History & Heritage

Castle Precision 1950s

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The history of Castle Precision starts with its founder Jack Tiefenbrun. He was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1921, moving to a farm outside Vienna, Austria, when he was 5. He left Europe before the outbreak of war and arrived in the UK in 1938, at the age of 17.

Jack completed a part time engineering qualification at college and had his first job in the textile industry maintaining large knitting looms and machinery. It was here that Jack developed his talent for machine tool design. At age 30 Jack started his own company. Castle was established in 1951 as the Textile Engineering Company and serviced a diverse range of customers; the main one being the Singer Sewing Machine Company based in Glasgow on the River Clyde.

Top Row Left To Right: Matt Tennant, Pat Morgan, John Carroll, Brian Collins, Unknown Scrimgeour, Joe Turnbull, Harry Young, Charlie Devennie, John Morgan.

Bottom Row Left To Right: Harbans Singh, Mr J Y Tiefenbrun, Henry Flood, Mohammed Zahoor.

Many of the completed parts in the early days would be loaded into Jack’s bike basket and delivered by hand to the customer.

At the time Singer employed 10,000 people and was one of many significant Clydeside industries that supported a wealth of engineering shops across Glasgow.

Textile Engineering Co. provided jigs, tools, fixtures and press tools. Early growth saw diversification from dependence on textile machinery to more general subcontract engineering, as well as tool making and special purpose machinery.

In 1954 Jack Tiefenbrun took on the company’s first apprentice, John Carroll. This was to set a precedent and an ongoing commitment to training within Castle Precision.

In these early days, a lack of resources was counterbalanced with ingenuity, forming the basis of very high skill levels within the company.

After its first year, Textile Engineering moved from Kidston Street to a snooker hall in the Gorbals down Old Rutherglen Road. For the first few years they even kept some of the snooker tables.

The Textile Engineering Co. Machinery Manufacturers.

Castle Precision 1960s

By the 1960s the company had increased its main customer base, moving into different sectors, but still providing the same tool making service, with the addition of special purpose machinery and prototypes.

In 1963 the company moved location to new purpose built premises in Castlemilk and started trading nder the name Castle Precision Engineering (Glasgow)Ltd.

Despite the absence of CNC, the components were of a very accurate nature and resulted in Castle buying some of the most accurate machinery available during that period; including the Swiss built, SIP jig grinding and jig boring machines. The jig borer cost over £100,000; a vast sum of money at the time.

Apart from Singer, Castle had around 300 customers. In 1964 the company broke the £1m turnover barrier and at the tool-making peak of the ‘60s, the company employed 30 people.

There were hundreds of engineering shops around Glasgow and good tradesman would often move from one to the other in search of top rate. Castle was a hard place to work, but it was also the best payer with the best work.

In 1968 the first toolroom extension was built to house new lathe and heavy milling machines. It later took other machines, but was often an eclectic mix.

The original toolroom was 9000 sq ft. In these days toolmakers were the best of the best; skilled in turning, milling, grinding and jig boring. These highly respected men often wore a shirt and tie under their overalls. Right to left: Willie Whitehouse and George Barclay.

A bandaging machine designed by Mr Jack, it brought together the various constituents of the bandage, sealed it within the packaging and parted it off.

Left to right: John Cameron, Mr Jack and Edgar Clumpus assessing a finished special purpose machine tool designed for a customer.

The Ford Zodiac MkIII above was Mr Jack’s car. At the time, the only car on the street.

There are many theories behind the why’s of white coats in a factory. One theory is that Mr Jack considered Castle to be specialists, the best in the field and the white lab coats reflected this.

Castle Precision 1970s

Triggered by the arrival of the first CNC machinery, the main customer base grew and for the first time moved into aerospace and production work. Power presses and press tools also became a significant part of business during this period.

In 1970, Castle did its very first job for Rolls-Royce; the early days were predominantly jig and fixture work, but the company also produced prototypes, such as the blades for the RB211 engine.

The company was a very early adopter of new technology, with some of the first NC and CNC machines in the UK. In 1971, Castle took delivery of the first NC Mazak Yamazaki pegboard lathe and would have also had the first CNC Mori-Seiki in the UK had it not already been bought off the stand at an exhibition.

