy and surveyors Naismiths, commented: “Fragile confidence, weak demand and contractors running out of orders – it’s all there. Rising output in infrastructure and commercial construction was tempered by a contraction in private sector housebuilding.

“Yet the month-on-month increase, which jumped to 1.9% – the highest level since January 2019 – gives a hint of the rebound that has followed the election. Such a clear election result and an end – for now – to Brexit uncertainty have helped the industry to reset. The return of clarity, if not yet unbridled confidence, is prompting many developers who spent 2019 sitting on their hands to pull the trigger in 2020.

“The industry is far from back to health, but in the space of less than a month, its newfound sense of purpose is starting to make these November figures seem very distant. The questions now will be how long the Boris bounce can sustain, and whether the capacity-cutting of last year will hamper contractors’ ability to cope with a rise in demand.”

Meanwhile, The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said that the Chancellor must use the upcoming Budget to slash the rate of VAT on repair and maintenance work and to invest in the construction sector in order to maintain the industry’s recovery.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “While 2019 was a year marked by political and economic uncertainty, there does seem to be some small signs of hope for the construction industry, with the largest monthly growth in the industry seen in November since the start of the year. It is too soon to tell whether this will be a longer term trend, as some sectors such as private house building and repair and maintenance continue to see sluggish growth.”

“The upcoming Budget provides the perfect opportunity for the Government to help ensure this positive trend at the end of 2019 continues into the new decade. In order to help boost the industry, the Chancellor should prioritise cutting VAT on home improvement works, so that tax isn’t a barrier to homeowners upgrading the energy efficiency of their properties. The Government should also use the Budget as an opportunity invest in construction skills to help build the homes and infrastructure we need, and invest in planning departments to ensure the planning system doesn’t act as a blockage to the Government’s ambitious housing targets.”

Hitachi adopts new CESAR ECV initiative

HITACHI Construction Machinery (UK) has confirmed that from January 2020, every mini, medium and large excavator, wheeled loader and wheeled excavator will be fitted with the CESAR Security System powered by Datatag technologies as standard.

The Construction Equipment Association (CEA) officially launched the new CESAR Emissions Compliance Verification (ECV) at Plantworx in June 2019. CESAR ECV is an invaluable ‘bolt-on’ product that compliments the existing CESAR Security System and allows quick and easy verification of a machines emissions category.

The initiative developed in response to the demand for an easy and reliable way to confirm the emissions category of construction equipment has been well received by the industry, including Hitachi who will adopt CESAR ECV as well as the standard CESAR Security System.

This feature, using evident colour coded labels with a unique alpha/numeric code is linked securely to a machine’s unique CESAR identity and ensures complete integrity of the system.

David Roberts, CEO of Hitachi Construction Machinery (UK) said, “Helping our customers to protect and optimise their Hitachi machines is an increasingly important element of our value proposition, and in conjunction with our online Global e-Service telematics system which has GPS location capability, the addition of CESAR gives our customers even more peace of mind. CESAR is not only a proven theft deterrent, it also provides an accurate and efficient proof of identity to the Police when they need to trace stolen machines, which has been an industry-wide issue for years. Our customers also require a quick and easy way to identify which stage of the EU emission regulations their machines comply with, as more sites control and monitor their carbon footprint. The addition of the Emissions Compliance Verification or ECV to the CESAR program gives our machines a visible and traceable identity in regard to which emission stage they comply with.”

Stephen Creaser, Director of Product Support at Hitachi Construction Machinery (UK) commented, “Having taken the decision to security mark all new machines with the CESAR security system, we also want to offer the same peace of mind to our existing customers. From early 2020 the CESAR security system will be available to existing customers as an aftermarket retrofit kit that can be installed at the customers premises or job site by a fully trained Hitachi engineer.”

Rob Oliver, Chief Executive of the CEA said, “The Emissions Compliance Verification (ECV) application for CESAR is the single biggest development since the scheme was launched as an anti-theft device initiative in 2007. Today there is an urgent demand for quick identification of the certified emission levels of machines and in developing ECV we have had some great input from the industry as well as HS2, the Energy Savings Trust and London boroughs. The ECV’s easy to see and scan visual label reduces the workload for construction site managers and local authorities alike.”

