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Be inspired every day with Living North
Hand & Machine
November 2023
Reading time 4 Minutes

Cabinet maker Ben Croft set up Hand & Machine ten years ago, creating beautifully crafted furniture, made using long-held traditional craft techniques combined with a clean, modern design

We caught up with him to find out more.

Tell us what you do.
I’m a cabinet maker, designing and making bespoke furniture and mainly work with private clients, but can also partner with other designers on larger projects. The pieces I make vary – I can be making a family dining table one week, then move on to a personalised whisky bar the next.

What’s your background?
I grew up in York, and studied Art at York College. I knew I wanted to have a career where I used my artistic skills, but also enjoyed the practical side of making things. With this in mind, I moved to Oxford to study for a degree in Furniture Design at Rycotewood Furniture Centre. After graduating, I began working for Richard Williams Furniture in Beaconsfield as a cabinet maker. The standards there were incredibly high, and I learnt a lot from my time there.

Why did you set up Hand & Machine?
This year marks Hand & Machine’s 10-year anniversary, and it’s been a fantastic journey so far. I started my business for a number of reasons; I always knew I wanted to return to York and that I wanted to work for myself, but it was also important for me not only to make furniture, but also to design it. You don’t get to do that when you work for another furniture maker, and I really missed that side of my work.

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Where do you source your materials?
I buy local and ethically-sourced timber from a timber merchant in Ripon and where possible, always try to source all my materials locally here in Yorkshire, as well as collaborating with other local craftspeople such as upholsterers and glaziers.

What’s your typical day?
My workshop is in Pocklington, which is just down the road from my house. Depending on what I’m working on at the time, and at what stage a project is at, I’ll usually be designing first concepts, or making the pieces themselves. I also spend time outside the workshop meeting clients, buying materials, and at the end of a project, delivering and fitting the final piece of furniture.

What’s the hardest part of what you do?
Working on your own, particularly designing on your own, can be difficult at times – there’s no one else to bounce ideas off, which is a nice part of the creative process. That’s why I share initial concepts with my clients, so there is always the opportunity to hone the design together. I think it’s really important for it to be a collaborative process.

What’s the best part?
Seeing a piece of furniture come to life is a wonderful thing. When you look back at initial sketches and ideas, some of which might have come to you in the middle of the night, then look at the final piece in situ, you feel a real sense of pride and satisfaction. Equally, it’s great to see how pleased clients are with your work, and know that they will have that piece of furniture in their family for years to come.

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Can you tell us about a favourite recent project or piece?
I recently designed and made a pair of bright yellow media cabinets. They had a striking oak interior, glass shelving and LED strip lighting. It’s the kind of piece I wish I had in my home!

What are you currently working on?
As well as ongoing bespoke work, I am now working on a range of limited-run pieces, which will be available on my website soon. I’m really pleased with the concept so far. It will be great to open up my client base by offering handmade, contemporary furniture as a more affordable option alongside bespoke projects.

Quick-Fire Questions

Best place to eat/drink locally?
The Market Tap, Pocklington.

A book/TV show/podcast you recommend?
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, The Sopranos, and anything by Jon Ronson.

An item you couldn’t live without?

Best snack for a long journey?

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