Risley Apprentice Training School

The Apprentice Toolbox


During the course of their Apprenticeship the Risley Apprentice would produce a splendid array of hand & machine crafted tools that would bless the interior of a hand made steel toolbox. The cost of the materials used in their manufacture was minute in comparison to the man-hours of labour that went into producing them. The big payback however was in the basic skills gained by the average apprentice during their production, from the simple things such as the correct way to use hand tools such as files and hack saws, how to mark out before cutting, and the use of drills, lathes, milling machines, shaping machines, welding, heat treating and a whole host of other skills to vague now to remember while I'm writing this.


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The Pilkington Toolbox

Here's a few somewhat abused surviving items of apprentice manufacture.

The chisel was originally meticulously filed from a piece of mild steel hexagonal bar and had to be blued flat on a surface plate before being acceptable. The cutting edge was hardened under Winston Atkinson's guidance and is perfectly functional. The shaft however shows up its mild steel origins and readily buckled under some moderate welly.

Instructions for Chisels

The pin punches were made in a set of three (I've lost one) and taught the young apprentice how to use a lathe and knurling tool. The scriber added screw threading and the center punch allowed you to make something with a sharp point.


Other items were manufactured, the crappest of which was  the G-Clamp, this item took an age to make from a solid 1" thick lump of mild steel plate and taught the apprentice victim end milling and how nasty the swarf from end milling is. The finished item bent the first time it was tightened up and got promptly lobbed in the bin (I challenge anyone to supply a photo of one).


The Die Holder

Didn't realise I had one of these till I thought I would look in the garage loft for my old toolbox. The die holder was another of the more useless items as it would only accommodate M6-M10 and would probably bend if used to cut an  M10 thread rather than clean one up.  A tap wrench would  have been about 4x more useful, though I can't remember whether one was made or not.

Die Holder


Adjustable The Adjustable Wrench Affair (footprint)

The thing is at most 6" in length and if you used it would just result in a very sore hand and would only work on things that were finger tight, so the fingers win hands down.

If you took it apart it would make a very useful tent peg.

Taught the apprentice metal folding, filing, drilling and riveting.


The Chain Wrench

If you had a car then this baby was useful, the handle in the original was too long though for removing oil filters in most engine bays. The remedy was to cut at least 2" off the handle with a hacksaw as required. The training school never saw fit to supply chain for the end and this one was equipped with an old timing chain from a mini.

Taught the apprentice how !*?^@"* hard the gauge plate was from which it was cut using only a hacksaw and then precision hand filed. The only interesting bit of the job was filing the teeth.

Chain Wrench



The Hack Saw

Never had time to make one of these babies, one of the better tools as you could fit it with a real hacksaw blade designed to do the job.

Anyway here's Mike Hadfields greatest mechanical achievement, this quality piece of gear is quite something for one of the electrical apprentices to manufacture.

As Mike says:

'Like tool time so much I've sent you my greatest mechanical achievement "the hacksaw" yes that is araldite filling a hole in the top of the handle where the milling machine ran out of control (it was at that moment I knew I was destined to be a spark). Wasn't allowed to start again with a new block of aluminium, cost �10 each, would have been cheaper to give us all a Stanley'.


The Jack

We've found two?

Here they are, these suckers took milling to a precision art form though I cannot remember the name of the machine in the corner that we used to put the central slot in with. Lifts about half an inch tops and would possibly be of some use in a tool room or on a milling machine. Makes an excellent door stop and looks fantastic when good highly polished.

The rusty unloved one is from the Pilkington toolbox, whereas the prize example is from the Hatton toolbox.

Tony's apprentice pieces are in fantastic condition  having laid undisturbed in oiled plastic bags since they were made twenty years ago.

Note the design differences:- there is one year between their manufacture dates, yet one uses countersunk screws and the other socket head cap screws.

Tool Jack

tool jack


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The Multimeter


The electrical tool, even the mechanical apprentices made one of these babies. A very simple multimeter in a huge aluminium box, if anyone used them after they were made they were either mad or tight.

Anyway as no ex-electrical apprentices have sent a photo of one in we've located one made by a mechanical apprentice. After removing the twenty year old training school battery (what was left of it) guess what - it worked! 

We were now quite impressed by the units robustness in the face of severe neglect so took a picture of its insides as well.


The G-Clamp

Here's a photo supplied by Paul Spencer of two G-Clamps!

88's Apprentices must have had a lot of time and little competition for resources as they seem to have got round to making just about everything, even two G-Clamps.

Universal opinion of the clamps is that the bent if used to apply even a moderate clamping force.





The Hammer

More stuff of '88 vintage, this time the hammer.

This is one of the more odd items to make and would transfer a lot of shock to the hand of its owner. Very nicely finished though with its knurled handle.

