Canal boat painting is a traditional and painstaking craft and the techniques used for decorative detail, such as roses and landscapes, date back to the Industrial Revolution and have been preserved by boat owners down the years.
A qualified coach painter and respected craftsman, Phil Speight has specialised in the refinishing, signwriting and decoration of traditional British canal boats for 30 years and has now built up a thriving paint supply business to serve that market, as well as the heritage transport and fairground equipment sectors.
Working closely with independent British paintmaker, HMG Paints, he has developed a specialist range of high build coach enamels, undercoats, flat colours, other finishes and primers, which are marketed under the Craftmaster name. Now operating from light industrial premises in Wordsley, West Midlands, although still living on a converted working butty boat on the Stourbridge Canal, Phil Speight and his wife Zita, herself a boat owner for 25 years, have established a company dedicated to the requirements of canal boat livery and traditional coach painting.
They boast a network of 20 Craftmaster Paints stockists around the country, mostly 'canal people' too, and supply thousands of amateur and professional boat painters, as well as new customers like traction engine enthusiasts and roundabout proprietors.
Manchester-based HMG Paints, in partnership with its regional distributor Rapidpaint of Birmingham, provides the manufacturing and technical resources for Craftmaster, including local mixing and tinting facilities and next-day delivery. With its long history of servicing the UK automotive and commercial vehicle finishing and refinishing market, HMG can refine suitable high performance formulations for such applications and offers an unrivalled colour library of classic transport shades. In addition, Rapidpaint employs computerised equipment to achieve accurate shade matching across a broad palette of colours.
Phil first encountered HMG when he became dissatisfied with the quality of paint used previously and looked around for an alternative supplier. He found that HMG Paints alone offered the standard of product, flexibility of supply and willingness to collaborate that he needed and the working relationship has flourished over the past six years, with HMG now producing thousands of litres of Craftmaster paint annually.
"It was the biggest imaginable stroke of luck when we got in touch with them," says Phil. "We're extremely happy working with them, they're easy to talk to and, when I'm looking for a new specialist product to add to the range, I just explain to their technical people what properties we want and they develop it."
For its part, HMG finds the firm refreshing and rewarding to deal with and, thanks to Craftmaster's market experience and hands-on approach to customer care, rarely gets involved in any technical issues. Phil and his long term colleague and former trainee, John Sanderson, have encountered most application challenges in their time and are happy to visit customers' boats and vehicles, offering practical help and advice. As may be imagined, painting canal boats presents its own difficulties, not least the damp, corrosive environment and the fact that working boats are up to 70ft long, while traction engines, wagons, living vans and fairground rides have their particular technical and aesthetic challenges. To achieve a mirror-like gloss finish, Phil applies up to ten coats of Craftmaster primer, undercoat and topcoat, the latter formulated by HMG for outstanding brushability and excellent flow characteristics.
Craftmaster high quality coach enamel is available in twenty traditional shades, as well as 20,000 other formulated colours, and is complemented by a high build undercoat and an anti-corrosive zinc phosphate primer. Amongst other products, there are high build flat colours, for painting 'roses and castles', and a new quick-drying alkyd enamel especially formulated for traction engines and similar classic transport applications.
Craftmaster and HMG are also developing 'flamboyants' and other finishes for fairground equipment, which Phil regards as another growth area. Overall, Craftmaster's market reputation, lifetime experience and distribution structure, combined with HMG's manufacturing, colour matching and R&D skills, represents a winning formula.
Further enquiries to:
Dadford's Bridge Industrial Estate
Telephone 01384 485554
Telephone 0161 205 7631