Q&A WITH RICH THE FOUNDER OF OAK&FORDPosted on Tuesday, June 21st 2016 by Rich

Getting to know the man behind the business.

As the master craftsman behind Oak&Ford, when did you first get into joinery?

When I was younger I spent a lot of time with my Grandfather, who was a master craftsman working with wood and leather.  My father is also an engineer and I learnt so much from him.  He taught me traditional joinery techniques of how to work with materials and how to skilfully go from designing a piece or project, to working on it and completing it to the finest standards.  I owe the way I work and what I now do to him.

What did you used to make as a child?

I would make random things that young boys make out of any materials I could get my hands on.  I remember making nail beds out of scaffold planks and 4 inch nails – needless to say my father wasn’t too impressed.

Have you always been creative?

I was lucky enough to figure out what I was good at from an early age, thanks to my father.  I like to take an idea and see where we can go with it, which is why we have developed the saying “If you can think it, we can produce it”.  I like to take someone’s idea, develop it and make it into something more than they could have ever imagined.  This is what Oak&Ford is all about.

What was your first joinery job?

I started working on poultry farms at the age of 13, maintaining the wooden buildings.  I then progressed through to house building and on to high end joinery fit outs and senior site management.

What is your favourite type of wood to work with?

I have two; European Oak and American black walnut. I regard them to be two of the nicest woods to work with, both from a machining and finish point of view.

Where are the materials sourced from

We buy everything from a trusted and carefully sourced timber supplier.  All of the wood we use is sustainable and fulfils our beliefs that using wood should have as low of an impact on our surroundings as possible.  Having two young daughters I am very conscious of the impact that I and the business have on the environment.

How did you first start out on your own?

In 2009, following the recession, our client portfolio thinned out so I decided to contact the Princes Trust and sourced the information and equipment to enable me to set up my own workshop.  The skills I gained through the Prince’s Trust gave me a great grounding and insight of how to run and operate a niche business.

At the start I concentrated on growing a strong reputation within the local area as a bespoke furniture maker and taking on unique projects that came through the workshop door.  As my business and customer base grew the jobs started to get bigger and more challenging.  Over the years I have worked on some weird and wonderful projects and have enjoyed learning from each and every one of them. This has helped me to establish everything that makes up Oak&Ford and be proud of where my brand is today.

Where did the name Oak&Ford come from?

I came up with the name Oak&Ford as oak is predominantly the main wood we use to create our products and Ford is our surname.  I wanted to reflect the fact that we are a family run business in our name.

Who works at Oak&Ford?

I own Oak&Ford and am involved with all aspects of the business, from our customers’ enquiries to R & D and right up to the creation of a tangible product.

Connor is my right hand man, who is a key asset to my future vision for Oak&Ford. We are both in the workshop every day and as I become more focused on business development, Connor is really developing his expertise in production.  When required, we draw upon other highly skilled local businesses who can complement our skill set in areas of specialism such as metal fabrication, spraying and French polishing to name a few.

As the business is growing at such an exciting rate, we have engaged the marketing expertise of Louise and Emma who have an extensive network and understanding of the HORECA sector and what our customers across this industry require from our products.

Another key part of our team are Looay and the team at Kubix Media in Birmingham. They are also experts in their field as demonstrated in the development of our website, social media and our general online presence.

 

What is your workshop like?

In 2014 we moved into our current workshop in Staffordshire, which is a modern industrial unit ideally positioned next to the Midlands Motorway network.  The workshop is fully equipped with world leading Felder woodworking machinery and also Trotec laser cutting and engraving machines.

The workshop has now evolved into a fully modernised joinery shop, enabling us to process rough sawn lumber, machine and finish any wood to suit our customers’ exact specifications.  The lasers have revolutionised our work as they enable us to not only brand up 95% of the product we design but also create and produce all of the jogs and templates we need for some of our more detailed and intricate jobs.

Earlier this year I took the leap into the world of 3D design.  Solidworks is regarded as the world’s leading 3D design software and in March of this year I started an in depth training program to learn how to use and maximise the potential of this amazing software.  I used it originally to design and develop our range of laser cut birch lighting, but it became apparent very quickly how much of a game changer it is.

As a company we now have the ability to design and produce product in a 3D world. This is great as it allows me to find out any potential issues and resolve them prior to any wood being cut or production time lost.  We are also able to offer 3D renderings to our clients which is great on bigger pieces as it insures exact requirements on both a design and functionality level.

What makes Oak&Ford so unique?

Drawing on 18 years of experience in most areas of woodwork, we bring a broad range of skills and the vision to create unique and durable products fit for purpose.

We take great pride in the quality of work we produce and by bringing processes such as engraving in-house, we can ensure that every element of the end product the customer receives is the quality we are proud to put our name to.

Do you have a favourite project you have worked on so far?

There are many great projects I have been proud to be a part of so far throughout the Oak&Ford journey.  Working for Lords on their new Pelhams restaurant was very special as it’s such a prestigious establishment.  We produced some very design heavy pieces based within this invitation only area that really allowed Oak&Ford to shine.

We have started working with the Goose Island Beer Company.  Some of the products we are making for these guys are awesome and we have thoroughly enjoyed the R&D process right through to final production as we have had to really think outside the box and stretch ourselves creatively!

I am very fortunate in the sense that I love what I do and I am never as happy as when I am in the workshop with machine noise going on around and the sense of enjoyment I get from making something for the first time, something that no one else in the world has ever made!

What are your goals and aspirations for the future?

My goals and aspirations are simple: to grow the business, create jobs, look after our staff and create a happy and comfortable lifestyle for my family and myself.  Coming to work is never a chore, I love what I do and wouldn’t change it for the world

Who inspires you?

My father, uncle and my two daughters.