TTT About Thonet Bentwoods
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Thonet Bentwoods

Astra bentwood
Astra Bentwood

To Michael Thonet, German, belongs the titles of both inventor of the process of production and of designer of the models, even though some cabinet-makers had tried before him to produce furniture with the same procedure.

To forge the wood and give it harmonious and articulate shapes was not simple; in his first experiments Thonet used small pieces of veneers cut into strips along the grain: these were boiled in glue and then put in moulds to get a certain shape; it was just after a lot of years of tries, a few successes and a lot of problems that he had the idea to produce his furniture using solid beech-wood rods. Some models, especially those with particularly rich and complicated design elements often split easily where the bending process had too violently changed the original shape of the wood and had worked beyond its natural elasticity. To solve this problem he attached a metal strip at both ends of the rod and prior to the bending process.

Thonet moved to Vienna with his family, where his production enjoyed the admiration of Prince Metternich and of the Emperor himself. His company, incorporated as "Gebruder Thonet" was protected by patents until the 1870s; however these eventually expired and Thonet began to face competition from other entrepreneurs anxious to produce bentwood furniture for an expanding commercial market. In antique circles, this is known as the "begins the period of concurrence" with companies like Kohn and Fischel, The manufacture of bentwood furniture requires specialised hand-labour, machinery, tools and wood. Thonet retained an advantage since he had already opened many factories and was oriented toward mass-production. Astra Bentwood was Thonet's primary importer of furniture from factories in Czechoslovakia to the US. Models produced by his competitors were at the beginning exact copies of Gebruder Thonet's; woodburned marks and the distinctive Astra label marks are necessary to authenticate an actual Thonet piece.

Since the 1870s, hotels, theatres, cafès, restaurants, meeting halls and many other public places have been furnished with bentwood furniture. Although style and fashion change, several different factories continue to produce the most common models which have become classics.

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