‘A few things have changed since 1966….’
Before he retired, we spoke to Steve Langton, a toolmaker with Lucy for 53 years, about his long career with the company.
Steve joined as a 16 year old apprentice toolmaker straight from school in 1966. He was one of only four apprentices taken on that year by the company, then called W Lucy & Co. that had a factory making electrical switchgear in Eagle Works, Jericho, Oxford, UK – where the head office of the Lucy Group is still based today.
What was it like when you first started at Lucy?
“I knew nothing about engineering, I had to learn everything – milling, turning, grinding and shaping of metal, all by hand. My first boss, Tony Juniper, was fierce but fair. He had extremely high standards and worked to a motto that toolmakers are ultimately responsible for production standards in many departments because they make the jigs, moulding tools, press tools and fixtures which ensure continuing quality and accuracy. He drummed those standards of work into me and I’ve stuck to them throughout my career.”
What has changed over the years?
“A few things. The physical location. The Oxford factory was redeveloped in 2005 and we moved to Thame, Oxfordshire which was a big change for me as it was a lot further from home. We changed our name to Lucy Electric. Of course there have also been major advances in the use of technology. You don’t need to do everything by hand now – computers have made the job easier – but you still need to programme them correctly, which of course I had to learn. What remains constant is that, however you achieve the end result, accuracy and attention to detail is key. You have to be absolutely precise in interpreting plans and producing the tools or the end product won’t fit together and would be no use at all.’
What’s kept you at Lucy for so long?
“It’s a good working environment and extremely varied. I have learnt many skills, including use of spark erosion that allows an extremely precise shape to be manufactured using electrical discharges with little waste. Every day is different, I never know what challenge is going to arrive at my door and I am constantly problem solving, which I love. I also help people from all over the company which is rewarding. ’
Will you find it strange to stop working?
I’m sure it will be hard to adjust at first but I’m determined that I will. I have a lot of things I want to do – travel to see relatives in Australia for one. And I’m looking forward to not having to get up at 5am every morning.
What would your advice be to those just starting out on their career?
If you put a lot of effort into your job you will get a lot out of it.
Many thanks to Steve for talking to us, we hope he is enjoying retirement.