Obsessing Over Bent Laminations

by keavenwilla

Pulling rusted staples

Pulling rusted staples

There’s been some good progress made in the studio already this week, and it’s only Monday! There were about 1,000 rusty staples to remove from this set of 4 dining chairs, along with some definitely-unsanitary upholstery foam. Finally, though, it’s time to work on the frames!

Sexy bent-lams

Sexy bent-lams

One of the major reasons that I picked these chairs up when I found them was the bent laminations used for the back legs and the seat skirts. That’s something you don’t see very often, in these days of mass-manufactured furniture. These chairs were originally built in Maryland (according to a stamp on the underside of the seats) and, based on some research that I did on the company’s timeline, I would estimate that these were built in the early 1980’s.

A Google image that I grabbed for a quick illustration of what exactly a bent lamination looks like before/during a glue-up

A Google image that I grabbed for a quick illustration of what exactly a bent lamination looks like before/during a glue-up

Many of you may know that bent laminations are an excellent building technique because of their superior strength (multiple glue-layers create more strength than a single piece of wood could offer on it’s own, and because the bend is an illusion of sorts, there is less chance of the wood cracking with resistance), but I love them even more for their aesthetic. I love the repeating lines, and how perfectly parallel they are within the curves.*

( *You can see an example of my inclination toward bending wood simply for the aesthetic in this sculptural steam-bent piece that I built in my Junior Year at MECA.)

These chairs had been painted or stained some kind of medium brown color, but the finish is so old that it flaked off when I washed the chairs with soap and water. A little 220 grit sandpaper is taking off the remnants off it quite nicely. I do not plan to finish these chairs with another stain. I would like to get the wood as natural looking as possible; the grain is very beautiful and, as I said above, I believe the laminations are worth showing off. It would be nice to have the surface finished with a clear high gloss, or something natural like an oil or wax. I always have to spend some time with a piece, and get to know it, before I can decide how to finish it.

You never know what a piece will reveal to you when you pay attention.

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