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The Vimto Monument

Project

The Vimto Monument was originally carved in 1992 and stood in the green space of Granby Row, Manchester. Standing out in the elements over the year the monument had been vandalised and severely weathered. Saturday night revellers had displaced some of the fruit, whilst a kinder soul had tried to secure the pieces using unattractive metal strips. The combination of sun and rain had brought physical problems to the wood. The sun dried the oak, causing it to split and the rain ran into the cracks, causing it to swell. Much restoration work was required to create a much more pleasing monument to remember the original factory site where the first batch of Vimto was made by John Nichols in 1908.

Base of the Vimto bottle Label of the Vimto bottle Rotted parts of Vimto bottle Surface of the Vimto bottle Lid of the Vimto bottle The wooden fruit before restoration Granite plaque with illegible writing

Refurbishment

The bottle
The biggest part of the refurbishment was to replace the bottom two metres of the bottle: it had become very rotten underneath and the cracks prevented it having a bottle-like texture. Instead of replacing it with a single piece of wood Nick built a 'barrel' from 4 inch thick oak. He used a very high quality oak with virtually no sapwood at all. Also, because it has been fabricated from smaller pieces (each piece roughly 4 inch x 7inch in cross section), we overcame the large scale cracking that is characteristic of wood containing the tree's centre.

To prevent further cracking and decay to the top of the bottle, Nick gave it a separate metal cap. This will keep out both the sun and the rain, and hide the existing cracking.

The bottle in its sorry state It soon became clear that the bottom half of the bottle was not good enough to be renovated and we would have to make a replacement. £2000 worth of oak to make the barrel. Starting to assemble the barrel Assembling the barrel Gluing the barrel halves together Original bottle cut in half ready to be glued to the new barrel Making a template to fit the inside of the barrel Shaping the top to fit the barrel

 

The fruit
The fruit and the bottle were mounted on metal blocks to prevent water from wicking out of the ground, and allowing the air to circulate underneath.

The raspberries awaiting their new colours. The raspberries painted red and awaiting the green for the tops Here are the grapes in their final colours. The blackcurrant stalk with new fruit.

The label
The original label was partly carved with a chainsaw and partly just painted on: it looked as though it had received no maintenance since 1992, so Nick carved out all the lettering to make maintenance more likely. The label template was made from 3mm thick aluminium and cut out with a computer controlled high-pressure water cutter by Specialised Waterjet Profiling Ltd. A practice label was cut in a flat sheet of wood and then had the template rolled to match the bottle diameter. The label was cut with a router and the brass bush follows the curves of the template – the cutter protrudes through the bush. Once the letters have been roughed out with the router, the tabs are removed with hand tools. The label was then hand-painted in final colours.

The label in aluminium. The label cut with a router. The tabs on the letters are removed by hand. The label being hand painted in final colours

Completion and installation

All the wooden parts of the Vimto Monument were finished with Sikkens wood-care products. Sikkens is micro-porous so it lets the wood breath while repelling surface moisture. The advantage here is that moisture leaving the wood doesn't cause the finish to flake off. Sikkens also provides significant rot (anti-fungal) protection to the painted surface – it can't help the inside of a piece of wood directly but keeping the surface dry, rot-free and less cracked is a huge help!

Having done all the repairs and repainted all the components, we then did a practice assembly in Wrexham before moving everything to Granby Row on 15th September 2011.

Trying to stand the bottle upright! Showing the bottle with 3 coats of Sikkens Arriving back at Granby Row, Manchester Matthew Nichols, the great grandson of Vimto's inventor, and myself.

Results

Matthew Nichols said: "I am very proud that the birthplace of Vimto is commemorated with this monument and that my great grandfather's achievements are recognised. We have been inundated with people asking what has happened to the monument so I am pleased it has returned and is looking at its best."

Finally the vanilla pod and the black-currants are positioned The finished piece