Instructables
Picture of A Very Unique Folding Chair
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This chair design came to me after a failed attempt at re-creating a chair I had seen by Architectural Designer Robert van Embricqs. It was a very beautiful and stunning piece, but seemed to expensive to do it just the way he had. So I set out to make a less expensive version of his chair and it looked amazing, however it couldn't even hold my 95lb daughter. I was then left with about 70 pieces of 3/4" x 3/4 " wood in varying lengths. What was I going to do with all that wood?

A couple of days later, I remembered having seen a sketch of a chair in a book titled "Nomadic Furniture" by James Hennessey and Victor Papanek called a "Savonarola Folding Throne". After a quick search on the internet for better pictures of it, I thought I figured out how it was put together. Although I have only seen them in the open chair position and never folded, I could only imagine that the following is a pretty close (albeit very simplified) approximation of how it is done. 

Step 1: Materials and tools

Picture of Materials and tools
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It has been my experience with woodworking that there is never just one tool that can be used or just one way to put something together. The first couple of these chairs that I made I did with just a table saw, miter saw, tape measure, drill with a few bits and some sand paper, so most hobbyists will have the right tools for this project. Once you read through this, you will have a good idea what tools you have in your arsenal that will work for this job. Here is a list of the supplies I have come to use for making these. (The chair in this instructable is number 10 including the first two prototypes)

Tools

-Table saw - for ripping lengths of pieces
-Miter saw with attached jig - the jig makes sure that every piece is exactly the same (and all without measuring)
-Router with 5/16" bit and attached jig - the router makes sure the holes are nice and straight and the jig makes sure the spacing on the holes are exactly the same on each piece (again, no measuring needed once you make the jig)
-Drill with varying bit sizes and a 3/8" boring bit for counter sinking screws
-Sander - this keeps the slivers out of our tender bits
-Philips head screwdriver
-Tape Measure
-Rack for applying stain and polyurethane, and also for drying
-Foam brushes for apply stain and poly
-Safety goggles and hearing protection
-Square for making sure things are squarish
-Vinyl paper for spacers - I'll explain these later
-Hacksaw - for cutting dowels to length in the finishing stages of the build

Materials

-Three 1"x4"x8' boards (actual dimensions 3/4"x3 1/2"x8') - These should be as knot free as possible because we are using such small pieces and if the knots span the width of the piece it will be very weak there (I am using pine for this build, but other woods work very well too, as you will see in later pictures)
-Two 5/16"x3' wooden dowels
-Thirty-four 1" screws (something reasonably appropriate for use with wood)
-Wood glue
-Wood stain - optional depending on type of wood used
-Polyurethane - again, optional depending on type of wood used
 
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Well done! very nice design and idea :) More of that :)
Bill WW1 year ago
Nice project, well done and described.
And I like your work area!
claudg19502 years ago
A lot of brainpower went into this, until you figured the chair out. That is really an achievement. Then, you manufactured the thing very well, and to boot, you created a very complete instructable. Wonderful.
PS: Just to bother (and to challenge) your remarkable intelligence: how would you imagine a back seat could be added to this? (I guess chairs like these would look great on a country house dining room... just a thought)
GRitter (author)  claudg19502 years ago
Thanks so much for checking out my instructable and for saying such nice things about it.

Ever since I started making these chairs last year, I have been wondering how I could put a back on these things. I've never tried very hard to figure it out, to be honest. I have a couple of ideas and with you asking the question, I will now have to try to answer it for myself.

The biggest obstacle I have faced with it is how to have it be part of the chair (not a separate piece that could get lost or misplaced) that will still allow the chair to fold up to a nice compact package. Maybe it will have to be separate, but somehow attach to the chair while it's folded... I just don't know....

I'll work on something and put up a second instructable on how to do it once I have a decent solution.
I can see a way to add a back and fold - with a second V shape but it wouldn't really be very strong and it would increase the height of the folded chair significantly.

A cloth back on two sliding rods would work but not really with the aesthetics of the chair.

Great job, won't be able to get the idea of putting a back on this out of my head all day now... Shouldn't have read the comments...
mganpate2 years ago
its very nice idea Gritter your nice consept we woulb be make in india kindly shre the pdf on mahesh.gan.143@gmail.com
jott_12 years ago
Nice project. My daughter is thinking about using this for her 4H project. She has space limitations. What size cube will your chair fit in i.e. length x width x height?
GRitter (author)  jott_12 years ago
That would be a great idea! I hope she does it.

The cube would be 21 1/4" h x 24" w x 14" d for the open chair and the closed chair cube would be 37 1/4" h x 14" w x 4" d.

I really hope she makes it and please post some pics here when she does. I'm sure everyone would love to see it!
deannadd2 years ago
Wonderful chair Ifeel very condifient I could build it from your great instructions. Don't you need to use a oil based finish instead of a water based finish on top of an oil based stain?
GRitter (author)  deannadd2 years ago
Thanks so much for the kind comment!

