Do you know about Bolton’s beloved Steeplejack? – Matt

Big Fred Dibnah, the backstreet mechanic himself. Where to start? Well firstly I’d like to say before beginning at Thomas Smith, I’d seen videos of Fred Dibnah, without knowing who he was. I think it might be a generational thing. Given at the time of writing I’m 25 and at the height of Dibnah’s TV popularity, I was learning the alphabet and being told you can’t eat playdoh (it says non-toxic to be fair). I can’t really blame myself for not knowing much about him.

But since my first day here at Thomas Smith Fasteners, I’ve been told various stories and shown multiple videos for Fred’s. His life and career are something which should be more commonly known by the youth of today (myself included). So here we go, the story of Fred Dibnah and why he holds a place in the hearts of Thomas Smith Fasteners and the nation.

The Early Years

Fred Dibnah was born in Bolton on the 29th of April 1938 to Frank and Betsy Dibnah. A normal working-class Bolton lad, Fred developed a love for steam engines from a young age. He also was fascinated by chimneys and the people working on them. He became a joiner and then his most known role a steeplejack. A reyt northerner with his northern routes. He was quoted to say “them fancy London types don’t know the pleasure of eating Fish and Chips with their fingers”. And he’s right, they’ve got nowt moist in them chippies.

Fearless Fred Dibnah

So after serving two years in the military, Fred became a steeplejack. He began with the aim of saving as many chimney’s as possible. Now when we discuss these chimneys, we aren’t talking about the ones on top of your house. We’re talking industrial chimneys, the highest in the UK being 850ft at Drax Power Station erected in 1969. That’s roughly 2 and a half times the size of the shard or 7 times The Statue of Liberty. Fred definitely wasn’t scared of heights and often bemoaned health and safety procedure demonstrating his fearlessness even more.

Fred chose his profession to “preserve chimneys, however finished up knocking most of them down”. The sheer bottle Fred Dibnah had in the video below is mind-blowing, he looks over his shoulder almost as if certain death isn’t there. And the most scary bit he’s laughing while he runs away. Fair play to the guy but there’s no chance I’d be laughing. I’d probably have a heart attack. Bafflingly he was only ever injured once, falling off of a stepladder whilst decorating.

Chimney Destruction

Dibnahs’ Love of British Industry

Fred became known across the country as a steeplejack when he was featured on the BBC in 1979. Tasked with demolishing a chimney brick by brick with very little safety equipment. Fred not only loved being a steeplejack, he loved British Industry.

His love of steam and engines was widely coveted across the BBC, where he made documentaries about British Industry. Enamored by steam engines, he purchased his first engine an Aveling and Porter steam roller for £175. Dibnah began his restoration work having to make many of the parts himself. He would then take this to steam fairs across the country with his family in tow.

His love of steam, rail and all things industry was palpable. So when the BBC were looking to make documentaries on British Industry, who better then the enigmatic Fred Dibnah. His eccentricity and passion is felt throughout his TV career when discussing all matters in the field.

So where does Thomas Smith Fasteners fit in?

Well I’ll tell you. As detailed in a blog post from December 2020, Fred Dibnah visited our Atherton factory on the road to pick up his lifetime achievement award. He was given the grand tour of our Atherton factory, beginning in the offices, before visiting the production line and warehouse.

Fred often visited us for his engine parts and a brew. He used our services as we provided specials that were and still are hard to get your hands on. Well, that and the brews. He was popular amongst our staff with his natural charisma and love for the industrial age. Following his visit to our factory where he was supplied with all the goods he needed, Fred headed to London to pick up his lifetime achievement award. Fred proudly displayed his honorary degrees from both Aberdeen and Birmingham, whilst also receiving an MBE from Queen Elizabeth II.

Fred’s Visit to Thomas Smith Fasteners

In Memoriam

Fred sadly passed away on the 6th of November 2004, he is fondly remembered for his work as a steeplejack, backstreet mechanic and TV personality. His work is honored by the Fred Dibnah foundation in Bolton, as well as his very own statue on Bolton’s, Oxford Street. Whether remembered for his fearlessness, charisma or love of steam engines, he showed the world what British Industry is all about.

For more information on Fred’s life and journey visit The Fred Dibnah Foundation.

Fred Dibnah (1938 – 2004)

Where do Fasteners get used? – Matt

As stated in my previous article I’m new to the fastener world. I couldn’t even imagine all the different uses fasteners have. I used to think, very naively, that nuts and bolts weren’t used that frequently. Now, I understand nuts and bolts are everywhere. Thinking back about my previous job, I’ve realized how many nuts and bolts we used to use without even thinking about it, and that was working in retail. So, if you’re interested in the weird and wonderful areas our fasteners get used you’ve come to the right place.