The construction industry is looking increasingly on its’ environmental impacts and as such CESAR ECV will be invaluable to companies required to manage large scale projects and multiple contractors ensuring plant on site is as environmentally efficient as possible.

Andy Huddleston, Superintendent of Northumbria Police said, “As the national Police lead for Agricultural Machinery theft I am delighted that Hitachi CMUK, one of the industry’s leading companies, has chosen to security mark all their new machines sold in the UK. We know that by doing this the chance of recovering these high-value machines is higher and makes life harder for criminals. We hope that all manufacturers will adopt this approach.”


If we have the weather, Snickers has the clothing

OVER the last few weeks, wherever we are in the UK, we have been battered by weather - from flooding rain to icy frosts. It is exactly these that make us think twice about what we need to wear to survive a day on the jobsite, without succumbing to the wet or cold.

When a parcel from Snickers arrived, I was keen to see what the latest gear could do to prevent my suffering from the usual complaints of cold hands and wet feet.

Onyx Low Work Shoes and High Heavy Wool Socks

My experience of Solid Gear footwear is very positive because the work shoes I have used have proved to be lightweight, strong and warm. The trainer-style Onyx Low work shoes I tested are metal free, with a rubber outsole. This sole has lots of grippy chevrons but the patterns are not so deep that they will pick up loads of mud and distribute it around the jobsite.

The poured PU midsole is lightweight and durable – and dare I say it – ranks amongst the most comfortable I have ever had the pleasure of plunging my feet into. These shoes fitted so well that they felt comfortable immediately, and after half an hour I couldn’t notice the difference between them and my next most comfortable pair of work shoes. 

But the best feature by far, in my opinion, is the use of the BOA system. I am told it is based on a system used in ski boots where a simple twist of the BOA button tightens the laces, and a press on the same button releases them. It is easy to see the advantages because shoe removal is so quick – and there are sometimes jobs where leaving muddy boots at the door is a diplomatic thing to do.

Combine the above with a snug pair of the High Heavy Wool Socks and foot comfort is guaranteed for most users. They are thick and warm, with reinforced heel and toes and are long enough to keep a fair bit of your shins warm too. Again, some of the best socks I have ever used in terms of warmth and comfort, which might be down to the 84% merino wool content!

6241 Allround Work Trousers

I thought I was too old-fashioned for stretch trousers – until I tried them. They do make moving, and especially, bending down a lot easier with much less need to pull them back to waist level when you stand up again. But am I modern enough for them?

The 6251 Allround Work trousers have a classic design with pre-bent legs and a looser fit that people of my vintage might prefer. They are made from hardwearing cordura fabric that has already proved its worth on the jobsite. Of course, you get umpteen pockets (these included holster pockets) as well as a tool holder, front loops and key holder, ruler pocket and a cargo pocket with an attachment for the increasingly common ID badge holder. Let me just say that I have never managed to use all the pockets provided, without feeling that the trousers might fall down any minute.

Snickers is one of the few manufacturers that manages to get knee pad pockets in the right place on the trouser legs so that you can just kneel down without having to hitch the legs. No doubt helped by the use of stretch Cordura at the knees? For most jobs, I find the Snickers kneepads perfectly good and I would only consider extra add–on kneepads if I was on my knees for several days.

The 6241 Allround Work trousers have slimmer legs that would probably appeal to a younger and more fashion-conscious demographic. The blurb says it is for a ‘clean, technical look’, but I will let others with better physiques decide their look…

These trousers too, have a multitude of pockets (including holster pockets) for rulers, ID badge, etc. The slimmer legs may have prompted the designers to move to an Advanced Knee Guard Pro design with pleats that keep the foam knee guards in optimum position for ease of work.

1148 Allround Work Winter Jacket

The hoodie is almost a uniform item on cold winter jobsites because it is just a very practical garment. Some workers even manage to balance a hard hat on top of a hoodie-covered head.

