What can you make with your own body, using no tools? Designer Nikolas Bentel made a four-legged stool. He felled a tree without an axe or saw, whittled the wood with his teeth and let his woodworker father use Nikolas’s bare fists like hammers. Bentel’s video series All Purpose Nik explores the human body’s potential through a few projects, starting with the one above.
Over email, Bentel says he’s pro-DIY, and he questions how much the modern consumer relies on buying everything pre-made. But he also likes poking fun at do-it-yourself culture: “Every now and again you see a DIY project defeat the purpose of doing the DIY project in the first place! Where it actually takes a lot more time, energy and materials to create the DIY project then to just buy the same item in a store.”
Bentel’s stool definitely takes more time, and it would have been easier to just carve down one big block of wood. But the stool has a rough beauty — so much that I feel a little suspicious that Bentel snuck in some tool use.
Certainly tools were involved in drawing the plans for the stool and if you count clothing, shelter, and clean surfaces, tools were used in the creation too.
But of course, purism isn’t really the point. One of the inspirations for Bentel’s stool is the Toaster Project, in which artist Thomas Thwaites replicated a mass-produced electric toaster from scratch. Thwaites travelled the world to gather his materials and quickly realised that to build anything, he’d have to rely on “cheats” like modern transportation, internet research and “not making my own shoes for walking to a mine.”
But as Thwaites writes, “it’s the cheating rather than slavishly following the rules that make the project more interesting, and lead to discussions of questions other than whether it’s possible to make a toaster alone.”
Bentel’s stool shows what the human body can do with even the barest raw materials. It suggests that a DIY approach can replicate even complicated industrial processes. And Bentel hopes that the absurdity of using his teeth, nails, and fists to build a stool throws the absurdities of consumerism into relief.
He thought of the project after driving two blocks to the grocery store. “When I walked in the door I stopped and realised just how ridiculous it was to not just walk to the store, instead of driving a two-ton machine to carry me there.”