Right let’s get the obvious out of the way. Fasteners are used in construction. Here at Thomas Smith Fasteners in Hindley Green our outside wall is lined with steel attached by Fasteners. It’s taken me three weeks to notice it but once you start seeing Fasteners you see them everywhere. It’s the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, once you see or hear something for the first time you see it everywhere. Now when I’m out and about I feel like all I see is fasteners. Walking down the street and see a road sign, how’s it secured? With a fastener, above it there’s a team working on scaffolding, how’s it held together? Fasteners. I’ve started to realize how much work our products do and it’s amazing.

Classic Cars

Okay, we’ve spoken about construction now lets have some fun. Be it a Bentley or Beamer, a Rolls Royce or a Rover, they’re absolutely filled to the brim with Fasteners. All the fancy upholstery is held together with fasteners, the engine is held together by fasteners, fly wheel bolts without them you’re in trouble and yet again they’re made with fasteners. Using fasteners from Thomas Smith Fasteners, our director Tim restored a Classic Ferrari 365-GTC4 and plenty of other Classic Car enthusiasts continue do the same. To illustrate this point I have linked a YouTube video below by Powernation whereby they built a car with a drill, pop rivets and black spray paint. Fasteners helping Lewis Hamilton to 7 formula one titles and helping me to pass my MOT.

Powernation – Drill, Pop Rivets and Paint
Ferrari Restoration

Heritage Rail

So as a child my favourite toys were part of my train set, probably until being around 4 years old. I was obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine as a little kid and Thomas used to fly round those tracks but how did he do it?

You guessed it, Fasteners. Fasteners are a key component in Heritage Rail keeping our steam engines going in the modern day. Each summer a massive tourist attraction for the family can be found on Britain’s railways. And here at Thomas Smith Fasteners we provide the specials that keep those trains going. Whether their used to reattach a buffer or a smokebox, fasteners hold them together. Thomas gets his restoration from Thomas Smith Fasteners, I suppose that’s how he looks younger in 2023 than he did in the 80’s.

Thomas’s New Look


Do you feel the need, the need for speed? Well your going to need plenty of fasteners if you want to beat Goose in a race. Yes, fasteners yet again help get your aircrafts into the sky. Next time you get a flight have a look down the wing of the plane it’s fasteners galore. They basically hold the entire aircraft together, from doors to wings, without your fasteners your flight to Alicante won’t be going very far. Without the fasteners holding everything together it’d all just be parts, like a guitar without strings. You’ve got your bolts, nuts, screws and rivets that are responsible for your safety and also to make sure you can enjoy your holidays. What’s the alternative take a boat?

Highway to the Fastener Zone


You think you don’t need fasteners on a boat, think again. Boats are held together by Fasteners as well. From the port to the starboard, your fasteners keep you afloat as you sail the seven seas. You tend to find a lot of stainless steel fasteners are use in the Maritime industry due to their corrosion resistance. As seen previously on our blog we recently helped to renovate the anti-aircraft mount on the HMS Belfast, using 1/2 BSW x 3/4 Slot Raised. Now permanently docked on the Thames as part of the Imperial War Museum, our fasteners have given the HMS Belfast a new lease of life, and stopped it’s anti-aircraft mount from falling off. This also only scratches the surface of the fasteners that can be found on all 9 floors of the HMS Belfast.

HMS Belfast Restoration


So what have we learned today? Well, fasteners are absolutely everywhere and I’ve not even scratched the surface here. We’ve covered almost every mode of transport aside from Shanks’s pony and found they all use fasteners in some way, shape or form. And the best bit of all, here at Thomas Smith Fasteners we have the capability to make specials meaning if you’re struggling to find an imperial bolt we’ve more chance of finding it than most high-street options. So if you’re looking to give your classic car a new lease of life or going away on a long-haul flight, you can thank your fasteners and shop at Thomas Smith Fasteners.

Thanks for reading,


Meet The Thomas Smith Fasteners Squad – Matt

TSF staff at counter

I’ve arrived into the world of fasteners this year with a gleam in my eye and a spring in my step. I’ve got a lot to learn, but as I had been told before taking this role, my team is incredibly experienced and will get me up to speed. They’re doing a great job so far, they’ve helped me to learn at a fast-pace and I think it’s about time for you to get to know them.


