Bespoke Furniture Maker and Former Darlington College Apprentice with Links to Royalty and The World’s Elite Urges Youngsters to Think About A Career in CabinetryPrint Page
Former Darlington College apprentice Heath Chadwick is appealing to young people to help halt the decline in the numbers of skilled cabinet makers.
The co-director of Mark Asplin Whiteley Limited, the 37-year-old is at the helm of a company that has been crafting high quality bespoke pieces of furniture for clients all over the world, including members of the royal family.
The Whitby-based company, which employs 20 staff, works with a number of interior designers and architects to produce custom built furniture for high-profile and celebrity clients.
The business has also worked for over a quarter of a century on commissions with the Queen’s nephew and exclusive furniture maker Viscount Linley.
Dealing with top end clients has recently seen the company take on commissions to fit out multi-million pound celebrity super yachts, create a bespoke Zebrano Oak and Walnut cigar cabinet and matching gun cabinet for a prominent Russian dignitary and fly some of its skilled craftsmen to Connecticut in the USA for eight weeks to create a bespoke two-storey library.
“It’s very difficult to get young skilled workers within our industry,” said Heath.
“Young craftsmen need to have a passion for the job and the drive to work in an environment where they are constantly learning and producing furniture to the utmost standards and quality.
“In return they could be looking at long-term well paid jobs that are extremely rewarding.”
Heath, who originates from Saltburn-by-The-Sea, Cleveland, began his own career as a cabinet making apprentice at furniture makers Treske, of Thirsk, studying once a week at Darlington College.
“I enjoyed woodwork at school and knew that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to work with my hands and make things.
“It was great being an apprentice, being able to earn as I learned a trade and I really enjoyed college, although it was a long walk to the station after finishing at 7pm.
“For the first two years at Darlington College we studied cabinet making, with theory work in the morning and a practical session on the afternoon. Then I chose to stay on for an additional year looking at wood machining as I wanted to learn as much as I could.”
After completing college and spending four years as a cabinetmaker at Treske, Heath decided to branch out and start his own fine furniture making business in Loftus.
“The distance from home to work was becoming an issue and I thought that after four years I was fully trained and knew what I was doing,” said Heath. “I was later to find out that I really didn’t.
“I worked for myself for about 18 months finding my own clients and getting commissions but it was difficult to build the business and I realised I still had a lot to learn.”
In 2000, after deciding he needed the certainty of a steady regular income, Heath applied for a job as a cabinetmaker at Mark Asplin Whiteley Limited.
“I worked for nine years on the bench here as a cabinetmaker and then as team leader before the opportunity arose for myself and a colleague, Florian Krenn, to take up directorships within the company,” said Heath.
“It was quite nerve-wracking taking on such as responsibility but Florian is a third generation cabinetmaker in his family, we have a good team around us and with Mark Whiteley showing us the ropes the company has continued to go from strength to strength.
“I would advise any young person thinking about cabinetmaking as a career to try and get some work experience to see if it’s what they expect,” added Heath. “And also to apply to different companies and get on a good college course, like I did.
“Bringing in more young people through apprenticeship schemes like this means that we can help to maintain and secure the skills base needed in our industry in the future.”
Mark Asplin Whiteley Limited, is based at Fairfield Way, Whitby Business Park, Whitby, North Yorkshire YO22 4PU, telephone (01947) 821911, www.markwhiteley.com.