DIY bent plywood furniture
Yield is a collection of comfortable plywood furniture designed to be built with common tools and materials. The idea to create these chairs came when I had been sitting in my Strap chair and realized the flat wood seat was quite uncomfortable for long periods. It reminded me of Enzo Mari’s famous Sedia 1 chair from his DIY furniture manual, Autoprogettazione. I wondered if anyone had created a DIY chair with a more comfortable curved seat. I searched around and quite a number of designers had created their own interpretation of DIY furniture, but none that I could find had curved wooden seats. Of course, I remembered, the masters of curved wooden furniture are Charles and Ray Eames. The Eameses used industrial bent plywood techniques to achieve beautiful and ergonomic forms. Bent plywood can be achieved a number of ways, but I thought that all of them were too complex to be considered “do it yourself”. The goal became to recreate bent plywood without the industrial equipment and complex techniques.
I began by testing how far store-bought plywood could bend without cracking. I realized that thin, 1/4” plywood could bend quite a bit if I screwed it down to a wood frame. After honing in the exact amount of bend, grain orientation, and soaking the wood, I was able to achieve a consistent 1 inch dip in the plywood. The curve was enough to improve the comfort significantly while still maintaining a strong, functional seat. As an added bonus, using plywood over solid boards made these chairs significantly lighter than other DIY furniture.
Once I had proven out my make-shift bent plywood technique, I continued to design, build, and test the chair frames. I added bent plywood on the back rest and adjusted the dimensions of the frame to achieve optimal ergonomics. I designed the frames to look clean and flush so that the focus of the chair would be the curved plywood. There was a fine balance of making the frames easy to build but also look beautiful.