Growing up, I watched My dad work in the garage My father and all his brothers grew up to be carpenters. They learned from their father through a kind of osmosis, almost exclusively through observation. My grampa didn’t talk much, even to his kids, but there was a lot to pick up simply by watching the guy work. Joe Lang was his father’s son in many ways, though my siblings and I were blessed by his eagerness to pass on his passion for woodworking and his openness in sharing everything he knew. His generosity wasn’t wasted. All of us kids inherited a love of things handmade and an obsessive attention to detail.
An impression that lasts The many childhood experiences of working with my dad in the shop played a big role in forming my interests. That background instilled in me a love for not only craftsmanship but also the fine arts. Out of high school I went to Kansas State University and entered its College of Architecture, Planning and Design - a program that successfully combined these two interests. Divided into four areas of study, the College was a space characterized by cross-pollination and collaboration. I went into school to pursue architecture, but this diverse and dynamic culture exposed me to product design and set me on a decidedly different track.
Then I fell in love with Chairs in Denmark One of the requirements for graduation was to spend a term studying abroad. By my third year at KSU, my classmates and I had been exposed to the niche practice of furniture design. A few of us had gotten hooked and made up our minds to study in Copenhagen that coming summer. There we would be introduced to a Scandinavian sub-culture obsessive about its chairs, tables, and everything in between. By the time we left in August, I had fallen in love with chairs.
Luck of the draw Our classes were put on through the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, DIS. The school is unique in that all the students are international while the instructors are native to Denmark. The faculty was composed entirely of practicing professionals in fields specific to each course. For the next eight weeks, roughly thirty other furniture students and I would each design and build our own chair. The first order of business was to split the class into thirds by random selection, each group being assigned to work with a specific material for the duration of the term. The three materials were hardwood, bendable ply laminate, and steel, which was further divided into tubular or solid stock. The basis of the course was to take inspiration from your given material and design the structure of your piece from this single medium. I would be working with solid steel rod for the rest of the summer.
The first of many
One of a kind Beginning with sketches and scale models, the first version of CR45 began to take shape. The initial design direction came from a classic use for steel in furniture - a cantilevered chair. This classification is based upon its structure. The Danes take their furniture very seriously and organize chairs into specific categories. These “typologies” are based upon a piece’s functionality and intended context, structure and tectonics (the relationship between a chair’s components and the means of assembly). CR45 is unique within its structural class. Cantilevered chairs are traditionally made from hollow tubing or a larger stock of material. This is due to the intense stress on the seat and front two legs of these chairs given the absence of back two legs. Ultimately this use of tube means thicker lines and a bulkier appearance. CR45 brings an elegant, original solution to this problem of aesthetics with its slender frame of solid steel rod.
I’m not a Cantilever :(
I’m a Cantilever!
Hi, I’m new.
“...a cantilevered chair from solid rod... As far as I know, it’s the only one.”
Closing out Copenhagen At the closing reception for the DIS furniture program, CR45 took first place in the metal chairs category that summer. My Professor, Flemming Jensen, had been in the furniture business his entire adult life and had studied under Poul Kjaerholm forty years ago at the Danish Royal Academy of Architecture. Kjaerholm broke the Danish mold in mid-century furniture by pioneering the non-traditional use of steel in his chair designs. At the time, Germany and other Western European countries had embraced the material, but Scandinavia had held tight to its traditional use of hardwoods. His international affections for and commitment to minimalism led him to rival Germany’s Mies Van Der Rohe - an architect and designer often referred to as “The Father of Minimalism”. As Kjaerholm’s protege, Flemming had been exposed to European furniture at large from a young age, and his own chairs are exhibited in museums throughout Scandinavia. In announcing the award for CR45, Flemming stated, “Josef’s idea from the beginning was very simple - to make a cantilevered chair from solid rod... As far as I know, it’s the only one.” He encouraged me to continue to prototype the chair after leaving Copenhagen.
Over the next eight months, I designed and built four more versions of CR45, each iteration improving upon the one before it. Not owning any of the tools necessary to fabricate the chair, I outsourced the fabrication to Brand Metal Works, located in my hometown of Bellevue, NE. They did great work, but the cost of labor was unsustainable on a college budget. I only made three versions of the chair this way before looking for a more cost-effective solution.
