The Rag and Bone Man

With a passion for scrap and a history of odd jobs, Paul Firbank came into his own crafting contemporary vintage objects

“Having something specially commissioned crafts a personal story for our customers,” says 21st Century totter Paul Firbank – aka The Rag and Bone Man. He salvages ‘scrap with heritage’: beautifully engineered old engines, broken machines, rare motor and aviation parts, transforming these bits of metal into bespoke lighting, furniture and interior accessories and giving them a new purpose. Think of a reclining chair made from an old tractor or an adjustable height barstool made with industrial ratchets, salvaged lorry components and tractor seat tops.

“So whether you want a bespoke suit, handmade pair of shoes or a piece of furniture, what you are commissioning will often reflect you as an individual – or perhaps the person or place it is being made for. “One customer came to us asking for a bespoke design as a special birthday commission for her husband who was a member of the Caterham Academy. Using the worn parts left from his racing events we created a desk lamp that incorporates the flywheel, parts of the brake callipers, the windscreen brackets, as well as the head lamp bowl and the brake pedal – which can adjust the lamp angle. We turned something of outstanding craftsmanship into something equally beautifully crafted, giving it a new use. But the most important part, was that it was personal and it had a connection.

A lamp made from the worn parts of Caterham cars


“Commissions are not orders that are fabricated, they are collaborations,” explains Paul. “We take a personal story and turn it into an object that someone will treasure – creating a future heirloom.” Paul meticulously archives each item, which has a tag with a unique hand-stamped serial number with a completion date. So each piece is as individual as Paul himself.