First of all we have Gary, our Sales Manager. Gary has spent the last 30 years here at Thomas Smith Fasteners starting at the age of 16, as part of our progressing department. As described by Gary he, “left school on the Friday, and started working on the Monday”. Starting off in our progressing department chasing orders, then becoming part of our export sales team. Gary then progressed on to Assistant Manager before then becoming Manager a position he has held since 2004.

Gary stated that, “Watching the business grow from being a local supplier to becoming a UK and global supplier is what I’m most proud of”.

Outside of work Gary is a keen athlete being a member of a running club and runs on his lunch breaks at work (possibly to get away from me and Sue) no matter what the weather, true commitment. He also enjoys his time socializing with friends and family. Gary also loves travelling, visiting various cities around the world such as Las Vegas which included a once in a lifetime opportunity to see Canelo Álvarez fight Daniel Jacobs at the T-Mobile Arena. Gary is also an avid football fan, supporting Manchester United.

Given that I adore media I’ve asked this question to everyone, Gary’s favourite film came down to two options, his standout Frank Darabont and Steven King’s masterful, “The Shawshank Redemption” starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. When asked why, Gary stated “The characters are excellent and the story of an innocent man being sent to prison to then his eventual escape is excellent”. His alternative pick was Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas”, due to it’s cast of Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta.


Suzanne, the one who’s always laughing. She has worked for the business since she turned 16, so she’s been here for 10 years (you better appreciate that line Suzanne). Nicknamed either Tinny or Trouble by other members of the team Suzanne is proficient in the workplace.

Suzanne said, “My favourite moment in my time at Thomas Smith was moving from the old workplace in Atherton to the new state of the art factory in Hindley Green”. Now when asked whether this was due to it being 20 minutes closer to Hindley Green or the increase in what the business could manufacture, declining to comment.

Suzanne’s main hobbies include socializing with friends whether that be for food or for drinks around her local Hindley Green residences. She’s also a fan of travelling to anywhere with a bit of sun with her summer holiday already booked for this year.

Suzanne’s favourite film is Tony Scott’s “Crimson Tide” starring Gene Hackman and the legendary Denzel Washington. When asked why this is her favourite film, she stated “It (Crimson Tide) has always resonated with me and I think the performances are superb”.


John, has been with Thomas Smith Fasteners for 38 and a half years and currently holds the title of warehouse manager. He keeps the team organized and makes sure our orders are completed and dispatched on time. John also runs the trade counter here at Thomas Smith Fasteners. He is the first point of contact for customers who are looking to identify a product that they need.

His proudest moment since arriving at Thomas Smith Fasteners is marrying his wife, Sandra (good choice John).

Outside of work John spent years competing in various events, including running, triathlons as well as completing the Iron Man race. Consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride and finished with a 26.22 mile run. Basically if John tells it’s Tuesday, no matter what day it is, it’s Tuesday. He also enjoys relaxing with his wife who supported him through all his athletic accomplishments.

Finally, John’s favourite film is an 80’s classic, the Tom Cruise epic that is “Top Gun”. Filled to the brim with action and drama, it’s John’s favourite film. He stated, “I can watch it anytime and never get bored, I must’ve seen it over 50 times”.

Little Rammy

Little Rammy, has been with Thomas Smith Fasteners for almost 20 years and within that time has worked in virtually every department. Whether that be in the manufacturing team where he used to work in the cutting department and has now joined us in our warehouse team.

Rami ranks joining the warehouse as his best moment of working here. He finds it to be his favourite place he works within the business, and there’s been a lot.

Outside of work, Rammy is devoted to his football team, League One Playoff contenders (at time of writing) Bolton Wanderers. If there’s one thing I wouldn’t want to do on the weekend after a hard week at work it’s watch Bolton, but someone’s got to support them I suppose. Through the good times and the mostly bad times Little Rammy keeps supporting The Trotters, well after many would’ve thrown in the towel. (In case you’re wondering I support Wigan and have been given free agency to write about Bolton Wanderers. that’s an open goal even Stuart Holden couldn’t miss, and he missed half his career through injury). Rammy also enjoys getting his head down after a shift and going for a sleep, me too Rammy, me too.

Rammy’s favourite film is the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence buddy cop film “Bad Boys 2”. His reason being he loves the action and the comedy, stating “it’s a great film and I can re-watch it without getting bored”. And who can blame him, the “You wanna date my daughter?” scene is hilarious.


So I thought I’d leave myself until last as I don’t like to talk about myself (I’m lying). But also as I’m the newest addition to the team starting January 2023. I spent 3 years studying English Language at Edge Hill University and whilst there began working in retail for O2. Whereby I progressed from part-time sales to Manager over the course of 7 years departing on New Years Eve 2022. Starting at Thomas Smith Fasteners at the beginning of 2023.

