Meet the ‘Cladman’!

Meet the ‘Cladman’!

Been there, done it and now he has got the t-shirt! It’s fair to say that when it comes to all matters to do with cladding, carpenter James Gibbens wears his heart firmly on his sleeves and all places in between.

We caught up with the engaging, self-appointed ‘Cladman’ at a barn renovation in deepest rural West Sussex to hear more about his mission to quite literally provide a helping hand to the nation’s installers of weatherboards and sidings.

Enthuses James, “as a young boy I was always coming up with ideas and dreamed of inventing something that would really have a useful impact on everyday life. However it wasn’t until I settled down with a young child that the brainstorming really began in earnest, essentially to try and provide a better way of life for the family and of course offer some sort of economic safety net against the perils of my profession.

He continues: “It was around this time that a relative asked me to fit a sizeable amount of tongue and groove cladding to his house for which I quoted a price based on my labour. I duly arrived on the day only to find that he had changed his mind and gone for a Cedral cement based board.

on“From past experience I knew that this was essentially now a two man job because of the extra weight and the absence of a T&G to aid support whilst fixing. I either charged for another man or I had to cut my profit, neither of which helped brighten my demeanour of course.

“As they say, necessity really is the mother of invention and from scrap wood I fashioned a rough tool that would support the cladding at one end, with me at the other end and could be moved and fixed easily whilst maintaining a consistent overlap.

“It worked so well that I set about refining the idea with long nights back in my garage adding features and gauging feedback. A prototype was made and taken to sites where my initial ambitions to provide a single man operation for all types of cladding and traditional featheredged boards began to be realised.”

One of the first companies to embrace the concept was Imperial Framing of Haywards Heath which specialises in barn conversions and traditional oak garages and car ports.

“I have to say, first impressions were really positive,” comments joint owner of the business Lewis Gibbs, “James clearly knows his subject and it’s obvious that a good deal of practical experience has gone into the design, which is robust but also lightweight.

“It is easy to use, a simple matter of setting the Cladman to the required board width. There are five points to accommodate popular sizes from 12.5-225mm and thicknesses 8-40mm and deciding on the required overlap which can be anything from 5mm to 85mm.

onlIt is secured by means of two screws whilst a spring loaded stopper holds the board firmly in place. A spirit level is also incorporated for added accuracy of installation.

Adds Lewis, “it means that on jobs like this, one man can be cutting the boards to length and the other fitting. Or with two sets we can both be working on different aspects of the building at the same time.

“It really comes into its own when working at heights and attempting to manoeuver lengths of board into position on your own. The time saving element is important but it’s also a much safer way to work, reducing the chance of boards being dropped or damaged.

“I reckon on a typical barn project like this one it could pay for itself by completion. In fact we’ve already started spreading the word to other guys we know doing similar work. Although on second thoughts perhaps we should be keeping it to ourselves, jokes Lewis.

The last word goes to James, “For now, it’s all about getting the Cladman out there on sites and practically demonstrating to end users how it can impact on their day to day efficiency and profitability.

“We all know the building industry is very conservative by nature and tends to muddle through in the time honoured fashion. However I believe there are always better ways to do pretty much everything and younger people are coming through all the time who are more receptive to change and embracing innovative products like the Cladman.

For giving his fellow tradesmen that all important “edge,” no-one would surely begrudge James if he could “feather” his own nest a little along the way.

Watch the Cladman in action:

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