Then again, that’s all just another day at work for the folks at Fitzpatricks UK.
An East Lancashire-based sheet metal fabricator which specialises in state-of-the-art coded welding techniques and laser-cutting, Fitzpatricks UK supplies a wide range of high-tech industries, including architectural fabrication, aerospace, and oil and gas.
“I started off working in welding and fabrication after school then, years later, I set up Fitzpatricks UK and I’ve managed it for over 20 years,” says CEO Mark Fitzpatrick. “The company started as a one-man-band in a friend’s garage and now we have 32 staff working on a 30,000-ft site.”
Away from heavy industry, the company has recently been doing something slightly different, working on a 12-foot metal sculpture of a pilot during the Battle of Britain for the RAF Benevolent Fund garden due to be unveiled at next week’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
The four-metre pilot will be constructed out of 223 layers of laser-cut, marine-grade stainless steel, with the stunning piece set to be the main feature of the garden, itself created by the Chorley-based award-winning garden designer John Everiss.
“I’ve done bits and bobs for John locally for several years now, he contacted me originally as he wanted some laser parts and metal work for one of his gardens,” says Mark. “Occasionally he rings for some advice as he always has a new creation on the go.
“He started by asking ‘is [the pilot sculpture] even possible?’ We went through a phase discussing possibilities, and eventually John talked me into it!” he adds. “Our company motto is ‘great things are only possible through outrageous requests’.
“We made a scale model about eight months ago, so we knew that it would definitely work. We have two people working on the sculpture and on the manufacturing side - everyone wants to do a bit and it feels amazing to be involved in such a significant project.”
Boasting an incredible amount of detail down to every crease and fold of the clothing and equipment, the sculpture has been the main focus of attention for Fitzpatricks for the past two years and weighs over three tons.
“We’ve built scaffolding and shelter to do the upper half as it’s too big to fit in the warehouse!” Mark says. “The pricing changes for stainless steel have been crazy, too: John bought the metal back in 2021 but now it’s doubled in price. We’re very lucky John thought ahead.
“The garden has such a powerful story and we’re proud that we’re able to help tell it,” he continues. “Honestly, it feels like we’ve made it, it’s very special. It’s so significant to see it materialise from our initial discussion to actually having the 12ft sculpture in front of you.
“It’s great to help raise awareness of the RAF Benevolent Fund and the sacrifices WWII veterans made.”