Image Above: Hobo Founders Sam Clemens (left) and Lenny Hopkins
A briefcase made out of wood? Personal carry-alls are just one of many products made out of distressed and discarded lumber by Vancouver start-up Hobo Woodworks. Not that company founders, Sam Clemens and his half-brother Lenny Hopkins, are hobos. On the contrary. As general contractors they made good money building houses for other people but admit it was “doing stuff that really wasn’t in line with our values.” Clemens has a strong environmental ethic. He doesn’t like waste and he doesn’t like impersonal mass production so he and Hopkins started tinkering in their spare time, turning discarded wood into one-off furniture pieces.
“Wood has an intrinsic spirit to it but if it sticks around as a fence or in somebody’s house it takes on another spirit,” he says. Two and a half months ago, they gave up their day jobs to stop tinkering and start producing. “We see these old pieces of wood and want to spin them into something beautiful, you know, spin them into gold.”
Hobo Woodworks Workshop
Their product line consists of boxes, cases and furniture and in a departure from the norm, personal carry-alls which they call Essentials. “I just came up with the idea and the response has been pretty good,” says Clemens about his wooden briefcase that can carry a computer or anything else for that matter. Made out of fir, leather and brass fittings, they come in different sizes to accommodate laptops or tablets. The company also makes a smaller version which it promotes as a mini clutch and yes, it works as a fashion accessory.
The duo finds material everywhere and anywhere. “We find piles of scrap wood that people don’t want. People tell us about stuff. They offer us stuff .We buy stuff off Craigslist. You put the word out there and wood just comes to you,” says Clemens. They take their spoils back to their workshop in East Vancouver where a small staff hand crafts their product line.
Essentials iPad Case
Hand sourcing and hand crafting takes a lot of man hours yet many of their products sell for under a $100. Is it sustainable? “In terms of making a living? I don’t know,” admits Clemens. “I just know we’re doing the right thing and what it morphs into, what it becomes; I really don’t know yet.” Clemens says times have changed. Respect for Nature has become mainstream. “People want to be connected now with something real. It’s not a niche thing so much.” The brothers are currently updating their website to accommodate online sales.
Essentials Business Case
Essentials Mini Clutch
The name Hobo Woodworks, incidentally, comes from the song Hobo Jungle by The Band. A workmate kept singing the chorus, shouting out “hobo jungle” whenever he could and “it just got kind of ingrained in our brains,” he laughs.
Turn on the volume, sit back, relax and enjoy the Hobo Jungle track by The Band
Also check out the Peg Leg Video by Hobo Woodworks