Do you know about Bolton’s beloved Steeplejack? – Matt

Big Fred Dibnah, the backstreet mechanic himself. Where to start? Well firstly I’d like to say before beginning at Thomas Smith, I’d seen videos of Fred Dibnah, without knowing who he was. I think it might be a generational thing. Given at the time of writing I’m 25 and at the height of Dibnah’s TV popularity, I was learning the alphabet and being told you can’t eat playdoh (it says non-toxic to be fair). I can’t really blame myself for not knowing much about him.

But since my first day here at Thomas Smith Fasteners, I’ve been told various stories and shown multiple videos for Fred’s. His life and career are something which should be more commonly known by the youth of today (myself included). So here we go, the story of Fred Dibnah and why he holds a place in the hearts of Thomas Smith Fasteners and the nation.

The Early Years

Fred Dibnah was born in Bolton on the 29th of April 1938 to Frank and Betsy Dibnah. A normal working-class Bolton lad, Fred developed a love for steam engines from a young age. He also was fascinated by chimneys and the people working on them. He became a joiner and then his most known role a steeplejack. A reyt northerner with his northern routes. He was quoted to say “them fancy London types don’t know the pleasure of eating Fish and Chips with their fingers”. And he’s right, they’ve got nowt moist in them chippies.

Fearless Fred Dibnah

So after serving two years in the military, Fred became a steeplejack. He began with the aim of saving as many chimney’s as possible. Now when we discuss these chimneys, we aren’t talking about the ones on top of your house. We’re talking industrial chimneys, the highest in the UK being 850ft at Drax Power Station erected in 1969. That’s roughly 2 and a half times the size of the shard or 7 times The Statue of Liberty. Fred definitely wasn’t scared of heights and often bemoaned health and safety procedure demonstrating his fearlessness even more.

Fred chose his profession to “preserve chimneys, however finished up knocking most of them down”. The sheer bottle Fred Dibnah had in the video below is mind-blowing, he looks over his shoulder almost as if certain death isn’t there. And the most scary bit he’s laughing while he runs away. Fair play to the guy but there’s no chance I’d be laughing. I’d probably have a heart attack. Bafflingly he was only ever injured once, falling off of a stepladder whilst decorating.

Chimney Destruction

Dibnahs’ Love of British Industry

Fred became known across the country as a steeplejack when he was featured on the BBC in 1979. Tasked with demolishing a chimney brick by brick with very little safety equipment. Fred not only loved being a steeplejack, he loved British Industry.

His love of steam and engines was widely coveted across the BBC, where he made documentaries about British Industry. Enamored by steam engines, he purchased his first engine an Aveling and Porter steam roller for £175. Dibnah began his restoration work having to make many of the parts himself. He would then take this to steam fairs across the country with his family in tow.

His love of steam, rail and all things industry was palpable. So when the BBC were looking to make documentaries on British Industry, who better then the enigmatic Fred Dibnah. His eccentricity and passion is felt throughout his TV career when discussing all matters in the field.

So where does Thomas Smith Fasteners fit in?

Well I’ll tell you. As detailed in a blog post from December 2020, Fred Dibnah visited our Atherton factory on the road to pick up his lifetime achievement award. He was given the grand tour of our Atherton factory, beginning in the offices, before visiting the production line and warehouse.

Fred often visited us for his engine parts and a brew. He used our services as we provided specials that were and still are hard to get your hands on. Well, that and the brews. He was popular amongst our staff with his natural charisma and love for the industrial age. Following his visit to our factory where he was supplied with all the goods he needed, Fred headed to London to pick up his lifetime achievement award. Fred proudly displayed his honorary degrees from both Aberdeen and Birmingham, whilst also receiving an MBE from Queen Elizabeth II.

Fred’s Visit to Thomas Smith Fasteners

In Memoriam

Fred sadly passed away on the 6th of November 2004, he is fondly remembered for his work as a steeplejack, backstreet mechanic and TV personality. His work is honored by the Fred Dibnah foundation in Bolton, as well as his very own statue on Bolton’s, Oxford Street. Whether remembered for his fearlessness, charisma or love of steam engines, he showed the world what British Industry is all about.

For more information on Fred’s life and journey visit The Fred Dibnah Foundation.

Fred Dibnah (1938 – 2004)


We recently manufactured for a client in Portugal some 1 Bsw x 5 5/8 A4-80 Hex Bolts.

A4-80 Stainless grade is common with metric bolts but not on imperial bolting. Our sister company Smith Bullough, were able to manufacture these in imperial BSW threadform without any issues.

These bolts were also supplied with raw material certification and a 3.1 cert.

Another satisfied customer!

