What makes British tool-maker King Dick one of the world’s best?
Proof that a simple philosophy matched to world-class quality is a recipe for success
They don’t come any more British than King Dick Tools, or to give the firm its full and less commonly used name, Abingdon King Dick Tools. The last remaining UK manufacturer of spanners and sockets, they’re British right down to the company logo: a bulldog adopted in tribute to the owner’s show-winning hound from the turn of the 20th century. King Dick goes even further back than that, having first been established in 1856 under the name of Abingdon Engineering. That’s quite some heritage. Queen Victoria was a mere 19 years into her reign and the first motorcycles were still nearly four decades away. The firm has a global reputation for professional tools. Every single one is built to the tightest of tolerances at King Dick’s works in Coleshill, Birmingham. At every step of the process, products are checked before passing on to the next stage. An old-school poster reminds employees that ‘The Customer Is The Next Inspector’. The processes in question feature such robust engineering words as boring, grinding, broaching, polishing, marking, hardening and plating. It’s a seriously intensive, handbuilt craft.
A continuing programme sees R&D done both in-house and in real-world situations. “We put product out to known King Dick users and ask for feedback. Even if a user breaks a tool through abuse we want to know,” says MD Griff Roberts. That research extends to race teams such as Anvil Hire TAG Racing with James Ellison and Buildbase Suzuki with Bradley Ray in BSB. Then there’s the TT and roads with Michael Dunlop, although not with his Tyco hat on. Roberts has been with the firm
for 26 years, with 21 of those as MD having started as sales manager. He was a club and national racer but during 1992 decided to opt for a more conventional career. After five years he led a management buyout. He still rides and owns a ZX-10R, Tuono V4 and a Bonneville 865SE.
The firm turn over in excess of a million pounds a year and employ 17 people. It’s a tough market but Griff has a simple philosophy: “We only make premium products that we believe are a match for anything on the market. We don’t have the overheads of our own sales network so can compete on price. We aim at professionals and the more astute home users who want quality tools.”
Old-school posters perfectly sum up the ethos at specialist toolmaker King Dick
Griff Roberts has been at the helm for the last 21 years
The scale of some of the machinery is astonishing
Quality is checked at every step of the process
Production is a real hands-on affair