How it all started, what we've acheived and where we are going now...
Having left King Edward VI school aged 16, Simon started at The Dartington Trust owned Staverton Joinery in July 1987. He began his apprenticeship in French Polishing there in 1988. During the three years of his apprenticeship he attended South Devon College to gain Craft and Advanced Craft in painting and decorating, passing with triple distinctions. He completed his apprenticeship in 1991. During the summer months of 1991 he worked for South Hams District Council as a gardener at Follaton House Gardens. In September he attended the first full-time traditional signwriting course at South Devon College and went on to a second year to achieve another set of triple distinctions.
A beautiful Staverton joinery mid century desk in heavyweight teak dating from 1966. It was supplied for the Crown by Staverton for Military or Civil Service use. This example is stamped on the underside 01 1966 Staverton. These desks typically came from a Government office/ Public Service such as Civil Servant Offices, Schools, Railways etc.
While attending his full-time City & Guilds Traditional Signwriting course at South Devon College, Simon set up a very small workshop in his parent’s garden shed to restore furniture for local small businesses and provide a polishing service for local bespoke cabinet makers.
While attending his City & Guilds course at South Devon College, Simon set up a very small workshop in his parent’s garden shed to restore furniture for local small businesses and provide a polishing service for local bespoke cabinet makers.
Matthew Allnut became a very talented French Polisher who stayed with the company for 5 years before becoming a professional BMX and downhill mountain biker, travelling the world competing and later designing specialist mountain bikes.
Will Arscott joins the business as an apprentice restorer, goes on to become our head restorer and stays for 20 years.
Having outgrown the small workshop at Riverside, Simon seized the opportunity to move to larger premises based at Riverford Farm. The new workshops offered much more space, a dedicated office and the potential to create an antiques showroom in the barn next door.
Gilboys Limited is officially incorporated at Companies House
Work was completed on 11th July. The new custom-designed building has a bigger workshop, office, dedicated spray-room, a showroom with a mezzanine level and is all completely solar-powered. For Simon the biggest benefit is being located directly beside the South Devon Steam Railway – as you may have noticed from frequent appearances of the steam trains in the ‘How To’ videos on our YouTube channel.
After many years of restoring and refinishing antique furniture, Simon remained frustrated with the poor quality of the furniture polishes available on the market. As a restorer of fine antique furniture Simon had always taken great care to use traditional techniques and the best natural materials he could find. However, in the highly competitive wood polishes market, manufacturers are constantly looking to reduce costs. This inevitably leads to lower quality ingredients being used. The 'recipe' remains the same, but the quality of the polish declines. So he set about formulating his own beeswax polish using only the very best ingredients he could acquire. His aim being to create the very best beeswax polish he could. Selling the polish, or reducing costs to increase profit could not have been further from his mind. He simply wanted to make the best polish possible for his own restoration work.
When something is so good and everyone says you should be selling it...
So Simon put as much effort into designing a 'whole product' as he did the polish itself. Taking inspiration from Steve Job's obsession with packaging design and ensuring customer delight in opening their purchase, Simon set about creating polishing kits that contain everything you need to polish your furniture like a professional.
He ensured the polish wouldn't dry out by putting it in air-tight containers with an easy-to-open clip-top lid, and to ensure an air-tight seal every time, he chose the Le Parfait jars with their rubber seal. The added benefit is that no-one throws away a Le Parfait jar, because they are so useful.
He included solid beeswax blocks coloured to match the shade of the polish, an old restorer's trick for repairing scratches a dinks. He added ultra-soft '0000' steel wire wool that he was taught to use as the best applicator for beeswax polish and pure cotton open-weave cloth for buffing because he was taught that the open weave allows better heat disipation when buffing. It's the heat from the friction of buffing that melts the beeswax and causes smearing.
