Furniture: how was it made?

Discover the hidden processes and techniques of furniture-making – from simple wood joints to injection moulded plastic, ornate marquetry work to 3-D printing.

The Panton chair
Designed in 1960 by Verner Panton, this cantilevered stacking chair (often referred to as the Panton chair), was the first chair to be made of a single piece of material. See how the skeek S-curve shape is created in the factory using injection-moulded plastic.

Boulle marquetry
Boulle marquetry refers to the inlay techniques developed by the French craftsman Andre Charle Boulle, cabinet maker to Louis XIV, in the 17th century. The technique traditionally involves cutting patterns in multiple layers of turtle shell, brass and other materials. This demonstration uses brass, horn and pewter.

The dovetail joint
The dovetail joint is a strong, interlocking joint often used in the construction of wooden drawers. See how the wood is marked and cut by hand with chisels and saws, creating a seamless joint with no need for glue.

The Fractal Table
Designed in 2007, the Fractal Table's complex, interlocking structure is based on the distinctive branching form of the dragon tree, native to the Canary Islands. The design was created first as a computer model – using mathematical formulas to replicate this tree's repeating, 'fractal' branch structure. The table was then manufactured over a period of several days using a digital 3-D printing process controlled by a computer.

The Branca Chair
The Branca Chair from 2010 was also inspired by the branches of a tree ('branca' means branch in Italian). The chair combines high-tech robotic manufacturing techniques with hand-, tool- and machine-making and is an interesting example of combining digital processes with more traditional methods.

Mortise-and-tenon joint
The mortise-and-tenon joint is a strong and simple joint used to join two pieces of wood together. A mortise is a hole in the piece of wood in to which the tenon fits inside. The film shows a tenon being cut by hand using traditional wood-working tools.

Background image: Fractal Table, designed by Platform 2007-11, manufactured by .MGX by Materialise 2011, England. Museum no. W.29-2011. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London