During this period Castle bought the rights from King Aircraft to manufacture aircraft filler cap assemblies.

In 1973 Linn Hi-Fi was founded as an offshoot of Castle. Utilising the skills on the shopfloor, Castle produced the first Linn turntables. The company ground the drive belts, produced the patented bearings, stamped and pressed top plates and completed final assembly of the first LP12.

The iconic and world renowned Linn LP-12 (Long Player 12 Inch) featured a number of patented innovations designed and manufactured by company founder Jack Tiefenbrun.

An overview of some of the smaller ore intricate parts machined and pressed by Castle in the 1970s.

Castle draftsman designed the press tool dies, manufactured the dies and pressed the components. The dies were extremely intricate and complex; all drawn and calculated longhand.

At this time several different companies owned or occupied the various Drakemire Drive buildings including Castle, Bata Shoes, Linn Hi-Fi, House of Lawrie Bagpipes and Parazone Chemicals.

Castle Precision 1980s

The company fully embraced CNC and with the arrival of larger equipment started moving into heavy industry and oil work. The electronics industry also came to the fore, with much of the tool making origins of the company being replaced by production work.

In 1980, the 241 extension was built adding 9000 sq ft to the factory. The section was built to house the two Herbert Devlieg’s and Kearns Richards 125 boring machines. The Kearns had one of the largest capacities of any machine in Castle’s history with a 2m table capable of taking 6 tonnes. An incredibly versatile machine
with interchangeable heads, it was
often used for specials and one offs.

The section also housed a row
of Matchmaker and Bridgeport
milling machines.
These machines were

always busy making small components such as the cash gate machines for Honeywell and lids for Marconi which made up the early cylindrical phones used by the army. This was the training ground for our early CNC setters. Programming of these machines was done longhand using trigonometry to work out the toolpaths and often 10 to 1 drawings of pockets and cutters to determine code. The code was then hand written and punched out to produce the CNC tape. Even to this day we sometimes refer to the CNC code as the tape.

In 1986 the company’s founder, Jack Tiefenbrun passed away. A born engineer and a gentleman in every sense, he was fondly known and will be remembered as Mr Jack.

In 1986 Leah Tiefenbrun took over Castle with much of the day to day running of the company being left to Edgar Clumpas and Alex Skinner. It would not be until 1993 that the next generation would pick up the reins.

In 1983 Castle became one of the first engineering companies in Scotland to be awarded BS5750, later ISO 9002. The company was always an early adopter of new higher standards and still is to this day.

Through the 1980s, Castle subcontracted for industry leading companies including: IBM, Compaq, Caterpillar and Kamatsu as well as being involved in major projects like Haysham & Torness nuclear power stations.

Castle Precision 1990s

The 1990s marked an era where the electronic and oil sectors made up a significant portion of Castle’s turnover.

During this period, Castle also started work for Wyman Gordon, machining shafts and discs to the pre sonic stage. These parts would be finished by the customer and in later years by Castle itself. This was Castle’s introduction into mainstream machining of exotic alloys for the aerospace industry.

In 1993 Marcus Tiefenbrun was appointed as the managing director of Castle. At the time Castle was a very technically strong, traditional west of Scotland engineering company, but without clear leadership to drive the company forward. Marcus focused on removing

the non-performing assets, and spent a large proportion of his first two years training and modernising the culture.

The company was also in need of an IT system. Having investigated the market extensively, the new managing director came to the conclusion that there was nothing worthwhile out there and that Castle would build its own.

Serious work on the system started in 1999. The general consensus was that it couldn’t be done. Within ten years Castle had one of the foremost production control IT systems in the world.

William Greenwood training a young apprentice Ross Cornet. Castle has had apprentices since 1954 becoming an officially recognised and approved EMTA training centre in 1997.

Castle has a long history of working on defence programmes with the MOD & Marconi. Over the years Castle has been involved in Radar Systems, Artillery Systems, Laser Defence and Targeting Systems, Torpedo’s and Missile Programmes.

An excerpt from Castle’s 1990s brochure featuring Castle’s Aerospace and Automotive solutions. Aerospace production had arrived but during this period the Oil and Automotive industries accounted for a largest proportion of Castle’s turnover.