Thinking about the bees, Will came up with the idea of including Sweet Pea seeds for the customers to plant and grow by way of a Thank You to the bees for their incredible beeswax. Simon did his research and discovered that Sweet pea flowers will attract especially honey bees, wild bee species and bumble bees in spring, summer and autumn. Sweet peas are rich in nectar and pollen and are ideal plants for every biodiverse garden. They have quite a long flowering period and will bring colour to your surroundings and provide nectar for the bees for a good part of the year.
Last, but far from least, and because Simon understands that a personal touch is incredibly important to customers, EVERY order includes a handwritten personal note to each customer thanking them for choosing the best beeswax polish in the world.
All this was packaged in a custom designed box in black with nothing but the Gilboys logo in gold. No marketing fluff, just a plain black box that was designed to delight the customer upon opening. You can read the customer reviews to see how these basic tennets continue to delight customers to this day: https://gilboys.co.uk/reviews.
Simon recalls his first experience of 'customer delight' as a young boy. Whenever the lemonade lorry would pull up outside his childhood home, the kids would all line up clutching their empty bottles to return and claim their 2½p for each. He remembers distinctly the bottle lids having '2½p BOTTLE DEPOSIT' printed on them.
Le Parfait jars are eminently reusable, and with Gilboys secure packaging there is no reason why a customer could not return their empty jars for a refill. Rather than paying for the jar all over again, it only seems fair that the customer should only pay for the polish within it and the cost of posting it back to them. In this spirit the Gilboys 'Return & Refill' discount scheme was born.
And to further encourage its uptake, we now include a postage-paid returns label in the package.
While exhibiting at the SW Home & Garden show at Exeter Westpoint arena, Tim, the chap training the exhibitors was from Tesla Motors and was extremely impressed with the Gilboy’s story and the attention that was given to even the smallest details when creating the product.
Back at Tesla, the Gilboy's story continued to play on Tim's mind. There were so many elements in the story that paralleled those of Tesla Motors, and how attention to the smallest details is extremely important when selling high-end products. He felt that his own sales teams really needed to hear it first hand from Simon. Tim got straight on the phone and asked Simon if he could come up to the UK headquarters and meet the UK sales team on their training day to talk about the Gilboy’s ethos and illustrate the parallels with the Tesla motors offering.
Customer service is one of Gilboys' foundational tennets. What marketers refer to today as an omnichannel strategy, Simon refers to as giving customers what they want. As an Amazon customer himself, Simon understood that people want to buy on Amazon because of their fast and reliable delivery. Simon quickly signed up to sell on Amazon and the next-day delivery commitments of Amazon Prime. Not long after, Gilboys pure gold was selected as an 'Amazon's Choice' product.
Today Gilboys' products are stocked in Amazon warehouses around the world and the 'Fulfilled by Amazon' scheme allows customers to receive their polish the same day in some cities. We're sure it won't be long before we see our first Gilboys delivery by drone!
Gilboys wins Best Rural Manufacturing Business at the 2018 Rural Business Awards.
Gilboys had been sporadically publishing videos on Youtube since 2009. Most were Simon describing the antiques that were for sale. In 2018 Simon posted an instructional video 'How to Strip and French Polish Wood Furniture'. It was such a success that he decided to make more 'How To' videos. By 2019 it had become such a regular practice that Simon decided to build a dedicated production studio in the workshop.
After months of experimentation and testing, Simon proudly introduced the Gilboys Leather Conditioning Balsam. Crafted with the same dedication and attention to detail as our wood polish, this balsam is a blend of the finest beeswax, natural oils, and essential nutrients that leather craves. It's designed to restore, protect, and give a lasting shine to all your leather goods, from shoes and bags to furniture and car interiors.
Simon started with the same organically-produced and humanely-harvested beeswax from local beekeepers that is triple-filtered and added the finest natural ingredients he possibly could:
Cosmetic-grade lanolin (wool wax) for its excellent emollient properties. It replicates the natural lubrication of animal skin, softening leather, preventing it from drying and allowing the fibres to move smoothly across each other and so reduces abrasive wear. It is both water-retaining and repellent.
