“It does not look particularly difficult but appearances are deceptive.”
At the far end of the 100-year old building, there is a lathe. And at it, 77-year-old Åke Larsson is hand-turning a table leg with the typical paw foot that will soon be attached to a Josef Frank “Coffee Table 2139”. It does not look particularly difficult. But appearances are deceptive. Åke is turning the lathe with the naturalness that comes from 60 years of professional experience.
Here, the table top for model “2139” and other types of Josef Frank furniture receive their veneer. This is a procedure that requires great artisanal skill at every stage. They use a root veneer, which, in itself, requires knowledge. Root is the name of the part of the tree that anchors the plant to the ground, and root veneer is obtained by using a lathe to turn out millimeter-thin sheets, particularly from the root that grows above ground.
“Fixing and gluing veneer for a single table can take an entire working day,” Åke explains. First you press the veneer sheets at a high temperature to flatten them out. Then begins the time-consuming job of “building up” the veneer: five, six veneer sheets are placed on a plywood board, overlapping one another, and fastened with tiny nails. It is then sawn in a zigzag manner, which produces a wave pattern in the veneer. This is done to mask the joints, because it is difficult for the eye to perceive a crooked line. Now you have two halves, which you fold, fronts facing each other. And then you “fix” the reverse sides with long paper strips, to hold the veneer together. Eventually, the veneer sheets are pinned to a soft laminate board, and glued onto a board, which, in turn, will be pressed under heat to smooth out the joints.”