Wieland Furniture Co.'s patented Unimold Frame revolutionized Mid-Century furniture design
Updated: Jun 26, 2022
PREFACE: My wife’s grandfather (Daryle Wieland) sadly passed away last night. This article was created to honor his memory and the innovative furniture company he and his brothers formed during the Mid-Century design movement.
Attractive Sofa by Wieland is typical of the quality styling achieved through the patented Unimold plywood frame construction method.
Wieland Furniture Co., a furniture design and manufacturing business led by four brothers, was once located in the Great Lakes Bay Region and made significant contributions to furniture technology despite its modest size. In the 1960s, Wieland Furniture employed about 60 workers in its 45,000 square foot plant in Bay City, Michigan and had developed an innovative process that greatly reduced overhead costs and significantly reduced waste.
Wieland Brothers left to right: Daryle, treasurer; Clifford, Vice President and sales manager; Roy, president and general manger, and James, office manager and administrative head.
The patented process was called Unimold, a method of making upholstered furniture with a molded plywood back and seat shell. This particular construction method eliminated 60-75% of the parts used when Wieland first began making upholstered frames.
Cut-Away Model of Wieland chair shows patented Unimold system's inner construction.
The Unimold form (the heart of chairs and sofas that were manufactured at Wieland) was a 96 inch long plywood shell molded to shape in a high frequency press. From this shell, Wieland trimmed different lengths to provide frames for sofas, sectionals, or chairs.
Unimold shells are removed from Columbia high frequency press.
The proof of Wieland’s success was evidenced by the impressive Unimold sales records. Five years after it was introduced to the market, sales skyrocketed over the million dollar mark with inquires for Unimold licensing for companies as far apart as Wales, Australia and Puerto Rico.
Unimold Chair shells construction is seen as upholsterer adds padding to frame.
Daryle Wieland once explained that, “only two separate components are necessary to make Unimold furniture- the basic shell and ’S’ shaped molded plywood piece, which becomes the front and back rail when cut in two. Plywood molding in long lengths is difficult, because it is hard to get the high frequency waves out to the ends of the mold equally.”
The construction method is unbelievably strong because of the strength of curved plywood. In fact, Wieland could build 100 inch sofas and still only use two back legs because of its functional, trademark curve at the bottom of the sofa back which every Unimold piece has.
The molding department of Wieland Furniture was eventually spun off into a separate company called Contour Products which continued to make furniture components for Wieland and other manufacturers, as well as additional products such as skateboards and rotary dieboards.