Bury Free Press
www.buryfreepress.co.uk Friday, March 9, 2018
Brandon Car Centre
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Did You Know: Brandon Car Centre is a VOSA Authorised Vehicle Testing Station?
Woodworker Matt carves out path to business success
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‘I’m not in it to make millions. If I can make something someone will love and cherish, I’m happy,’ says craftsman who started his own company when barely out of his teens
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ON BOARD: Matt Rampley with some of his new range of household items
att Rampley can still recall his first woodwork projects ... birdboxes knocked together with pieces of scrap wood. “I remember making them with my dad, they were roughly sawn and nailed. I must have been about eight or 10,” he says. Things have got a lot more sophisticated since then. Matt is still only 22 but he has been running his own woodcraft business for two years. And these days you will certainly not find rough edges on his lovingly handcrafted work. He designs and makes garden swings that range from simple traditional ones with ropes, to elaborate seats and stands. They take shape in his workshop in a farmyard at Nedging Tye. And he is now expanding his repertoire to include smaller, household items like chopping boards. Matt has built his business on a love of woodwork that began in his schooldays, but at first he never dreamed it would be his career. He grew up in Ringshall, with dad Gordon, mum Beverley, and older sisters Heidi, Hannah and Hayley. Their home was close to Wattisham airfield. So it is no surprise his earliest ambitions involved aircraft. “I’ve always had a fascination with aviation. When I was young I wanted to be a pilot but didn’t have the eyesight for it. “At school I looked at aeronautical engineering, which involved a lot of maths and physics. “I chose them as A-levels because I did quite well at GCSE, but then I just didn’t find it enjoyable any more.”
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SMOOTH OPERATOR: Matt puts the finishing touches to a swing seat
RELAXING: One of Matt’s swing seats
That was the turning point for Matt. “My teacher said ‘what do you like’, and something I had always loved was woodworking. “I was always a very handson person. I was already doing product design at A-level and knew I didn’t want to go to university when I left school. I was ready to start my career.” But it was at middle school in Needham Market he first found he had a real flair for woodworking. “We had quite a nice workshop there and I remember making a clock
shaped like a tiger. “That was in Mum and Dad’s kitchen until the mechanism gave up. “Then I went to Stowmarket High School where they had fantastic facilities. “My final GCSE project was a garden bench, then in the first A-Level year I made a coffee table inspired by crashing waves. On one side the wood curved over the glass.” The table still has pride of place at home with Gordon, a self-employed gardener, and Beverley, a teaching assistant at Bosmere Primary School in Needham Market. Matt now lives with girlfriend Sammie just down the road from his workshop. He says: “After I left school I went to a show called Weird and Wonderful Wood which was held at Haughley. “My final A-level project had been a swing seat, and I bumped into a chap who had a small business making them. “We had a common interest and got talking. He invited me to come and look at his workshop, which was in his back garden in Drinkstone. “He said there would be a position to do some joinery and design work for him. “For the next year I worked closely with him and his wife, then they decided to move to France. That left me in a bit of a situation. I didn’t know what to do,” Matt already had contacts at Bush Farm in Nedging Tye – where his business MR Woodcraft is based – through a summer job helping with harvest.
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CUTTING EDGE: Sawing boards to length is the start of the process
“I was never one of those young guys who wanted to be sitting in front of a computer. I wanted to be out and about and doing things with my hands,” he said. Someone at the farm was the first to suggest he could start his own business, and there was a vacant building he could use. “I bought the assets of the company I’d worked for with help from my dad, who lent me some money. “That included all the machinery in the workshop. “The wood I use comes in roughly-sawn, seasoned boards. I cut them to size and plane them. “Dad sometimes helps with moving the big boards which can weigh 80 kilos, and he also often comes with me on deliveries.” Woodcraft is not
something that can be rushed. Making a swing seat takes eight to 10 days. Matt is now building up a range of smaller items that take less time to complete. “I’m starting to make chopping boards and cheese boards and this year will add cookery book stands and cake stands.” After trading for a year he invested his first profits into a new website to publicise his work. Tree swings are one of his best-selling lines. They have been used in TV adverts, and an ‘inspirational suite’ – a kind of indoor garden – at Microsoft’s UK headquarters. People often ask for their items to be personalised. “Customers speak directly with me, so I get to hear the stories behind the names and dates I engrave into my
swings. “One of my favourites was a couple who bought a tree swing for their fifth wedding anniversary because fiveyear anniversaries are traditionally celebrated with wood. “It was lovely to know the meaning behind the date. One of the best parts of my job is knowing my products will make people smile. “I’m not in it to make millions. If I can make something somebody will love and cherish I’m happy.” Working on his own all day could feel lonely were it not for his chocolate labrador Aussie – short for Austin. “He’s here every day, he’s my constant companion in the workshop,” says Matt. For more information go to Matt’s website, mrwoodcraft. com.
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