T1-grade natural carnauba wax known as the 'queen of waxes' because it is the hardest of all the natural waxes. It provides a crystal-clear, hard-wearing, non-greasy waterproof finish that allows the natural colour of the leather to shine through while locking-in the softening oils and emollients.
Over time the natural tanning oils evaporate out of the hide. The smell of leather comes from these oils. If not replaced, leather will eventually dry out completely and become brittle and crack. So Simon added sweet almond and coconut oils as a pleasant-smelling top-up to the lubricating tanning oils.
Cocoa butter is a natural emollient with great stability. This quality, coupled with natural antioxidants, its velvety texture, pleasant fragrance and emollient properties have made it a popular ingredient in soaps and lotions.
We are grateful to our loyal customers for inspiring this new addition to our product line. Their trust and feedback have been instrumental in our journey, and we are excited to continue serving them with top-quality products that they love and recommend.
All restoration work ceased due to the restrictions on human contact. However during this period we experienced a huge growth in daily sales of our polishes and All the restoration staff were furloughed and Simon had to work solo, 6 days a week making and packing polish.
By the Autumn, due to the high global demand of our polishes we had no capacity in the workshop, it was clear that we could no longer offer our furniture restoration services. Georgie and Jo were drafted-in to help with packing and distribution.
As Gilboys experienced a surge in growth, it became abundantly clear that our expanding operations required a more structured and professional approach. The increasing demand, coupled with our commitment to maintaining the highest standards, meant that we needed someone who could seamlessly oversee our production and distribution channels.
Enter Ian Roblin.
With decades of experience under his belt, Ian's expertise in production and distribution management is unparalleled. His vast knowledge and proven track record made him the perfect fit for Gilboys.
From the moment he joined our team, Ian began implementing strategies that streamlined our processes, ensuring that our products reached our customers efficiently without compromising on quality.
But it's not just his professional acumen that stands out. Ian's passion for the job and his dedication to the Gilboys brand have made him an invaluable member of our family. His warm demeanor and collaborative approach have endeared him to everyone in the team. From the twinkle in his eye and the enthusiasm with which he approaches every challenge, it's safe to say that Ian feels right at home at Gilboys.
And we couldn't be happier to have him onboard and now we can't imagine how we would cope without him!
As we ushered in 2021, it became unmistakably clear that there was a burgeoning demand for our products on Amazon. We noticed a consistent uptick in orders, and feedback from our customers highlighted their desire for even quicker delivery times.
In response to this growing demand and to further enhance the shopping experience for our customers, we made a strategic decision: to send our polishes to Amazon in bulk. This wasn't just about meeting demand; it was about exceeding our customers' expectations.
By partnering closely with Amazon's fulfillment centers, we were able to leverage their extensive distribution network. This move meant that our products were now stocked directly in Amazon's warehouses, both in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. As a result, when a customer placed an order, Amazon could immediately dispatch it, ensuring faster delivery times and a smoother purchasing process.
This initiative not only streamlined our distribution process but also reinforced our commitment to customer satisfaction. We're always looking for ways to better serve our customers, and this was a significant step in that direction.
In the late autumn a BBC researcher called…
A few weeks later our workshop was filled with BBC media people and Simon was having fun demonstrating our polishes to the lovely Cherry Healey.
We’re not sure of the exact date, but we believe we will feature on the BBC’s Inside The Factory early in 2024. We can't say anymore as we are sworn to secrecy..
In 2022 was another year of developing new products to add to the ever popular Gilboys range.
To complement the Youtube video ‘How To Restore The Original Finish On A 17th Century Charles II Oak Coffer’, Simon designed a wood buffing brush as an attachment for a power drill, made from solid Beech with a natural tampico plant brush filling. Tampico, also known as Mexican fibre, is harvested from the lechuguilla plant native to semi-desert areas of Mexico. This versatile fibre can resist temperatures up to 140°C and its fineness makes it ideal for polishing.
