Through the 1930s and 1940s and on into the 1950s, designer experimented with not just different materials, so here shaped plywood, but also looked for new and unconventional forms of construction.
Here, Hans Wegner seems to have been inspired by the carpenters sawbuck … what is called in England a saw horse or sometimes simply a trestle. This was a straightforward and usually light bench, often made quickly and crudely with available timber with a length of squared-off wood as a top bar and simple supports at each end - either just two pieces of wood fixed and angled out to form an inverted V or, if it had to support more weight, then cross bars were added between the legs to form an A at each end. These were used on their own or with a pair to support a length of wood as it was sawn or cut to length or two of these could be used together with planks set across to form a temporary table or even a platform when painting a ceiling or hanging wallpaper.*
Of course, the geometry of the form of Wegner's chair is actually rather more sophisticated than a trestle.
The key part of the structure is an H shape at the front with robust turned and tapered uprights or posts with a cross bar that is the support for the front of the seat. This primary H frame is not upright but leans backwards and is supported by a second similar but much shorter H shape that is propped against it and the cross bar of that back H supports the back of the seat that is slotted into the cross bar.
Where the shorter back support meets the taller front posts there are short and shaped arm rests, housed and cantilevered forward, very close to the form of the arm rests on the Peacock Chair by Wegner.
There is a deep back rest in plywood, with a level top but bowed downwards across the bottom and slightly curved inwards. This is not fixed across the uprights but held between them with lugs at the top and bottom, on each side, shaped from the back rest itself and held in slots on the inward facing edges of the pots so a form very close to the way that Alvar Aalto fixed the curved plywood shells of his chairs between the bentwood frames of the supports on each side.
Sawbuck chair 1951
designed by Hans Wegner (1914-2007)
made by Carl Hansen
height: 77 cm
width: 73 cm
depth: 67 cm
height of seat: 37 cm
Sawbuck dining chair 1952
In the following year, Wegner designed a dining chair Carl Hansen - CH29 - that is closely related in its form to the Sawbuck Chair.
height: 81 cm
width: 53 cm
depth: 49 cm
height of seat: 44 cm
* The name of the chair implies a sawbuck was a direct inspiration but sometimes these names were applied subsequently if the form reminded people of something … the case with the Wishbone Chair.