Plans for expansion seem to be on course…until the smoke clears, in the latest instalment of Graham Higson’s memories from the shop floor.

A simple welding task almost results in the shop – and our independ- ent’s plans for expansion – going up in smoke. Pictured are the original oxygen and acetylene tanks.


t was 1981 and finally I’d been given the go-ahead to expand the small hardware shop by doing

a massive

refit of the old timber store. But there was a downside: first the boss wanted me to weld a new front end on his prematurely- rusting Vauxhall – right there in the shop, surrounded by stacks of wood and sheet materials. I’d been taking welding lessons and, I have to say, had become quite neat but, amidst all of that inflammable material, did I really want to risk being such a bright spark?

16 DIY WEEK 28 APRIL 2017

Against the grain The boss was still pretty much attached to selling timber and sheet materials, insisting that it was the sales of wood on which he had built a sound business. Right enough, of all the sacrilege that had been perpetrated during the 1960s – such as flushing panelled doors, boxing-in turned banister spindles and blocking up fireplaces – he was responsible for providing the materials that had fuelled the local fad for architectural decimation. He was reluctant to stop selling wood, though by the time we had completed the refit there would no longer be room to swing full sheets of plywood onto the cutting

bench. In fact, it was looking as if the bench itself would be forced to acquire refugee status. We were explaining our plight to

Ron, the rep from a timber supplier that was new to us. Amazingly, for the time, his firm supplied timber in small cut lengths starting at 1.5m, rising in 0.3m increments. This meant we’d no longer need to buy long lengths and we could simply let customers select their own sticks, bring them to the till and pay up. But what about the sheets? Ah, well he also had a solution for that: pre-cut sheets as small as 2 x 2ft and in all thicknesses of plywood and chipboard. This was almost too good to be true and

it seemed that the gods of retailing were indeed looking favourably upon us. It was about time, too.

Killer dose

I was eager to get the car out of the way so I could begin laying cable for the myriad fluorescent lights that I wanted to install. That particular room would have never seen anything so bright – well, certainly not before that day. The oxygen and acetylene gas bottles were in place and the timber was neatly stacked as far away as possible from the working area. I had the fire extinguisher and a hosepipe with trigger feed nozzle to hand, along with buckets of water

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