Environmentally Responsible

        At Möbel Link, the passion for design is matched only by an unflagging commitment to operate in a manner that preserves and protects the earth’s resources. All of our furniture is made from sustainably grown and harvested, formaldehyde-free plywood. Our unique, precision computer-cutting process allows craftspersons to make one entire chair, bench or table out of a single sheet of plywood. By using 85% of that single sheet, less wood is wasted - resulting in reduced deforestation & far less strain on our nation’s landfills.
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Pure Michigan-Inspired – Detroit Home – Summer 2013 – Detroit, MI


“This Detroit company turns out chairs that draw me to their simplicity in design. A clean, innovative line features a single piece of Baltic birch plywood, and it’s a great color that reminds me of the grasses along Sleeping Bear Dunes.”

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May 10, 2013 at 1:00 am
Maureen Feighan

Made in Michigan: Hand-crafted furniture

Designers create unique pieces from wood, steel and recycled materials

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130510/OPINION03/305100331#ixzz2TBzFXhCY

The smell of lacquer wafts through the air inside Alan Kaniarz’ large, dusty workshop at the Russell Industrial Center as workers assemble cabinets and National Public Radio plays in the background.

On a large work table near the back of the shop rests a chaise lounge made of Baltic birch plywood, but one glance at it and it’s clear it isn’t a conventional chaise. With its round curves and elegant shape, it gives the illusion of bent wood, making it as much an art piece as it is furniture.

“Once it’s designed, how it’ll be put together, the dimensions, all of the lines have to converge,” says Kaniarz, who started his Mobel Link furniture line two years ago. “The shape of the chairs is comprised of differing arcs and where those arcs connect and that line has to be digitally perfect.”

Kaniarz is one of several local furniture designers creating their own pieces and lines with a distinct point of view. And while many of the area’s largest furniture retailers assemble their products overseas, local designers are doing it right here in Michigan.

Kaniarz creates pieces that bend and twist and have a distinct mid-century and modern aesthetic. He says he does a lot in the Arts and Crafts style, the design movement that flourished from the late 19th century through 1918.

“When one compares the spare lines of this style to the excess ornamentation of the Victorian era, you can see that the style was thoroughly modern,” Kaniarz says.

Kaniarz, who grew up in Detroit, first started working with wood more than three decades ago after getting his builder’s license. He also used to make custom stained-glass pieces. But it wasn’t until making some wood pieces for a friend, Ben Hall, co-owner of the Russell Street Deli near Eastern Market, that he ventured into making his own furniture.

Working with CDX plywood, they cut the wood in angles, creating shapes that almost looked like parallelograms from the side.

“I was fascinated by the interplay of the end grain and the side grain, and from there, I made my first chair,” Kaniarz says.

Today, Mobel Link — some of which is available at TRA Art Gallery in the Michigan Design Center and at Mobili Now in Birmingham — is a mix of intricately cut and assembled chairs and some tables. Pieces range from $1,200 to $6,700.

His Frond chair, with a 60-inch tall back and made from 78 pieces, was inspired by Scottish designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, one of the most celebrated architects and designers during the arts and crafts movement of the 20th century. Famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright also did a lot of high-back chairs, says Kaniarz.

“Frank Lloyd Wright said that because we come from cavemen people felt secure with their back against the wall, so this was a way of reproducing that feeling of safety and security,” says Kaniarz, who also is an adjunct professor at the College for Creative Studies and has taught at Wayne State.

Each piece starts with a sketch. Kaniarz uses a computer-automated design (CAD) program to convert his sketches into a one-sheet diagram that breaks down each chair into individual pieces that can be carved from one piece of 4-by-8 plywood. A computer numeric control router takes that diagram and carves the pieces 90 percent out of the wood; the pieces have to be cut the rest of the way with a hand router.

Then the real work begins, says Kaniarz.

“All of the edges need to be sanded,” he says. “We round the edges a little bit using another router. There’s just a ton of handwork in these things. They’re all handmade.”

