Continuing with our Factory Friday series, we popped along to the Clicking Room and amidst the hustle and bustle, managed to catch up with Dave, a Cheaney veteran with over 30 years of working the company. We talked times changing, learning a trade and leather.
Clicking is an extremely delicate process which requires great care and skill to execute correctly and with finesse. What is the most difficult part of clicking for you?
Reading the leather takes time and a keen eye, you have to map out what you’re going to cut and where you’re going to cut it to make the most of the leather and the grade of leather will affect how quickly you can do this.
What are the best aspects of working in the Clicking Room?
The work is very interesting but it’s definitely who you work with! We all have a bit of a laugh while we work and as long as the work is getting done and you’re not leaving a press on the table for five minutes while you have a chat then we can all have a bit of banter!
You’ve been with Cheaney for over 30 years Dave, what’s changed in the Clicking Room over the years?
Many many years ago there was something called ‘piece work’ and basically you would cut as much leather as you could and you were paid for the amount you cut. You would take your skins up at the end of the day and that was how you showed what you’d done. Obviously this doesn’t happen now, you’re paid what you’re paid but back then, the ‘piece work’ meant that if you didn’t cut enough, you didn’t get as much money. I prefer it now because you can really concentrate on what you’re cutting and take your time, there isn’t the pressure of not earning enough and rushing through work.
There is always a steady stream of apprentices and young people joining the Clicking Room, how does this affect the work place?
I show a lot of them the ropes, I show them how to cut and help them out when they need it. It’s good to be able to teach a trade and this is the only shoe factory in Desborough so if it wasn’t here, we would have skilled workers who wouldn’t be able to get work without going much further afield. Passing on skills to younger people makes it so the tradition and practices of shoe making carry on. It’s a good thing.
The Clicking Room is forever noisy, with presses working, machines whirring and a radio right next to Dave’s head which I’ve never witnessed being turned off. Yet whenever I walk past Dave’s work bench, he is always meticulously working, oblivious to the noise around him.
How do you manage to concentrate amongst all the noise Dave?
I listed to the radio, I concentrate a lot on what I’m doing, looking at the leather, stretching it, cutting it – I just got used to all the noise I suppose!
Considering how long you’ve been here, are you looking forward to retiring and taking it easy?
laughs I’m enjoying what I’m doing too much. Who I work with, what I do, that’s why i’m still here, my mind keeps active, I concentrate on what I’m doing, the time goes really fast and there is variety because every skin is different. I will retire one day but for now, I think I’ll stay where I am.
Finally, do you ever have a slip in concentrate and cut you hand? I’d imagine it would be pretty painful given how sharp the clicking knives are!
Do you know what, I get asked that question a lot by people who tour the factory, when the TV crews come and the news people and I always tell them I don’t cut myself but as soon as they leave the room, I’ll end up cutting myself! Always how it goes isn’t it?