Morris Eight Bodywork

At a recent classic car show in Birmingham I chatted with a retired gentleman who is restoring a Morris Eight from 1935. The bodywork consists of an Ash structure with a steel skin formed around it and pinned into place. (Apologies for the photograph quality). A laborious high skilled process, luckily the gentleman had an advantage over fellow enthusiasts having served his time as a cabinet maker and wood turner.

An interesting method of fabrication I will be keeping in mind for alternative applications.


Kenneth Grange Clock £4.99 on EBay

I couldn’t believe my luck when I spotted this clock on eBay. 10 years ago when studying in Leeds, I picked one up in the city centre Habitat store (which sadly no longer exists). As a student at the time I couldn’t afford to buy it. The clock was designed by Kenneth Grange for Habitat, joint founder of Pentagram, product designer for Kenwood and responsible for the styling of the iconic Intercity 125 train.

The face has a really simple layout with a contrasting red second hand. I think I read somewhere that Grange had based the design of an earlier barometer on the mechanical dials of an aircraft, maybe this is the case here. The body of the clock is cast aluminium which has a brushed then specialist finish, either annodising or black nickel plating. The inside is quite intricate, and there is evidence of further machining and finishing processes where the standard clock mechanism is mounted. 'Designed by Kenneth Grange' is cast in the removable plastic cover to the back. All this for less than 5 quid!

Although not in the exhibition itself, the clock did feature on the promotional poster for the Kenneth Grange retrospective at the Design Museum in 2011 - Making Britain Modern. If you click on the thumbnail image below it can be seen.


Bauhaus Museum Visit - Berlin

During a recent visit to Berlin, I spent an afternoon at the Bauhaus museum.

Walter Gropious and the Bauhaus school he ran helped shape the modern world we live in. As a student I researched and wrote at length about Modernist Design and Architecture, however in recent years my admiration of the modernist aesthetic has dulled. I found the overall experience a little less inspiring than I'd hoped for . Although home to an abundance of modernist furniture, products, graphic arts, plans and scale models of buildings and sculpture, the museum and contents managed to instill some reason why the vision was flawed, lifeless, cold and dark. (Maybe in my old age I'll eventually warm to Charles Jencks, maybe not...).

One of the highlights of my visit was seeing this fitted kitchen designed by Marcel Breuer in 1929, he'd designed the now iconic 'Wassily' Chair in 1925. The kitchen consisted of hand painted timber block board in a range of grey/blue tones, with nickel plated fittings and a stainless steel work top. I quite like how the plinth is painted black as it lifts the units visually, it also means any dirt or damage after cleaning will not be so obvious. 

I like the use of colour to distinguish different elements of the kitchen, although I am not convinced this notched unit to the right of the elevation is quite worth the effort that would have gone into making it. Are those top drawers easily accessible? Maybe they were like this to keep things away from small children? I'm also not too keen on the unrefined tubular steel handle on this unit, however taking into consideration that this kitchen was designed over 80 years ago, it is difficult not to be impressed.


Hi-tech looking Lo-tech making

I finished my trip around the London Design Festival at 100% Design at Earls Court. Many years ago I had a small stand at the show, and made many good contacts. In recent years the show has improved massively. The recession has helped to cull the amount of stands, making a visit less daunting.

Although tucked into a corner of the Icon Design Magazine promotion stand, Phil Cuttance's FACETURE Vases are the products which have stuck in my mind since the show. Each individually unique vase is produced from a water based resin.

Although at first glance they could be mistaken for a product that has been digitally modelled and manufactured via a form of rapid prototyping, they are cast by rotating, hand made moulds using an ingenious workstation. This in itself is a wonderful piece of design. A video of the Vase making process can be seen at the website below.


How does wood become bentwood? Thonet Chairs

My aim when starting this blog was never to talk about iconic pieces of design or creative super stars. However, I cannot see the harm in using a product or person as a tool for learning. Michael Thonet founded his company in 1819, where he developed the process of steam bending timber for use in furniture manufacture. The Thonet 214 Chair below is considered the most successful mass produced product in the world to date.

A live workshop took place at Design Junction during London Design Week, where I took a photograph of a very informative poster, illustrating each and every step of the steam bending process.

*If you click the image you should get a larger version where the text can be read.