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Woodworking with Diego de Assis

  Building Gerrit Rietveld 1 of 7  

Reproducing Rietveld chairs in our woodworking classes bought a series of cumulative benefits, beginning with their historical importance—making these chairs is to participate in that history.

From the perspective of teaching techniques, chairmaking is a complete woodworking exercise. As Domingos Marcellini has written, “the chair is the most difficult type of furniture to make, not one of the lesser exercises, due to the small dimensions of the component parts. (Practical Manual of Woodworking, Ediouro, p. 158).

Rietveld, however, tried to facilitate the process, whether in an industrial or craft setting, by using simple woodworking techniques. His minimalist furniture seems to be made backwards, which is both a criticism and a stimulus to try making it.

This is the case with his “Krat” (Crate) furniture, made of lumber salvaged from packing materials. His ideas were very advanced for the time, and have become icons of modern furniture design.

In this article I cover the main steps in making the famous Red and Blue and Zig-Zag chairs, following the original plans in the book How to Construct Rietveld Furniture (Peter Drijver and Johannes Niemeijer, Thot pub.), and the alternative version of the Zig-Zag chair made of veneered plywood.

Rietveld seated in his armchair in front of his workshop
(How to Construct Rietveld Furniture, ed. Thot, pg. 29)

Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (1888-1964)

The son of a furnituremaker in Utrecht, Holland, Rietveld learned his craft in his father’s workshop. In 1911 he opened his own woodworking shop, and later became interested in architecture as well. He participated in the Dutch artistic movement called “De Stjil” (literally “The Style”) begun in 1917.

The group’s approach was based on the “precise and forceful division of space; the tension and equilibrium they achieved through asymmetry; their bold and imaginative use of basic forms and primary colors; and the ultimate simplicity in their design solutions.” (Layout: The Design of the Printed Page Allen Hurlburt, Nobel pub., p. 35).

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Simonds Saws

Atkins Backsaws


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