Eames Post-War Plywood Radios Were Part of the War Effort
June 3, 2015 | 6:07 pm CDT
Eames plywood radios
Early plywood raiod cases by Eames had a dimpled surface.

Photo By Eames Office

Charles and Ray Eames are well known for  groundbreaking contributions to architecture, industrial design and manufacturing, and of couse, furniture. "The Eames Chair" among their most famous creations. 

This history, drawn from the Eames Foundation operated by their descendants, relates an interesting relationship between a World War II development effort, and the development of plywood moulding.

 

After the Eames's were married in 1941,  the moved to California where they developed furniture design work molding plywood.  

During World War II they were commissioned by the United States Navy to produce molded plywood splints, stretchers, and experimental glider shells.

These capabilities were put to post-war use. In 1946, Evans Products began producing the Eameses’ molded plywood furniture.  Their molded plywood chair was called “the chair of the century” by the influential architectural critic Esther McCoy.  Soon production was taken over by Herman Miller, Inc., who continues to produce the furniture in the United States today.  Our other partner, Vitra International, manufactures the furniture in Europe.

 

A line of radio enclosures was among the postwar offspring of the plywood-molding process.  Charles and Ray developed techniques for mass-producing plywood enclosures in significant numbers.  They designed cabinet forms for manufacturers such as Bendix Corporation, Emerson Radio, Farnsworth Company, Hamilton Radio Corporation, Zenith Corporation, and many others.


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In addition to the molded cases, which were made of birch and ash, the Eameses made cabinet fronts formed with a “dimpled” surface—a pattern initially used in the Case Goods storage system and then later in the Eames Storage Units. There was a functional purpose for doing this: the compound surface strengthened the panels and prevented them from warping.

Charles and Ray Eames fabricated a wide variety of approximately 200,000 radio cabinets until 1952.

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Bill Esler | ConfSenior Editor

Bill wrote for WoodworkingNetwork.com, FDMC and Closets & Organized Storage magazines. 

Bill's background includes more than 10 years in print manufacturing management, followed by more than 30 years in business reporting on industrial manufacturing in the forest products industries, including printing and packaging at American Printer (Features Editor) and Graphic Arts Monthly (Editor in Chief) magazines; and in secondary wood manufacturing for WoodworkingNetwork.com.

Bill was deeply involved with the launches of the Woodworking Network Leadership Forum, and the 40 Under 40 Awards programs. He currently reports on technology and business trends and develops conference programs.

In addition to his work as a journalist, Bill supports efforts to expand and improve educational opportunities in the manufacturing sectors, including 10 years on the Print & Graphics Scholarship Foundation; six years with the U.S. WoodLinks; and currently on the Woodwork Career Alliance Education Committee. He is also supports the Greater West Town Training Partnership Woodworking Program, which has trained more than 950 adults for industrial wood manufacturing careers. 

Bill volunteers for Foinse Research Station, a biological field station staddling the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland, one of more than 200 members of the Organization of Biological Field Stations.