Thonet were particularly known for their manufacture of bentwood furniture, for which they had developed the first industrial-scale production processes. These replaced previous individual craft skills with an investment in machinery that allowed any worker to produce accurate and repeatable bent components. Although steam bending was long established for pieces such as the Windsor chair, these older pieces had used the bending of a raw billet that would then be shaped to size afterwards. Thonet's more precise process allowed timber to be machined with a surface finish as raw stock (usually as thick circular dowel), steam bent to shape, then used as a component almost immediately, without further machining other than to trim the ends.
Their best known piece was the No. 14 chair, the iconic chair of Parisian cafes.