Thesis and Furniture research collided this week as I needed to figure out a way to make curved surfaces. Years ago, I saw a guy at the Woodworker's Club make these amazing rocking chairs by laminating strips of wood together so I thought that would be a good place to start with me before I attempted to make compound surfaces like the Eames.
While I was feeding poplar boards through the band saw, I thought perhaps I could weave the poplar into the compound surfaces I need - much like basket weaving with flax. Of course, poplar is a lot more rigid so there would be gaps, but I thought I would give it a try anyway. Here's the result.
At first, I did not apply any glue to the weave so that I can manipulate the shape. I then started to use wood glue to lock in some of the shape. The process was slow so I eventually switched to 5 minute epoxy. As you can see, there is some kind of compound curved surface but the result are not ideal. A mold is definitely necessary.
I think I understand what the limitations are with poplar now and the next step I should do is to do this properly with a mold. However, since I have not finalized the shape of the desk, I think material choice is still up in the air.