The inspiration for my Bike Z Chair goes to my brother, whose eye for the classics brought home a pair of Kai Kristiansen Model 42 Z chairs. While helping to restore the finish on one I found myself seeing bike frame angles in the woodwork. I salvaged a few old frames (a Bianchi, a Shogun & a Schwinn) from a scrap bin & hauled them to my studio to start experimenting.
Soon I had a basic plan that captured the form, and started hacking the frames up and doing a rough assembly.
From there it was time to take the pieces to The Crucible and start welding.
My recent experience TIG welding a bike frame for myself led me to choose the same technique for this project – anything else would just burn through the thin tubing.
With the two sides welded up it was time to focus on the wooden elements. I used the drill press with a bit that precisely matched the diameter of the tubing, resulting in a tight fit between the metal sides and the wooden rails.
Kai Kristiansen’s original Model 42 was made with bent plywood under the upholstered seat and back. I laminated several layers of thin plywood over a form to get the same shape as the original chair.
For the seat I experimented with a vacuum press to mold the layers of plywood over a sculpted foam form. While I achieved my desired result I found the process unwieldy for this material, so for the back I used a more traditional approach of clamping the layers to a wooden form.
The swiveling backrest, a feature of the original chair that I wanted to replicate, required fabricating custom mounting parts.
Once I had all the parts made I was finally able to assemble the chair well enough to sit in it.
Then it was time to disassemble everything and apply oil/polyurethane to the wood and a clearcoat to the metal, before a final assembly.
The result, following the proportions of Kristiansen’s brilliant design, is the Bike-Z Chair – a very comfortable and aesthetically pleasing chair, remixed with new materials.