Learning how to bend plywood is the key to making a classic modern chair.
Piece of Furniture: Mod Made Plywood Lounge Chair
Based on: Eames LCW
Assessment: The Eames Lounge Chair is an icon of American design. Made of molded plywood and leather, the Eames Lounge Chair was designed by Charles and Ray Eames for Herman Miller in 1956 — the first chair that the Eameses designed for the high-end market. With vintage Eames LCW’s going for $2,000 and up, replicating is something to consider. In order to create furniture that is curved or rounded, you will need to know how to bend plywood.
Skill to know: Bending Plywood. To begin, map out your design and understand how many individual pieces you will need to bend. For the Eames Lounge Chair, you will need a seat, 2 back legs, 2 front legs and 2 arm rests. For materials, you will need poplar bendy plywood, random scrap plywood for molds, strips of plastic for molds, resin glue, and biscuit joints. If you aren’t using poplar bendy plywood, or want to be extra sure that your wood is pliable, the general rule is that wet or warm wood is easier to bend. As well, you can keep in mind a 1:5 thickness to radius ratio.
First you need to know how flexible your wood is. Once you know the radius of your bend, you can begin to create your prototype. You will then need to use clamps to begin a series of bends on your individual pieces. Beware that some pieces might take twice as long as others due to multiple bends required rather than just one, like the armrests.
Bending the seat will be the most complicated and will require some extra time and possibly another person to help you glue the surfaces and clamp from the opposite side. Once you have your pieces bent, you need to prep them for assembly by putting them together with contact cement and glue. Depending on how long the glue takes to dry, this step could take up to 24 hours alone. The easy part is adding some finish and some wax for protectant.
Prototypes: One thing is for sure, you want the chair to be comfortable! Consider prototypes as a necessary part of the process, with which you test out the product in a series of trial and error. Keep in mind the way that your legs fall when you sit down, the comfort of the angles, and the amount of weight you want the chair to hold. With a thoughtful prototype, you can consider all angles, and measurements according to your comfort level.
Decision: The complicated part is the make of this chair. Because of the way the seat sits in the legs, the process may end up taking more time (and more tries) than you’d like. Bending plywood can be done, but it does take patience and practice. You could buy the chair from Like Modern ($135) for just about the same cost as the materials to make it, and skip the intense labor, so buying would be the smarter option.