The Dif Lounge, Kaniarz’s chaise, is made of 132 pieces of Baltic birch; it’s assembled with dowels, nails and glue, as are all of Kaniarz’s pieces. Each piece also has several coats of a post-catalyzed lacquer with resins and hardeners that make it moisture resistant.

Kaniarz says he designed an earlier version of the Dif Lounge and while it looked good, “it ended up being a torture device in that it was too low and the back curved downward.”

“On redesign, we changed the height which was a major plus, but the arcs and angles that were created to give proper back and leg support really dictated the end result. After I figured that out, it was a matter of connecting the dots in a pleasing manner that was at once structural and sculptural.”

Structural and sculptural could also be used to describe Chris Palmer’s work. The St. Clair Shores designer, who is just starting his business, has a modern style but uses a wide a range of materials, everything from steel wire mesh to materials he’s created. For him, he doesn’t even like to pigeonhole himself as a furniture designer. He considers what he creates more “expression in design.”

“I don’t like to have a style,” he says. “I think it’s a challenge for a designer to be flexible. Usually if there’s any style, it’s in my process. And my process depends on a material or manufacturing process.

A graduate of Cranbrook Academy of Art where he received a master’s degree in 3D design last spring, Palmer says he’s been creating things and making things since he was a child. And that’s continued into adulthood.

His spring mesh chair is made of wire mesh and has an integral spring, meaning the spring is built into the chair. Palmer made a die and formed the spring’s curve in a press. For the seat, he used a swage block and hammer and rolled it by hand. It’s attached to an ash base.

“A lot of work and more than one process (was used) to make that form in steel mesh,” he says.

Many of his pieces are surprisingly comfortable. His stainless steel lounge is made of stainless woven mesh that was bent with an anvil. It’s attached to a walnut base and molds to the body. Pieces range in price from $200 to $4,000.

“I don’t want to do just one thing,” says Palmer, who says he’s a big fan of Knoll, known for its modern designs. “The one thing is trying new things.”

Palmer has even created his own materials.

“I’ve got a whole chemical library of nontoxic materials and I’m just trying to make expressions with the material,” says Palmer, who was a tool and die maker and worked in metal fabrication before going to graduate school.

An avid traveler, Palmer says he was inspired by all the trash he say in some places and thought there had to be a use for it. Back home, he mixed old paper, cardboard, and fibers such as old clothes, grinded them up, and mixed them with a biodegradable binder. It creates a strong compound that be used to make a structure, he says.

“Is it the most beautiful material in the world?” he says. “No, it’s not. But is it interesting? Yes.”

“With a kitchen blender and four buckets, you can make something really structural out of garbage,” he says.

And while his business is in its infancy, Palmer has a vision.

“I’m always trying to go places design hasn’t gone before,” Palmer says.


From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130510/OPINION03/305100331#ixzz2TBzFXhCY

WoodWorkers Journal Photo

Woodworker’s Journal eZINE
Alan Kaniarz: Modern Lines
Issue: Issue 325
Posted Date: 5/7/2013
by Joanna Werch Takes

Alan Kaniarz Alan Kaniarz With Chair And Lights had “always been a handy kid, taking things apart and making things,” and gaining more mechanical learning from hanging out at the gas station across the street from his youthful home. Spending a few years working as a welder with roll framing equipment — making things like guard rails, and gutters on houses — “taught me precision; we worked within 1,1000ths of an inch tolerance,” Alan said.

