A R Archer takes its name from my father Anthony Archer. An accomplished and much respected craftsman, he spent many years making furniture before then making the slightly unusual transition to becoming a maker of chess sets. These he sold around the world but, being before the days of the world wide web, getting known was an expensive and far trickier affair than it is today. It was during these years that he learnt the fine turning skills that would later serve him so well as a bobbin maker. He turned his talents to bobbin making in the late 1970’s after a chance enquiry from a customer in his shop. Within three months of making his first wooden bobbin he had to start a waiting list and it was only shortly after this time he embarked on making his first bone bobbin. Within a relatively short period of time the demand for bone bobbins far outstripped that of the wooden bobbins and turning to the exclusive production of bone bobbins the business was in need of an extra pair of hands. It was at this time that my mother Susan Archer joined the business and took on the role of preparing the bone blanks and then painting the engraved bobbins.
By the mid 1980’s there was a waiting list of two years and the only way of hoping to get a bobbin sooner was to find them at one of the half dozen or so lace days they attended every year. I know these were times that both my mother and father thoroughly enjoyed but sadly in 1990 my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness which left him unable to work with almost immediate effect. It was at this time that I stepped into the breach and took on the rather daunting challenge of working to my father’s standards. I had grown up around the tools of his workshop and when I left school I spent many a happy hour being taught the finer points of turning. In the last couple of years of his life he taught me the skill of freehand engraving which, little did we realise then, was rather sadly in the nick of time. We were fortunate that my father was with us for a further year and in this time I also had the benefit of being able to use him as the ultimate quality control for my work. In early 1991 my father died and I carried on the business as a partnership with my mother until the mid 1990’s when she decided it was time to hang up her paint brush and devote more time to her life long passion of gardening.
I now run the business with my wife Vicky who keeps on top of the administration. Over the past 29 years I am proud to say that I have more than doubled the range of bobbins to over 200 designs available in my current catalogue. I like to think that I do justice to the much respected work of my father and follow in his tradition of combining quality with innovative design – not to mention the element of humour that appears in some designs of which I know he would have whole heartedly approved.
Another aspect of the business that has changed is the waiting list. A two year wait was, I felt, an unreasonable amount of time to ask people to be patient so it was with reluctance that we gave up attending lace days and used the time saved to cut the waiting list. This did have a beneficial effect but it was only with the introduction of the Bobbin-a-Month Club in the late nineties that it was really brought down and I’m happy to say that in the last year we have managed to achieve a much more acceptable waiting time(see page 20 of the catalogue).
I hope this brief history of the business is of interest – in recent times I’ve been contacted by a growing number of people seeking to know more due to an increasing level of interest in Archer bobbins on internet auction sites. I thought therefore that this would be a good place to explain how Archer bobbins came about, who my father was and how I fit into the picture. I hope you enjoy this site and if you have any comments or feedback please get in touch.
Tony Archer - Bobbin making Suffolk 1986
My father was keen to get me started early, Norfolk 1968
The inspiration for my Rapunzel bobbin - carved by my father in the early 1980's.
Bobbins that didn't make the cut. It takes practice....!
Just a few pieces from one of my favourite chess sets - alas it was sold in the 1970's
Very early Tony Archer bobbins -probably from the late 1970's - early 1980's