Beech, bentwood and beautiful finishes

Beech, bentwood and beautiful finishes

More than 160 years ago, Michael Thonet wrote a page in design history with his iconic classic, the Viennese coffee house chair, thus forging an inextricable link between Germany, his country of birth, and Austria, his adopted home.

This link continues to this day, as evidenced by Thonet’s long-standing collaboration with the Austrian coating manufacturer ADLER. The Tyrolean family-owned company gives Thonet’s furniture pieces a timelessly stylish and lasting finish.

Craftsmanship and serial production

With his model No. 14, Michael Thonet laid the foundation for industrial serial production and modern furniture design. And this combination of craftsmanship and division of work into separate specialised production processes is still used at Thonet today. The wood pieces are first shaped using a revolutionary process invented by Thonet himself, by means of steam and pure physical strength. Once the pieces have been bent, they are then stained by hand to give them an elegant black finish. To stain them, Regina Hasenzahl, who works in the Thonet production facilities in Frankenberg, slides the beech wood pieces into a basin filled with ADLER stain.

Thonet carefully selects collaboration partners who share its values, such as the use of high-quality materials to create long-lasting products, and impeccable craftsmanship. ADLER is just such a partner, and Michael Moser, one of ADLER’s staining experts, made a special trip from Schwaz, Austria to Thonet’s Frankenberg production facility to work together with staff there to fine-tune the product so that it perfectly fit Thonet’s needs. “This flexible staining system was specially developed for immersing furniture pieces,” he notes.

Beech, bentwood and beautiful finishes
Beech, bentwood and beautiful finishes
Beech, bentwood and beautiful finishes

Dripping off and wiping down

After removing the pieces from the stain, Regina Hasenzahl lays them on a sloping surface, so that the extra stain can run back into the basin – a resource-saving, environmentally-friendly technique. For the finishing touches, Hasenzahl uses a natural sponge sourced from the Aegean Sea. This unique sponge is essential for creating an even, high-quality surface finish. An industrially-produced sponge simply cannot deliver the same results. She wipes the hardwood stain, once crosswise and once lengthwise in the direction of the grain – a tricky process, since she only has one to two minutes between immersing and wiping down the pieces. If a piece is drying too quickly, she moistens the sponge again with some stain, to make sure that the surface finish is even. Horst Viehmeyer, who is responsible for Thonet surfaces, explains why the iconic furniture manufacturer uses the staining method for its “signature” black colour: “staining preserves the structure of the wood and perfectly highlights its characteristic grain.”

Beech, bentwood and beautiful finishes

Sanding and varnishing

After the wood pieces have dried overnight, they are carefully sanded with a sanding pad and then varnished with ADLER’s water-based UV varnish. Finally, the Thonet furniture is ready for use in coffee houses, venues, restaurants and private homes around the world.

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