A genuine handmade in Warrington hammer, another Paul Spencer original.


The Hacksaw Blade  Padsaw

An inspired piece of creativity here that you cannot to my knowledge buy in a shop.

Never made one of these myself and have never seen one until now. Very nice, and another one out of Paul Spencers toolbox.




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Punches and Tufnol Case/Holder

Always remember being told, 'if we've got time you can make the holder', never did have the time so never made the holder.

Look at the difference it makes to the punches, unlike mine they're not rusty or bent! The pins in the side of the holder are a nice touch to keep the lid on as well.

As you can tell from the background these are Paul Spencers as well.


Toolmakers Clamp

This must be one of the most widely made apprentice items worldwide, though saying that most of my year missed out on this one.

These are again in pristine unused condition and belong to Tony Hatton.

Does anyone have the original worksheets/plans for any of these items?

toolmakers clamp


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Gravity Center Punch

Now this is a nice little item and another one from Tony Hattons toolbox.

The gravity center punch uses the energy stored in the dropping knurled weight to gently center pop (mark) aluminium when the weight strikes the anvil.

This was a good item to make that would illustrate the importance of tolerances, limits and fits and surface finish. All marked up on the manufacturing drg to be deciphered by the young apprentice.


Perspex Handled Screwdriver

Tony made three of these and this is the only one left.

Very nicely made but the handles shatter if you put any force on them.

The Perspex handle is beautifully crafted with machined grips and the point is precision crafted too.

Again very nice to look at.

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Electrical Apprentices Toolbox

An Electrical Apprentices Toolbox

Ever wonder what an electrical apprentice got up too, well now we know thanks to John Hankins toolbox.

  • Battery charger, where the only things not made by the apprentice was the rectifier and self tapping screws, we wound the transformer and ammeter coil turned the feet etc.

  • Continuity tester, I have not found this yet but will send photo when I have.

  • Tool box

  • Stock and dies

  • Soldering iron and solder holder

  • Drill gauge

  • "G" clamps

  • Conduit reamer

  • Open ended spanners


Decade Resistance Box (Apprentice Made) DIY Handmade Home made

Another Electrical Apprentices Toolbox

Michael Aspaturian has delved into his electrical apprentices toolbox and produced this finely crafted Resistance Decade Box. Micheal started his apprenticeship back in 1975 and the traffolyte (sometimes spelled Traffolite, was a brand name for multi-layered phenolic plastic sheets suitable for engraving) topped aluminium box although showing a certain patina of age has proved remarkably resilient to the passage of time.


Plumb Bob

A solid brass plumb bob, this example made by Derek Conroy has polished up lovely after 23 years.

Always remember brass as being very pleasurable to turn in a lathe, made quite a nice noise when being cut although the swarf produced was rather messy to clean from the machine afterwards.

Makes you want to buy a little lathe for the garage does this.

Plumb Bob


Trepanning tool

Trepanning Tool

Another little gem from Derek Conroy's toolbox, always remember this type of thing being particularly scary to use, never mind one that's has been made by yourself.

For those out there 'without the knowledge' it's for cutting large holes in sheet steel. By drilling a small pilot hole you can then insert the tool into the hole, adjust its arm and cutting edge and set the thing in motion to cut a larger hole.

Question, has anyone out there ever used on of these at home in a hand held drill? 



Lee Giles sent this one in all the way from Sugar Land, Texas where he now lives, Lee says;

'This is the copper can that we had to make whilst perfecting our brazing technique. The one pictured is my own that has survived but is now relegated to filling my air conditioning system with cleaner. The one thing that I do remember about making this is that after all the hard work of cutting and brazing when you finally got to the buffing and polishing wheels you had to make damn sure that you held onto it tightly or the wheel would simply snatch the can out of your hand and spit it back at you on the other side of the wheel all mangled up.'

I remember mine was made out of sheet steel and soldered rather than brazed then painted with silver hammerite enamel which all came off when I put brake fluid in it!

Oil Can or Jug




The Tap Wrench


A work of art if I remember rightly, but I've lost mine.


The Vice


Briefly used but too small to be of any real use. Still bolted to bench in fathers garage.


The Feeler Gauges


Very useful when cars had points, though ones from the car accessory shop had numbers etched on them and cost less than a quid. Taught the apprentice that there was such a thing as shim steel, it could be cut with decent scissors or sharp tin snips (quite a rarity in the training school) and it would cut the fingers of the unwary.


The Folding Dividers


Mild steel pap, if you got round to making these you were too good at making the other stuff. A fill in job to keep idle hands occupied.


The Toolbox


The objet d'art to keep all your tools in, some even had a removable tray insert. A rather bulky box to carry all your manufactured items in, it even had your name and year stamped on a plate riveted to one end.


Instructions for Toolbox