After that, he went to work for a company that had offered a stained glass class he had taken and been interested in, eventually working his way up to be vice president of the stained glass manufacturing company (and repairing Tiffany and LaFarge pieces along the way). After parting ways with that company over a difference of principle with the owner, Alan got his builder’s license and planned to work on houses, “but I was drawn to be a woodworker,” he said. “I would make a little money, and buy a tool.”Setting up shop, at first as part of a group, then by himself (those who’ve had roommates, Alan said, know how it is, “when you come home expecting to Dif Loungefind the beer in the refrigerator and it wasn’t”), Alan has made doors, traditional kitchen cabinets, and furniture, restored and repaired furniture, and bought and sold antiques, as well as doing a little bit of metalwork.His primary focus is on woodworking, though; most recently, on a line of modern furniture he’s designed. “Until a couple of years ago, I was doing mostly Cabinetreproduction work, a lot of Arts and Crafts, but my attraction these days is to modern — although Arts and Crafts is the beginning of modern furniture,” Alan said.”There’s something visually stimulating about the lines of modern furniture. It has an organic nature to it that I find to be particularly appealing. With the classic mid-century designs — the Eames chair, Saarinen, Herman Miller — there’s something pretty appealing about the spare amount of material that ends up in a visually appealing piece of furniture.”Alan himself designed one chair that uses only four pieces of wood, and, in his “mobel” (a European word that means “furniture”) line, “even though there’s a number of pieces” per item, “it’s not a lot of wood.” In fact, that’s part of the appeal for him: “We can build an entire chair, with 80 to 90 piees, and we can cut all the pieces out of a single sheet of plywood. We end up using 90 to 95 percent of a sheet, and the amount of waste is minimal at best.”Strong Chair With DogThe plywood that Alan’s speaking of for this line is Baltic birch plywood, which he likes because it’s dimensionally stable and has a great weight to strength ratio. “We could make the pieces out of solid wood, but wood is a hygroscopic material; it takes on and gets rid of moisture and expands and contracts, so we would use a lot of wood, and the chair would eventually expand and contract itself apart.” Also, Alan said, there are no mineral stains, no big voids, and the edges are attractive — “the edgework ends up looking like quartersawn wood, with rings on the edges.”Alan and his three employees use the CAD/CAM system for this line of furniture, creating computer assisted drawings in the TurboCAD program to show what all the parts of a piece of furniture will look like, and how they will fit, then creating a drawing exchange file and transferring it those who are cutting the pieces for the furniture with a computer assisted manufacturing system.Quarnge ChairFurniture created for this line has included chairs like the flagship Quarnge (it rhymes with “orange”) and the Zag Zig Chair (a take-off on a 1933 Zig-Zag Chair by Gerrit Reitveld). “It looks fragile, but I had a fellow who told me he weighed 365 pounds who was able to sit in it and rock in it,” Alan said. All of the pieces are designed to be comfortable, which sometimes requires some redesigning. “It’s the art of trial and error. Something might look good on paper, but it was a torture device when it turned out.”

Since he has the assistance of his employees, Alan says he gets to pick and choose what aspects of the hands-on work he’s involved with, picking things thatZag Zig Chair particularly interest him. He’s very involved in the design aspect, for instance, and he also likes finishing, “applying the various finishes and coming up with the stain and color combinations. A piece of furniture isn’t finished until it has finish on it.” These days, most of his items are finished with two-part post-catalyzed lacquer, which Alan appreciates as being “way more water- and chemical-resistant” than the older nitrocellulose lacquers. Sometimes, he’ll use shellac as a sanding sealer, in order to impart the subtle “cat’s-eye” shimmer of chatoyance.

Door With Stained Glass InsertsHe also keeps his hand in with stained glass because, he says, it goes hand in hand with woodworking — there might be glass sidelights on transoms on a door, leaded glass in the doors of kitchen cabinets, or leaded windows in the lower cabinets of a library installation. “I’ve been doing glass work since 1975,” Alan said. “It’s all done in the same shop.”

He also has a collection of over 100 pieces of antique lighting form the Philadelphia-based John L. Gaumer Company, which existed from 1882 to 1952. Although Alan says their quality is comparable to Tiffany and others, the company relied on a paper hanging tag to identify its products, with “the result that almost no one knows about the company. I think I’m the world expert on this missing chapter in the Arts and Crafts movement story,” Alan said.

Alan, who also teaches at an art college, elaborated on his point about Arts and Crafts being the beginning of a modern design: “The modern movement,” he said, “started as retaliation against the overornamentation of the Victorian period, where things were carved and ornamented and fringed with all sorts of gewgaws superfluous to the design.”

That’s not his taste. Instead, Alan said, he likes things, like his modern furniture, “with interesting lines to it.”