An iconic image of a Rolls-Royce Tay Aero Engine fan disk. This was the first fan disk manufactured by Castle representing a major leap in the Aerospace sector for the Company. The Tay family was used a number of airliners and large business jets.

Castle Precision early 2000s

The early 2000s marked a continued consolidation, more strategic and demanding customers and a dominance in production and aerospace. The consolidation focused on the most demanding sectors and customers, in alignment with the company’s mission at the time.

At the turn of the millennium the company employed 91 people, turned over £4.4m and occupied 40,000 sq ft. By the end of the decade, the company had increased its turnover by over 300% to £14.4m, employing 150 people and occupying almost 90,000 sq ft.

The company’s growth was driven by an ambitious investment and sector strategy. During the 2001 recession,

Castle invested £2m in plant and machinery in preparation for the upturn, whilst also beginning its pursuit of the Aerospace Quality Standard AS9100, which it received in 2006. The new standard set the future of the company and moved Castle heavily into the aerospace sector. By 2009 Castle was more than 70% aerospace.

During this period the company made a complete move from 2D model CAD/CAM to full 3D modelling and simulation. The move was shortly followed by complete verification simulation, allowing the engineers to simulate highly complex processes in a virtual environment for the first time.

An early image of Castle’s first 211 facility opened in 2001. The image above shows this new machining centre shop taking delivery of the company’s new flagship machine, the Mori-Seiki SH-8000.

Former Engineering Works Manager (left) Alex Skinner photographed alongside Head of Engineering Development Alan Perry. Alex joined Castle in 1968 from King Aircraft as a young draftsman. He would later become one of the most influential figures in the company’s history, and one of the finest manufacturing engineers in the country, serving 41 years in the company. Alex retired April 2009.

Managing Director Marcus Tiefenbrun set the strategic direction and vision for Castle, a unique and outspoken leader, arcus Tiefenbrun would later be nominated and shortlisted for Entrepreneur of The Year at the annual Scottish Business Awards.

Quality Engineer Robert Thompson photographed operating a CMM.

Castle taking delivery of one of several Mori-Seiki SL-603 CNC lathes, image taken 2005. By the mid 2000s the Company had one of the largest independent machining facilities in the UK.

Castle Precision late 2000s

Towards the end of the decade Castle became greatly involved in industry wide improvement programmes, the pursuit of further accreditations and major industry awards. The pace of development throughout this period was arguably the fastest in the company’s history and helped progress Castle towards a more rounded complete package, more in line with a medium sized enterprise rather than an SME.

In 2007 Castle joined the Society of British Aerospace Companies SBAC (now ADS) and joined the SC21 initiative. Later, in 2010, Castle would become the first company based in Scotland to receive an SC21 award.

In 2008 Castle began construction on its newest facility; the extension to the 211 building, adding 12000 sq ft to house the latest in mill-turn and grinding technology. It was during this period that Castle took its first steps into five axis machining.

During the 2009 recession the company invested more than £6m in plant and machinery. Castle began a complete refurbishment programme of the company’s facilities, refitting the 20,000 sq ft Linn 257 unit and relocating the toolroom facility, allowing for the refurbishment of the original 9000 sq ft 241 building as a five axis centre.

On Tuesday 8th of September 2009, Castle held an official opening for the new 211 and 257 facilities. With key business partners and members of government in attendance, Dr Masahiko Mori, President of Mori Seiki machine tool company, conducted the ceremonial opening.

In 2010, Castle was recognised across industry for its achievements: winning Scottish Engineering’s Presidents Award for Achievement, The Manufacturers SME of Year and overall Manufacturer of the Year Awards.

Castle’s entire toolroom relocated and refurbished in 2009. The facility was previously owned by sister company Linn Hi-Fi to house the paint plant and fabrication equipment.

Tiefenbrun family receiving the Manufacturer of the Year Award at the annual ceremony in 2010. The company also won the Best SME Award and finished as a runner up in the IT category.

Dr Masahiko Mori and Marcus Tiefenbrun shaking hands after Dr Mori’s speech at the opening of Castle’s 211 extension in 2009. The Mori-Castle relationship dates back more than 40 years to the 1970s

An image of Castle’s production planning system that has become synonymous with the company’s IT system as a whole throughout industry.

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