Commercial vehicles

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As promised, I am starting a new topic, to put in it photographs of my father's signwriting work on lories and vans. Because there are a lot of them and it would be tiresome to post them all separately, I have put them into five collections. If anyone would like to see them in a larger format then PM me with your email address and I will send them on to you.

Hopefully, this thread will promote the placement of other pictures, the older the better, of lorries and vans taken in and around Nottingham bearing the names of firms and businesses.

This selection has a van of G Smalley, florist, Wholesale Market, Nottinghan. Note the rose painted on the side - hand-painted, not a transfer. The Raleigh van is outside NCV on Bulwell Forest; A B Gibson's van is outsde Reg Watson's on Park Lane, Old Basford; Barnips - still going I believe. When the railway stations closed down the pigeon fanciers had to find another maens of getting their birds to the release venue. Consequently, lorries were built with a large number of compartments. The birds were driven to the release point and the side of the lorry opened up for the birds to fly out.



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I have sat for hours years ago watching a chap do that sort of art. For art is what it was I could never work out how they controlled the brushes with the extraordinary long bristles helped only by the stick with the ball of rages or something on the end to rest on the paint work.

Chulla if you have a couple of your father brushes it maybe good to post a pic of them on here so folks would know what I am talking about.

I may be wrong but I have it in my mind they didn't call in sign writing but had another name for it.

The only place you will see something similar these days will be on traditional narrow boats.

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Not in the same league as Chullas dad but I hat a mate who could free hand paint "pin stripes" on cars ! my hands used to shake just watching him do it !

Some very skilled and talented people around in them days.

Keep the photo's coming Chulla, very enjoyable.

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Six more. Top left is Weldon and Wilkinsons; UVAL is a Manchester company; the Players No.6 caravan was, I imagine, to do with travelling sales/promotions; Short's removals were at Kimberley; and George Dominic vans seemed to everywhere as I remember. Never knew what they did

The piece of signwriting above (#9) is very nice, but those hands don't look like signwriter's hands. The brush is the wrong type, and there is no paint on it. His left hand should be holding the marl stick at its left end, with his right hand resting on it about half to three-quarter the way up.

It should be realised that there were many signwriters in times past. Every lorry, van and most (but not all) shops signs were painted. Buses too, but many, such as NCT and others belonging to town corporations, had there titles and coats of arms applied as transfers. Royal warrants were also transfers.



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My dad learned his trade painting Midland General buses at the depot in Langley Mill. He became an excellent sign writer and could also put on pinstripes by hand. For many years I had a tin with his signwriting and pinstriping brushes, sadly long gone. His wrist-rest was probably thrown out when the sold our house in Long Eaton - indeed it was a stick with a ball of rags taped to one end!

In his later years he did paint a few pub signs, but I think they are also long gone. The one I remember best was at "The Anchor" in Kegworth.

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Geo Dominic, hailed from Glaisdale Drive, Bilbrough, general haulage doing a lot of work for Boots. They had a bonded warehouse underneath there premises on Glaisdale, where whisky etc was stored prior to delivery, they also had a London office.

Run a mixed fleet of Bedford TKs & TMs, AEC Mercurys & Mandators, Albions, & at one point had there own HGV driving school with a guy caled Bill Walters as the instructor, who back in the early 70s got me through the test.

Other names that spring to mind were : weasel, Bills brother, Ray Lloyd, Ron Wilson (transport manager) Nobby smith, the Bainbridge brothers, Jack Hamond, Reg Dawson, and quite a few others that escape my memory.

The old man (George) retired & left it in the not so capable hands of he's son Mick, then as they say the rest is history.

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Three more pictures of the Shipstone's dray. All curves and circles were done freehand. View of Reg Watson's coachbuilder premises on Park Lane, Basford. Remember those invalide cars?


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For those interested, here is dad's easel that he used when signwriting at home, sitting on a low stool. His marl stick (also known as a morl stick) is placed on top of easel. I have stuck a sheet of gold leaf on to the lower stave.

I have 48 of his brushes. Below are samples of the different sizes, the smallest being as thin as a whisker. The flat brushes are for painting lines. Some have chamfered ends to their bristles; some are blunt and some are knife-edged to enable thin lines to be painted. The big brushes either side are for stencilling.

The small sign was written for the Nottingham branch of the Midland Counties Aviation Society. We use to meet at the Whitemoor pub.




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Sorry Volly, it wasn't him.

Further to my #21 above; note the long, spade-ended bristles. These were loaded with paint, but not flooded, and the bristles were pressed on to the surface until most of them were in contact. This made it easier to produce a straight line. Note the outline lettering in the MCAS sign. All that was freehand without the thickness of the line varying. A good signwriter, apart from being able to produce neat lettering, has to have flair; the ability to produce a pleasing presentation.

Dad used to write the names of solicitors on their windows. These had the be written in reverse from inside the room. In his decorating he used to grain woodwork, and sometimes marble it.

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