The first attempt involved a two-dimensional plywood jig and my grampaâ€™s farm equipment. The idea was that he would heat the rod with a welding torch and place it on the jig. I would then bend the rod till it hit a peg embedded in the jig. Nothing much came from this experiment except for some singed plywood and wasted rod.
prototype . 1 Prototype . 2 Prototype . 3 Prototype . 4
1 2 3 4
Prototype No. 5 gets Some traction After the farm fiasco, my grampa bought me a production-level hand bender from a local tool supplier. It was an incredible help, and without his generosity I probably would have had to put the project on hold indefinitely. Using that bender, I was able to make the fifth version of the chair. This all happened just in time to enter the piece in a competition in Kansas City called Monsters of Design. That Spring, over 50 professional designers and teams from the KC metro submitted their projects to MOD. Prototype No. 5 of CR45 won best in show at the end of the American Institute of Architectâ€™s KC Design Week. It was a big deal and a confirmation that it was time to publicly market the chair.
crowdfunding cantilevered chai
WHY A KICKSTARTER? At this point in the project’s development, the design of the chair was essentially finalized. There remained only one major roadblock to manufacturing and marketing CR45 - the right tools. The chair’s intricate and balanced structure required more precision than the small bender I owned could provide. It was time to step it up a notch and make the chair at the quality and consistency necessitated by the design. The cost of all the necessary equipment was beyond my budget by a long shot... This is where the Kickstarter came in. Kickstarter is a investment platform that operates by inviting backers to pledge their support for an emerging project. Unlike traditional forms of investment, sponsors buy into a campaign by essentially making an advance purchase of a “reward”. Instead of a financial return, these backers have access to unique and often limited edition products related to the proposed project - and have a chance to become part of a unique, one-time campaign. This approach was not only a way raise the funds necessary for the tooling, but a way to allow others to play a part in the story of CR45’s production.
Surrealism sells Running a Kickstarter for a fancy-pants chair had inherent challenges. Number one among them was the relatively limited number of people with both an interest in experimental contemporary furniture and the financial means to purchase the chair. The solution was to provide alternative rewards that were not only affordable, but also attractive to a wider audience - not just the closet chair nerd. In addition to making CR45 available for purchase at an â€œearly birdâ€? price, backers had access to three other products: unique art prints featuring the chair in surreal settings, original handdrawn depictions of famous chairs from the last century and the book youâ€™re holding now. Over the course of three weeks, 88 backers contributed to the project to raise a total of $12,169.
The makin of CR4
Many hands & Careful craft With the success of the Kickstarter, I now had the funds to purchase the necessary equipment. I could now fabricate CR45 in a way I never had before. The process remained the same, but the new tools made all the difference for the final product.
THE SPACE The same double car garage my dad used to work in had become home base for production. I could never have developed an appreciation of craftsmanship and eye for detail if it hadn’t been for his mentorship growing up. The month before he passed away, we spent a lot of time together in that garage working with the bender my grampa had given me. Though my dad never got to see the project come to fruition, he has been the soul of everything my siblings and I have done in “The Lang Shop” since.
With a little research, I found that the right bender for the job was priced at a whopping $3,500. The weapon of choice was a Model #4 Diacro Hand Bender. Diacro has been headquartered in Minnesota since its founding in 1942 and the company still machines all of its products in-house. The design for this particular bender hasn’t changed since the 60’s. You know what they say, “If it ain’t broke...”
A healthy process Throughout the designâ€™s development, from generating the concept in Copenhagen to refining its details over the next two years, the approach remained consistent. The process always began with freehand sketching and ideation. Only after the details were worked out would I then move to the computer to draft the product and produce the full-size blueprints. After each prototype was fabricated from those plans, it was straight back to the drawing board. Manually working through the problems of each version of CR45 before returning to digital drafting was the key to keeping the design process flexible and effective.
The stuff chairs are made of CR45’s design is influenced primarily by its material makeup. Its solid steel stock and the hybrid cording both serve specific functional and aesthetic roles - each according to their inherent properties. The matte black frame acts as the primary structure while the off-white cording directly contacts the user and translates the load to the frame. Visual contrast between the two materials highlights these functional considerations.
hybrid rope nylon core, woven cotton sheathing 1/4” diameter
solid round stock 1045 alloy powdercoat finish 1/2” diameter
Left & right
The skeleton CR45â€™s frame is comprised of five individual members. After cutting each to length using a Jet horizontal band saw, the pieces are bent into shape using the full-scale blueprints for reference and quality control.
