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LCW

  • Object:

    Chair

  • Place of origin:

    California (made)

  • Date:

    1945-1946 (designed)
    1947-1948 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Eames, Charles, born 1907 - died 1978 (designer)
    Eames, Ray, born 1912 - died 1988 (designer)
    Evans Products Company - Molded Plywood Division (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Compression-moulded birch plywood, hardwood veneer

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Colin Sherborne

  • Museum number:

    W.17-1989

  • Gallery location:

    Furniture, Room 135, The Dr Susan Weber Gallery, case BY10, shelf EXP

The design of this chair arose from experiments with moulding plywood conducted by Charles and Ray Eames during the Second World War while they researched the manufacture of leg splints for the US Navy. They succeeded in forming plywood in three planes to create softly curving, organic shapes. The LCW chair (standing for Lounge Chair Wood) was one of several variant designs from the years immediately after the War that all featured separate seats and backs. The first Eames plywood chairs were made in Los Angeles by Evans Products, but from 1946 the bigger Herman Miller Furniture Company in Zeeland, Michigan, marketed the furniture, and from 1949 Herman Miller took over production too. The furniture was aimed at middle-class American families that wanted an up-to-date image. This example was part of the furnishings of the Tarter House in Los Angeles, designed by the architect Gregory Ain.

Physical description

Lounge chair made from five moulded plywood elements. The 5-ply seat and back have gently moulded curves, designed for the sitter's comfort. The chair stands on U-shaped 7-ply leg units, the back legs being shorter than the front. The back is joined to the rest of the chair by a curved 'spine'. The seat and back are screwed and glued respectively to the U-shaped legs and the curved 'spine' through rubber shockmounts. The outermost plys on all of the elements are of hardwood (probably mahogany), the others are birch.

Note that where the back legs are fixed to the frame, the five screws used are different to those used on the rest of the chair, possibly because they are replacements.

Place of Origin

California (made)

Date

1945-1946 (designed)
1947-1948 (made)

Artist/maker

Eames, Charles, born 1907 - died 1978 (designer)
Eames, Ray, born 1912 - died 1988 (designer)
Evans Products Company - Molded Plywood Division (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Compression-moulded birch plywood, hardwood veneer

Dimensions

Height: 67 cm, Width: 56 cm, Depth: 61 cm, Height: 39 cm seat

Object history note

This chair was originally part of the furnishings of the Albert Tarter House, Los Feliz, Los Angeles, designed in 1948 by Gregory Ain. It was given to the V&A in 1989 by Colin Sherborne [89/1958].

Historical significance: The LCW (Lounge Chair Wood) developed from the Eames' early experiments with bent plywood at the time if their research for the U.S. Navy. With its playful anthropomorphism and technical innovation this chair and other versions designed by the Eames' represent one of the great achievements in modern furniture.

Descriptive line

Chair, model LCW (Lounge chair wood); American, 1946-49, designed by Charles and Ray Eames, manufactured by Evans Products

Labels and date

LOUNGE CHAIR

Designed by Charles Eames (American, 1907-1978) and Ray Eames (American, 1912-1988)
Manufactured by Molded Plywood Divisions, Evans Products Company, Venice, California, USA
Plywood, probably mahogany
Originally part of the furnishings of the Tarter House, Los Angeles, designed by Gregory Ain
Designed 1945-6, manufactured about 1947

Given by Colin Sherborne
W.17-1989 [1989-2006]

Production Note

The production process for the chair is described in Neuhart, Neuhart and Eames, Eames Design (London: Thames & Hudson, 1989), pp.59-61 as follows:

'The molding [sic] process for the chairs was essentially a refinement of earlier experiments. Thin sheets of wood, roughly cut to shape, were coated with a plastic binder and placed on top of one another, The wood grain of each of the successive layers (a 5-ply thickness was judged to [60] be the best aesthetic and functional choice) ran counter to the one above it to increase the strength of the plywood "sandwich", which was then positioned over an inflatable neoprene and canvas air bag and beneath a metal mold [sic] filled with a synthetic heating oil...

On top of the air bag was a neoprene blanket with a nichrome-wire heating element cemented in its center [sic]. Above the heating elements was a canvas caul that received the precoated [sic] plywood lay-up. A plaster mold at the bottom of the machine formed the bottom half of the male/female mold. Once the wood and glue sandwich was clamped into the machine, compressed air inflated the rubber membrane, slowly (to avoid breakage) pressing the plywood into the curves of the mold. The heat from the lower pad fused the wood sheets into a single piece. While the pressure was maintained, the hot oil at the top cooked a melamine finish into the upper and lower plies of light woods. (Dark woods were sprayed with a finish.) Ten minutes were required to mold the 5-ply chair backs and seats, which were 5/16-inch thick...

Lengthy experiments were conducted over a period of years in an attempt to apply the electronic cycle-welding process (first developed by the Chrysler Corporation in the 1930s), which used radio frequencies to transmit heat to a bonding agent placed between two parts, thereby bonding them together in a touch, waterproof, permanent joint. The attempts to use this technology to fuse the rubber connectors, or shock mounts, to the molded plywood chair backs, spines and seats were only partially successful (pp.52-53), and a satisfactory mass-production technique for connecting the parts of the chair was finally achieved on the assembly line by gluing the shock mounts to the wood pieces with a resorcinol phenloic adhesive applied with heat and pressure [it is unclear if our chair was made in this manner as it preceded large-scale

Materials

Plywood; Birch

Techniques

Compression moulding

Categories

Furniture

Production Type

Mass produced

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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