Steambent lighting and furniture handcrafted in Cornwall

Steambent Lighting and Furniture is the company created by Tom Raffield, which, as the name suggests, specialises in the design, manipulation and crafting of wood into intricate and stylish 3D forms that become furniture and lighting items. Each item is a treasure of the designer’s visions made material by the craftsman’s skill. It’s mostly low-tech and hands-on- and there’s a clue in the company name as to the process used- steam bending. But let’s focus on Tom Raffield first.
Tom grew up surrounded by the tranquility and natural beauty of Exmoor, one of the last wilderness areas in England. It was an environment that stimulated his imagination, and inspired in him a freedom to be different and adventurous in his designs. His introduction and fascination with the traditional craftsman practice of steam bending occurred while studying at Falmouth College of Arts. However the traditional technique of using a chamber didn’t give him the complex 3D twists and bends he saw in his imagination. He then undertook a number of years research and experimentation. This culminated in his developing a new steaming method to turn his design ideas into reality. He is now feted for his spectacular and innovative furniture and lighting, and for being ecologically sound in his use of natural materials. He was the winner of the Lighting Design Association’s Lighting Design Award in 2011.
The low-tech steam bending uses little energy, and Tom can adjust his designs to your own specifications, making your own item of lighting or furniture totally individual and personal to you. Tom is very much at one with the environment within which he works and the main medium of his work; wood. While he uses a number of different sustainable woods, the most popular is oak; a very traditionally English wood. Local timber is used wherever possible from renewable resources, thus reducing transportation costs. The wood comes from sustainably managed woodlands where more trees are planted than cut down. That’s important to Tom. Similarly he avoids any energy-intensive kiln drying for the wood. If he doesn’t use unseasoned or green wood, he will use air drying.
Steam bending is the main form of production and for shaping the wood. It is a low energy method of manufacturing, with little wastage. There is also no use of toxic or harmful chemicals; steam is just heated water.
The bottom line is that once you’ve acquired a piece of Tom Raffield furniture or lighting, you’ve got something that will last you a lifetime. It’s not only practical, but it’s something to be looked at, touched, appreciated and savoured year after year. It’s also good to know that while it may look similar to similar models, each one is handmade from original natural wood. That means what you have is a one-off. It’s exclusive to you. You also have the backstory as to how Tom and his company make the furniture and can (or bore) tell admirers of your piece about the steam bending technique used!