Made from a layer of thick 60% cotton and 40% polyester mix, with a soft, fleecy inside, the new Snickers hoodies are the essence of warmth, even if they are bound to be given a hard life on the jobsite. The length is enough to provide some bottom coverage and the hoodie is big enough to protect the whole head from cold – especially if you pull the elasticated drawstring tight. This one has come to the top of my list of hoodies I reach for on a cold day. The bold Snickers logo and striking colour choices are a bit better than the usual dull grey hoodies often seen onsite.

I am conflicted about the 1148 Allround Work Winter Jacket. Never mind the jobsite, I would wear it as an everyday jacket and it is smart enough to wear when visiting clients. But would I wear it onsite and risk it getting dirty? Perhaps a hi-vis vest over it might minimise any dirt?

On the other hand- this jacket is warm! It has a water-resistant polyester outer and padded lining that keep wind and water out. The neck can be zipped all the way up past the chin and the side pockets are well placed to plunge cold hands into. There are two zipped pockets - one outside and one inside (for your phone? Pens?), as well as a big poacher’s pocket on the left inside. A strong elastic draw cord can be tightened to keep wind out at the bottom and the hook and loop straps on the wrists keep warmth in and wet out.

There are a couple of very subtle reflective strips on the arms because this jacket does not shout its virtues, but it has virtue in spades.

Weather Dry Work Gloves

I have tried hard to find the perfect cold weather work gloves, but the conflicting need for hardwearing materials and flexible dexterity conflict, so inevitably they are always a compromise. The Snickers Weather Dry work gloves are very warm, easy to don and comfortable to wear. But as with the jacket above, I would be unwilling to mess them up by handling wet materials like plaster or mortar.

They are waterproof and protective with reinforced palms and strips of padding to protect the knuckles and when I did a few timber handling jobs with them I was impressed with how good they are. I guess I am going to have to risk them a bit just to keep my hands warm.

Snickers users are always guaranteed well-designed and well-made products and I have never found one bit of Snickers clothing that I thought was inferior. The above certainly fit this mould and I am happy to recommend them.


Hellberg ear defenders: Dare to investigate your noise exposure profile

AS I sit at my desk in a quiet country village in Sussex, the loudest sounds I hear are the rooks fighting over a tidbit. Annoying maybe, but not dangerous. Contrast that to the almost incessant noise that many Londoners are routinely exposed to – for example, I hate that ear-piercing scream from the rails on the Northern Line between Euston and Mornington Crescent where even Londoners block their ears to protect themselves.

The truth is that most background noise is fairly harmless, but once we get regularly exposed to noise levels of around 85dB, we should start to take notice. A modern corded tool, like a circular saw or router, emits noise levels around this mark so it is clear that noise levels need to be considered, even for regular DIY-ers.  

Then think about the workers on construction sites and in factories where the noise levels are persistent and constant as well as occasionally ‘impulsive’ – the technical term for noise that is so loud that it hurts the ears.

Impulsive and persistent noise at levels much greater than 85dB actually cause hearing cells to break off and die making hearing loss permanent. Being ‘hard of hearing’ is now proven to be a serious cause of social isolation and is even being implicated in the onset of Alzheimer’s, due to its isolating effects. There is also an increased risk of high blood pressure, stress, depression, tinnitus and hyperacusis.  

We have known for a long time that exposure to excess noise can cause permanent hearing loss - disco divas, tank crew and artillerymen (to name a few) have all testified to the effects of loud noises on their hearing. What strikes me is that noise has been seen as an occupational hazard and employers have taken a fairly relaxed attitude to it. 

In fact, there is no need for workers to suffer excess noise levels because employers and workers have for years had a responsibility to reduce and control noise levels. Regulations from the HSE and EC say so. And the good thing about excess noise is that it is pretty easy to control it and protect workers from it. It is often as simple as choosing and using a good set of ear defenders whenever the noise levels warrant it.  

However, it turns out that choosing an appropriate set of ear protectors can be more complicated. So... here goes! 

You still want some noise 

It would be no good choosing ear protection that cuts off all noise – just so that you don’t hear the excavator that runs you over. Equally, too low a level of protection won’t stop hearing damage in the long term.  

