September 18, 2010

OG Slot-Together Ply Shelves By Harry Davis, Editor

harry_davis_modtimes_ply.jpg

Andy found this this summer, and then after talking to the folks at Modern Times to learn more about it, I promptly lost the link. In any case, there's really not much more to say at this point besides "awesome."

This beautiful pair of slot-together plywood shelves, with fitted slot-together drawers, was made in the 1940s by a guy named Harry Davis. But Davis wasn't a designer, at least not for his day job; he was an editor, with Howard Rushmore and Henrietta Tepper, of a New York-based, independent literary magazine that was part of the 1930s "little magazine movement." Unfortunately for its place in history, the little magazine was titled The Little Magazine.

According to a 1946 history and bibliography of the little magazine movement titled "The Little Magazine: a history and bibliography,

The Little Magazine steers a middle course between the two currents of letters of the thirties: the individualist and the Marxist. It announces as its chief purpose, "...to supply a medium for material which, by virtue of its being creative rather than manufactured according to formula, sets its own standards, thereby making it unacceptable to magazines with an 'editorial' policy."
harry_davis_modtimes_ply2.jpg

Meanwhile, I've been trying to formulate the manufacture and material of these shelves. At 32 inches wide, 14.5 inches deep, and 33 inches high, each shelf unit [minus the drawers, is almost exactly 2/3 of a 4x8' sheet of plywood. So with two sheets, Davis could've made three of these things. Each pair of drawers, though, takes almost a full sheet. After spending like 30 minutes this morning trying to reverse engineer Davis's pattern in a way that optimizes the number of plywood sheets, my wife goes, "Maybe he used the leftover wood for something else."

Personally, I'd lengthen the slot between the feet and the shelf bottoms; it looks a little precarious, but I guess it's also withstood 60 years of use in the Davis house, so never mind?

Plywood Case Pieces by Harry Davis, $3500 at Modern Times [1stdibs.com and moderntimeschicago.com]

7 Comments

Once you have it fully reverse engineered, please forward your CAD file onto me. I need o get these to my favorite CNC pronto!

hah, you have CAD and CNC? I'm sitting here staring like Rainman at Google SketchUp. I'll let you play through ;)

Wow, that's some piece of furniture!

Seriously though, it comes from an era when dads
made a lot more than they bought. That has been
reversed in the hectic rush of current society, so
unless it could be sold as a cheap flat pack, the
market would be small.

Good luck reverse engineering it without buying,
at $3500 it ain't cheap.

Do you want to use 4x8, or 5x5 BB? 32" is an odd width- 47" makes more sense.

Definitely looks like they would rack a lot- there's nothing providing lateral stability. Make the slots tight and hope for the best I guess.

Not too keen on those drawers. Can I put sliding powdercoated steel doors in instead? Hey, wait a minute...

Powdercoated steel doors? Sounds awesome, you should whip some of those up.

Hey, wait a minute...

I modeled these quickly on Sunday, then had a super busy day today. I'll try to finish up the drawings tomorrow and send your way.

That’s too nice, when it comes in furniture hope it can make a rocking place for the kids bedrooms, hope that comes true.

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