CH28 Savbukstol / Sawbuck Chair by Hans Wegner 1951

 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.

read more

CH07 - the two-part shell chair by Hans Wegner 1963

early versions of the chair shown at the exhibition on the work of Hans Wegner at Designmuseum Danmark in 2014

 

 Sometimes good design is about designing something better and sometimes it's about designing something different and, without doubt, it was the exploration of what many could see as unconventional styles and forms that drove forward Danish design through the 1960s and 1970s.

This shell chair by Hans Wegner, designed in 1963, could certainly not be described as conventional as it was one of his most sculptural but one of his most starkly simple designs.

read more

the paper cord seat of a Wishbone chair

 

The Y-stolen or Wishbone Chair was designed by Hans Wegner and has been produced by the Danish company Carl Hansen & Son since 1950.

The distinctive features of the design include the curved back rest then sweeps round into arm rests as a development of an earlier chair - the Chinese Chair - designed by Wegner and this is supported at the back by a thin Y-shaped splat that gives the chair its English name.

The seat is woven paper cord or Danish Paper Cord ... a material linked particularly with designs by Wegner but used by many designers in the classic period of modern Danish furniture through the 1950s and 1960s.

 

As on many chairs, the back of the seat is narrower than the front of the seat - which means that the sides rails are not parallel - then weaving the seat starts with extra turns of cord around the front rail. On the Wishbone Chair, the front seat rail is 41cm wide, between the front legs, while the distance between the back posts of the chair is just 34cm so there are ten initial turns around the front rail of the seat on each side with the eleventh taken straight back to the back rail hard into the angle against the back leg post to start the weave proper.

When the seat is completed this form of weaving creates the distinct open wedge shape at the outer ends of the front of the seat.

Taking the cord across and back, the weave forms the characteristic X on the top and on the underside that is rather like the X like you see on the back of many paper envelopes.

But the pattern of weaving on Wishbone Chairs is actually not as straightforward as it appears - a simple cord taken straight across and over and then returning on the underside - but forms three layers with the cords of the middle layer running at right angles to the direction of the cords on the top and the underside.

Wire staples are used at some points to keep tension tight at crucial stages of the work .

The weaver works from the outer rail inwards and joins in the cord are tied off with knots on the underside.

 
  1. the seat cords from above showing the intermediate layer of cords running across
  2. extra cords wound around the front seat rail to bring the first cord to run back square to the inner corner of the narrower back rail
  3. the extra turns of the first cord and the position of the side rail of the seat - set higher than the front rail - forms this distinctive triangular gap
  4. the cord around the front leg from below ... note the small metal staple holding the first cords in place
  5. in front of the splat of the back, there is a slot cut down through the back frame of the seat and the cords are taken across the seat, down the slot and then return back under the seat
  6. joins in separate lengths of cord are tied off with the knots on the underside
 

There is an earlier post about the Wishbone Chair with a more detailed description.

 

CH22 by Hans Wegner 1950

This low chair or easy chair from Carl Hansen - identified in their catalogues as CH22 - was one of the first chairs that Hans Wegner designed for the company. It went into production in 1950 and marked the start of a significant commercial partnership that continued through the rest of Wegner's long career.

This is not one of the best-known or most famous chairs designed by Wegner but it is important and significant for several reasons:

read more

 

CH24 The Wishbone Chair by Hans Wegner 1950

 

The CH24 by Hans Wegner - widely known as the Wishbone Chair but in Denmark called the Y Chair was commissioned by Carl Hansen and Son and has been in production since 1950.

It is a fascinating design for many reasons.

It followed on, in Wegner's work, from his design of the Round Chair but was to be simpler and cheaper to produce and it is said that it was meant to be a Danish version of the Thonet café chair so lighter in weight than most dining chairs but robust.  This does not seem particularly plausible until you look at a Wishbone chair straight on from the back and then you see exactly the profile of that Thonet chair with the hooped shape of the back.

In fact the Wishbone is a clear and deliberate development from the China chairs that Wegner worked on through the 1940s as the Wishbone has a relatively narrow and curved back piece or splat to support the sharply curved back that is set not horizontally but rising up from the front ends in a sweep up to the centre.

This sharply bent back rest has a flat inner face, so it does not stick into the back of the person sitting in the chair and the splat is actually forked - to form a pronounced Y giving the chair its name.

read more

 

the CH22 by Hans Wegner

At Carl Hansen & Søn, during the 3daysofdesign events, the CH22 chair, designed by Hans Wegner in 1950, was given prominence in the showroom in Bredgade because it is now in production and will be released at a special launch today, Friday 3rd June.

Along with the Wishbone Chair, the CH22 was one of the first chairs designed by Wegner for Carl Hansen and helped establish the strong partnership between the designer and the company that continued until the end of his life.

read more 

CH88 by Hans Wegner 1955

 

Carl Hansen has just released the CH88 chair, as part of their celebrations to mark the centennial year for Hans Wegner. The design, with its metal frame, its oval seat and with the frame continuing up to a short yoke-shaped wooden back with upturned ends to support the elbows, is one of a small series of metal-framed chairs designed by Wegner in the 1950s and 1960s.  The CH88 was a prototype designed in 1955 and was exhibited at a fair in Helsingborg organised by Foreningen Svensk Form (the Swedish Design Association) but did not go into commercial production. Now in production, it has only been available since May.

