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


Traditional hand toolsThe Arts and Crafts movement of the 19th century pioneered a revival of the hand skills that had been cast aside in the rush to industrialisation and the sweatshops of the garret masters. Its advocates wanted to reform what they saw as shoddy, debased design in the applied arts, and at the same time return dignity and creativity to the individual worker.

I try to follow in that tradition. Handwork is inevitably slower, but more richly rewarding to the craftsman and to the customer, who will own a piece of furniture with true integrity. All my joints are cut by hand with saws, chisels and mallets, and all the final squaring off, smoothing and moulding is done with hand planes.

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Hand tools and power tools

Even William Morris acknowledged that in the right context, machinery could lessen the working man's toil.

I use the heavy-duty machinery in the workshop – a bandsaw, a table saw and a planer/thicknesser – essentially for rough preparation of timber. Virtually every other process is manual.

I don’t own an electric router and I cut grooves and rebates instead with a vintage plough plane. I’ll sometimes use an electric drill in a drill press to produce accurate holes, or a biscuiter to join boards side-by-side to make a panel, but otherwise my work is authentically hand-made.

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Energy and environment

Working by hand also means the workshop is by definition a low-energy operation. To keep my carbon footprint small my raw materials are renewable and locally sourced, I use organic oils for finishing, and none of the timber waste goes into landfill. Handwork also helps keep harmful wood dust to a minimum.