Furniture Independent Study

Hey guys,

Didn’t know if I should have posted this here or in the furniture section, but here it goes. I’m really interested in furniture design so I decided to do an independent study on bent plywood. The goal is to understand the material and process better and to create a full-scale prototype and final version. So far I just have sketches (stole the numbering system from Jeff Smith when he came to my school and gave a workshop :wink: ) and a solidworks model of my design, but will be making my prototype within the next week or so.

I plan to use italian bending poplar with some type of veneer (haven’t decided on that yet). I also want to use rubber spacers between the seat and legs to give the user some range of motion while seated. The seat thickness is going to be 1/2 inch and the leg thickness is going to be 3/4 inch. Not sure if these thicknesses will give me the type of flex I am looking for, but thats what a prototype is for :slight_smile:

Let me know if you have any comments or suggestions, thanks!


Nice looking chair, though it feels like an Eames iterant… not a bad thing. I’m not sure how much range of motion you will get with the rubber stoppers tying the seat down at the extreme corners. I think you get a bit more if you moved them inbound.

these will probably be good for the flex you are looking for. 3/4 may even be overkill and look clunky on the legs, i’d go for 5/8. if you are vacuum bagging this, polyurethane glue (gorilla, etc) is your best bet, it will cure more rigid than yellow glue, and cure much faster in a vacuum.

design-wise, i agree eith yo77. it will look really nice when its done, but the endless comparison by passers-by will get tiresome. I do a lot of work with bent plywood, and even the most aesthetcally dissimilar stuff i’ve done invarialby gets compared to eames or ikea at some point. i say push the aesthetic with different shapes or materials (veneers, laminates, cloth, etc)

First off… let me say that doing an independent study in furniture is always a fun/good idea. You get to explore a lot of stuff that you normally don’t get to with other types of ID work. What school are you at?

I’m going to be a little harsh here so please don’t get offended… just take this as constructive criticism.

I think the design is really lacking. There is nothing original or remotely close to pushing any design boundaries at all (not that there always has to be).

The legs look like an uninspired knockoff of the Eames LCW molded plywood lounge chair legs. They have similar proportions and use a slight taper to try and give them any hint of form. The way you have the legs right now looks like they would hinder you getting out of the chair. Yes there is a break between them… but they look like they will just get in the way. Since they go out in front of you they will always be an annoyance to whom ever sits in this thing.

The ergonomics of the seat and backrest make me want to slit my wrists thinking of how uncomfortable this chair will be. It does look like you have the correct angles between the seat and backrest and you have the waterfall edge which will help things out. But if you expect anyone to sit in this for more than 5 minutes you need to address some larger issues at hand. There is no lumbar support period… there is nothing that will cradle the back of the user which will makes this chair a nightmare to sit in. Also the butt area needs some help too. The way the seat is at this moment… you are basically trying to force a persons body to be fixed in two straight unforgiving planes. I realize there will be a little flex to the back depending on the thickness of the wood, but that is not enough.

If you have access to some eames chairs you should take a tape measure and an angle finder and spend some time going over them. You will learn a lot by taking the measurement of their chairs.

You need to spend some more time thinking about the design and ways to make it better. Right now it looks like you figured out how to extrude a profile and then gave up. I wonder what the front and top views look like? You need to give the chair some subtle curves or something… something to make it stand out and be original. I have seen this chair or a slight variation of it come from about every design student that decides to work with bent plywood (myself included).

I promise I’m not trying to be an @ss about this. I went through this process with my chair as well. There are still things to this day I would change about it if I were to do another one.

Check it out if you want to:
http://www.coroflot.com/rossmccoy/clarity_-_renderings
http://www.coroflot.com/rossmccoy/clarity_-_prototype
http://www.coroflot.com/rossmccoy/clarity_-_prototype_process

I do think you are off to a good start. You just need to spend some time pushing the design farther.

As far as your material choices go…
-I would go with 5/8" thickness at the most. Anymore than that is just overkill.
-You really only need to use some wood glue. you don’t need gorilla glue. I used the titebond III glue and it’s held up admirably
http://www.titebond.com/IntroPageTB.ASP?UserType=1&ProdSel=ProductLineTB.asp?prodline=94?prodcat=1

I wish you luck on this. Please keep us updated on your progress.

Thanks for the comments guys.

@ Ross…No worries about the harsh criticism–it always sucks to hear, but I appreciate it because it pushes me to do better design. I go to Virginia Tech (I am a third year there). I see what you are saying and I wasn’t planning on this design to be my final before going into the production phase. I agree that the two flat planes create an uncomfortable seat and I plan on addressing this with my 2nd cad model. I actually had a discussion about that last night with my girlfriend, ha. I’ll work on the next iteration and post it up when I’m done.

I’m glad you are not offended. I wish my teachers would have been more honest in school about the design phase for furniture. They typically rushed the design phase so that we had more time to work on the construction of the piece. I always got much more constructive criticism from my peers than any of my teachers when it came to furniture design.

One suggestion I can make would be to take your various views and print them out and then sketch over them. Once you have the basic angles and proportions down it’s much easier to add some flair to the design. Try and work with the sketch before you go back to the cad model. I always found it harder to design in the computer since you end up worrying more about what you can do technically than what you can do artistically. CAD can be a great tool to create a wireframe from which you then sketch on. I’m not a strong sketcher so this is how I usually worked.

Do you have any good design reference books for chairs?

Please keep posting on this design. I would love to watch the progression you go through to get to the final design.

So here is an update with where I am in the construction phase of the project. I changed up the design a bit…like Ross pointed out, the seat would be uncomfortable to sit so I added some lumbar support and I changed the leg design up a bit too :slight_smile:

I just finished my first leg mold (the resin is currently drying). It took A LOT of clamps, but I hope it will turn out well.

Here’s some pictures of it in the shop.



Cool. Revised sketch to share?

It appears as if the two legs are independent of each other. If this is true you need to consider the horizontal movement of the chair. It needs some sort of sholder in the other direction to keep it stable. I am just going off of the cad model you posted, so if this is not true, then forget the above comment.

@ piston

Right, racking is an issue and I am still thinking about a solution to it. There is going to be some type of connection between the legs (not sure what material I am going to use though).

@ yo
Thanks, I’ll post some sketches next time I’m around our scanner and I’ll post the cad model too!

It took A LOT of clamps …

From a fabrication point of view, you may want to look into a vacuum-bagging setup; 100% surface contact, at 14.7 pounds per square foot “clamping” pressure, with the advantage of being able to conform to irregular surfaces without having to block and shim any mechanical clamps.

See: Woodworking Tools, Hardware, DIY Project Supplies & Plans - Rockler

Or: Vacuum Forming Curved Panels

Sorry that I didn’t jump in earlier, but you could check out the Gougeon’s West Epoxy system for an adhesive,

It’s relatively odorless, and positively the best adhesive for wood lamination. Also, you can easily adjust your hot time-frame.
And I think there’s plenty of room for more clamps! What’s holding you back?

And, yes, would be interesting to see your sketch progression as well.
Thanks-
-D