I’ve been working with slate from 1966, since I was 19 years old- 55 years ago! I walked into the job centre and walked into a job at Wincilate Ltd in Caernarfon. I worked on Architectural Slate items; sawing and polishing edges. We made hearths, steps, sills and slate bench tops. Slate tops were even sent to King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia!
When John took over Inigo Jones Slate Works in 1980, I was asked if I would like to run the business from day to day. The company also made architectural items but additionally craft work, that was sold from the works and supplied other retail outlets. Where the café is today there was a workshop that housed a machine that had been modified to cut mitre joints in slate to make lamp bases and clocks and chessmen; allowing slate to be used in a more sustainable way.
I introduced to the list other slate items namely; Coffee Table Tops, Solitaire Boards, Barometers, Garden Benches etc. We also make items to order. Examples that have stuck in my mind would be an order of Ashtrays (popular in their time) quite large, 9” square and sent to the Netherlands. A special Clock that was sent to Orkney Islands Airport, and Lathe Turned Bowls for Halen Môn.
Our products have travelled long distances, and myself at times. There was an occasion when Wincilate received a contract to repair cladding on a building in London (local builders had previously failed at the task!) and I was needed to re-fix thousands of slates, drill them and screw them to a building 3 to 4 storeys high in the midst of a heat wave!
The way slate is worked has changed significantly over the years. Air tools are used a lot these days which has significantly reduced the time it takes to bevel or file slate by hand. Computers has also altered the work and extended possibilities. As with house names, where a pantograph was used previously with limited type options, today we can offer many different font styles and sizes!