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Behind the scenes at Ercol

Earlier this month, Lee Longlands were given a VIP, behind-the-scenes tour of one Britain’s leading furniture manufacturers. Based in Buckinghamshire, Ercol Furniture were happy to open their doors and give us a glimpse inside the inner workings of their esteemed furniture factory.

Established in 1920, Ercol, are known for their quality handmade furniture, outstanding craftsmanship and timeless designs. It is their superior expertise in the furniture making industry that we wanted to capture within the video shoot.

What strikes you first about the factory is that, well, it doesn’t look like a factory at all. With huge clear glass panels, the bright and airy showroom is the first thing you see.  Connected directly next to the main factory outlet, we were lead into the steady humdrum of the factory floor.

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For those with an interest in the processes behind their superb furniture, when viewing the wood benders in practice there’s no doubt of their skill.

After steaming the timber (in this case green timber) for anything from 20 minutes to one hour depending on the age of the wood, a straight piece is miraculously bent into a horseshoe shaped curve using clever manipulation of machinery and a little elbow grease. When viewing the wood benders in practice there really is no doubt of their skill. Despite waiting for the snap of the wood it never came, a testament to its quality, and the bow was left to hold its shape for the next 24 hours.

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Throughout our journey, we followed the production of one of Ercol’s most striking products, the 1913 Evergreen chair. The chair’s striking arched back is a classic Ercol design, contemporary yet timeless. From the sanding to the underframe assembly and then to the spraying, at each stage the chair is expertly crafted to the highest standards. Even the bows of completed wood are stacked in an elegant fashion, not just for practicality but also as a sign of pride for the work that they produce, much like an artist would carefully hang a finished painting.

Ercol Evergreen chair:

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As we made our way around each section of the floor with the occasional hiss of valves above our head constantly controlling the humidity of the area, each worker seemed more than happy to showcase their skills. Amazingly, over 600 employees to date have spent over 21 years or more with the company, Ercol seem to understand the importance of retaining such skilled workers.

Finally, we made our way back to the show room to see the finished articles in their final form. Spaciously arranged in various collections, the Originals and The Windsor caught our eye. With detailed close ups of the grain of the wood as well as the joints and handles, it’s clear to see that these pieces aren’t merely some throw away fashion but furniture that is built to stand the test of time both in looks and practicality.

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The Ercol factory tour was a great example of how British manufacturers are still thriving after a tough recession. From its humble beginnings back in London in the 1920’s, Ercol has stayed true to its heritage, evolving over time but still continuing to reflect the quality craftsmanship it’s known for.

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