Ernest Wright (scissors maker)
|Industry||Arts & Crafts|
|Headquarters||58 Broad Ln,, |
Sheffield S1 4BT,
Ernest Wright is a scissors manufacturer in Sheffield, England. It has been making scissors and shears since 1902, and is known for using traditional manufacturing methods, such as manual grinding on stone grinding wheels and ‘putting together’ scissors by hand. The craftspeople employed by the firm are known by the arcane job title of ‘putter’, or ‘putter-togetherer’, meaning one who puts scissors together.b
Products of Ernest Wright include Turton kitchen scissors, stork-shaped embroidery scissors, and shears for tailors and dressmakers. The scissors are manufactured at a small workshop on Broad Lane, Sheffield.
Ernest Wright (1880-1954), founder of the brand that still bears his name, began his career in the scissors trade at the cottage-scale workshop of his father, Walter Wright, who was a specialist in boring and hardening scissors.
Ernest founded his own scissors manufacturing business at Walter’s workshop in 1902. The new brand established itself as a producer of various “medium to best” quality scissors, including nail scissors, tailors’ shears, paperhanger scissors, hairdressers’ scissors and general purpose household scissors. The company soon moved to larger premises at 102A Weston Street, Sheffield.
In 1928, Ernest was joined in the business by his son, Ernest Jr. (born 1912). At this time, the Wrights formed a team of three, along with a part-time handle dresser. Most of the company’s manufacturing was being done by outworkers who specialised in individual parts of the scissors-making process. Ernest Sr. became known locally as “the person who could carry more scissors on his shoulder than anyone else in the trade”, as he walked from workshop to workshop carrying batches of part-made scissors. It was estimated that he could as many as 2,000 blanks at once – enough to make 1,000 pairs of scissors.
Business picked up through the early 1930s, enabling the Wrights to relocate manufacturing processes to their own premises. The firm had a sideline business selling scissor screws between 1935 and the Second World War.
The Wrights registered their company as Ernest Wright & Son, Ltd in 1938. In the same year, they moved the company to a workshop at Talbot Works, Reed Street. These premises were large enough to accommodate a growing workforce, which was then needed to fulfil the business’s orders.
Ernest Sr. went into semi-retirement in 1940, leaving Ernest Jr. to run the company. Further rooms were rented out at the Talbot Works premises, in order to provide sufficient space for warehousing, electroplating, and the hand-grinding of scissors to be taken in-house. Ernest Wright Sr. passed away in 1954, having lived to see the company he founded grow to serve a significant global clientele under his son’s leadership.
Shortly after its founder’s passing, Ernest Wright registered the ‘Kutrite’ trade mark, which was used to market the Kutrite pattern of all-purpose, stainless steel kitchen scissors from the 1960s onward, along with other Ernest Wright products. After Talbot Works was earmarked for demolition in 1957, Ernest Wright purchased a plot of freehold land in Smithfield, a light-industrial area of Sheffield. The company completed construction of a factory on the new site in 1962.
Ernest Jr.’s sons, Graham and Philip Wright, joined the family business in time for the opening of the new Kutrite Works, which was inaugurated in 1963 by Alderman H. Keeble Hawson, a former Lord Mayor of Sheffield. The new building and the machinery with which it was equipped enabled the company to greatly increase its output of scissors and shears.
Ernest Wright & Son Ltd. grew further through the acquisition of small local cutlers, including Richard Mather & Son scissor makers in 1965, and Hale Bros. Ltd., a manufacturer of hand tools, in 1965. It was from the latter company that Ernest Wright & Son Ltd. acquired the horse’s head trademark still used by the Ernest Wright brand today.
In January 1975, Ernest, Graham and Philip Wright were made freemen of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire, a guild of artisans which has operated in South Yorkshire since 1624.
Ernest Wright retired as Managing Director on his 65th birthday, in January 1977, leaving Graham and Philip to take charge of the company. By this point, the brand Ernest Wright was employing over 80 workers and exporting scissors and other tools to 45 countries worldwide. This was to prove the company’s most successful period for a number of decades, as the modern globalisation of the 1980s brought Ernest Wright into competition with overseas manufacturers selling lower-priced scissors. By the end of that decade, many of the scissors manufacturers in Sheffield had ceased trading.
Ernest Wright went into receivership in 1988, at which point the business was rescued through a financial intervention by a distant relative of the Wrights. Philip Wright rejoined the company as its sales manager in 1998, and took charge of the business in 2000. At this point, much of Ernest Wright’s manufacturing was being outsourced to larger local businesses.
Philip Wright’s son Nicholas joined the company in 2008, and took over as Director upon Philip’s retirement in 2012. Ernest Wright remained on the brink of going into receivership throughout much of the 2010s, although it enjoyed a period of prosperity in 2014, resulting from coverage in a widely-viewed online video documentary, ‘The Putter’, and a profile on the BBC website. The two pieces of coverage respectively featured Ernest Wright’s two master putter-togetherers, Cliff Denton and Eric Stones.
In 2016, Ernest Wright ran a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to fund the reintroduction of a classic model of Kutrite kitchen scissors. While the campaign was fully funded, it did not reach a successful conclusion, as the company made errors in the design of the blanks used to make the Kutrite scissors, which led to defects in the product. In 2018, Nicholas Wright passed away in tragic circumstances. The 116-year-old company went into receivership.
While the company Ernest Wright & Son Ltd. folded following Nicholas Wright’s passing, the Ernest Wright brand was able to live on after its assets were purchased by two of the backers of the Kutrite Kickstarter campaign, Paul Jacobs and Jan-Bart Fanoy, who founded a new company, Handmade Scissors Ltd., to take ownership of Ernest Wright. The new company acquired the machinery, workshop and stock of Ernest Wright & Son Ltd., and rehired erstwhile master putters Denton and Stones, as well as a long-standing senior employee, Pam Addy.
Ernest Wright has received significant media interest since its relaunch. In 2020, the firm starred in a Business Insider documentary video, which has received over 2 million plays on YouTube. Around the same time, Ernest Wright reintroduced four limited-edition models made from salvaged blanks: a 6.5″ general purpose scissors for household use, a 6″ quilting scissors, and two sizes of paperhanger scissors.
The Ernest Wright workshop closed temporarily during the spring of 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The business has since operated at a limited capacity, with social distancing measures in place to protect its staff. In June 2020, long-time putter-in-training Sam Clark was promoted to putter, thus becoming the first person to be awarded that title during the brand’s current iteration. The following month, Ernest Wright announced that a number of new models of scissors were under development, including a new model of general purpose scissors, a 4" print embroidery scissors, and a left-handed version of the Turton pattern of kitchen scissors.
- "Ernest Wright - Handmade scissors since 1902 Sheffield England". Ernest Wright. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
- "A Sad Update About a Scissors Maker that Went Viral". kottke.org. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
- "Industrial Sheffield's last scissor factory". 2010-02-25. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
- "Looking sharp for Sheffield company's scissors revival". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
- "Sheffield scissor firm boss died after suffering years of stress". www.thestar.co.uk. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
- "Sheffield scissor firm confirms closing down sale after 116 years in the city". www.thestar.co.uk. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
- "Joy as investors relaunch historic Sheffield scissor firm". www.thestar.co.uk. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
- Floyd, Charlie. "Why Ernest Wright scissors are so expensive". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020-08-29.
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