The traditional process of handcrafting a wooden chair in a classic design like the Windsor can take hundreds of hours and a whole lot of skill — or at least the direct tutelage of a master craftsperson. The wood must be split and dried, the legs, arms, and stretchers turned on a lathe, and the seat hand-carved and drilled prior to sanding and staining. It’s not easy, but it is deeply satisfying, producing an object that could theoretically last for centuries. But how has modern technology changed this process for designers producing handmade prototypes?
Depending on the design process, crafting a wooden chair might now involve the use of time-saving tech like CNC machines, which ensure more accuracy and efficiency than ever before. Such was the case with “Teresa”: a streamlined contemporary design by young Italian designer Aldo Petruzelli. Aldo gave everyone an inside look at that process with a step-by-step post on Behance.
Named after this mother, Teresa is Aldo’s personal take on the midcentury modern style, bringing together quality materials, comfort, and a striking aesthetic. He began by sketching out a profile that was a little unusual but still ergonomic. Petruzelli then commissioned a carpenter to help him refine his initial design and tweak the measurements, cutting out the pieces using the aforementioned CNC machine, which guides the movement of factory tools and machinery according to pre-programmed computer software.
Next came the gluing of the arms to the main leg, a task that Aldo notes was “all elbow grease and hand polishing, aside from the use of clamps.” All of the little pegs and supports came together with hand-drilling and sanding. Along the way came further refinements that demonstrate the unpredictability of transitioning a design from a drawing to a physical object. “Design is in the details, despite slight differences from the main project,” he notes.
As the wooden frame was assembled, an upholsterer worked on producing cushions for the seat and back of the chair under Petruzelli’s supervision. The finished product is nothing short of an instant classic, which is all the more impressive considering the fact that Aldo was still in high school when he created it. He’s currently studying industrial design, and his chair is now available for purchase on Faberin (a platform that connects designers with manufacturers who can produce and sell their products).
“I started designing knowing what almost everyone knows, which is simply to draw small things without any engineering process in the environment and then overestimate what [has been] done,” explained Petruzelli in a recent interview with Faberin. “What I really learned from places as different as Italy and America is that design can be applied to all disciplines, so it’s like a language…Large organizations are beginning to appreciate the depth of this field and are applying design thinking to almost everyday activities, as well as hiring people who know what they are doing.”
It’s always fun to peek behind the scenes for a perspective you wouldn’t normally experience. If you could observe the manufacturing process of any one object, what would it be?