A huge amount of work, skill and ingenuity goes into the creation of every single Richmond kettle. In this Q&A, our founder Graham Tweed sheds light on the genesis of the company, the manufacturing process and what makes Richmonds such special, unique kettles for any kitchen environment.
What’s your background and what inspired you to create the Richmond Kettle Company?
GT: I’ve run manufacturing businesses in metal works for more than 35 years, but I wanted to do something that honoured my ancestors, who produced tea in India. I came across the traditional Edwardian kettle-spinning methods, which haven’t changed for over a century, and I saw an opportunity to combine my family history and traditional skilled British manufacturing. I recruited the most experienced craftsmen available who are skilled in those time-honoured techniques and the Richmond Kettle Company was born.
How long does it take your craftsmen to make one kettle?
GT: It normally takes just over five hours to complete one kettle. That’s because our hand-spinning methods are very labour-intensive, but also because our experts pay incredible attention to detail. All our work is done in our flint barn in the Norfolk countryside in England, which used to house horses but is now the workshop for our metalwork.
How does the manufacturing process start?
GT: We start by hand-tinning each kettle. The parts are cut, stamped, formed, punched and pressed from copper sheets, and these are heated on hot-plates. We then add a flux to the surface before brushing on liquid tin, which binds with the copper to create a robust surface for the kettle’s interior. All this stops untreated copper being oxidised through contact with water, which can seriously harm the taste of your tea…
What happens in the hand-spinning process?
GT: Spinning manipulates the parts into shape using a lathe and various levered tools. The copper discs spin and are gradually put into shape by using the lever tools against a chuck. The reasons hand-spinning has stood the test of time are that craftsmen can feel inconsistencies through working by hand, and because the soft nature of copper makes it difficult to be spun with CNC machines.
After spinning, how are the kettles completed?
GT: The spun parts go through pressing, crimping, cutting and pure grade silver soldering processes, and then undergo three sets of integrity trials before being hand-polished with a polishing wheel. Then all the parts are assembled before more trials, cleaning and polishing takes place. Altogether, there are 80 processes and more than 20 parts involved in making each kettle, and even more for our chrome models which have to be set out to be chrome-plated.
Why is copper such an important material in kettle manufacture?
GT: There are two key properties that make copper ideal for kettles. The first is that it’s a soft metal, which makes it easy for our craftsmen to spin. The second is that copper is highly conductive, which means it heats up very quickly on a stove top and therefore boils the water inside very quickly, too.
What makes Richmond kettles stand out from the crowd?
GT: Their unique whistles! Each Richmond model has its own pitch of whistle that emanates from the reed chamber of the lid as it comes to the boil. Most whistling kettles use a mechanism for their whistles, but we use a ball inside the spout which the steam has to force its way past, which generates the whistle. It’s the kind of traditional British innovation we’re really proud of, and just one of those little touches that make our kettles special.