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Steelwood Chair: Perimeters

The next tool makes a perpendicular fold around the sheet’s perimeter, which allows the hard edges to be folded away from the smooth backrest. Parts of this fold will become armrests. “The heart of this project is the back,” says Eugenio Perazza, Magis CEO. “We use an automated process so there’s no manpower except to turn on the machine. The operator can’t make a mistake; he just pushes ‘go.’” Magis, for its part, couldn’t afford mistakes in making the metal-forming molds, which cost about $450,000.

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This is the chair-back after the first tool has stamped out the rough shape. The bolt holes for attaching the legs are punched out during this phase and the edges of the steel are coined, or softened.

Surprisingly, the final prototype—which embodied the chair down to every radius—was not metal but plastic. “To make a one-off shape like that out of metal,” says Perazza, “requires a kind of manpower that no longer exists in Italy—–hand-banging shapes out of sheet metal is a disappearing craft. We had a guy who did that but he retired.” Though the Bouroullecs had iterated the chair back in many sturdy forms, the final 1:1 prototypes were made by Magis model makers in plastic, and not for sitting. But they were essential.

“As soon as you get the prototype you discover all kinds of things that you can’t otherwise see,” explains Bouroullec. “The first plastic 1:1 was really good but not subtle enough around some curved details, so we made one more.”

  • <h2><a href="http://www.dwell.com/articles/steelwood-chair.html">The Steelwood Chair</a></h2><p></p>Magis' Steelwood chair, designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, begins its life as a sheet of steel in an Italian factory. <p></p><p></p>Featured in the <a

    Steelwood Chair

    Magis—The Steelwood chair from Magis is a product of experience—the suppliers who punch the sheet metal for the back, which adroitly supports four legs and a beech wood seat, are among Italy’s most skilled metalworkers. Dwell talked with the manufacturers and the designers, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, and learned, among other things, that the chair is designed for easy disassembly. The two materials—metal and wood—can be separated by undoing a few screws and recycled according to type.

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