When Nikolas Bentel set out to make a wooden stool a year ago, he did what any furniture maker would do: He knocked over a tree with his body, then carved the wood with his teeth.
“I’m a designer trying to design the human back into our human experience,” says Bentel, a resident at New Inc, a design incubator run by New York’s New Museumthat cultivates ideas at the intersection of technology, art and design.
A typical stool, Bentel estimates, requires multiple tools and wends its way through three countries to get to your living room. He wanted to make one from scratch with local materials, using his body alone.
After plotting the design with woodworkers and other designers, he headed to a forest in New York’s Adirondack Mountains and pushed a dead birch tree back and forth with his body until it finally toppled.
Then came time to shape the wood, both from the felled tree and much smaller fragments he found nearby.
Luckily, birch is soft, as woods go, so Bentel was able to mold the lumber by slowly and methodically rubbing it with his hands, scratching it with his fingernails and chewing it in much the same way one tackles corn on the cob.
The unvarnished four-legged stool, which sports visible teeth marks, stands about 2.5 feet (three-quarters of a meter) tall.
Bentel made it without glue or screws, instead learning from woodworkers the best way to fit the pieces together.
The 24 year old designer doesn’t plan to forge a career making products with his body alone, and he doesn’t expect to inspire others to follow his example, but he does hope his stint as a human woodchuck will get people thinking.