It was right here in Whitebirk that the very first traditional fireclay sinks were first made, all the way back in the late 1800s. Centuries later, we’re proud to be the ones continuing this fine Lancashire tradition here at the Whitebirk Sink Company.
The nature of our handmade process creates tiny but distinctive variations between each sink, making every one of them truly unique.
We employ a skilled team of local craftspeople and master artisans here at our Blackburn base, honouring Lancashire’s esteemed manufacturing heritage by using traditional materials and long-established techniques.
Motivated by a tireless passion for their craft, these gifted men and women use their rare talents to keep these traditional methods alive, making each and every fireclay sink a marvel of authentic, specialist manufacturing.
Today, we have the enviable distinction of being the only British-owned company to be making handmade fireclay Belfast sinks. We’re determined to stay worthy of this legacy by handcrafting high quality products that embody flawless aesthetics, solid durability and endless practicality, ensuring they provide our customers with a lifetime of service.
All of our sinks at the Whitebirk Sink Company are handmade by our team of artisans and master craftsmen right here at our factory in Blackburn, in the heart of Lancashire. We take pride in using time-honoured, traditional methods in our manufacturing process, ensuring quality products that provide our customers with a lifetime of service.
We start this process with:
Each different design of the sink is hand modelled in plaster, formed oversize to allow for the natural clay shrinkage that occurs through the production process. From here we make the reverse plaster mould, which will be dried for up to two weeks in dedicated temperature-controlled rooms. This ensures the optimum production performance and dimensional consistency.
We use virgin local clays, giving us an industry-leading level of control over dimensional accuracy and consistency. All materials are tested to (and exceed) British, European and North American standards. Our clay is cast into the preconditioned moulds, tightly packed to a controlled thickness and left to start the drying process. This method has been used for centuries and is tried and tested to offer the best performance specifications and strength.
After between twenty-four and forty-eight hours, the sink is then ‘turned out’ from the mould to continue the drying process.
After the sink has been turned out of the mould, we meticulously hand finish the surfaces with a variety of wooden and metal tools, along with leathers, all to give the required finish. The sinks are then allowed to dry naturally at room temperature for a few days. Then, they’re moved into our large automated humidity controlled drying rooms, to fully remove any residual moisture.
After the sinks have been hand finished and dried, they’re ready to be glazed. This is done in two stages. First, the englobe (a type of undercoat) is applied, then they are given the final coat of glaze. In the case of our mottled finish, complex glazes are required to achieve this beautiful effect. This process takes a three coat application. Now, they’re ready for the kiln.
Now that the slip casting and spraying is complete, the sinks are set on the kiln for a firing process that will take them over 36 hours, reaching temperatures of more than 1180 degrees Celsius. We obtain the beautiful finish by firing at varying temperatures during this time, before the sinks are allowed to cool naturally in the kiln.
Our experienced master craftsmen personally inspect every sink we produce, attesting to its quality, integrity and durability. This allows us to guarantee that all sinks are free from defects, and conform to the standards set out by BS 1206 1974. The nature of the process also means that tiny variations can occur between each individual sink. This means that when you buy a sink from us, you’ll be buying one that is – in its own way – beautifully unique.
Our craftsmen hold a particularly deep rooted passion for their craft. For many of them, it’s a family tradition. Our employees often work alongside siblings, spouses, parents or children, and one of our senior colleagues is even 4th generation, with his great grandfather once having worked in the late 1800s at the original fireclay factory at Whitebirk.