Outside of work, my hobbies are playing football and going to the gym but my biggest passion is music. Since 2019 I’ve been writing and performing music in Rivver, a particular highlight being playing Wigan Athletics’ Party in the Park 2022 to a crowd of around 2000 people and being on stage with the League One trophy. (Take that one Rammy).

My favourite film is a tough one as I love both film and TV. For myself I’m bending the rules and I’m picking a TV show. Phoenix Nights is by far the best TV show ever to air. If you don’t find it funny you’re only lying to yourself. Endlessly quotable and with the entire cast all on top form throughout for me it’s the best hangover cure. “Hey toilet-mouth! There’s a child’s bike outside!”, to me, Phoenix Nights will never not be funny.

How it’s done – How I went from Blank to Part-Thread on Bolt Making Knowledge by Matt

To begin this post, I would first like to state that I’m new to the Fastener world, but being located at Thomas Smith Fasteners I am learning a lot in a very short space of time. One of the main benefits of being situated at Thomas Smith Fasteners is our manufacturer Smith Bullough being located on site. This has allowed me to understand very quickly what we sell here at Thomas Smith and how it’s manufactured. So to avoid basic copyright infringement, we’re showing ‘How it’s Made’, but calling it ‘How it’s Done’.

Hexagon Head Bolt Zinc Plated

How much work goes into making a bolt?

Now, I’ll openly admit that less than two weeks ago, I didn’t have a clue where to start with making fasteners, in fact I said as much in my interview. My point being I just never really thought about it. It was a question I didn’t to know the answer to, like ‘why does a pizza come in a square box?’ (If anyone has the answer send me a DM).

I was going in blind. So I decided to do what anyone in a new job does, ask the bosses a million questions and hope they don’t get sick of answering them.

These questions, led to a tour of the factory, at which point I could see how our fasteners begin to take shape. I entered the factory at Smith Bullough, with the finished product in hand to watch ‘How it’s done’ (Discovery+ aren’t catching on, I hope).

Stage One – A Really Big Saw

We need to cut down our steel rod to size for manufacturing, given that we make both metric and imperial sizes, these can range massively. The team ensure that we have the right length to and then cut down to the right size with the Addison CB250A. When I say it’s a big saw, that kind of undersells it, it cuts through steel like a knife through butter, seriously impressive. I stood back about fifteen yards just in case.

Addison CB250A (The Big Saw)

Stage Two – Fire and Brimstone

Through the fire and flames (kind of). This is where we enter the forge, our pins are heated using an induction heater. They can range anywhere between 1,500 and 2000 degrees, and then are pulled out smoking like Pat Butcher on an EastEnders Christmas Special. The pin is then forged into a hexagon blank by being bit by the forge hammer. It’s at this point everything begins to look as you’d expect as the bolt is trimmed and set aside to cool down. I stood back around 20 yards for this one, and that felt like the Costa del Sol.

The Smoking Bolt (Pat Butcher)

Stage Three – Big Wheels Keep On Turning

Onto my favourite part. We have our blank and we now need to add the thread. But first we need to chamfer our budding bolt to be. Adding a smooth edge to end of our bolt by applying a lubricant and then filing away the rough edges using a spinning wheel. Following the chamfer process, we enter the area of hypnosis, cut threads. I’ll be honest, I could watch this process all day and not get bored, if Netflix were to come down and film thread cutting for a 20 episode series, they could double my monthly subscription and I’d happily pay just to watch ‘Wednesday’, ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Cut Threads’. Again using a lubricant and put through a spinning wheel the thread is cut into the bolt. Hypnotic.

Stage Four – The Final Bells and Whistles

Finally now our threads been cut we’re onto the final countdown our piece of steel’s been burnt, battered and cut and is now going to get cleaned up before we send it out into the big leagues. The first stage of this comes from thread rolling smoothening up those edges before we hit the CNC machine to get its final bit of pampering. We get a machine shank, and then a bit more chamfering to make it neat and tidy before one final bit of form threading then bang, you’ve got a bolt.

Now it’s done

So our bolt’s now made and ready to be used, well aside from quality control but we’ll chat about them another time. And as much as it’s probably took about 5 minutes to read this in that time our team have probably made 15 more bolts to go with the one you’ve just read about. Whether is be metric or imperial our teams have got it covered. For any enquiries contact Thomas Smith Fasteners.

And if Netflix want my ‘Thread Cut Hypnosis’ TV idea they can drop me an email, thanks for reading.