Tools and Eames designs

November 15, 2012 by: Daniel Ostroff

Research into all aspects of the history of Eames designs is on-going. My latest discovery relates to the  thinking behind the Eames “x-base.”

On many occasions, Charles Eames remarked that the design of anything should be approached with the same attitude as one would approach the design of a tool.  When designing a tool, one asks, “What must it do,” and so it goes with any design problem.

Both Charles and Ray prized tools for their honest and straight forward appearance.  Ray said that when they were newly weds in Los Angeles she would sometimes look wistfully through the windows of Sears at all of the splendid Craftsmen tools.

Here I can share that in the development of the first four-legged base for the Eames shell chairs, they actually looked at how one specific tool was made.

In the narration for a film about chair development, Charles noted that they took the idea for the x-base, as to how the parts were joined, from the wheel wrench!

Photographer Grant Taylor and I worked many hours on the many photo shoots to capture the images you see in this Catalog of Eames designs.

One day, when we faced with a set of Eames side shells with their early “x-bases” I thought we could afford to get a little creative, and I brought in some tools from my own collection.  I did this because I felt that Eames chairs and good old-fashioned tools go together, without realizing how close I was getting to the truth.

Here you see the results of that shoot, and at the end, a picture of the kind of wheel wrench to which Charles and Ray looked, when they had to figure out a simple, effective way of creating a four legged base out of two rods of steel.

Click on the picture below to see this DAX Catalog page

Eventually, approximately three years later,  Charles and Ray Eames replaced the x-base option with the so-called “H base”, a more durable base, and the one still produced today.

For an example of a chair with the later, improved base, click here.

Eames Spotting

eames catalog

622NS-1 Drafting Chair 1969

DSC_0108 Front B-Edit-2

eames library

Ray Eames


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