What was the initial spark, the ‘aha moment’, for Makers Cabinet?
Ben: The idea for Makers Cabinet was formed while us three founders were in our first year of uni together studying in our Product Design BA at Central Saint Martins. We were logged in the prescribed cycle of student projects: identify a problem, conduct research, develop some ideas, sketch, create, test, present, and finally dispose into our portfolios not to see the light of day again. It was around this time we realised our course was built to funnel students into design consultancies, only as a small cog in an archaic system without much opportunity for creating something of our own ownership or out of our own minds.
Odin has a mind that doesn't stop moving, ever, and during our first year, he had fleshed out the idea for a pencil sharpener that wouldn't break his lead like every other sharpener on the market, encouraged changing blades when they go dull, and would be a work of art that is made to be cherished for generations. Late at night after having chatted about how we didn’t want to spend our entire lives working under people we shook hands on working together to launch Høvel and if that worked, a future ecosystem of products that showcases the best analogue technologies in forms which would disrupt the design world and promote care and longevity.
Ben and Odin in Makers Cabinet's East London workshop
Your team has a worldwide span, combining creatives from Norway, California and London alike. What do you think this brings to your process?
Ben: You’re right, our team has come from all around the world and this has certainly influenced us. Bringing together Norwegian and British design styles and conventions and Southern Californian / London entrepreneurial spirit is reflective of the way we have conducted our business. Although the most influential factors have probably been from our individual upbringings.
From above far above the arctic circle in Norway, Odin had a very unique childhood. Tinkering from his early childhood, Odin was welding by thirteen years old and already had sourced himself a lathe and some machining tools by making money on eBay. The best way to display this unique way of life is a story he once told me. He had attached wheels to an old bathtub, had installed a steering column into where the tap was and had retrofitted a chainsaw motor to the chassis. After zipping through the Norwegian country roads at a top speed of 40 miles an hour, he had to stop off at three different farms to borrow welders and tools to get his vehicle back home in one piece; all as a fourteen-year-old adolescent. Odin’s tinkering spirit follows him as he continues to create new and unique objects, often with inspiration from other pieces of design he is familiar with, such as traditional woodworking tools and bathtubs.
The rest of us might not have as many glamorous stories to tell, but our influences have been deeply rooted in our environments as youngsters. The way our experiences converged in the great melting pot called London makes us feel lucky to have found each other, and hopeful about the future as we continue to take on more interesting people from around the world.
There’s a sense of blending a traditional sensibility with the desire for a contemporary experience, which we also see our own customers appreciating. Why do you think that is?
Ben: The main tenets of the Makers Cabinet ethos are setting new standards, fostering a culture of care, and providing joy in the every day through simple rituals. This is partly a rebuke of the way design has been heading, with a tendency towards ingrained obsolescence, and a lack of foresight in terms of the future of a tool we make today.
We take inspiration from tools from the past, with mechanisms and material choices that are proven to stand the test of time and offer greater functionality and beauty to the use cases that inhabit. An example being traditional woodworking planes. On a very practical level, we have configured the constituent parts of a pencil sharpener around the function of a plane, meaning you can use universal sharpening blades in a much more efficient and capable way. As well, we have derived inspiration from the camera aperture to fit closely to your page and to be operated with a simple twist and created a gripping system for our news product Ferrule, which is the first time the design of high-end machining collets have been used for drawing and writing implements.
These traditional inspirations and design influences are married with a contemporary experience as you say. As our lives are becoming increasingly digital, people are finding joy in small moments and rituals throughout their day. We believe that the work is not done in the realm of design, and we will continue to redevelop everyday objects to be inspired and to offer more than just utility.
This idea of a ‘culture of care’ is really interesting, is a ‘built-in right to repair’ the future of product design?
Ben: Creating lifetime objects is about creating a connection. Be it in the graceful ageing of metals and the process of maintaining, cleaning and repair, or about the longevity of tools and their value as they get passed through generations. Makers Cabinet believes in a future based around a circular economy, minimizing waste, and fostering a continual use of resources.
As we continue to design new products, we are building long-lasting design, and the ability to repair every possible component which might break, and teach people about repair and care along the way.
Will wears Sand Cotton Twill Overshirt
Your new pencil holder is currently crowdfunding, could you explain where the inspiration came from?
