Marcel Breuer designed his Long Chair and Short Chair for the Isokon Furniture Company way back in the 1930s. This year the UK's Victoria and Albert Museum brought their cameras into the Isokon Plus workshop in London, to show you how the Short Chair's main component is built today. Check out the nifty glue roller they use in place of what was probably, in Breuer's day, a paintbrush:
The process is cool to watch, but I'm a little bummed that they didn't show how they cut the shape out after tracing the pattern onto it with the template; I imagine that had to be the biggest hassle in the entire process.
How do you reckon they did it? My guess is that they have a second template, mark both sides and then use a handheld jigsaw, and that they have to keep stopping the cut and flipping the piece over to ensure they're always cutting on a "hill" rather than a "valley," and then a bunch of tedious sanding to get to the lines.
Then again that does sound very inefficient. Maybe they've got some proprietary process and that's why they're not showing it to us?
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I work with expensive hydraulic heated presses and ultra expensive high frequency presses, and yet I find myself amazed by a molding contraption with two car jacks and a crank-powered century old cold press...
Rain Noe would use a jigsaw….
Martin Siegrist would use a CNC router.
Come on? I did an easy research, already the first search shows they actually have a CNC machine.
Isokon Plus manufacture furniture modernist contemporary workshop Hackney Wick ... We utilise the latest CNC technology alongside traditional woodworking ... ,
Going a bit further, I found out they have a 5 axis CNC.
The final stool (flight stool), a production piece manufactured from 11mm formed birch ply and shaped on a five-axis CNC machine, rested on the floor in the centre of the 'room'.
The part being made in the video doesn't has no complicated geometry requiring the use of a 5 axis machine and it obviously wasn't made that way 80 years ago. I would suggest that their cnc gear is likely for limited production, but is primarily used for prototyping and as machine tooling for making the forms, jigs, and fixtures for manufacturing work - not the actual manufacturing. That's how the cnc in my shop gets the most use anyhow.
case in point: if the piece was to be vacuum clamped and 5 axis-machined, why would they go to the bother to make another form to create a "jig" just to pencil trace the shape of the part onto the workpiece? Why not just clamp it up and go?
Yeah this is piece of cake for a CNC router and a custom vacuum table jig. Sorry Noe. The engineers have got this one.
(5 axis CNC router mind)
the pattern clearly has the word JIG written on it, which in my mind makes it more than just a template. My guess is that it's used to trace the shape for rough cutting a little oversized on a large bandsaw or by hand with a jigsaw. After the workpiece has been roughed out, clamping the same jig to it would be much easier for pattern routing the final shape. A two router setup - one with a top bearing and the other with a bottom bearing - would make short work of it... and there's probably a different jig used for routing the tenons to thickness after they've been shaped properly.
I'm not a fan of guessing and I wrote an email to Isokon Plus: Here's the reply of Karen Murray:
We do in fact use a jigsaw to cut it out and then rout it to shape. We don’t use the CNC on the Long Chair but on a lot of the other pieces.
very interesting - thanks for doing that!
A Dremel Saw Max with a 3-inch blade would do most of the cut on one side. Connecting the dots on the other side would be easy without the need to mark it.
Always love to see molded layup! Those presses are beautiful! I would have assumed they would have affixed the shape template to the freshly formed birch and used a hand router with a tracer bit