Jeff Segal Cabinetmaker - Handmade furniture in the Arts and Crafts tradition

Using traditional skills

Working by hand brings the craftsman a lot closer to his materials and his project than a machine would allow. You get to understand the grain, the texture, the characteristics and the behaviour of the timber.

Handwork is inevitably slower than machine work, but the finished piece of furniture bears the true imprint of the maker. A hand-built piece of furniture evolves organically as it emerges from its raw state.

Hand jointing and dovetailing

 

Cutting mortices

I cut all my joints the old-fashioned way, with saws and chisels honed to the keenest edge. This picture shows me making the last in a row of through mortices in a board of English cherry. The mortices are hand-cut to fit precisely the tenon that will protrude through. My dovetails are made the same way, marked up to the finest tolerances and sawn accurately and cleanly using specialised handsaws.

Hand grooving and rebating

 

Ploughing a groove

Most furniture makers nowadays rely on the electric router to make grooves, rebates and mouldings on timber. It's a noisy beast and creates a lot of dust. Instead I use an antique plough plane, pictured here, to cut grooves; tools like router planes, shoulder planes or a combination plane to make housings and rebates; and moulding planes and spokeshaves to shape different profiles.

Hand veneering

 

Veneering by hand

When the project calls for veneer, I apply it in the traditional way: heating up animal glue in a pan, warming the veneer with an iron and pressing it on to the "ground" - usually a piece of MDF - with a home-made veneer hammer. The glue cools and sets quickly and avoids the need for vacuum bags, presses, toxic glues or any of the paraphernalia of modern veneering techniques.