Indestructible Belter Furniture

by John Werry on February 8, 2008

BelterChair Indestructible Belter Furniture
Some of you have probably read something about John Henry Belter’s secretive lamination process which comprised 7-9 layers of wood, usually Rosewood. Belter steamed and soaked the thinly (< 1.6mm) sawed layers of wood and pressed it in molds (cauls) with powerful clamps.

Belter was so confident in the strength of the resulting product that it was rumored he had two demonstration chairs sitting in an office that he would throw out the window as a demonstration of their indestructibility. I have located film from 1855 of Belter throwing chairs out of his factory window and included at the top of this post for your reference. Click on the image if the animation is not playing for you to run the film.

Belter kept the secret of his lamination techniques for at least 6 years before patenting it in 1858. The patent was not for the process of lamination (which had been invented much earlier), but for the production of laminated furniture that curves in two planes, rather than one. Shortly before his death in 1863, while the factory workers were not present, Belter destroyed the molds and patterns for his work, assuring that they would not be produced upon his passing.

I’ve included a picture of a Belter scroll sofa up close so you can see the carved lamination layers of Rosewood below. If you’re actively looking for attributed Belter furniture, you can see what is currently being offered at auction by visiting JohnHenryBelter.com.

Belter Lamination 720259 Indestructible Belter Furniture

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Emeriol February 10, 2008 at 12:51 am

Awesome post John. That guy has to be the coolest furniture maker ever… well, besides Hunzinger of course. ;)

Really though, he threw furniture out the window and destroyed his molds… wow…

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