TSF sponsors a local running event

Thomas Smith Fasteners were delighted to sponsor a local running race which was held in Astley on Sunday 23rd October. The event named “Gin Pit 5” is a popular trail race. 200 runners from running clubs from all the over the North West took part. Congratulations to Michael Hampson of Burnden Road Runners and Laura Riches of Leigh Harriers who won their repsective races.



Restoration of twin Bofors Anti-aircraft Mount

Our customer has kindly shared photos of a Restoration project they are working on for HMS Belfast Bofors Anti-aircraft Mounts.

HMS Belfast is a Town-class light cruiser that was built for the Royal Navy.

She is now permanently moored as a museum ship on the River Thames in London and is operated by the Imperial War Museum

Thomas Smith Fasteners supplied 1/2 BSW X 3/4 SLOT RAISED with special head dimensions.

Manufactured in house by our sister company Smith Bullough.

We are extremely pleased that we could offer our service for this project.

Do you have any restoration projects that require fasteners?

Due to our expertise and ever growing machinery improvements we are able to offer a huge range of products to various different industries. I.e. Classic Car Restorations, Oil & Gas, Construction, Heritage Rail , Offshore, Nuclear and many more.

We can offer CNC manufacturing in house, Cut & Roll Threading plus Secondary Operations – TurningMillingDrilling and Grinding.

Head to our news page for more stories like this Thomas Smith Fasteners Blog

You can also speak directly to a member of our sales team Contact Us – Thomas Smith Fasteners

Social Media Pages

Thomas Smith Fasteners (@thomas.smith.fasteners) • Instagram photos and videos

ThomasSmithFasteners (@tsfasteners) / Twitter

Thomas Smith Fasteners | LinkedIn

Thomas Smith Fasteners – Home | Facebook

Steve McQueen’s 1963 Triumph TR6 Motorcycle

Steve McQueen’s 1963 Triumph TR6 Motorcycle is an exciting piece of motoring history, and was on display at MotoGP last weekend.

The bike was the star of the final scene of The Great Escape, where McQueen’s character makes a bid for freedom by trying to jump the machine over a barbed wire fence into Switzerland.

After the film, the bike was sold to a farmer, who used it to herd cows, but it was then stored in a barn for decades.

The TR6 Trophy is a motorcycle that was made by Triumph in Meriden from 1956 to 1973.

During this time it was a successful model, particularly in the US.

The competition variant, popularly known as the “desert sled” won numerous competitions throughout the late 1950s and 1960s. 

Steve McQueen‘s fondness for the model is well known

M30 x 180 Studbolt EN1.7709 C/W Nut & Washer

Specially manufactured Studbolt in EN1.7709 material ordered and delivered within 3 working days.

Due to our expertise and ever growing machinery improvements we are able to offer a huge range of products to various different industries. I.e. Classic Car Restorations, Oil & Gas, Construction, Heritage Rail , Offshore, Nuclear and many more.

We can offer CNC manufacturing in house, Cut & Roll Threading plus Secondary Operations –TurningMillingDrilling and Grinding.

If you require special & standard fasteners we are here to help, no matter how big or small your order may be.

Do you have any questions or enquiries?

Contact us today!

Contact Us – Thomas Smith Fasteners

Online Shop | Nuts, Bolts, Fasteners, Metric & Imperial – Thomas Smith Fasteners

Thomas Smith Fasteners (@thomas.smith.fasteners) • Instagram photos and videos

Head to our news page for more stories like this Thomas Smith Fasteners Blog

Metric & Imperial Thread Identifier

The Thread Detective
Fed up of struggling to identify bolt and nut threadforms? You need to buy our thread finder! The Thread Detective is a precise and easy-to-use thread identifier for both bolts and nuts, consisting of thread checkers conveniently assembled onto a wire lanyard. It is especially well suited for distinguishing between similar inch and metric thread types.

Identify thread types of Metric and Imperial Fasteners Quickly and Easily

The Combo Thread Detective has the following checking sizes:

UNC and UNF: 6-32, 8-32, 10-24, 10-32, 1/4-20, 1/4-28, 5/16-18, 5/16-24, 3/8-16, 3/8-24, 7/16-14, 7/16-20, 1/2-13, & 1/2-20,

Metric: M4x0.7, M5x0.8, M6x1.0, M8x1.0, M8x1.25, M10x1.0, M10x1.25, M10x1.50, M12x1.25, M12x1.5, & M12x1.75.


Aerospace Fasteners


Earlier this week we shipped this specially manufactured part to one of our Aerospace customers.

UNJEF = Unified National Extra Fine thread series with external thread controlled root radius offering superior performance and durability.

Thomas Smith Fasteners supplies products to various market sectors worldwide, including:

  • Oil & Gas
  • Nuclear
  • Power generation
  • Construction
  • Engineering
  • Defence
  • Agriculture
  • Automotive
  • Electrical
  • Offshore

If you have any questions or enquiries please get in touch with our sales team