The Background of Product Development: How to Make a Wooden Chair #3


A group of challenge addicts

“Wow, this should be difficult.” This was the impression our product development team got when they first saw the sketches of the chair. At the same time, the stunningly beautiful design intrigued them. Someone said with enthusiasm, “We can learn a lot from overcoming the difficulties!” The chair, LAPIS, has a conventional Finnish look, designed by a Finnish designer couple, Sirkka and Timo Saarnio. This simple chair is composed of only three parts and is as light as three kilograms, with a backrest of beautiful grains, an ergonomic seating to fit the body line, and sturdy legs to firmly support body weight. The simple but strong structure was feasible by the latest technology (at that time) of wood molding press.

Our stackable chairs are stacked on the trolley, up to 10 pieces.

Patience for the egos of wood pieces

The product development team always struggles with wood warping even now. It was the biggest difficulty in developing the chair. Each piece of wood has its own way of bending and twisting. Wood may continue to change its shape for a certain period of time even after molding press. Some stay still after that, others become grumpy and get out of hand. It’s as if wood complains like “Hey, it’s too humid.” “What’s with the weather here?” The team struggled to convert the beautiful design into a product by establishing a more sophisticated wood molding press technique and widening the distance between the legs for more stability.

Our chair prototype with a notice saying "Danger Do Not Sit" because it's a protytype.


Danger, do not sit!

The chair in the photo is the first prototype only for checking the style, balance, etc., before strength tests. When keeping such a prototype somewhere in the office, we have to place a notice on the chair because our staff is always thrilled to try out new chairs. I know they won’t get mad even if chairs break and they tumble down on to the floor, but you know, just in case!

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.