Also, ear protectors are highly sophisticated these days -  a quick run through the Hellberg range shows a wide range of options from simple to sophisticated. Hellberg’s more sophisticated products allow workers to communicate with each other via radio when needed as well as listening to Classic FM in the in-between times.

Choice can also be complicated by the wearer too. A beard, glasses or long hair can all affect the efficiency of the protectors and for this reason Hellberg recommends that noise level protection to be aimed at is 75dB rather than 85dB. This allows conversation and communication as well as promoting awareness of other hazards like diggers and dumpers nearby.  

To the practical 

Hellberg, now part of the Hultafors Group, sent me a couple of ear protectors to try out. 

The first, the Secure 2H, are colour coded with bright yellow bands around the outside of the ear padding. Yellow coded protectors are designed to protect users from noise levels in the 95 to 110dB range. Think electric grinders, big circular saws and slightly quieter forms of motorsports. 

I often have music in the background while I am working, and after donning the Secure 2H I could still hear it - mostly the quieted lyrics and a few guitar highlights. At a distance of a couple of metres I could still hear instructions addressed to me in a slightly raised voice. Sudden loud noises were still unexpected, but my ears did not ring. Ringing is a sign that indicates possible temporary harm.  

I always expect high quality from European manufacturers and a close examination of these protectors rather proved the point.  

The all-important padding around the ears was soft and thick and therefore able to adjust to the contours of the head. It seemed to be fixed in place securely all around the aperture. This foam is often the first casualty of regular use so it needs to be able to be replaced easily – which indeed it can be. Spares are easily available.

The outer parts are made of a rigid black plastic ‘doughnut’ and they are lined on the inside with around 12mm thickness of dense foam for sound insulation.  

Also designed for a long working life are the headband and yokes holding the ‘doughnuts’ in place. The head band has a foam pad on the top for comfort and adjustment is achieved by simply pulling each side down a few clicks until you get a close fit over the ears.  

The parts exposed to wear and tear, sweat and dirt are all replaceable to ensure a long working life for the protectors.  

To test for comfort, I wore them for a few hours as I was preparing some timber for a table I am making. After a time, they warmed up nicely, even in my cold workshop, and were comfortable and effective – the kind of comfort that would make you use them regularly rather than just hang around your neck for appearances only. 

Still yellow, but more technology

The Hellberg 2H Active are rated for the same levels of noise as the basic ones above, but they incorporated speakers, batteries, a jack plug and lead so that you could plug into a mobile phone, radio or MP3 player (I’m showing my age here).

Once again, I couldn’t fault the comfort of the round-ear padding despite the necessary extra weight of the protectors. Two AA batteries are located in one of the solid plastic earpieces and the jack plug in the other. Adjustment to the head is a matter of a few clicks because there is enough cable from the jack plug to ensure snag-free movement. The speakers are of good quality and music from my iPod sounded good – but I could still hear ambient noises and have a conversation. 

This is a very short excursion into the Hellberg range of ear protection – it is worthwhile going online to see the full range and choose the solution that suits you. Your hearing may depend on it.


Snickers Workwear ProtecWork – increasing protection through layers

THIS fully accredited and independently tested protective wear for heat, flame, electrical arc and chemical risk environments delivers market-leading protection in a wide range of hazardous working conditions.

The key features and benefits of the clothing include the hi-tech, advanced fabric technology integral to the Base-, Mid- and Top-Layer garments for both men and women that combine well with the Snickers Workwear hallmarks of best-in-class durability, comfort, ergonomics and fit.

Increasing your protection

Research carried out by Snickers Workwear in the toughest of working environments has concluded that the best ways to improve your level of protection is to wear layers. The main benefit of this is that the air gap formed between different garments provides increased protection.

ProtecWork clothing is fully accredited to a variety of risk and bad weather working environments and all the garments are manufactured from tailor-made fabrics designed to respond to the demands of the conditions in which they’re worn.

So, with over 60 different garments and accessories to choose from, you can make sure you get the right protection, visibility, flexibility, comfort and durability. Check out the new Snickers Workwear ProtecWork range to fit your workday and wellbeing on site.  

