J B & S Lees is the leading international brand, well known for its premium quality cold rolled steel strip which is manufactured in the United Kingdom in mild, carbon and alloy steel grades. The business is also a supplier of hardened and tempered steel strip for narrow bandsaws, pinpoint carbide strip and bimetallic strip for metal saws.
Over 150 years ago, John Lees began a remarkable dynasty: he was the first of three generations of the same family that built J B & S Lees into one of the world’s leading steel strip producers. In 1852 he set up as a timber merchant and by the early 1870s he was producing iron boiler and gasometer plates, sheet iron and rolled iron bars.
In due course he was joined in his enterprise by his three sons, John Bayley, Samuel and Charles Lees, who, on taking over the business from their father, purchased Albion Ironworks in West Bromwich. By 1872 demand for British iron was at an all-time high and an advertisement of the period shows the Company manufacturing "best, best-best and treble best" boiler plates, gasometer and bridge plates and strips for locomotive and gas tubes.
During the early years of the 20th century, the third generation of the Lees family, John Lees, joined the firm and in 1911 switched production from wrought iron to hot rolled steel strip. Soon new manufacturing techniques were demanding thinner, more accurate strips with a bright smooth surface, and cold rolled strip was introduced. In 1937, J B & S Lees began initiating the production of hardened and tempered steel strip to satisfy the requirements of the aircraft industry. JB & S Lees were, in fact, the first UK facility to produce hardened and tempered steel strip for sawblade and manufacture.
Following this, the company was asked by the British government to develop metal and wood cutting bandsaw strip, which could no longer be obtained from overseas. After sustained research and development, the 'Trident Brand' of steel strip was born. The brand became internationally renowned and today universally symbolises high quality precision strip.
In 1960, 108 years of family ownership came to an end, but the Lees' pioneering spirit gained even greater impetus: developments in metal cutting bandsaw equipment were demanding a material that possessed a very fine carbide structure not obtainable by normal methods. JB & S Lees responded with 'Pink Label' Pinpoint Carbide strip. In 1967, following experiments in the USA, JB & S Lees developed a bi-metal/bimetallic strip for metal cutting by electron beam welding a narrow strip of wear-resisting high speed steel to a wider spring steel supporting strip. The resulting 'Gold Label' strip is now seen in bandsaw, reciprocating saw and hacksaw applications throughout the world. Manufacturers, today, commend these products for their consistent high quality.
The 1970s witnessed the opening of JB & S Lees' office and warehouse in the USA and increased efforts placed behind exports. Between 1983 and 1985 export turnover rose from 33% to 60% of production and culminated in the company earning the Queen's Award for Export Achievement in 1986. Although occupying the same site since 1872, JB & S Lees has grown into one of the world’s leading producers of high quality products, available in a wide range of specifications and sizes due to the immense flexibility on hand.
Today JB & S Lees capacity for higher precision products is greater than ever.