Steelwood Chair: Shear and Coin
Published by Dwell

Steel sheets, 191⁄2 inches high, 45 inches wide, and less than 1⁄16-inch thick, undergo a process that was developed during three years of collaboration between Magis, the production team, and the Bouroullecs. “When we made the initial drawings, we expected a lot from this kind of technique,” says Erwan Bouroullec, remembering the chair’s early days. “We were thinking about old cars made from punched metal and their fine organic shapes. We made a drawing—–unsure of whether the process would allow it—–and sent it to Italy. They said, ‘Yes, it’s possible.’”

The sheet steel arrives, its thickness and carbon content selected to suit a process that features tension, compression, and deformation.

A machine presses a sheet of metal against a mold with immense force, changing the shape by cutting, folding, bending, or making holes. Eight tools form the chair back in eight minutes. The first steps are shearing; cutting out openings for the back and four bolt holes; and coining, softening the edges of the cuts as on a coin. Designing the process required many models. “They made prototypes about assembly, material, and resistance,” says Bouroullec. “On our side, we made more mockups to find the right shape, the right contour, and the character of the chair.”

This stamping machine creates the basic shape of the chair-back by exerting enough force to shear the steel–much like a cookie-cutter.

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