Kazam! machine

14M

1942

The Eameses’ early experiments in making molded plywood chairs involved a laborious method of gluing and bonding thin plies of wood.  Key to this process was a device Charles and Ray created called the “Kazam! machine.”  The machine featured hinged two-by-four-inch pieces of lumber, which were bolted together to withstand the high pressures necessary for forming the wood.  

The plies, coated with glue and sandwiched together, were placed against the plaster form, while an inflatable membrane enclosed in the “magic box” covered the layers of wood.  After the device was securely bolted together, the Eameses regularly inflated the membrane with a bicycle pump to keep the wood plies pressed against the form.  The glue dried over a 6-hour period.

After the glue had set, Charles and Ray released the pressure and removed the seat from the mold, “ala Kazam!—like magic.” Finally, they used a handsaw to obtain the finished shape and hand-sanded the edges to make them smooth.