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Once again I would like to thank everyone for their suggestions, references, and information.
I think, in about another week, I will have enough info to be comfortable putting together a construction sketch, cutlist, etc.
Yet the Origami Chair is not simple. Angles and compound angles. Not much is square and at 90 degrees.
So before I tackle the Origami, I though I'd try something else first - a simpler 'practice chair'.
So I made a version of the pretty-much rectilinear Yemassee Side Chair. Since its off-topic for this thread, I put it in its own:
Comments suggestions over there always appreciated!
I'll be back here when I have more on the Origami.
Available drawings of two versions of the Origami Chair have been located. They are in the papers of John Howe at the Northwest Architectural Archives, University of Minnnesota. They are available on request for the costs of copying and mailing. Contact the archives at:
I suggest you be very specific about your request, as they get a broad range of them.
There are two sheets. One is dated 8/10/1973 - 'Modified FLLW Butterfly Chair'. To me, it appears close to a current Taliesen chair. The drawing notes: 'measurements taken from an actual chair, but may need to be adjusted'.
The second drawing is dated December 1986 - 'Adaptation of the Butterfly Chair'. This one looks to me to be very similar to this version:
Ordering cost is modest - I suggest getting both if you are really interested in the design.
Here is a link to the Archives website:
and to the John Howe Papers finding aid:
As a mostly novice wood worker this presented quite a challenge. First of all the plans leave some room for guess work (on miters especially) and so I have just finished the second of what I am calling my prototypes (the first didn't involve miters because I used thin plywood - just to get the shapes right). for this most recent I just bought 3/4 birch Plywood and assembled it with screws so I can take it apart and use it as a template for my next version.
It's a nerve wracking process to make the cuts and was curious if anyone came up with a system to allow them to make these cuts that will work better than what I did... which was to purchase a very fine tooth blade for my circular hand saw and using a straight edge on each side make the necessary cuts.
Had planned to make a sliding panel jig for my table saw, but after a couple failed attempts and advice to try the hand saw I moved on.
I am going to work toward the jig again for the next one, we'll see how it goes.
Does the university offer other digital copies of How's work? His drawings are so amazing.
I believe that library has his whole collection of drawings from what I remember of my conversation with the lady I spoke to.
The cutting of odd-shaped parts, with variously angled edges, presents a special challenge. Those of us who have had the pleasure of using good sliding table saws (I have used three different Martin saws here in the Bay Area) would naturally tend to think of that as the way to go -- particularly as such saws have a pre-scoring blade to prevent tear-out of veneers on the bottom surface of plywood. And, if one were making more than one chair at a time (an obvious move, when you think about it), he has the advantage of arranging jigs and stops to make duplication effortless.
Unless one is a math whiz, a preliminary mock-up is the only way I would know to arrive at both the shapes of the pieces and the angles of the mating edges. As for material, it is possible to place #1 biscuits in 1/2" material, though joining parts at odd angles with that method poses an extra challenge. Continuous gluing of plywood parts using shallow dados is a sound method of construction, I believe. If one can secure each end of a linear joint, by one means or another, the rest of the joint will not be exposed to undue stress . . .
The two different types of Origami -- the original "sled-back" chair and the four-legged one illustrated above -- are presumably equally valid designs, assuming that Mr Wright drew one of the second type before he died. Do we know that this is true ?
S D R
The first prototype was full scale cardboard the second was 1/4 scale 1/2" MDF and the finial prototype was full scale 3/4" plywood. I used (use) the finial prototype as a pattern for Peter's chair.
After tracing all the parts on a sheet of plywood I use the festool plunge saw and rail guide to cut them. There are only three 90 degree cuts on the whole chair and the festool works great when you don't have sliding table saw.
After cutting pocket holes and biscuit slots. The pocket holes are only used for the seat and arms , biscuits are use at every joint. I then preassemble the chair and go home. When I return in the morning i'm refreshed and ready for the glue up, you only get one chance to line up and assemble a seat two sides and the back so you must make sure everything fits in the pre assembly. After the core of the chair dries you can add the arms ,fins and front fascia.
Are these chairs the sled-back design?