For an insight into the workings of Purdey, we’re speaking to the people at the heart of the enterprise. Here, stockmaker Finnian Dinham-Price tells us how he came to his role in stockmaking, and why he’s likely to be at Purdey for years to come.
So Finn, how long have you been at Purdey?
I’ve been at Purdey for eight-and-a-half years now. I initially came for a week’s work experience in 2013, and then undertook the five-year apprenticeship, schooled by master stockmaker Richard Bayley, which was great, but pretty tough. I moved from Devon to London on my own when I was 18. Embarking on the apprenticeship was another big move in itself.
What first drew you to the company?
I grew up in a family that loved shooting, and of course Purdey is really well known in the gunmaking world. I wanted to find a job that incorporated using hand-skills in an era such as now, when we’re using a lot of machines. It was one of the main attractions of Purdey for me, as a company that is invested in keeping those skills alive.
How did you land on stockmaking?
Stockmaking was the area that I was most interested in, so I was very lucky that there was a position available there. I enjoy it because we work with both metal and wood to create bespoke stock entirely by hand, which is quite unique to Purdey. It’s nice to have the collaboration of both elements.
How has your role evolved from the first day to now?
It’s been a gradual process. There was a lot of guidance at the beginning, I had minimal experience using hand tools – you don’t learn a lot of that at school these days, compared to our parents' generation for example. Richard always said to me that our generation is around six months behind what his generation was on starting the job.
Now, I can look back and it’s amazing to see the progress that I’ve made. I’ve got more independence, more responsibility. Even though I’ve been here for eight years, when I compare my work to Richard’s, I know I’ve still got a long way to go to craft at his level. That brings a lot of fulfillment, knowing that I’ve got something to work towards.
Describe a typical day for you?
Days are quite varied, it depends on what I’m doing. Right now, I’m starting a new project: preparing the metal work to the client’s specification, beginning the woodwork, then inletting the metal work, before shaping it to the requirements. Usually I work on one piece at a time; it’s nice to complete a whole gun yourself, because you put your own hand into it.
We get involved in servicing too, restoring, adjusting and repairing either a broken or very old stock. Perhaps someone has bought or inherited an old Purdey and needs different measurements to fit, in which case we might make a brand new stock or a new fore-end. You’re able to see the slight differences between the older and more modern Purdeys, in the mechanisms and details – it's like a piece of history you’re taking apart.
What's the highlight of the job?
Each stage of the stocking process has its fulfilling moments, and each project I work on is different. Using these old skills that have been passed down through many generations is a real gift. As is producing something from its raw form up until the finished product, which brings a strong sense of achievement for me. It’s rewarding to do something really well, or note your own improvement each time. The interaction with clients is also really nice, when they can see and appreciate the work that you do.
And the most challenging aspect?
Working with a natural material that is still moving. Wood is very delicate at times, and it doesn't take a lot to make a mistake that means you have to start all over again. It requires a lot of focus, when working in such detail.
Another point is, it can be quite tiring, because you’re standing all day. That took some getting used to when I first started. After a full day of work when I was an apprentice, I used to go home and just sit down for three hours!
Is it all about teamwork, or are you encouraged to work on your own?
Richard encourages independence, while of course checking everyone’s work is up to the Purdey standard. He sets the bar for our team, a level which we all must reach. Purdey has a set style, but no matter what, each person puts their own twist on it – I think it’s something that just naturally happens. I can look at any five stocks here from each stocker and know who’s done what, which is quite cool.
What’s your favourite thing about Purdey?
I still feel very proud and very lucky to be here and to have learnt this skill. It’s very unique. Being taught by someone like Richard, who is such a great craftsman, is a real honour. Having spent time here, you can really see where Purdey stands out in terms of its quality compared to other gunmakers.
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