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Bentwood chairs by Michael Thonet around 1850
Yngve Ekström with his creation Lamino 1956

Bentwood is solid wood that was bent under steam using a process developed by Michael Thonet around 1830. Bentwood, mostly maple or beech wood , is used in particular to make chairs.

From 1830, Thonet began to try to make furniture from glued and bent wooden strips. In 1836 there was a first success with the Boppard plywood chair . From 1867 the company Jacob & Josef Kohn ran a campaign that Thonet should give up his patent rights. In 1869 Thonet renounced his rights and Kohn took up the production of bentwood furniture as a result.

A similar process was already known to the Indians of the Northwest Coast cultures of North America and the Aleutians , who used it to make canoes, masks, hats and coffins. Cedar wood was the basis .

Manufacturing method

Normally, when bending wood, the outside (= tension side) breaks. By using a tension band, the expansion of the outer zones is limited, but the inner zone (= pressure zone) is more compressed. However, the lignin of the wood must first be softened by steam or boiling . After bending, the molded parts must be clamped (secured against deformation) and dried in order to avoid recovery. The advantage of bending is that there is hardly any loss of wood (in contrast to machining processes such as milling or the like) and, despite thin cross-sections and relatively narrow radii, the briquettes are very strong.

When gluing bentwood, thin layers of wood are glued together and then bent into a shape. This more modern method allows seating furniture to be constructed so that it can swing freely . a. used in Scandinavian furniture. The finished material is also called molded wood or, if the grain direction of the veneer layers is glued offset by 90 °, molded plywood .

Areas of application

Bentwood was used to make chairs, rocking chairs, sofas, piano chairs, etc. In the 20th century, the process of gluing bentwood was resumed by Scandinavian designers such as Alvar Aalto , Bruno Mathsson and Yngve Ekström .


  • Stefan Üner: Gebrüder Thonet , in: Wagner, Hoffmann, Loos and the furniture design of Viennese modernism. Artist, client, producer , ed. v. Eva B. Ottillinger, exhib. Cat. Hofmobiliendepot, Vienna, March 20 - October 7, 2018, pp. 149–152, ISBN 978-3-205-20786-3 .
  • Renzi, Wolfgang Thillmann: sedie a dondolo Thonet - Thonet rocking chairs . Silvana Editoriale, Milano 2006, ISBN 88-366-0671-7 .
  • Natascha Lara, Wolfgang Thillmann: Bentwood furniture in South America - Bentwood furniture in South America - Muebles de madera curvada . La Paz 2008.
  • Wolfgang Thillmann, Bernd Willscheid: Furniture design - Roentgen, Thonet and the modern . Roentgen Museum Neuwied, Neuwied 2011, ISBN 978-3-9809797-9-5 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Bentwood  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
  • thillmann-collection Wolfgang Thillmann, the world's largest private collection of Thonet and bentwood furniture

Individual evidence

  1. Fine Woodworking (Ed.): Fine Woodworking on Bending Wood. Taunton Press, Newtown (USA) 1985, ISBN 978-0-918804-29-7 . Pp. 30-36.