Narrow, mysterious, quaint – that is how the “Bohnenviertel” in Stuttgart can be described. Stuttgart’s oldest district is known for its old half-timbered houses, street festivals and art studios. But above all for one thing: True traditional craftsmanship. In addition to locksmiths and goldsmiths, there is the cabinetmaker’s workshop Zwinz, which has been designing sophisticated pieces of furniture and room concepts under the direction of Rudolf Zwinz since 1992. We visited the small company in Weberstraße and learned amazing things about wood and everyday life in a carpentry workshop.
Born in Stuttgart, he decided to train as a cabinetmaker. A short time later, he earned his masters title and spent a longer period abroad in India. “In India, carpenters can do great things without workbenches or expensive machines by only sitting on the floor with a piece of wood,” Rudolf Zwinz tells us, while he looks back with joy on this time there. It is precisely this proximity to wood and the direct way in which it can be worked that still fascinates the master carpenter today.
Indeed, as Rudolf Zwinz makes us aware, wood as a material has a long and extremely important past. Terms in everyday use such as “sustainability” originate from the wood industry. For thousands of years, wood has been used to heat cooking stoves and provide heat. For example, the first loom was made of wood. Even Daimler’s first motorized carriages were made of this material. And not even the cathedral of Cologne would exist if there hadn’t been wooden cranes and scaffolding. To this day, this renewable raw material has one of the lowest energy requirements in processing and yet it is versatile and durable. “If someone were to discover wood today, he would win the Nobel Prize,” Zwinz points out.
Nowadays, unnatural materials such as reinforced concrete or plastics are used, and even in wood, after its industrial processing, there is not much left of its origins. “We do strange things like chopping wood and chemically sticking it back together so that it can no longer be recycled,” Zwinz points out. Here “real wood” is only imitated. For the master carpenter, it therefore seems plausible that customers want to return to the original and that vintage design trend is suddenly very popular again. To be “real” and to produce “real” products is therefore part of his philosophy, which is expressed by the company motto “Echt Zwinz or real Zwinz”.
How should one imagine the course of a project? “Experience shows that it is best if the customer visits us for a first meeting in the workshop,” explains Lutz Bremer, who is responsible for the planning and coordination of projects. If you have a few photos or even a floor plan with you, the team of eleven carpenters can prepare a design early on and assess what is possible and what is not. “The best moment in the course of such a process is always when a simple request becomes an exciting collaboration,” reports Lutz. And no two projects are alike. Once a customer requested a piece of furniture made from a plum tree, which his grandmother had once planted in the garden. For another project, the team travelled as far as Nice to set up a holiday home there.
If someone were to discover wood today, he would win the Nobel Prize.
But what makes a good craftsman? For Lutz it’s the little things that make the difference, in addition to the technical competence. For him, this includes getting to the customer on time, wearing clean shoes, greeting nicely and sitting down while taking a leak, as he tells us with a smile. With this he wants to counteract numerous workman clichés which, in his opinion, unfortunately still exist in the minds of many customers. What if something goes wrong at work? “Mistakes can always happen. It is important to tell the customer honestly why something didn’t work out instead of inventing an excuse,” says Lutz. “After all, it’s all about wood, not life or death.”
It was different for Rudolf Zwinz when he wanted to take over another carpentry workshop with 20 employees around the turn of the year 2000. The dotcom bubble burst and caused a general decline in consumption, which also had an impact on the furniture industry. “Such entrepreneurial decisions can quickly have existential consequences,” Zwinz makes clear. In his spare time, the master carpenter was an ambitious climber for many years. He was able to draw an important lesson for his actions as an entrepreneur: “It is always better to proceed according to the motto ‘climb, secure, climb, safe’ than to take the elevator up. You should always be aware of your maximum drop height, which is only one meter.”
It is the self-determination and the creative freedom that Zwinz appreciated most about being a carpenter over all these years. And if you are interested in Zwinz or this profession in general, you can stop by the bar for a drink at the annual “Bohnenviertelfest”. Or you can watch a play that is also performed in the workshop!
The shown conversions were carried out by independent third parties. The suppliers and conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. In this respect, these illustrations do not represent an assessment of the supplier and/or conversions by Mercedes-Benz.