For more information on Snickers Workwear’s ProtecWork Range, call the Hultafors Group UK Helpline on 01484 854788.

Checkout the website and download a digital catalogue at www.snickersworkwear.co.uk

Dormole continues to invest in Tools and Fixings Trade

FORGEFIX owner, Dormole Ltd has continued its policy of investing in independent suppliers to the Tools and Fixings Trade by taking a majority stake in Harrison & Clough (H&C), the fixings and fasteners wholesaler based in Keighley.

Michael Brown, MD of Forgefix who led the discussions with H&C commented: “We have long been admirers of H&C who have developed several market leading brands such as MetalMate, MasonMate and TimberMate that all complement our existing ranges and we believe that by combining resources we can greatly improve our offering to customers.”

H&C Managing Director Mark Hutchinson said: “As an independent, privately run business it has become increasingly difficult for us to maintain the level of investment that is required to develop our ranges and services in the way that we want, and the market demands. Therefore, the opportunity to join the Dormole group, who share our values and ambitions, is ideal.

“We have seen the way they have invested in companies such as Forgefix, Olympia and BIZ and have been impressed by how they have grown those businesses. We are all really excited by the opportunities this collaboration will bring for all stakeholders - customers, suppliers and colleagues.”

Michael Brown continued: “I am absolutely confident that this investment is an excellent fit for all involved and will enable us to improve our offer to our customers whilst at the same time providing a very positive future for the H&C and Forgefix teams.

"The management team at Keighley, will continue to run the business with the additional backing of the resources and support of the Dormole group.”


Obituary feature: John Twallin

JOHN Twallin, who died on December 14, was the driving force behind the creation and growth of the tools and hardware distributor Toolbank, and of its parent company, the Dormole group.

John Twallin (or JT as he was affectionately known) was effectively born into the tool trade: he was a direct descendant of Ann Buck and her son John Roe Hickman, who together founded the tool distributor Buck & Hickman in London in the mid 19th century.

Following national service, which included qualification as a Russian interpreter, John joined Buck & Hickman in the early 1950s and rose to become purchasing director. In late 1971, however, the firm fell victim to a hostile takeover bid, and the new owners told him his services were no longer required and he could leave at the end of the week.

Arthur Clemson, Buck & Hickman’s sales director, was unimpressed with the new owners and the way the family had been treated. “If I had my time again,” he told John, “I would start on my own”; and together they planned the launch of a midlands-based wholesale tool distributor with a crucial difference from Buck & Hickman: they would sell only to the retail trade, not to end-users. They re-mortgaged their houses, and with a loan from John’s mother, set up CA Clemson & Sons. Clemsons opened for business on February 28 1972, achieving sales of £204,000 and net profit of just £1,056 in its first year. 

It was clear that the new business would not initially be able to support both of them, so John took a job with the engineers’ merchants Thomas P Headland; and while still working there he was introduced to Curtis Holt, a small tool wholesaler in Kent. Curtis Holt MD David Lister could see the potential benefits of having Buck & Hickman’s former purchasing director on board, and appointed John as a non-executive director in December 1971. Then early in 1974, David Lister invited John and Arthur to buy him out. They didn’t have the cash, but persuaded Lister and the other Curtis Holt shareholders to take loan stock, repayable over five years. An off-the-shelf company, Dormole, was used to complete the purchase, and John became chairman with Arthur as MD.

Over the following 45 years, Dormole grew to become the UK’s leading distributor of hand tools and power tools to the hardware trade, to builders merchants, and later to the fast-growing online market. Early expansion included opening branches in south Wales, Norwich (under the noses of rivals RCF, who were planning a move in the same territory), Bradford, and Southampton.

But the emphasis was never on sheer size. The 1979 catalogue spelled out the ethos of the business: “We do not wish to give anyone the impression of great size, for great size does not add anything to the efficiency of a distributive unit. We aim to be considered as small but efficient companies, servicing local areas but strengthening each other through our association together.” John believed deeply in letting the branch managers run their branches, and fostered a policy of branch autonomy which continued as the group grew. Having the stock was a vital point, too: “Stock was the basis on which our business was founded,” John recalled much later. “We weren’t great businessmen, but we did know that the only way to get business was to have the stock.”

