The stool’s status as a classic is based on the patented method for creating its wooden legs, derived from Alvar Aalto’s invention for bending solid wood. Aalto refined the idea together with Otto Korhonen, the owner of Turku-based furniture factory O.y Huonekalu- ja Rakennustyötehdas A.b (Huonekalutehdas Korhonen Oy since 1966). The pair came up with a method in which saw cuts are made in one end of the L-leg blanks and glue-soaked veneer pieces are pushed in between the gaps in the resultant fan. The wood is bent to a 90 degree angle using heat and steam.
The bending method eliminated the need for complicated joints requiring a lot of manual work and the invention was a leap forward in the serial production of furniture. Aalto has received a patent for the L-leg bending method in several countries, including the United States.
— It’s hard to say in which country the stool’s success has been the greatest. Interest has been global due to the L-leg bend, says Anna Vartiainen, Marketing Manager at Artek.
The Aalto stool retains its value for a long time. The price of a new one is 155–170 euros. As evidenced by a Finnish internet auction site, even used stools can fetch up to 100 euros.
(Photo: Artek / Marco Melander)
Aalto stools also sell for around 100 euros in the Artek 2nd Cycle shop in Helsinki, which sells old, repurchased Artek products. Opened in autumn 2011, the shop’s items have been collected from flea markets, schools, homes for the elderly and storerooms. Some of the products are restored, painted and upholstered, so the stools are available in many different styles.
— The most popular model is still the traditional, patinated three-legged birch stool, says Timo Penttilä, salesperson at Artek 2nd Cycle.
According to Penttilä it is difficult to find the stools because people want to hold on to them. Instead of being sold, they are stacked and placed in storage until needed again.
Video of the Aalto stool