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A Day in the Life of Our Furniture Team

25 July 2019

An exclusive behind the scenes look at the craftsmanship that goes into creating our steam bent furniture collections.

Tom Raffield workshop

Have you ever wondered what goes into creating our iconic furniture collections (apart from the sustainably sourced oak wood of course)?

Our team share a passion for sustainability and high quality British design that helps them craft innovative, unique products on a daily basis. To celebrate the work of our talented furniture workshop team and their love of making, we've taken a closer look at what it takes to create the signature bends that make up our Tom Raffield furniture products.

Precision is key. When perfection is at stake, every millimetre counts.

8am: Kettle boiled, steamers fired up, overalls and boots pulled on; the day begins at our workshop. It is crucial that our steamers - the beating heart of the workshop - are switched on immediately following the team’s arrival. This allows them to reach the required temperature (100 degrees) as early as possible in order to meet the demanding schedule of the day.

8:30: Before any wood can be bent, the team must review the day’s order schedule. This can vary dramatically from day-to-day. One day’s work may be entirely focused on crafting one product - such as our Amble Hanging Seat - whilst another may involve working on several different products that are at various stages in production. This is one of many challenges that keeps our team on their toes!

For our team, planning and organisation are just as important tools as creativity and skill.
A demanding schedule means that an efficient workshop is crucial.

9:00-11:00: The bulk of the steam bending action happens in the morning. This is our most important process and one that requires immense skill, concentration and precision. Lengths of sustainably sourced ash, oak or walnut are loaded into our steamers; the time that each piece of timber remains there depends on its size, type and density.

“Our company has come a long way from when I made everything in the workshop on my own. We’re now very lucky to have a great team of skilled men and women - the team is constantly growing in numbers and each member proudly shares their knowledge with the next generation of makers”.

- Tom Raffield, Founder.
Once out of the steamer, the timber can be bent using formers and clamps into an array of architectural, 3D shapes.

11:00: Once the wood is out of the steamer, it must be bent immediately. Wrapped around our unique former jigs or bent round individual pegs, the timber is then clamped into place. The newly steam bent pieces are then transferred to our drying room, where they remain for between three and twenty-four hours depending on their size.

12:30: Our team break for a well-earned lunch which is usually spent (weather dependent) sat on the woodland banks that surround our workshops.

Delicate, intricate twists are handled with care; eased into shape by a gentle hand.
A thicker piece of timber is bent round one of our unique formers to prevent cracking.

1:30-3:30: The afternoon generally sees our furniture team work on products for which the steam bent component has been finished the previous day. This is known as ‘assembly’ and involves piecing together the different components of our iconic furniture pieces. For our team, every single product must be finished to the highest standard before it can leave the workshop and sent to its forever home.

“We are all passionate about the products we make. For us, each piece of furniture is a work of art, so we have to make sure we put every effort into handcrafting each one.”

- The Tom Raffield Furniture Team.
One of our team assembles the steam bent components of our Kern Pendant

3:30: Once our furniture is sanded to perfection, it is coated in an eco-friendly natural oil blend that offers a matt finish. This helps to protect each product, aid longevity and also give it a high quality finish.

4:30: Checklist done, workshop tidied, steamers's time for our furniture team to head home to enjoy the famous Cornish sunshine!

A piece of solid timber, clamped in place, is bent to nature-defying ends.
Our iconic Arbor Armchair is assembled by our furniture team.

Posted: 25.07.19
Updated: 15.04.21

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