Fine Furniture Artisan, 18th Century Reproductions, Connecticut
Randy Bell, sole proprietor of Richmond Bell Furniture, of Westbrook CT would have been quite at home living in 1700s New England. He has spent years patiently honing his furniture-makingskills, making 18th century reproduction style tables, beds, cabinets, and sideboards by hand from the wood shop he, family and friends built in the traditional “barn-raising” style.
Randy’s chosen specialty is 18th Century American furniture. “I love the styles encompassed in this era because the proportions and craftsmanship are just plain beautiful,” he shares. “This time period started in the 1690s and lasted through 1825, when handmade furniture fell out of fashion. Some of the styles that emerged during this period were William & Mary, Queen Anne, Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Sheraton, Federal, Neo-Classic, and Empire.” Clearly, Randy’s early training in cabinet and furniture making at the prestigious North Bennet Street School in Boston has been well-used. He’s now been in business for 20 years, and in addition to making custom pieces, he does repair work for antique dealers. He has recently added a line of more rustic designs made from recycled wood.
Custom Heirloom Furniture
Randy starts each custom piece by meeting with the client and sketching designs. Then, using traditional mortise & tenon and dovetail construction techniques (with no nails), he spends months building each piece. The process starts with selecting the woods. Randy primarily uses native hardwoods for his pieces – cherry, maple, walnut, butternut, and curly maple. He carefully selects each rough cut piece of wood for its grain and color to ensure consistency of the finished furniture piece. Unlike factory-made furniture that is stained to hide imperfections, Randy’s pieces are finished without the use of wood stains in order to let the natural beauty of the wood shine through. Once the initial pattern is cut, hand tools are used to complete the joinery and refine every inch of the table, bed, cabinet or sideboard. “One of my favorite techniques is working with veneers, and especially creating inlay designs,” Randy explains. “I use thin, high quality veneers that include the most interesting natural patterns; these include lacewood, emberwood, myrtle burl, walnut burl, and roostertail mahogany. I love inlaying the intricate designs, and view them as works of art in and of themselves.” Finally, the furniture gets finished with clear varnish or shellac to enhance the natural color of the wood, or the old-style amber-hued tung oil, which enhances light-colored woods. As a last step Randy personally signs the finished piece with a dedication to the customer and then delivers it to the client to ensure safe arrival.
Adhering to a desire to operate an eco-friendly business, Randy purchases most woods from local suppliers. When tropical woods are used, he is careful to ensure they are sourced primarily from companies certified as good stewards of the land. He also uses recycled wood for a new line of rustic-styled products.
Randy Bell is a wonderful example of someone who has truly integrated his life and his craft to live in an integrated and sustainable manner. In addition to living and working from the farmland property where he and his wife grow much of their own food, and he has committed his life to providing high-quality, hand-crafted furniture that will be used and treasured for generations. Please visit our on-line store to see more of Randy’s handcrafted furniture.
This profile written by Ilene Moyher, Marketing Specialist for Common Good Market TM
Copyright Common Good Market 2010.