If you’re ‘board’ with the bother of fitting PIR insulation on site then an experienced chippie has a device that can make the cut.
As a company, Stephen C. Roberts and Sons is part of that time-honoured building industry tradition of passing a business through the family, and now the eponymous proprietor’s son – also called Stephen – is largely running the Salford-based firm. Indeed, with grandsons Bailey and Henry also now onboard, there are three generations of Roberts’s now wielding a saw on site, and it is a development which has precipitated the emergence of a new building industry invention.
“We’ve been in business since 1979 and I previously focused on a lot of workshop-based joinery,” explains Steve senior. “When my son took over we moved into extensions and working on bespoke house builds, and it was that change brought the R.I.C. Jig into being.”
Like so many on site innovations, it was a device born of the bitter experience of a job that builders would sooner baulk at. “Nobody really likes cutting PIR insulation boards on site because it’s a messy business and there’s dust issues,” he continues. “Even for a moderately-sized extension we’d be making use of about 10 sheets, which typically requires around 60 cuts and, with the marking out and fitting, that’s going to take most of the day.”
When the team of Lancashire tradesmen took on a substantial residential new build job that required the cutting of 120 sheets he decided that there must be a better way – and the result is his rigid insulation cutting R.I.C. Jig. “I actually had the idea a few years prior but never really took it any further,” admits the 68-year-old. “Not relishing the prospect of wrestling with that much PIR, I set to putting together a wooden prototype in my workshop with whatever scraps I had about the place.
“With my invention we were then able to make over a thousand cuts and install all the boards in less than two days – and that’s a huge time saving. In fact, it would have saved the client up to two weeks in labour costs. Not only that, there’s virtually no fine dust produced, and the amount of waste we swept up when we’d finished wouldn’t have filled a bucket, and the only additional tool required is a tape measure.”
Just a couple of weeks later the experienced chippie had the jig invention made in metal to a much more precise specification, but the patent-pending design itself has remained true to the original concept – but just how does it work?
Steve describes the process: “In the first instance it’s a straightforward question of inserting the board into the jig. The R.I.C. Jig is 100mm wide so if, for instance, you’re looking for a 300mm cut, you’d measure 200mm. Then just measure with a tape and mark the board at either end, moving the board into position. The cutting action is made through an integral wire which is simply pulled upwards to make the initial insertion and then through the material. There’s no power source needed, and it’s virtually maintenance-free. All PIR boards are not of the same quality. Those with a flat, straight foil, rather than a wrinkled surface, are easier to cut, but the device will slice through board up to 100mm thick, producing a fast, straight cut with no fine dust, and what you’re left with is a very clean and accurate finish every time.”
Steve’s invention is of such inventive simplicity that at first he thought that there must be something already in existence that works on the same principles, but exhaustive research has proven the originality of his idea. Whilst scaling up the business has been complicated by the restrictions imposed as a result of Covid-19, he believes that it is a tool that should be indispensable to anyone who is regularly cutting insulation board.
“I’ve been selling the jigs we’ve had made so far through a local builders’ merchant,” he concludes. “The feedback has, in fact, been very positive and everyone who’s seen it work has bought one, and a contractor who works on a national basis has also shown interest. The next step is obviously to widen the market, and increase production, and we’re looking for the right partners to help us do that.”
If you want to watch a video of the R.I.C. Insulation Jig in action then visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Es7_MC2Yvo&feature=youtu.be