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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

the chair project - an exploration of tube bending, blacksmith style.

Recently we were contacted by Victoria, creator of the595 Project and were presented with a unique opportunity - re-create a curvy, French, mid-century modern steel chair for clients in California. We met with them, and luckily they were able to provide a chair to use as a template:
Two things immediately jumped out - first, how cool looking the line that defines the legs, seat and back of the chair is, and second, that that line is constructed with thin wall tubing.  We have considerable experience bending solid bars, not hollow ones, and images of misshapen, kinked tubes were easy to conjure.  As were the actual, misshapen, kinked tubes once we started figuring out the process:
We knew that one of the strategies for bending pipes and tubes when one doesn't have fancy hydraulic bending machines is to pack them with sand - essentially just try to make a solid bar out of the thing.  Kellen acquired some medium fine sand used for sand blasting, we crimped the ends of some tubes, filled them with sand and started bending. After using about 30 feet of material, what we referred to as the 'learning curves', we figured out the properties and limititations of the material and started bending pieces around some homemade jigs:

The main curvy lines on the original chairs were made by bending two tubes and then welding them together so that's what we're going to do.  Pictured above is a completed half.


Dom Boyd said...

I had no idea tube bending was used this way. It's great that you were able to bed the tubes like a blacksmith would. That's an interesting process to see. I'm glad that the art of the blacksmiths isn't lost.

James Defranco said...

This chair looks really cool and I love the way you make a replica! I'd love to have something like that in my own home and you make it look not that hard to make. Maybe I'll have to give it a shot, or ask my welder father.