The Scimitar chair, a tour de force in the field of sophisticated design and craftsmanship

Published on 20 August 2023 at 13:44

Designed in 1963 by architects Preben Fabricius and Jørgen Kastholm, the Scimitar chair or Chair no. 63 gained a reputation for being one of the most difficult chairs to manufacture. Only the best craftsmen in Denmark were able to make this chair.

"The Scimitar chair marked the beginning of a successful career in furniture design for Fabricius and Kastholm and is now considered as one of their masterpieces."

The Scimitar chair was first shown to an international audience in January 1964 at the International Furniture Fair of Cologne, Germany. It marked the beginning of a successful career in furniture design for Fabricius and Kastholm. 

The collaboration between the two designers started in 1961, when they founded their own design studio in a suburb of Copenhagen. Initially they designed furniture in wood, but soon they moved to a Mies van der Rohe-style furniture with metal bases and down-filled, duvet-like leather upholstery.

One of their first designs in this sleek and luxurious style was the 1963 Scimitar chair. The chair takes its name from the striking shape of its metal foot resembling a scimitar, a Middle Eastern sword with a curved blade. Another striking feature is the apparently floating seat with its softly curved lines that give the chair a visual sense of lightness and elegance and contribute to its wonderful shape.

The special design made it difficult for Fabricius and Kastholm to find someone who could manufacture this chair. After a few rejections, they eventually found master upholsterer Ivan Schlechter willing to make this chair. At the time, he was considered the most skilled leather upholsterer. He did, among others, the upholstery of Poul Kjærholm's furniture. 

This plaque, attached to the underside of the seat, indicates that the chair is an early edition from the 1960s. 

It is remarkable that this chair was completely handmade. The most challenging aspect was the manufacture of the stainless steel foot that could not be machine made. The base was made by pouring liquid steel into three moulds and then welding the cast parts together. The weld had to be of the same material to make it look as if it was cast in one piece. The upholstery of the seat did not turn out to be simple either, Ivan Schlechter had to sew the leather around the moulded plywood shell by hand.

Hence the fact that the chair was made in very small numbers and demanded a high price on the market. It is estimated that Schlechter made fewer than 150 Scimitar chairs between 1963 and 1984. The chair is now considered as one of Fabricius and Kastholm's masterpieces.

More pictures of the Scimitar chair >>