11. Apprentice’s Hand-made Tools

By Morgan Bell (@CamTechMuseum)

This set of tools was made in Cambridge over sixty years ago by a 16-year-old called Derek Pickett. Derek finely crafted each one by hand during his apprenticeship at Cambridge Instrument Company.

The Company set up its Apprentice Trade School in 1917 to develop the skilled instrument makers it needed. It was very competitive and only accepted boys ‘of the right calibre’. By the time Derek started in 1955, craft apprenticeships lasted five years and included both practical and theoretical training.

The first year was spent learning how to use tools and machines, before each apprentice ultimately created their very own set, like the ones pictured. The standards were high and some apprentices threw tools into the river to hide the evidence when they made a mistake!

Every year the Company would hold an annual children’s Christmas party in which Father Christmas arrived on an exotic form of transport (such as a dragon or a dalek) and gave each child a present. Employees built the transport and made the presents in the months beforehand, some using their hand-made tools.

Derek continued working for Cambridge Instrument Company until 1976 and like other apprentices, he used these tools throughout his career. You can see Derek Pickett’s hand-made tools for yourself on display at Cambridge Museum of Technology.

Image: Author’s own.

Morgan Bell is the Assistant Curator at the Cambridge Museum of Technology.

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