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Wrong Woods

Established & Sons—The Wrong Woods furniture series is a collaboration between designer Sebastian Wrong and artist Richard Woods for Established & Sons. Wrong creates the object, designing furniture pieces with unadorned surfaces. He sends them into production where Woods applies his signature prints of simplified wood grain in Technicolor. Livia Lauber, a young designer on the Established & Sons team, helps
to streamline the production process. The plywood line, now composed of a night table, chest of drawers, bookcase, and storage unit, met the public at the 2007 Milan Furniture Fair, and again at Moss last fall in New York. On the eve of the line’s mass production, Dwell visited the factory, which is on the southern outskirts of London, England.

Established & Sons makes many products at London's Studio Caparo. This is a normal day at the factory: highly skilled people taking their time to do the job right.

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    01 Woodblocks

    Woods’s prints begin as marker drawings on acetate. “We have a set of patterns that have been reduced from wood grain,” he says, “and we use them as a library, and change them around. So it really doesn’t take very long.” He sources the prints from his library and sizes them to register precisely on each panel of the furniture. Then comes what Wrong calls “productionization of an artisanal process.” While Woods would photocopy his drawings onto 1:1 sheets, glue them to the woodblocks, and cut the grooves with a handheld router, Wrong and Lauber turned them into digital files, which the computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine can rout without hands. Lauber simulated the irregularity of a vibrating handheld machine by drawing meticulously wobbly lines. While this step is computerized, the printing step–when the MDF woodblocks are applied to the furniture pieces–uses basic machinery. Woods used to press the blocks with a cast-iron garden roller, but it’s a diffi-cult way to apply even pressure, so the team decided to use a hydraulic press.

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    02 Plywood

    Wrong based his designs on DIY plywood-furniture patterns from postwar Britain. “It’s a very simple message of construction using plywood and turned timber legs,” he explains.“ They’re like patterns people used to get from the library, bring home, and make. I remember my dad making them.”

    The plywood pieces are CNC-cut into shape, and CNC-routed with stepped miter joints that eliminate the need for pins, biscuits, or any fixings other than PVA glue. “They’re not highly engineered,” Wrong says of the runner systems for the cabinet doors and dresser drawers. “We’re using hardware that’s quality, but basic. That’s in tune with our idea of the piece.” Though Woods’s prints sell in galleries of editioned works of art, in this con-text they are furniture, which is usually more affordable. “This is production work, not edition work,” says Wrong. “We decided not to make editions, because it was important to produce a product that is not too expensive.”

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    03 Prints

    Before the furniture is assembled, each piece is painted jet-black and printed with the CNC-cut MDF woodblocks, which Wrong calls “crude but very effective.” Enamel paint in various shades is rolled onto the blocks, which are then affixed to the plywood surfaces with a hydraulic press. “We have refined the process in order to achieve constant pressure on the printing block,” Wrong explains. When the blocks are removed, the remaining prints are bold, but scrappy, because the paint adheres irregularly.

    The woodblocks can be used heavily. Just one block can print 200 pieces a day, and cleaning them is easy, since enamel paint coagulates as it dries. “You can just wipe it off,” Woods explains, “and print another 200 the next day. Each piece is laser-engraved with the logo and title of the work, rather than an edition number, as a traditional print would be. “We’re playing with the boundaries of printmaking,” says Woods. “It’s mass-produced and also handmade. To me it’s more interesting than selling prints in a gallery.”

  • 04 Groove

    Once the pieces are assembled, their stepped miter joints are glued together and clamped to dry. Wrong routs a three-millimeter perpendicular groove along every 90-degree corner of each piece. The groove exposes some real plywood, along with a hint of the structure–—offset baldly by the black paint surrounding it, and by Woods’s colorful prints. Asked what the highlight of manufacturing is, Wrong laughs wearily, and cites the moment of watching a mechanized router blade cut away and reveal raw plywood. “This element shows you the real material, while the faces are printed with an artistic version of it,” he says. “It’s an aesthetically pleasing meeting of materials. The devil is in the detail.”

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