Hidden amongst the factories and warehouses of Heidelberg West, FD Ryan Toolmakers is a father and son collaboration between Matthew and James King. They specialise in hand making bespoke garden tools that are built to last. While the collaboration may be young, this fledgling business has a long history that incorporates the family’s own story over four generations.
The FD Ryan workshop sits alongside the larger warehousing operations of the family’s main business—a bustling warehouse involved in importing garden tools for the Australian horticultural market. Matthew recalls that when he began working in the family business, started by his blacksmith grandfather Frederick Daniel Ryan in 1933, it was heavily involved in metal manufacturing (in particular, steel caps for the booming footwear industry in Fitzroy, Melbourne). But with the decline in Australian manufacturing, and iconic brands like Blundstone shipping operations offshore, the business had to change. ‘We went from being a manufacturer to an importer,’ says Matthew. And so a workshop full of steel manufacturing tools, some of them over 100 years old, lay dormant for nearly 20 years.