The Toolbank brand was registered in 1979, but at trade shows in the early 1980s the company was still exhibiting as Curtis Holt and Clemsons, sub-titled ‘The Tool Bank Group of Companies’. It was not until the 1984 edition of the catalogue was published – the first of many Big Blue Books – that the Toolbank name appeared as a national brand for the first time, and definitively as a single word.

More expansion followed: the Exeter branch opened in 1980, and in 1981 the group acquired a garden machinery business called Godfreys – later sold to a management buy-out. The same year, John was tipped off that rival distributor PTS was in talks to buy the Glasgow wholesaler Finnie & Co. His buccaneering instinct came to the fore – he and Arthur flew to Scotland and a deal was agreed within two weeks. “So quickly, in fact, that Finnie’s agreement came through on the very same day as we got approval from the Midland Bank, on whose support we had rather irresponsibly been relying,” said John. Dennis Lloyd, his financial advisor, was less than impressed: “Don’t you ever do that to me again,” he said.

Expansion continued through the 1980s: the launch of the Hand Tool Distributors operation, servicing DIY superstore customers; the acquisition of Rees Jones in Warrington and the opening of the north London branch in Bushey; the acquisition of a minority shareholding in the French wholesaler Denuziere; the start of a daily delivery service, initially from the Bushey branch; the launch of the XMS Christmas promotion; and the successful re-launch of the Faithfull brand. Amid all this, Arthur Clemson retired in 1985, and thereafter John drove the business forward at the head of a team of long-serving and trusted colleagues.

The 1990s saw the creation of a national warehouse for slower-moving specialist lines, freeing up space in the branches and reducing the group’s overall stock level without impairing availability. But it was also in the 1990s that John fought his biggest battle, after the power tool maker Bosch, which accounted for 25% of Toolbank’s turnover, abruptly ended their 10-year trading relationship. In the absence of a formal written contract – John was a firm believer in the weight of a handshake – Bosch refused to accept that their action had been in breach of the gentlemen’s agreement. It took four years of legal argument, including a period of several months when John was seriously ill, before Toolbank’s claim was settled, the day before the case was due to come to court.

In the meantime, Toolbank had successfully replaced the Bosch range with other brands; and a successful and amicable trading relationship was re-established some years later when Dormole acquired a majority shareholding in the specialist power tools distributor Biz, which included Bosch in its range.

Following his illness, John decided to take a step back from the day-to-day management of the group. A Toolbank management board was set up with Andrew Strong as CEO, and John focused on his role as chairman of the Dormole parent board, although for many years afterwards he continued to play an active part in trading matters.

In 1995, the company unveiled Toolbank Express, the first significant step taken by a UK tool wholesaler towards a coherent online proposition, and which would evolve into Toolbank.com a few years later; and in 1997 it opened its first accounts with stockists in the Republic of Ireland. Profits were continually ploughed back into the business, funding new and bigger warehouses, continuously updated IT systems, and more marketing and promotional support for the customers. By 2002, group sales had reached £100m.

When in 2003 Neill Tools terminated a 25-year trading relationship without warning, John and his colleagues decided not to pursue a legal fight; instead they concentrated on replacing the Neill-owned ranges, and with the support of their other key supply partners quickly retrieved the lost business.

The global financial crisis in 2008 saw Dormole sales decline by 9%, and then by a further 9% the following year. For Andrew Strong, it showed the importance of shareholder support. “It was the ultimate test – in contrast to many companies in the industry, where there were people having to re-apply for their jobs and so on,” he said. “John and his family were all massively supportive – and over the long term, they have given huge support to the management team and its policies.”

Acquisitions continued: the hand tools maker Olympia, the fastenings specialist ForgeFix, and the aforementioned majority share in the distributor Biz Power Tools. These companies were consolidated within Dormole’s acquisition operation Galleon Investments. In 2018, with Brexit looming, the group strengthened its position in the EU with the takeover of the leading Irish tool distributor, Tucks O’Brien, and its sister company Tucks Fasteners & Fixings.

