It’s hard to imagine our Pencil Post bed folding down the size of a large suitcase. But the solid wood design was inspired by the early modular English Field Bed, built to support a canvas mattress and canopy of mesh netting to keep out mosquitos. However, if we dig even further into antiquity, we find the roots of our four-poster bed go even deeper.Read More
Crafting Captivating Curves
A Conversation with Bob Cabral
Curved elements are common in the art of furniture-making, from the apron of a table, the frame of a bed, or the crest of a chair. When it comes to creating curved pieces in wood, there are three essential ways it can be achieved— cut, steam-bent, or lamination. At Thos. Moser, we use all three of these techniques to create the graceful curves found in our furniture. When forming curves with unparalleled strength, we turned to our expert, Bob Cabral. A craftsman at Thos. Moser for over 20 years, Bob has been responsible for creating every laminated curve found in our furniture.
Bent lamination is a process that requires multiple layers of veneer, glue, pressure, and time. This technique improves the strength, stability, and endurance of many vital structural elements found throughout our designs while adding complex and graceful dimensions.
Detail of the sequenced flitch veneer used in the Chaise frame.
What is veneer?
A veneer is a very thin slice of highly pliable wood made in three ways; plain slicing, rotary cut, and quarter-sawn. All of Bob’s work is made with plain sliced veneer, producing the highest yield possible from the board. As he cuts along the boards’ growth rings, a stunning cathedral grain pattern is revealed. A rotary cut is often made at the lumber mill where large logs are soaked and then “peeled” or cut off the log like paper coming off a roll. This method creates large sheets of veneer used in plywood. The third technique is quarter-sawn veneer where the log is cut perpendicular to the growth rings, creating smaller slices of straight-grained veneer.
Our Vita Collection is immediately recognizable by its distinctive signature curve. To create the veneer for the Vita Bed, Bob starts off with one board and runs it through the resaw creating approximately six slices. He then runs these slices through an abrasive planer, checking each run with a caliber until his boards are approximately 1/8″.
Our veener is kept in a high humidification room to keep the wood soft and pliable. “If the veneer were to be left out, it would crack and break due to excessive drying,” Cabral points out. For the lamination process, the wood must be pliable to bend into the desired shapes and curves.
Bob clarifies that veneer is often associated with a lower-quality product and that some manufacturers will take a slice of good quality veneer and place it on a substrate usually made of particle board or low-quality material. However, we are using a sequenced flitch veneer. This means we take the same high-quality boards we use in crafting our furniture, cut them into thin, flexible plies, and glue them back together in the same sequence in which they came off the resaw machine or slicer. This creates a board that can be bent into a curve, rendering it stronger than the original board.
The Process of Lamination
At Thos. Moser, we utilize two different processes for creating a bent laminated curve. One press utilizes radio frequency, which works similar to a microwave and is extremely powerful. “It will give you the shock of your life if you’re not careful,” Cabral warns. The other process is the cold press, where Cabral uses forms and molds to make custom, flexible bends. The radio frequency press bonds the veneer in thirty seconds, but the cold press can take up to eight hours to dry. Every piece that goes into the radio frequency press has a custom jig- each created by Bob.
Both processes of lamination begin the same. Each veneer is cut to size and remeasured for thickness before he begins the glue-up process. He will often hand glue, quickly rolling the glue onto the veneer flitch and then immediately stacking another slice on top, misting with water to keep the wood and glue pliable until he achieves the desired thickness.
The specific method used depends on the size of the product. “Each process is equally strong and will hold up forever.”
Once the laminate has cured, Cabral performs his last step, which he calls “the stand test.” He places the bent laminate on the ground and stands on it to test its strength. If it passes this test, it moves on to the other craftspeople.
Bent Lamination in Finished Form
The components for the Chaise lounge are large, complex, and must be created by cold process lamination. From the time he begins the glue-up, he has about seven minutes before getting it into the press. With at least nineteen layers of veneer needed, this is no easy task. If he doesn’t complete it in time, the boards will stiffen up, rendering them useless. When the weather changes in the summer, that seven minutes becomes five, so Cabral must work quickly, carefully, and efficiently.
“The Chaise is my favorite to make, just because it’s a challenge. Especially during the change in seasons. It keeps me on my toes and I enjoy it.”
The beauty and strength found in the defining arch of the Vita Collection, the structural elegance of a ship’s knee, or the supine frame of the Chaise could not be crafted any other way. Bent lamination is the key to creating these strong and captivating curves. And when properly formed, these thin slices of veneer create a fluidity in wood that will last a lifetime.
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