The pipes, the pipes are calling for Maverick

Started as a manufacturer of chanters, Maverick now also offers a sub-contract turning service

Posted on 23 Dec 2018 and read 838 times
The pipes, the pipes are calling for MaverickHaving worked for several years at two of Scotland’s leading manufacturers of bagpipes, Geordie Hunter decided in 2014 that the time was right for him to become his own boss.

Epitomising the ‘one man in a shed’ approach, Mr Hunter started his business — Maverick — in a small industrial unit with a manual lathe, with which he produced practice chanters, an ‘essential accessory’ for any budding or experienced bagpipe player.

While practice chanters are little known outside the bagpipe fraternity, their manufacture is a very competitive market. Mr Hunter knew that his products had to be both different and better if he were to succeed.

An experienced bagpipe player himself, he put his knowledge to good use to create what he regarded as “exceptional chanters”, adding an element of flair by importing multi-coloured wood laminates that give Maverick chanters their distinctive look.

As the only manufacturer of coloured chanters, Maverick’s reputation grew, and sales quickly developed in both the home market and overseas markets — including the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Germany and Denmark.

Mr Hunter said: “When I started Maverick, it was just me and a manual lathe, so I had to sub-contract some of the machining of the metal elements of the chanters.

“That was a disadvantage for me, as suppliers needed minimum orders; it affected my cash-flow and meant keeping stock of products that were still being refined and developed.”

With his level of business increasing, it became obvious to Mr Hunter that further investment would be needed to keep up with demand. In May this year, he bought an SLX 1630 Pro Turn lathe from Burlescombe-based XYZ Machine Tools (www.xyzmachinetools.com).

This immediately enabled him to bring in-house much of the work that had previously been sub-contracted, thereby allowing him to produce what was wanted, when it was wanted — virtually eliminating lead times.

Moreover, buying this lathe allowed him to take on his first employee to help with some of the initial manufacturing processes, such as blocking out the laminate for turning.

Major benefits Mr Hunter said: “One major advantage of the XYZ SLX lathe is the time it gives back to me; it is the equivalent of having another full-time member of staff, but at half the cost.

“The ease of programming of the ProtoTrak control also makes product development much quicker, allowing me to bring new designs to the market sooner; and once I have programmed the machine, I can leave it running while I get on with something else — whether that be product development, sales or hand-finishing the chanters ready for despatch.”

Mr Hunter’s previous CNC experience had been based on G-code programming, so the move to the ProtoTrak conversational control system was straightforward.

“It is really simple to use. Indeed, I can write complicated programs at the control in just minutes, check them with the on-screen 3-D simulation, which I find very accurate, then hit ‘go’.”

The time released by the SLX ProTurn lathe has also allowed Maverick to expand in other markets. With one eye still on manufacturing to the highest standards of quality, Mr Hunter has ‘turned’ to another of his passions and is making components for some of the world’s premium shotgun manufacturers.

“Without the SLX lathe, I couldn’t have developed the business in the way I have. The sub-contract turning that we are now taking on is growing to such an extent that it almost matches the turnover from the chanter business, which is great from a business sense, as we are no longer reliant on a single market.”

The SLX 1630 ProTurn lathe is the most compact machine in the ProTurn range. It has a footprint of just 2,080 x 1,000mm, but a between- centres distance of 760mm and a swing over the bed of 400mm.

The spindle is rated at 5.75kW (150-2,500rev/min) and has a 54mm-diameter spindle bore that allows long work to be machined.

Control is via a ProtoTrak SLX system, which comes with ‘constant surface speed’ capability and Verify solid-model graphics — plus the TRAKing facility.

This allows users to proceed through a program using the hand-wheels to control feed rates; once happy with the program, they simply press ‘cycle start’ for the control to take over.

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