Ben: Since we left university in June of 2020 we’ve been able to work full-time, make some new hires, and finally have a building to call our own in which we can work, create, and play all under one roof. Below our office, we now have a dedicated workshop with high-end metalworking tools such as a Haas CNC Machine and a lathe. We’ve been working on an idea since 2018 for a pencil holder which could grip a variety of pencil sizes and be reliable, sturdy and comfortable for generations. As we were making bits and pieces on our machines for the studio and refining some of our ideas, we realized that we were using machining collets to grip lots of different sizes of machining bits and cutters. Collets haven’t been used for other purposes to date, partly because of their complicated nature, but also because there was a lot of work that had to go in to make them work outside of these high-end machines. Over the last six months, we have refined the design of our own pencil collet to engage with a simple twist and to be manufacturable at scale.
Where do you see Makers Cabinet in 10 years?
Ben: Makers Cabinet plans on being a global brand that will provide a fresh outlook on design as we recreate tools, appliances, and homeware goods to be fit for a responsible and thoughtful future of design. Within ten years we hope to have our own factories building products as close to the end-user as possible, creating innovative production methods and responsible uses of materials.
How would you describe your individual sense of style?
Ben: Personally, I dress to inspire my mood often with light, summery colours as I try to have as Californian a temperament as possible throughout the British weather cycle.
Odin: I’d say I like practical and hard wearing clothing made from quality materials. I’m particularly a fan of good quality denim and thick linen. Having said that, I also quite like a nice colourful shirt.
Noah: Throughout my life, I have always been inspired by the city styles of the 1960s. I’ve always had a passion for well made and smart clothes, choosing to dress up rather than down. In school, I was always an outlier as I never found it a problem to wear a tie and do my top-button up. I like to wear my hair long but still, appear tidy with well-fitting clothes.
How do you think this influences your daily life, both at work and outside of your work life?
Ben: I’m definitely happier when I’m wearing well-made clothes that fit, and I don’t have to worry too much about upkeep. I actually really love my Sirplus trousers from the last season even though I'm probably not as careful with them as I should be. The vibrant green keeps me entertained. I do love my Cuban shirt, although I am quite precious with it as it's so nice and clean, which is unusual for me. Luckily we live in modern times where you can wear the same laid back kit on a Sunday and on a Monday, which I'm very grateful for. I can't imagine having to wear a suit to work every day.
Odin: I like to wear clothes where I don’t have to worry about getting them oily or dirty whilst in a workshop. Luckily my work and what my hobbies are one and the same so what I demand from my clothes doesn't change much. As a maker I'm also not averse to popping out the sewing machine to change something to make a piece suit my needs.
Noah: My style reflects my values and interests, I couldn’t have the passion for 1960s fashion without the interest in music, art and social change. Fashion and style help you to present these values and can be a great way to build bridges and show what you believe.
What’s your go-to daily uniform?
Ben: Ideally the weather is nice and I'll wear some chinos or blue jeans and a vibrant, light, flowy button-up that can lose a few buttons as the day goes on. And some standard white trainers, probably Air Force Ones that I like to rough up pretty quickly after getting.
Odin: A pair of thick jeans and a button down shirt paired with a pair of worn out docs.
Noah: my go-to outfit is pretty simple. I usually throw on pair of jeans, which I will have worn the hell out of, put on a simple button-up shirt and wear them with my favourite lace-up brown leather boots.
What do you look for in your wardrobe staples?
Ben: Relaxed attitude, easy compatibility with everything else I have in my wardrobe so I don’t have to think about it.
Odin: Natural materials and a nice touch of colour never go amiss.
Noah: Quality and comfort and a little sense of the unusual. Something which makes the item not look completely standard.
Noah wears Sage Green Cuban Linen Shirt
If you could design anything in the world - no limitations - what would it be?
Ben: I’m a bit obsessed with the way we interface with technology and would like to create a completely ground up augmented reality UI which isn’t based off a pretty data sheet like most apps, but rather utilizes physical touch points and adds physical dimensionality to information.
Odin: I think it'd have to be a modern day airship. I've always been obsessed with the idea of flight and can't imagine anything more compelling than sailing through the sky.
Noah: If I could design anything in the world it would be a brand new Houses of Parliament for more constructive debates and discussions.