Last week saw a visit to the Brooks saddle factory in Smethwick, just outside Birmingham. A full report will appear in the end-of-year issue of The Rake, but in the meantime I thought I would take the opportunity to try posting a couple of videos filmed during the visit.

They show two very different aspects of the Brooks production process. Many parts of the saddles are still made by hand, with the edges skived off, the copper rivets hammered flush with saddle and the holes for those rivets produced with a hammer and pin. Some models require specific handwork – such as the Swallow, on which two flaps from either side of the saddle join up underneath. These need to be carefully cut down, moistened with a brush and slowly bent round if they are not to crack.

In the first video you can see this skiving being done and, later in the background, the copper rivets being rounded off.

The other side of production is the old iron machinery that still produces Brooks springs and steel blanks, later punching out the various parts of the skeleton of the saddle onto those blanks. The video shows one of the two 1940s monsters that produces the springs. One does the right springs, the other the left. They are seven-feet high, ten-feet long and – as you can hear – very noisy. One is German, one English, but they have worked together in harmony for over 60 years.
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