How is the Chimney Balloon made?
The Chimney Balloon is a deceptively complicated product to make. Like all good design, it is simple for the end user, but there are no less than 16 components in it and 38 procedures in the construction of it. Each stage has to be conducted meticulously, so that there are no flaws in the final product.
Where is the Chimney Balloon made?
For many years now, the Chimney Balloon has been made by Watford Sheltered Workshop. They help disabled and disadvantaged people gain workplace skills, develop social contacts, increase their self confidence, and learn how to work with other people, thereby giving them a sense of purpose and dignity. It is a light manufacturing unit that provides a wide range of skills and services.
Versatile manufacturing unit
A visit to the premises is heartening – it is a hive of activity with a fascinating array of products being assembled, packaged, labelled or constructed. Last time I visited, while the Chimney Balloon was being made by the dedicated Balloon team, there were components being welded together for an electrical gadget, toy London Double Decker buses being packaged for a souvenir retailer, insoles being packaged for a large supermarket, and all manner of other products being prepared for customers. I was also interested to see the range of customers Watford Workshop work for, from small companies to supermarket giants.
Work and life skills training
They work with individuals with a wide range of disabilities and disadvantages. Some stay with Watford for many years, while others learn skills and move on to the wider world of work. These skills are not just work related; Watford Workshop also educate people where they need help with independent living. This may be simple things like how to budget, and various aspects of living independently that most of us take for granted but others must learn how to manage. There is a very caring atmosphere, and concern for the workers’ well-being out of work is just as important as within work hours.
Making Chimney Balloon is a skilled job
While watching the employees make the Chimney Balloon I was really impressed with the care and precision applied to every step of the process. They took pride in their work and conducted it effectively and well. To be honest, although the employees are described as having disabilities, in the case of making the Chimney Balloon I would say the have the right abilities. With all due respect to my lovely employees who make the Chimney Sheep in Cumbria, they can have a tendency to go off-piste sometimes, doing things in their own creative way.
It’s good to try new ways of doing things but when you want consistency of product and some of them have labels stuck on at a jaunty angle or stitched a little differently because they think they look better like that, then that’s fine with something like the Chimney Sheep because we put a bit of our personality into the product. But with the Chimney Balloon, it will only work if the people making it stick rigidly to the Standard Operating Procedure. For example, some plastic components come out of the manufacturing mould with a little sharp burr on them – so every single one is checked and filed down if necessary so it won’t puncture the balloon.
Different grade rubber bands are used with each size, so that the Chimney Balloon expands outwards to fill the chimney, rather than upwards, and each size requires a different degree of stretchiness. Sometimes rubber bands have small flaws in them, so every single one has to be checked to be sure that it isn’t faulty. Every stage of the process requires a similar attention to detail, and the workers at Watford Workshop are very diligent in this attention.
We’ll take imitation as a compliment
The Chimney Balloon was the first chimney draught excluder on the market for many years, and since cheap copies have been made abroad it has been harder to compete. The workers at Watford Workshop receive a living wage, and we are proud that the Chimney Balloon Co effectively provides four jobs, but there is an element of responsibility to sell enough balloons to keep their jobs going. In order to do this we need to keep getting the message out there that the Chimney Balloon Co Chimney Balloon is the original, best, safest, and supports an excellent community facility. And of course is an effective chimney blocker!