A former joiner who runs a rocking horse and dolls’ house restoration service has made his TV debut.
Paul Commander, 72, runs the Toy Works from a workshop in East Fellside, Melmerby.
He is one of the experts on Channel 4’s new show Mend it for Money, which started yesterday.
He said he was contacted “out of the blue” by the producers of the programme, who said they were looking for a toy restorer and asked if he was interested in being involved.
The 20-progamme series, narrated by comedian Tom Allen, is billed as a “restoration show with a twist”, combining high end restorations with fascinating social history.
Filmed on location at a specially created HQ in Glasgow, each of the featured restoration projects pits two of the country’s top craftspeople against each other, competing to get a job.
The restorers must go head-to-head, pitching their plans to bring prized items back to life.
They must estimate how much profit the item will make when sold and agree a profit share deal with the owner.
“It was a very enjoyable process. It was the first time I had done anything like that — you had to forget the cameras were there and just crack on,” said Paul, who started The Toy Works in 1985.
He said he was “the grandad” on set and he thought the crew were quite taken with some of the items he was restoring.
His profile is set to rise considerably after his TV appearance, but even now he says he has never been busier on restoration projects.
“I am one of only a few in the country who is doing it. Not many days go by when I don’t get an inquiry about something,” said Paul, although the toy sale side of his business has diminished of late.
A joiner by trade, originally from Westcliff-on Sea, Essex, he moved with his family to Shap in the mid-1980s, in order to set up his toy making business, after getting fed up with how the building industry was going.
His first workshop was attached to the house and he sold his toys to local craft and gift shops while also attending craft fairs around the country.
By 1992, the business had outgrown the workshop and he relocated to Whittington, near Kirkby Lonsdale.
The new workshop was housed in a newly converted stone barn, but in the spring of 2001 the foot and mouth outbreak devastated the area’s farming industry and Paul lost 70 per cent of his business turnover when the Government told people to stay away from the countryside.
He then converted a 17th century stone barn at Askham into the new business premises and reopened for trade in September 2002.
He remained there for eight years before relocating to his current location in 2010.
Paul has now been making and selling wooden toys for 35 years and has built up a vast knowledge of the traditional toy market which the producers of Mend it for Money were keen to tap into.
For the past 20 years he has also been involved in restoration work, specialising in rocking horses and dolls houses, but will turn his hand to anything, from tin plate toys to dolls and teddy bears.
In the first episode, available on 4OD, Paul restored an FH Ayre rocking horse.
Later on in the month, his skills will be on display tackling a Triang Gyro Cycle, a Metamorphic High Chair and a Mobo Broncco metal sit-n-ride horse.
The Mend It For Money pilot got 1.4 million viewers for Channel 4, when it aired in April. It can be seen weekdays, for four weeks, at 5pm.