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Cardboard Chairs 101

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Flitch Chair Perspective.jpg
In school for the last five or six years, I made a handful of cardboard chairs for various studio projects, design competitions, and to furnish my apartment. Here, I will schematically present a couple of those projects as an introduction to building with cardboard in general.

Cardboard is cheap/free, recyclable, strong, and if treated well, very durable. It can be fastened with glues or mechanical fasteners (drywall screws or rivets), and readily takes a few coats of polyurethane to create a harder, more durable finish. Most of these chairs were made from 100% waste cardboard. Cardboard dumpsters are plentiful on college campuses, especially behind cafeterias. Other good scavenging sites are big-box stores, strip malls, and appliance stores. You'll want to gather the flattest, biggest contiguous sheets you can find, mostly free of tears, water stains, and other weak spots. The other key is a box cutter and a lot of patience.

 
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Step 1: Support Structure

Picture of Support Structure
Delegate Chair Bottom.jpg
Leaf Chair Perspective.jpg
Leaf Chair Bottom.jpg
There are two basic ways to resolve the structure problem: an interweaving, carton-like grid of sheets, or laminating a massive amount of sheets together and carving out a chair shape. The latter solution is the most common one (see Frank Gehry). However, I think it's kind of a cheap way out, because you are not forced to deal with the actual properties of the material. It also makes for a lot of cutting, a lot of cardboard, and a very heavy finished product.

This first chair is actually made from corrugated plastic campaign signs, held together with hot glue and epoxy. Campaign signs have great potential for Pop-Art designs. To make the support structure, I cut a regular pattern of slits in a series of sheets so they'd all notch together. Then, two top sheets acted as a floor plate does in a house, locking everything in place.

The second example is pure cardboard. Be sure to orient the corrugations so that they run vertically; you can see in the picture, the exposed edges (the bottom of the chair) are the ends of the corrugations that run vertically up to the seat. These tiny tubes or flutes are what actually conducts one's weight to the floor.
Tommyhzy4 years ago
"The inside pieces are not continuous; each consists of four striaght pieces interlocked and glued together. I have used many glues in these chairs, but plain old white glue or wood glue work the best, are the cheapest, and the easiest to clean up." Well in my opinion, wheatpaste is the way to go! Scientific evidence and numerous tests prove that wheatpaste is stronger than most white glue, but I don't know about wood glue. Certainly it's better for the environment and it's WAAAYYY cheaper. Oh and you can also brag that the chair's made of "All-natural materials". (: Awesome everything~! Very nicely explained!
HAL 9000 Tommyhzy11 months ago
Wood glue and white glue are the same. They're both polyvinyl acetate.
Critic HAL 90004 months ago
While I will agree that some wood glue has a polyvinyl acetate base, I respectfully submit that there are other kinds of "wood glue." One of the most common ones is Carpenters' Yellow Glue, which looks similar to white glue, but it is different: it is an aliphatic resin emulsion and generally does a better job of bonding wood than does white glue. For outdoor or marine use, resorcinol formaldehyde glue is preferrable (for wood, not for cardboard). Then there are epoxies...
Realistically how strong and sturdy could that campain sign chair be?

I would image its more of a decoration than a usable seat. Who wants a chair they have to be careful on?

You'd be surprised at how strong cardboard is! I'll be making a cardboard shelf for my closet in a little while; I had a shelf for about a year that was merely two stacked-up boxes. It successfully held a saxophone, a bassoon, and about 2000 pages' worth of textbooks without bending very much at all. Also, my bookshelf was about 18" deep, but all flat. I couldn't layer the books; the back two rows would have obscured spines. I ended up making a sort of staircase with cardboard to raise each successive level. There were two of them, holding about 40 assorted-size books each, and neither had the slightest sign of wear when I removed them to move to a new house. I could -- and did -- stand on those risers to reach tall stuff after my bookshelf was gone.
Turnip1234 years ago
A rather provocative shape...
shooby5 years ago
Awesome. Where do you go to school? I'll be designing a cardboard chair in Sept/Oct. What material did you use for the woven seat/back in the 'hybrid longer' chair (last two photos).
wholman (author)  shooby5 years ago
i went to virginia tech. if you are a student, you can enter the american institute of architecture students annual competition, the chair affair. the material for the seat is cotton webbing, ebay, real cheap.
Did you notice any students doing flips or flips in the gym at VT? -PKT
quezz38 wholman4 years ago
Did you enter any of these chairs in the AIAS chair affair?
wholman (author)  quezz384 years ago
the cantilever one and the fedex stool.
you really like making chairs don't you?
lupinesoul5 years ago
Looks lightweight... Perfect for going on a little rampage when you have company over! xD
puffyfluff5 years ago
Neat Idea! Love it.
btop5 years ago
Did you make the first one in step four? Looks like it could be laser cut...
Grey_Wolfe5 years ago
Eh, cardboard papercuts, makes me glad I'm not a stocker anymore.
bumpus5 years ago
Those chairs look awesome!, I wish you'd posted this about a month ago though..

lot more campaign signs
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