Speaking of quality control With the precision made possible by the Diacro Bender, there was only one way to screw this up: user error. To avoid that unfortunate pitfall, I purchased two digital angle finders. In forming the three-dimensional pieces of the frame, there were two different types of angles to keep track of, both the angle of the bends themselves and the angle of rotation between each operation. For the latter, I used an accelerometer - the same technology inside your phone that tells it when youâ€™ve rotated the screen from portrait to landscape. The digital display on the magnetized gadget was accurate to the tenth of the degree and guaranteed I was getting the most out of that shiny bender. The next step was to weld the frame. Using a computer-driven router, I milled a jig that would lock the pieces into place while being fused together.
Jim & Randy Outsourcing this part of the job to ACE Welding in Omaha was an easy decision. Jim inherited the business from his father, and his son works for the company as well. They were local, charged a fair price and did reliable work. Jim referred me to Randy for the powdercoating of the frames. Randyâ€™s story was similar. His father had started Industrial Plating, Inc before handing it off to him. Randyâ€™s son, Scott, was the account manager for the company and became my main contact during the finishing of the frames.
Bobbin weave The fabrication of the chairâ€™s skeleton makes up about 80% of the entire build. The only thing left to do after picking up the finished pieces from Scott was to weave the sash cord onto the body of the chair. This manual work was expedited with the help of a bobbin my Uncle Mike had designed and built for me that previous year. Using rachet straps to pre-compress the frame was another key improvement to this tedious process. The cording has a tensile strength of 627 lbs and exerts some serious force on the steel structure - enough to squeeze it together on a small scale. Pulling the whole construct into place with these straps first eliminated the never-ending process of repeatedly cinching the slack out of the cording as the sides of the frame slowly pulled together.
Sarah Lang Mike and Beppie Aube Greg Sarson Frans Lang Ulrich Hauser Stacey Haswell Schutt Riley Haney Jessica Tibbetts Colin Welsh Katelynne Trimble James Connolly Xavier Bouchard-dâ€™Hauese James Deutsher Joe Stancato Will Targy Alie Shields Tate Fisher Jay Marcus David Bruin Eric Geanes Skyler Snider Carson M. Sean Cork Jonas Hansen Damon English Jeff Lewis Dorian Kernytsky Parker Rivera Michael Bianco
Aaron Bisch Rachel Vecchio Jonathan Yang Max Eichbaum Rachel Botten Brandon Eversgerd Chris Friel Sarah Swaim Kim Kui Chung David Lang Abbey Jackson Karl and Shirl Aube Matthew Spaniol Dee Simone Fr. Kevin Mcgoldrick Angelica Owens Brian Delaney Julio Terra John Dimatos Alexis Kiel Steve Sidner Randy & Andrea Walther Gentry Heimerman Paige Strecker Janelle Tennigkeit Steven Lang John Perroni Susie & Louis Dorland Marko K. Seppanen
Dan and Emily Smith Eric Mueth Brandon Brazda Laura Wilson Anne Collingwood Abby Guenther Jose Martinez-Giron Rudy Date Roger Heady Channing Braun Abby Buchmann Laura Stockdell Leslie Champlin Ashley Lively Jaimie Swanepoel Victoria Bezy Dan Gonzales Natalie Berg Nichole Finke Chris Lewis Mary Jo Koch Joe Witkowsky Ross DeVault Cole Wolk Tom Boland Jeffrey Chung Cassie Dorland The Culture Project Bronwyn Marshall
This project could not have been a success without the generous contributions of my family, friends and a handful of complete strangers. Thank you all for your incredible support of CR45: A Chair from Denmark.
This book is dedicated to Joe Lang (1963-2014)
P A R A M E T E R S S H O U L D A L W AY S S E R V E T O I N S P I R E . I S T R I V E T O U N D E R S TA N D A N D CAPITALIZE ON THE INHERENT PROPERTIES OF MATERIALS IN ORDER TO CREATE OBJECTS THAT ARE AS FUNCTIONAL AS THEY ARE CAPTIVATING.
A Many hands production