There are several points to be made about the design. Perhaps the most obvious is that Wegner, the consummate cabinet maker and master of wooden chairs, rarely, in relative terms, produced furniture with a metal frame. Several chairs with a wood frame have the yoke-shaped back but in most it is longer, curving round to provide a rest under the forearms. In this design for the CH88, the ends are tapered, curve slightly inwards, and turn up to support the elbows. This sounds awkward but my prose are markedly more uncomfortable than the chair. 

 

Historically, in England, dining chairs with long arm rests on either side were popular and known as carvers but generally were only placed at the ends of the table, while chairs down each side of the table were usually without arms. This in part marks status, only the householder sitting at the head of the table and his wife at the opposite end sit on chairs with arms, but it was also practical because simple ergonomics means the arm is at about the same height as the top of the table so it is difficult or impossible to push carvers, dining chairs with arms, neatly under or against the table when they are not occupied.

The oval seat of the CH88 is deceptively simple. It is made in cut and shaped plywood which has a hollow shape and a gentle rounding of the front edge. In cheaper or less well-designed chairs, plywood seats can quickly feel uncomfortably flat and the front edge can stick into the back of the legs just below the knee. This is certainly not a problem with the CH88, which is extremely comfortable, and there are several options ... the seat can be simply stained or painted, or it can be upholstered in fabric or leather. It makes the design remarkably flexible ... this could be a practical, hard-working chair in a business meeting room or be used in the most sophisticated and formal dining room.

The metal frames linking the legs are welded together for strength and to form a strong solid support for the seat but there are also plastic buffers or spacers that fix the legs to the plywood of the seat and control it's rigidity, giving the chair an appropriate level of flexibility and movement … otherwise sitting on it could feel like plonking down on a rigid bench.

When seen from underneath, it is obvious that the frame extends well beyond the edge of the seat and that the legs, both at the front and the back, are straight and vertical. In part this is why the chairs can be stacked but it also creates a more comfortable angle and spatial relationship between the seat and the back. If a chair has a solid back at a fixed angle then it dictates the angle of the sitter's spine unless they perch forward on the edge of the seat. In the CH88 you can decide how far back you sit in the seat ... by moving the base of your spine back into the chair you adjust the angle of your back and adjust, even if it is by a small amount, where the back of the chair supports your spine. We sit down so often and sit on so many different chairs that we do it automatically and rarely think about what we are doing but we do notice it when a chair is badly designed and gets these angles and relationships wrong. Wegner is praised for the appearance and the quality and the style of his chair designs ... it seems slightly inane to point it out but above all his chairs are also remarkably and consistently comfortable.

 

There are a number of colour options for the back and the seat and the steel frame if it is powder-coated - Carl Hansen's flagship store in Bredgade in Copenhagen has a display at the moment that includes a CH88 in a striking maroon - and the back rest if not painted comes in beech, oak or smoked oak and, as always with pieces from Carl Hansen, there is a choice of soap finish, lacquer/oil or white oil.

For English readers this choice of finish for wood may be slightly baffling and seem like an indulgence or an unnecessary complication but it really is worth giving it very careful consideration, not only in terms of how you want to use the furniture - how much dirt and how much staining and cleaning might be involved - but also the wood treatment has a profound effect on the appearance ... for instance white oil has a soft matt finish and gives oak the look of English furniture in fumed oak that was fashionable in the 1920s and 1930s.

The CH88 is strong; light; can be stacked and is remarkably comfortable as a dining chair, for conference-room seating or as a work/desk chair.

 
 

height 76cm

width 57cm

depth 44.5cm

height to seat 44.5cm

produced by Carl Hansen & Son

Carl Hansen

An early photograph of the factory in Odense. Copyright Carl Hansen.

 

Carl Hansen & Son, the furniture manufacturer, was founded in Odense in 1908. They are probably best known for the CH24 chair, better known as the Wishbone Chair, designed for them by Hans Wegner in 1949, launched in 1950 and in continuous production ever since.

The company has a well-deserved reputation for traditional craftsmanship combined with an outstanding sense of design. Over the last few years they have not just consolidated their commercial position but have opened major flagship stores to raise their profile. 

In December 2011 they acquired Rud Rasmussen, the joinery company, founded in Copenhagen in 1869 and famous for making the modular shelving system that was designed by Mogens Koch in 1928.

In October 2011, Carl Hansen opened a new showroom in New York, on Hudson Street in Lower Manhattan; then exactly a year ago, on 16th March 2013, they opened a new flagship store in Copenhagen at Bredgade 21, and at the beginning of this month, in March 2014, they opened a new flagship store in Tokyo.

Bredgade in Copenhagen is the most important street in the city for art galleries and antique shops, starting at the west end with the furniture dealer Klassik and running on to the Danish Design Museum at the east end. The Carl Hansen store is set out over two floors with extensive displays of all their major pieces of furniture and of course shelving from the Rud Rasmussen collection.

In the 1980s a new logo was designed for Carl Hansen by Bernt Petersen with a blue square and a white letter C but recently, to mark the centenary of the birth of Hans Wegner, and to mark their collaboration with the designer from 1949, Carl Hansen have reverted to the logo designed for the company by Wegner in 1950 with a red circle and the letters CHS in white.

Carl Hansen has an extensive web site, including very useful information about how to care for and maintain their furniture and they have just published the first edition of an online design magazine.

Logo by Wegner

Logo by Bernt Petersen

The Bredgade store