An 18-year-old apprentice who helped land a six-figure business deal, a trainee cabinet maker with a mayoral bench to his name, an innovative mass-market fire door and a previously unsung health and safety hero, have all been recognised in this year’s British Woodworking Federation (BWF) awards ceremony, which took place in November last year and celebrated the passion and expertise that lies at the heart of the UK’s £3.8b woodworking sector.

One of the highlights of the night was the Project of the Year award, which went to an ambitious and beautiful Edwardian home restoration in Oxfordshire, masterminded by Gelder Joinery’s team of just ten people.

The event took place in the grand setting of London’s Drapers’ Hall, where attendees from all over the UK came together to celebrate the woodworking sector’s success and look forward to a jam-packed 2018. Graham Poll, one of the most successful English football referees of all time, provided an entertaining after-dinner speech, referencing the infamous moment he issued three yellow cards at the World Cup final in 2006.

“In a landscape of economic and business uncertainty, there was a real sense of energy and positivity during the evening,” said Iain McIlwee, chief executive of the British Woodworking Federation. “People are genuinely proud to be in the woodworking sector and love what they do. From the many entries we had for the apprentice and trainee awards in particular, there is a sense that we are attracting some great new talent into the industry and offering rewarding career opportunities – something that needs to continue.”

Iain McIlwee continued: “We proudly represent the woodworking and joinery industry; our craft puts us at the heart of UK manufacturing.  We had a record number of entries for this year’s awards and it has reminded us again how outstanding and innovative the talent in the UK is; across both businesses and individuals. It’s fantastic to celebrate the fact that this great industry is continuing to thrive.”

The award winners:

Apprentice of the Year - Sponsored by CITB

Oliver Walker, 18 years old, of Gowercroft Joinery in Derbyshire, who was praised for his workmanship and eye for detail. Oliver’s work on a bespoke window sample for a property in Mayfair led to an order for windows and doors totalling over six figures.

Trainee of the Year - Sponsored by CITB

Matt Brown from Warwickshire College was nominated by his tutor for his initiative and ambition. During his City and Guilds training course, Matt gained a commission to make a mayoral bench for the grounds of Kenilworth Castle, which was highly praised.

Product Design in Wood - Sponsored by Teknos

The team at Morland, based in Powys, Wales, were recognised for the design, innovation and technical excellence on their ABS edgebanded melamine faced FD30 fire doors, beating two other hopefuls shortlisted in the category. The fire door was praised by judges for combining high-end quality with mass market budgets.

Process Efficiency - Sponsored by W18

AJB Group was recognised for its clear thinking and commitment to finding a solution to help drive its business performance and outputs forward. The company has invested heavily in its infrastructure over the past two years – over £2m has gone into new plant machinery, a new factory and various processes, to ensure the business kept ahead in the marketplace.

Health and Safety Hero - Sponsored by Didac

Kevin Claughton, of Cotswold Manufacturing in Stockton-on-Tees, was recognised for his focus and commitment. By reviewing the COSHH arrangements and changes to the way hazardous waste was contained and stored at his business, Kevin was able to make a cost saving of £18k per year. Kevin was instrumental in Cotswold Manufacturing’s move to a new 89,000ft2 factory, and has now trained 96 colleagues on health and safety matters – including the company directors.

Woodworking Project of the Year - Sponsored by Accoya

Gelder Joinery’s restoration of an Edwardian house in Oxfordshire was praised by judges for the project’s beautiful restoration, unparalleled detail and design excellence. In total, Gelder Joinery supplied 32 windows, 12 door sets, three large garage door sets, a summer house with decorative roof structure, a stable block and numerous other items, all from its business of just ten employees.