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Raiders of Dad’s Workshop

September 21, 2018

Raiders of Dad’s Workshop

Something that’s long been important to us, and has become a core value for Hotham’s, is to try and cut down on the amount of ‘stuff’ we use that, actually, we might not need to, and to reuse, as far as possible, stuff we already have. I’m from a family of craftsmen and women, so I’m used to - and love - the idea of making good use of what we already have, and using and upcycling to breathe new life into old things. Beyond gin, tea and books, this is a big interest of mine, and a curious side-effect of this is an inability to throw away anything that might be vaguely useful or interesting. Simon would disagree with this point, as many of these things have no apparent use or interest to him.  I was thrilled to prove him wrong on that point during our big refit project, and we upcycled many of these ‘useless articles’, as the following list of ‘Hoarded/abandoned items put to good use in Hotham’s Gin School’, or to give it its alternative title, ‘Raiders of Dad’s Workshop’, demonstrates:


1  An old sewing machine

Sewing Machine SinkWe knew we needed a sink in our distilling room.  We knew we wanted something a bit quirky. The obvious choice was to pair an old sewing machine with a new sink. Of course it was. Simon and Sarah, a fellow ‘old things’ enthusiast, went hunting for an old Singer treadle sewing machine, and using some ideas from Pinterest as inspiration, made this beautiful and eye-catching sink for a spare corner in our Gin School.  It’s also a small tribute to Joseph Hepworth, the tailor who built the lovely Hepworth’s Arcade back in the 1800s.

2  The old signage from our shop and some scruffy pallets

Once again, old-things-lover Sarah took it upon herself to recycle some stuff we thought was destined for the tip.  In preparation for having our new signage installed on our shop front, we took down the name of the previous business, Harrington’s, which was spelled out in brushed metal letters and pinned onto boards above the windows.  Sarah collared these, and clearly had something in mind for them. The same day, we took a large delivery on a pallet which had seen better days. It went straight into the back of Sarah’s car, and wended its way back down south.  Two days later we received photos of her labours - she’d transformed the scrap wood and metal into these beautiful Gin and Tonic signs!

And more followed!  I’d asked her to find me some wooden trays for storing and displaying our collection of 40-plus botanicals, and she used the leftover pallets to make these!  They’ve been so useful, and look great in our photos too.


3  Old piano keys

Piano Keys

Yes, you read correctly. Old piano keys. And yes, someone in my family saved these ‘just in case we need them in the future’.  When we’re constructing a piano from scratch, maybe? Anyway, the family hoarding trait paid dividends again when Simon decided he needed some small pieces of something ‘about the size of piano keys’ to support the flow valves to our nine stills.  ‘How about...some piano keys?’ I suggested, in a blinding flash of inspiration. ‘Emma,’ he responded (I knew at this point he was getting fed up of my helpful suggestions - he only calls me Emma when I’m in trouble), ‘where will we get piano keys from?’
'Well...I think my dad has a shoebox full in his workshop.’
Once Simon had recovered from his swoon, induced, I imagine, by his realisation that he’d really hit the jackpot with a girlfriend who came endowed with a real life Steptoe’s Yard, I got on the phone to my dad and secured my rights to said piano keys. And just like Simon thought, they really do make great supports for the pipework!


4  Remnants of abandoned projects

By the end of our project, Simon had caught the recycling bug too, and thought this might be an excellent way to award himself yet more points for his ‘Employee of the Month’ scheme.  He found sinks and taps from long forgotten projects (ours and other people’s), and dug out paint and tiles from last year’s great ‘Bathroom to Wetroom Transformation’. The paint that I hate at home looks just right in our WC at Hepworth’s. The old sinks that were left in our unit - previously a hair and beauty salon - were given to someone else equally keen on making good use of old stuff, as was the barber’s chair.  I love chairs, especially quirky ones, but this was one that did not find a place in my heart. Strangely, we found no takers for the pile of human hair clippings left in the corner downstairs….


Old Sofa

5 spoils of skip surfing

New SofaOur 1920s chairs and sofa, now at home on our landing, were rescued from a skip and given a thorough makeover at Academy Upholsterers in Hull. My sister, also a keen upholsterer, was disappointed not to have the space to fill herself with one or two of her many chair restorations. Sorry, Sarah - we could always do what Italian upholsterers do, and hang spare chairs from the ceiling! They’re definitely high enough - the first painter and decorator we had in for a quote turned a whiter shade of pale when he saw the 14 foot stretch from floor to ceiling.

6   Wood and metalwork that the average person would not look at twice

After the removal of some partition walls, we found uses for the plasterboard and timbers, but even I thought it was a step too far when Simon spent ages salvaging and reusing all those screws. I should’ve known he’d take things to the extreme. This ‘Employee of the Month’ thing has become an all-consuming obsession for him. And who can blame him, when he misses the mark for the second month running?



7  Domino Rally!

After the recent Domino Rally held in Hull’s Old Town, a lovely volunteer brought a domino into the Distillery and said, “I saved you one!”  I was a bit baffled, and even for my imagination, repurposing one white breeze block was a stretch. Simon, well and truly in the ‘reuse, recycle, reduce’ zone by now (NO! We only use teabags once, Simon!), immediately claimed it as his own, found another abandoned in a nearby car park, and, by the time our new still arrived, his plan became clear. I even forgave him the thick layer of dust he created sawing the things in two. Just after I’d cleaned up for the night.


 I’m sure this won’t be the last of our great recycling projects, and I’m sure Dad’s workshop/skips/junk shops/eBay will be plundered again for random items. It's not just about saving money, but also finding great new uses for old things and avoiding landfill.  If we can create a talking point, like our Singer sink, or our old Leicester soda siphons, then all the better.

If you have any ideas about things we can recycle, reuse or repurpose, please let us know in the comments below, or if you’ve done any interesting or quirky upcycling yourself, we’d love to hear about it!

And one last thing: the waste botanicals from our stills are bagged up and taken home - they make great compost!

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