Railway sleepers wake up to a new life as unique furniture at a mill in West Yorkshire. Piles of the redundant timbers, removed from railways all over Asia and Europe, stand outside Bradley Mills at Greetland, Halifax, awaiting the craftsman’s touch that will transform them into tables, chairs, beds, chests and a host of other exclusive furniture items.
The firm’s name is Jarabosky, but there isn’t actually a ‘Mr Jarabosky.’ The name is actually a combination of ‘Jarrah,’ a type of Australian eucalyptus hardwood, and ‘bosky’, an archaic English word for ‘wooded.’
The man behind the firm is actually a Yorkshireman named Michael Douglas (yes, same name as the film star, but he’s heard all the quips), with a dozen staff including daughter Fiona Robinson, who is in charge of marketing.
The story of Jarabosky began nearly 30 years ago when haulier Mr Douglas visited South Africa.
“I used to be in haulage, and we used to transport fresh flowers for a German company based in Manchester,” he says. “The managing director there used to go to South Africa to see the flower farms, and I went there with him once. We met an ex-Rhodesian couple at Cape Town who were just experimenting with this type of product made out of railway sleepers.
“There were all these hardwoods that were left abandoned, all these exotic species of timber they used on the railways, and when I came back I thought about it and got back in touch with them. I said I didn’t know much about furniture but I liked it. They said could they send a load over, and they sent a 40-ft container full.
“I approached wholesalers but nobody would touch it. They said ‘No you’ll never sell this stuff, there’s no market for it.’ So we started going round all the shows with it and finished up doing nearly 30 shows a year. We did all the major London shows, Scotland, Ireland, even Holland.
“It took us about eight years to get it finally going, then we got approached by big retailers asking if we’d supply them. But I knew what would happen. They just use you until the next new thing, then drop you. So we just sell direct, we don‘t sell to the trade at all. Nearly everything we sell is by word-of-mouth or recommendation.”
There’s plenty to recommend, too. The timeless beauty and elegance of wood is reflected no better than in the unique creations from Jarabosky railway sleeper furniture, recycled in a conscious effort to help preserve the environment.
More than a century ago, the railways ploughed across the vast continents, swallowing up unlimited amounts of precious hardwoods which had been growing and maturing since ancient times. Laid as railway sleepers, these immensely dense timbers were subjected to the full rigours of a sub-tropical climate; nature herself stamping each sleeper with its own individual character.
These scarce hardwoods are likely to be unavailable in the future and will undoubtedly become collectors’ items, which is why every item of furniture bears the famous Jarabosky brand, ensuring authenticity.
Each item of furniture is painstakingly assembled by hand, incorporating the natural imperfections which in turn become cherished possessions and heirlooms for tomorrow. The natural subtle variants of colour ranging from golden yellow through chestnut , deep maroons and near black are only enhanced by the heat and waterproof satin finish which is applied in the final stages of production.
Jarabosky produce durable and timeless furniture of a contemporary design but with a traditional feel, thus having the ability to blend into any environment be it antique or modern.
Jarabosky work on the maxim “Any size, any wood, any finish…Your design” and firmly believe that if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Whatever you need from your furniture, Jarabosky will take your ideas and your design and make it a reality.
From stunning handmade dining suites to exquisitely crafted fire surrounds, Jarabosky artisans have more than 100 years’ combined experience in making the finest quality pieces in a variety of timbers and finishes.
The gallery at Bradley Mills offers a glimpse at the standard of craftsmanship along with the wide range of materials used, such as French oak, jarrah, Rhodesian teak, mukwa and lebombo ironwood.
The Jarabosky range includes beds, headboards, chests of drawers, bookcases, chairs, coffee tables, desks, doors, fire surrounds, hall stands, linen chests, mirrors, staircases, sideboard servers, mantel (fireplace) timbers, down to tea light holders or even up to whole garden sleepers.
Some items may be available directly out of stock, otherwise a timescale will have to be agreed. Jarabosky offer free quotations and surveys and will always give honest and independent advice.
The stock range can be produced larger or smaller, and the client’s own design can be created providing it is compatible with the Jarabosky style. The level of surface character can be stipulated from fine through to heavy.
Jarabosky do not supply the retail trade and have no intention of doing so, as vastly increased production of a hand-made product reduces the quality, which is not an option.
Mr Douglas adds: “We buy nothing in from elsewhere. Everything here is made on the spot. It’s not the type of product you can knock out quickly. We spend a lot of time on it, and it’s a labour of love.”
Visit the showroom at Bradley Mills, Little Bradley, Greetland, Halifax, HX4 8BH, phone 01422 311922, email firstname.lastname@example.org or see the Jarabosky website to view the products and see the exhibition list.