I'm not sure what all the rules are for stuff like that to be honest with you. I'm mostly self taught and learn by trial and error. I've never had any trouble with the stain or the polyurethane by using this method and have done the exact same thing with these chairs, tables that I have made, a desk, my kitchen cabinets, clothes drying racks that I make, one beast of a fish tank stand, etc. I'm sure there are other things as well, but you get the idea.

If anyone reading through these comments can help us out, it sure would be appreciated if you left a comment to help us answer this.



triumphman2 years ago
This is awesome, it would also make a nice table to go with my folding chair (see my 'ible). I love how it folds up so flat! My next project! Thanks for sharing! Triumphman
GRitter (author)  triumphman2 years ago
I made one of these out of walnut for the guy that gave me the walnut and oak (it was my way of saying thanks for all the great looking wood). He uses it as a table more than he uses it for a chair.

Nice work on your folding chair, I can't tell you how many times I have looked at it. I think its really amazing!
Much appreciated!
GRitter (author)  triumphman2 years ago
When you do get around to making one of these, let me know how it turns out and post some pics if possible. Let me know if you have any questions about changing size or anything. The math can get a little goofy (at least for a guy like me!)

Thanks!
louisw2 years ago
i like your able. i also think cutting to length and angle before ripping would save potentially 9 cuts per board saving setup time as well as cut time. also instead of alternate woods perhaps alternate stains?
GRitter (author)  louisw2 years ago
I see what you guys are talking about with this step. On top of saving time, it would also have the advantage of making the pieces that I'm ripping much easier to handle on the table and more importantly, on the out-feed. Thank you!
Einarjon2 years ago
Maybe a silly question, but why rip before you cut to size and drill holes?
Wouldn't it be easier/more precise if you cut them into strips later in the process?
GRitter (author)  Einarjon2 years ago
I never considered doing it that way. And I can't think of a way to get more precision with the tools that I have available to me or even with a larger array of tools, but I'm always open to any suggestions that would shorten the length of time for and make a build easier, though.
What would make the method you are suggesting more precise? Would you suggest drilling the holes before the rip or just cut my lengths? If you could lay out your suggestion more clearly, maybe a quick step by step, I will try it on my next build and let you know how things go.
I've never built anything like this so I have no idea, really - it's just a random thought from an observer.
I would probably rip in the end of the process (after step 4).

It just seems that you would always get 4 sets of virtually identical pieces*, and reduce the cuts/holes you need to make by 75% (the downside is that the ripping would take more time, and you might ruin a nearly completed piece).

*) I guess this doesn't matter much if you have proper jigs for everything, but maybe it might take less time.
GRitter (author)  Einarjon2 years ago
Ok, now I see where you're going with that. I really like your thinking. That WOULD be a huge time saver. Even if the rip step takes a little longer, the rest of it would have saved so much time that it would be worth it.

Drilling like that would require a drill press or something with much more travel than I have on that router setup. I don't have a drill press but I'll have to see if I can come up with something....

Thanks for that!
tacamaral2 years ago
It's supposed to fold exactly like that, actually. I used to have one of these (got it from an aunt). Great job, man!
martelvonc2 years ago
This is a basic medieval "X" chair. Very stable and can hodl quite a bit of weight no matter what the size. Here is a web site with more information: http://thomasguild.blogspot.com/2011/12/medieval-folding-chairs.html
GRitter (author)  martelvonc2 years ago
I really like the sedia tenaglia. I think I'll have to try to build one of those at some point!

Thanks for the great link too. It's really worth checking out.
rimar20002 years ago
Nice project. The base seems a bit small. Maybe the stability of the chair is not good.
GRitter (author)  rimar20002 years ago
I thought that might be an issue as well when I first started making the chair. The original prototype had a slightly smaller base and I enlarged it in the final version of the chair. Both the original and the final version are remarkably stable though. I started building these about a year ago, and stability has never once come up as an issue.

Still, if someone wanted to make the chair base a bit wider, they could simply add a couple of inches to the side pieces and leave all holes and other pieces the same and it would turn out just fine. The seat height would be a bit higher, but I don't think that would be an issue for most people as the 17 1/2" seat height is on the low side of standard seat height range.
grice32 years ago
I can tell you from personal experience the stability is excellent.
portustukr2 years ago
nice
Sweet! Ever think about mixing the oak with the black walnut, every other piece. That would look cool!
GRitter (author)  RedneckEngineer2 years ago
I actually have plans do do something like that. I have a ton of scraps left over from previous chairs that I plan to make into one crazy looking chair! I'll update with pics if/when I get around to it.
Things like this are what make me remember why I want to buy a table saw and miter saw.

Awesome!
zorwick2 years ago
Nice job, really like it!
l8nite2 years ago
that is really cool !
GRitter (author)  l8nite2 years ago
Thanks so much. It was really fun coming up with the plans to make this and I even got to rediscover some of that "fancy book learnin' " math to get the angles and lengths right. They're a really fun project.