John decided in 2014 to step down as chairman of the business he had co-founded 42 years earlier. “Andrew and other members of the Dormole and Toolbank boards have taken on a greater and greater share of my workload in recent years, so it is therefore very much ‘business as usual’ as far as the company is concerned,” he said. He remained a non-executive director and continued to take a close interest in the group’s progress – but his presence at the Dartford office became less and less frequent.

“He was a real entrepreneur, a fearsome negotiator, and passionate about promoting the interests of wholesale distribution and Dormole in particular,” said Andrew Strong. “He drove us on at times when the odds seemed insurmountable because he believed so strongly in the business and the team that he had built. His love of the business and everyone in it, who he referred to as the Toolbank family, meant that the development of Toolbank and Galleon became one of the major focuses of his life. He and his family therefore kept re-investing in the business in order that it could grow and prosper.”

Recognition of the group’s achievements came from an unexpected quarter in 2015, when Toolbank was ranked number 219 out of 250 in the Sunday Times Top Track 250 ‘league table’ of independent medium-size private companies in the UK ranked by turnover. The ranking actually understated the group’s position, as the Sunday Times looked only at Curtis Holt’s accounts, and neglected to include CA Clemson. When the companies merged in 2018, and the figures included Clemson’s sales as well as Dormole’s, Toolbank rose to number 114 in the table.

John always saw his role as an employer as something like a benevolent patriarch, and research during 2018 confirmed that the Dormole group had an extraordinarily high proportion of long-service employees. Of the 939 people employed, nearly half had clocked up 10 years with the company. 299 had reached 15 years, and of those 299, 197 had done 20 years. In fact there were 72 people who had been with the group for 30 years or longer. There can’t be many companies – in any industry – that could match this record of loyalty and long service.

The ‘family company’ feeling is evident throughout the group, and not just because the business is still owned and run by the founders’ families. There are family connections at all levels in the business: fathers and sons, husbands and wives, generations of employees. Another staff member put it this way: “There is a ‘pitch in together’ mentality about the place”.

John was much more than just a successful businessman: he was a long-standing supporter of the industry charity, the Royal Metal Trades Benevolent Society, later re-named the Rainy Day Trust. He served as a trustee for many years, and when he stepped down, he ensured that other Dormole group representatives took his place on the charity’s board. In addition, he was a committed and generous governor of Sir Robert Geffery’s School in Landrake, Cornwall, through his association with the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers, for whom he had previously been the Master.

Also behind the scenes, he built up one of the UK’s most significant collections of rare and historic hand tools, working with honorary curator Wally Flude. For many years the collection was displayed in a locked room at the Dartford office, where it could be seen only by invited guests, but John had long cherished an ambition to have it on public view. This was finally achieved with an agreement to transfer the collection to the Ken Hawley Collection Trust in Sheffield, and the transfer took place in 2019, a few months before his death.

He is survived by his widow Elizabeth, his daughters Frances, Catherine, Philippa and Alex, and their families. His life and work will be recalled at a service of thanksgiving in Sevenoaks.

Samac grows sales team with two new appointments

LEADING nails, screws and fixings supplier Samac has grown its sales team with the appointment of two area sales managers, allowing the company to expand its distribution.

James Drury has 12 years of industry experience gained after running an independent builders merchant and developing specialist adhesives and sealant knowledge at Bond-It. James will be covering the north west coast region in an area stretching from Scotland down to Birmingham.

Steven Fielding, who has spent the past 20 years at a similar company, brings extensive product expertise to his new position. He will be covering the London and East Anglia region, and has taken over from Net Franklin who is now developing Samac’s offering in the south west of England.

During his time at an independent builders merchant, James was a Samac customer so is extremely familiar with the company’s products. He commented: “I used to buy and recommend Samac’s products, which gives me a unique view when speaking to potential customers. It’s a fantastic company and has a real family atmosphere with everyone helping and supporting each other, so I’m delighted to have joined the team.”

Steve agreed, adding: “It’s refreshing to be working for a company where everyone is extremely proactive and pushing in the same direction. I’m looking forward to growing the area and bringing in new customers.”



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