Charles and Ray Eames, a husband and wife design duo, pioneered the technique of molding plywood into complex shapes for furniture production. They built a pressure molding chamber in 1941 called the “Kazam! Machine”, into which plywood was inserted and formed into a seat shape with compound curves.
The Kazam! Machine
Their work on molded plywood chairs was both interrupted and advanced when the U.S. entered the Second World War. The Navy was having problems with their metal leg splints which often worsened the soldiers’ injuries. The Eameses were commissioned to design a new plywood splint using the forming techniques they were developing. The ultimate goal was to develop a molding process that could be adapted to mass production. The splint was ultimately successful and molded plywood was adapted to other areas, such as airplane parts, though those experiments never fully panned out.
With the war winding down and military commissions drying out, Charles refocused his efforts on furniture. Unlike the prewar one piece molded plywood furniture, the new direction was towards a multiple piece chair. Making a chair from several molded pieces made it easier to produce and allowed for multiple combinations of parts. The DCW (Dining Chair Wood), and the LCW (Lounge Chair Wood) were constructed using five layers of ply bound together with the grain of each layer running counter to each other and then molded under pressure.