In this Instructable we'll show you how to make a very solid piece of cardboard furniture. The basic components of the couch are a few large frame pieces that form the sides. These frame pieces hold the heart of the support, the cardboard beams. The beams are slid into slots that are cut out of the frame. Some cardboard padding/shims are positioned within the internal section of the couch, and then a nice long sheet is adhered to the top of the couch. After all that hard work you'll probably need to sit back and relax... on your new couch!
Step 1: Gather Materials
Hold on to any large pieces of styrofoam that come with the boxes. A packing tube can also be useful too. They can be used for internal supports. Finally, our design does use some tape. We tried to minimize tape as much as possible but some is useful in some sections. So have some packing tape and some double sided tape ready for the steps at the end.
See the schematics below for an illustrated guide but here is a parts list for the final couch:
6 frame sheets: 57.0 x 28.0 (in) sheet per frame sheet.
1 cover sheet: ~70.0 x 20 (in) sheet.
1 bottom sheet: 57.0 x 18 (in) sheet
12 front beam sheets: 20.0 x 5.0
12 2nd beam sheets: 20.0 x 10.0
12 3rd beam sheets: 20.0 x 12.5
12 4th beam sheets: 20.0 x 12.0
12 5th beam sheets: 20.0 x 7.0
8 6th beam sheets: 20.0 x 10.0
12 7th beam sheets: 20.0 x 18.0
16 back beam sheets: 20.0 x 23.5
Lots of scraps and small bits of cardboard
Step 2: Create Your Design
We wanted something a bit more organic with some curves to it. So we have two radial areas of supports. One for the upper body and one for the lower body. You can see that only two of the subborts are vertically aligned, and some of the beams are probably more decoration than functional. But hopefully it illustrates that you can have fun with the form of your couch
Concept Considerations as you ponder your own design
How do you want to sit on it? Would it be used at a table. Would it be more for relaxing? Watching TV? Reading a book? Would you like it to be low to the ground? If you're going to build a cardboard couch you might as well design it as you want it! So these will are good questions to ask if you decide to make your own design.
You will want a few key beams reaching from near the bottom of the couch to near the top. The number of beams also helps make the couch rigid along the horizontal plane. So that when you sit on the couch, it wont twist back and forth. So rule of thumb guidelines: 1) have a few vertical supports for areas where weight will be concentrated, like where people's fannies will go :b 2) have several beams distributed through the length of your couch to prevent wiggling
Step 3: Cut Frame Sheet Pattern
Cut a frame piece with an exacto knife according to the schematic below. Trace out the beam slots using the schematic below as a guideline. Following the dimensions exactly and spacings of the beams isn't critical, just work to make each beam slot a nice regular rectangle. Then cut the beam slots out slots.
Step 4: Cut Remaining Frame Sheets
Also note that two of your frame sheets should have a nice side. Two of the frame sheets will face outward and the remaining 4 will be internal frame sheets. We picked ones without tears from tape or markings for the two outer frame sheets. Also, try to make these two sheets have flaps along the bottom. These flaps may be used to attach the bottom sheet. Having bottom flaps on other frame sheets is also helpful.
If you have a limited number of large sheets then you can cheat on the internal frame sheets since they do not have to be as pretty. Combine medium sized sheets together to form a larger sheet. For example, you can tape two sheets together, or you can use one sheet for the back radial beams and another for the front radial beams. What you want to achieve with the frame sheets is to form a connection between the beams. The frame sheets themselves do not provide direct seating support so if you have to use some of the above cheats it will be ok.
Step 5: Cut the Pieces for the Front and Back Beams
First break down a box so that it can be laid our flat.
The front beam is 20.0 x 5.0 x 1.5 (in) . To form this beam cut approximately 12 rectangular sheets that are 20.0 x 5.0 (in)
The back beam is 20.0 x 23.5 x 2.0 (in). To form this beam cut approximately 16 rectangular sheets that are 20.0 x 23.5 (in)
You will be cutting lots of these beam sheets. It's helpful to find a good straightedge like a yard stick or as you may notice in my photos we used a whole foods catering tray that I pulled out of the trash :)
Also we wanted to avoided having creases in our sheets, so we cut off flaps and stray pieces to leave a nice rectangular sheet of cardboard. Don't recycle those scraps just yet! We will reuse them in later steps!
Tip: When we cut the rectangular pieces we cut the edges so they aligned with the corrugation pattern of the cardboard. When you cut a rectangular piece you will notice that two adjacent sides have a different appearance when viewed from the side. One side reveals the zigzag pattern. The other side, the non-zigzag side, will look more like two sheets of paper with a small gap in between. I would recommend cutting your 20 dimension so that it is the non-zigzag side. This will make the edge that people see show the zigzag patterns. It looks cleaner and perhaps aesthetically looks stronger than the non-zigzag pattern.
Step 6: Slide in Front Beam and Then Back Beam
At this point your couch should be able to stand up on its own fairly well.
Step 7: Attach Bottom Sheet
Step 8: Position Beam Wedges Under the Beams
Step 9: Finish Other Beams
Step 10: Add Hidden Internal Supports
The first method uses a packing tube to provide vertical support. Cut a packing tube to an approximate height (~13-14 in.). Tape some scrap parts to the top and bottom pieces (it will kinda look like a capital "I" at the end). These scrap pieces will help support it and prevent the circular end of the tube from punching through the top or bottom. We used one long tube to make two of these supports and used them on the inner lane.
The second method uses chunks of styrofoam to extend the support provided from the smaller beams to the sitting surface. The basic principle is that we will fit/wedge a piece of styrofoam between the angle formed by two consecutive beams and then cut the styrofoam so that it is nearly flush with the surface. this is a nice trick to give you more flexibility in your design. So if you want to make silly small support beams like us, you can! The chunks of styrofoam we're talking about are those they put in the corners of boxes for fragile objects (like in TV boxes). First, you need to mark the dimensions of your styrofoam. