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History in the Making

A conversation with Zach Bancroft of 805 Woodworks

By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Photo by T Christian Gapen

Zach Bancroft in the Camarillo shop of 805 Woodworks. The bench on which he sits is constructed from a reclaimed piling from the Santa Monica Pier, which was salvaged after a violent storm destroyed a portion of the pier in 1983.

“My brain is like popcorn,” Zach Bancroft says as we begin a face-to-face interview on a weekday afternoon at the 805 Woodworks office in Camarillo. “When things pop up, it’s important — so I need to talk about it.”

The congenial and ever-engaging founder of the custom woodwork shop, whose handiwork can be seen in many commercial and residential spaces — among them The Annex in The Collection at RiverPark, Amgen in Thousand Oaks and Ventura’s Barrelhouse 101 — is nothing if not passionate about his craft. While he can (and does) work with new materials, he has a special love for reclaimed and recycled wood, which he finds, refinishes and reincorporates, crafting old wood into something new that still has a link to its past. He talked to Ventana Monthly about his company, his design philosophy and what he finds so appealing about old material.

How did you get involved in woodworking?
I grew up in Grants Pass, Oregon. I chased my girlfriend — now my wife — to California. (We now have four kids.) . . . I’ve always been handy, growing up on a farm in Oregon. I always built stuff and fixed things.

How did 805 Woodworks come about?
In 2012 I started a company called Urban Vintiques. I was selling items from garage and estate sales and repurposing them. I’d find a metal base and a wood tabletop, for example, and I’d put them together and sell it. I started 805 Woodworks in 2014. I’d been collecting wood at my house, so the company started in my garage in Camarillo Heights. (Sorry to my neighbors!) Eventually, I found a place in Somis to put the wood. When we were out of space, we started looking for a space to up production. [The company now has offices in Camarillo as well.]

Who were some of your first clients?
I was doing a lot of work before as Urban Vintiques, and then two things happened. I made some benches for a client I met at the Long Beach Flea Market — that was my first custom thing that I made. Another client in Ventura saw this big, funky farm table at my house, and wanted it. She told a lot of her friends about us. They’d call and we’d do custom pieces for them. That was the catalyst.

How many people are in the company now?
There are about 7-8 employees. It’s small, so we have to work smart. My general manager, Steve Maitland, and operations manager, Lisette Perez, are really involved; I couldn’t do this without them. I always hire people first — then I find a place for them, if I can. I have a culture of respect, kindness, working as a team and keeping it real. I’m not the easiest guy to deal with — I’m kind of intense.

You’ve also done commercial work, for Amgen, The Cave in Ventura Wine Company and others. How did you start landing those bigger accounts?
After doing custom work for 6-8 months, I had a customer looking . . . to build a farm table. She worked for Amgen, and she’s the reason we have our big contracts with Amgen. When they needed a conference table, she recommended us. They were happy with the work, and hired us to build about 100 umbrella bases. That was a big contract for us. Later we were selected for their “office of the future” work spaces. We’ve done about four phases and upwards of 200 tables over the past two years. And that’s been a good way to showcase what we do — that was our first big client that put faith in us.

One of your specialties is working with reclaimed wood, most of which is sourced from Ventura County. Where do you get it?
We used to seek out reclaimed lumber from building and fence contractors. We’d scour Craigslist. We’d take it, trim it, de-nail it and get rid of the termites. Wood for The Annex came from the Wagon Wheel. The booth seating with the scalloped edges — that’s from all the lane caps from the [bowling alley] ball return. They’re an odd shape and size; one of my guys wondered if we’d even want them. I said, “We’ll use them someday.” The bowling alleys are in the benches and red industrial tables near Scratch.

Speaking of which . . . how did you get involved with The Annex?
Ann Walsh [now Senior Vice President of Operations for Shea Properties] had been following me on Instagram. So she got in touch and had me walk the property. Shea Properties had some specifics [for The Annex]: beachy, rustic, industrial and eclectic. The design started with the tables, which are made from wood reclaimed from the old Wagon Wheel. We had reclaimed wood from the Wagon Wheel around 2012-13. I always knew there’d be something that would [be perfect] for it.

What have been some of your favorite projects?
There have been many. But what we love the most is giving people what they want, and blowing them away. I really like what we did at The Annex. The way we incorporated the work and the feel they desired — I think we exceeded expectations. That project, I am really proud of. I’m also happy with what we did at The Cave. The owner, Nicole [Valdivia], had a vision, and we helped her get there.

I always like the work to be special. I don’t want to be boring. I want it to be one of a kind. It’s exciting; it keeps the juices flowing.

What do you like about working with reclaimed wood?
It’s sexy. Every single piece is different. It has a history. If I go look at a piece out in the yard, I can often say, “I know where that’s from.” To be able to take the Wagon Wheel wood and it doesn’t get thrown away, but gets a new life as a table or bench or whatever — it’s neat to bring wood back to life. They also don’t make wood like they used to. [The Wagon Wheel wood] was milled in the 1950s from incredibly old trees. It’s a reminder of the way things used to be.

It’s genuinely sad that we’re so concerned with money that we lose sight of what’s important. I really dislike the disposable economy. I don’t like things that are cheaply built. I want to educate people about investing in heirloom furniture. This piece of furniture will outlive you — it’s more expensive but you get what you pay for.

What are some of the challenges of working with reclaimed wood?
Every piece in the lumberyard is different. You let the wood tell you what it wants to do. I go out to the yard and look for pieces that will work for a particular project. Sometimes we have a plan for something, and the project changes because of the wood — so our plans are kind of fluid. Wood is an organic material; it requires a certain amount of attention. Reclaimed wood is like old leathery hands that have worked on the farm for 25 years. There’s something about that that just feels good.

Anything else about your work you’d like to share with our readers?
I love what we do. We are really passionate about serving people. . . . I think it’s important that we pay attention to the details. That’s part of the process of getting our customers what they want. Anybody can go to the store and buy furniture and make it work. But they don’t love it. We want to give [our customers] something that makes them say, “That’s cool. It’s exactly what I want.”

805 Woodworks
4500 East Los Angeles Avenue, Suite D, Somis
828 Via Alondra, Camarillo
805.651.3191
www.805woodworks.com

Wood planks from the bowling lanes at the Wagon Wheel have been given a new lease on life as tables at The Annex at The Collection in Oxnard.

The Annex at the Collection showcases some of Bancroft’s finest work, including booths that employ the ball returns from the Wagon Wheel’s bowling alley.

An undulating 21-foot bench, which brings to mind both waves and a whale’s skeleton. Once at The Annex’s front entrance, the bench has since been moved to the offices of Shea Properties.

09-01-2018

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