Valley Mill

Trade Secrets: Handcrafting Welsh Slate

September 18, 2015
Welsh slate

Over the past 8 years, Valley Mill has been creating Welsh slate homeware, house signs, memorials and awards for customers all over the world including well known brands such as NATO, CADW, NHS, Red Bull, The National Trust, BAFTA Cymru, NFU Mutual, Marriott Hotels and many more. We are also supplying over 130 shops in the UK – and the list is still growing at a respectable rate.

Part of the reason for this growth is our ongoing approach to process improvement. 8 years ago the company consisted of 1 person and a shed; these days the Valley Mill manufacturing team is housed in a 300 square meter workshop equipped with the right tools and experience to produce a unique range of products, which is constantly growing in popularity.

The other reason for our growth is our loyalty to one of Wales’ great commodities – Welsh Slate. If you don’t know much about Welsh slate, it is the toughest and most durable slate known to man, has very little impurities and when oiled, has a beautiful deep grey colour. Of course, this combination of qualities makes it the perfect choice for homeware.

The slate we use is mined in Blaenau Ffestinniog and is renowned for being the finest in the world; deservedly so. It’s the quality and purity of 500 million year old Welsh slate that sets it apart from alternatives – and in turn, it’s what distinguishes our products from other items on the market. The slate is brought to our workshop in Crynant, south Wales, where we painstakingly hand-cut each piece.

To give you an idea of the process which each piece of Welsh slate goes through before it gets to your home, we’ve put together a step by step guide… You could also take a look at our ‘Handcrafting Welsh slate video’, which gives you a sneak peek into our workshop!

Step 1:

To make any of our Welsh slate homeware products, we must first mark out the desired shape onto the rear of the slate.

Marking slate

With the chipped edge facing down, we then cut up to the line with a hand guillotine.

As the guillotine is cutting through the slate, it creates a rustic chipped edge on the underside. Once the shape is cut out, we then need to check that there are no loose pieces around the chipped edge and tap away any sharp corners.

Cutting slate

For the picture frames, we also need to use a bridge cutter to remove the centre cut out then file the corners with a diamond file.

Step 2:

Once we have our Welsh slate cut to size, we apply a food-safe oil/sealant, which also enhances the colour of the slate. We apply this special oil with our custom-built scrubbing machine, which simultaneously removes any dust spots and any loose bits .

Oiling Slate

Step 3:

The Welsh slate is left to dry overnight. Once the oil is dry we can then finish the products as required. For all tableware we use large 3mm thick natural cork pads on the underside of each piece.

Cork pads

All products are then tied and tagged before being boxed, ready for the customer.

Slate coasters

Of course; once the items are finished we can then engrave any Welsh slate product for a multitude of uses, but that’s another story.

…And that’s when our Welsh slate products find themselves being transported to any number of destinations. Not only do we fulfil orders from our website, we also have a retail shop in Neath where, alongside our own products, we also sell a wide range of gifts and homeware, all made in Wales. Of course.

Have you seen any Valley Mill Welsh slate homeware on your travels?

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