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Campaign Furniture

Though I’ve been building campaign furniture pieces for five years, my focus has been on British pieces from the 18th and 19th centuries. There are definitely other traditions in campaign furniture. They just don’t appeal as much to me as a woodworker.

North American campaign furniture – mostly from our Revolution and Civil wars – is fairly unsophisticated compared to the British forms. Rarely was it made to identifiable patterns. And (with some exception) it is fairly simple and simply made.

During World War II, however, America’s industrial machine began turning out fantastic pieces of campaign furniture. But these are entirely made of steel and aluminum. These are difficult to reproduce in a woodshop.

This weekend I stumbled on several examples during a local show of 20th-century furniture. I was looking for some Danish Modern pieces to study (and found a few), but the highlight was getting to play with the steel desks that folded up on themselves for travel.

Campaign Furniture

Most of the time when you see these desks on the Internet, they have been polished to a mirror. Like this. The two that I encountered were oxidized and dull – and much more attractive as a result. I don’t think I could work on a mirrored surface.

The light green painted interior was a surprise. Not that it was there but that I actually liked it when I saw it in person. That has given me some ideas for a future piece I’m working on.


Oh, and one vendor also had this metallic suite of pieces for a military doctor. It looks like a stack of Systainers to my eye. But it also gives me some ideas – the table to the side of the center unit folds up and latches onto the front of the case.

— Christopher Schwarz

Speaking of campaign furniture, check out my DVD on building a Campaign Chair offered by No metal work – but you will learn to cut and rivet leather.

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  • djb

    Modern flight cases for the music tours and related trades show much of the same inventiveness. Lots of similarity because they’re solving the same (mostly) problems. Search Instagram for #flightcases or similar… and here’s a couple of links:

  • samcappo


    I am excited to hear you are researching Danish Modern Furniture, it is one of my favorite styles. I hope this research leads to a book.

    If you need a guinea pig let us know (we have a vacuum press and some experience in bent plywood!)

    Sam Cappo

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