Of course it is hand finished in our workshop with our Pure Gold polish and is available via our online store.
Over the years, one of our beeswax suppliers, Neil has kindly gifted us samples of his honey as well as sharing his knowledge and passion about bees and honey. We were shocked to discover that the honey we buy in the supermarket can vary dramatically in terms of its quality, properties and potential benefits, so we started to do some research of our own.
Raw honey contains living nutrients, beneficial bacteria and enzymes which provide all the powerful health benefits of honey. In order to prevent honey from crystallising, processors heat the honey up to 75C/160F. This process delays the crystallisation process, but it also kills every beneficial living nutrient in the honey. Dead honey has no health benefits. It is merely a sugar syrup.
Neil's honey bees collect pollen from clover, bramble, sweet chestnut and bell heather across the beautiful Teign Valley. This honey is gently filtered to remove impurities and then bottled. No heating or processing is involved in the production of this natural raw honey.
At Gilboys our philosophy has always been to deliver the highest quality products to our customers. We decided that this pure raw honey, which has not been processed or altered, which is the purest, highest quality product produced by these hardworking bees would be a perfect addition to the Gilboys range of first-class products.
Availble to buy online now. | Read more about our honey
As many people have seen and heard me say on our Youtube channel. Hard Wax Oil really is an amazing product! In my own world of wood restoration, they have been around for about 10 years. We first came across them when our Interior Design customers specified using it on their very chic furniture that we had been commissioned to finish. I became more and more impressed with the versatility of this product, and I’ll tell you for why..
Back in the 80’s, in the height of my apprenticeship, Staverton Joinery used a melamine based viscous lacquer to finish their government contract furniture.To be effective at its job it had to have a strong acid added to it, along with a very volatile solvent. I spent months and months in a spray room, mixing and spraying this highly toxic finish, often for over 8 hrs a day.
I think the law at the time was to provide us French Polishers with free milk as an antidote to the fumes. This was the 1980’s
The resulting finish was an extremely durable, satin film coating. It was as hard as nails and coated the wood in a satin durable lacquer. You couldn't really feel the grain very much, but it cured much faster than traditional varnishes and although not as beautiful as shellac or french polish, it was far more practical. It was also much tougher than the previously used cellulose finishes, from the 50’s to the 70’s.
Some of you may remember the old fashioned TV’s with a wood surround on them? They were often finished in a cellulose lacquer that looked a bit like french polish. It looked nice at the time but it also required using volatile chemicals to achieve the desired effect; In effect a fake french polished finish.
In the very early 1990’s we tested water based lacquers or ‘water borne’ as they were known as then. I know the drying times have improved since those days and there are good products on the market, but they are still a film coating finish that is not easy to repair. Unlike Hard Wax Oils.
So after years and years of using this melamine A/C Lacquer along with other similar coatings these new finishes arrived. Hard Wax Oil.
Our hard wax oil is a blend of natural oils and waxes carefully blended to make an easy to apply, no apprenticeship needed, hard wearing wood finish. If only we had this finish 40 years ago! It’s incredible.
Once again Simon is found with his white apron on again. During the summer Simon has been carefully testing UV absorbers, similar to that found in sunscreen, to add to the Gilboys range of polishes. Simon has formulated it successfully with our current range of polishes and is awaiting results from Sheffield Hallam University. We hope to have an announcement soon.
In 2022 Curve Media invited us to feature on one their flagship shows. ‘Salvage Hunters’ featuring Drew Pritchard as the Savage Hunter. We had a thoroughly enjoyable time filming. You will be able to see the results of our engagement on the 11th of October 2023.
Initially to be aired on Freeview, channel 12 @ 9pm and later, on Sky, Discovery + and YouTube.
And for the rest of 2023..It looks like we may be moving to new premises and workshop no.4…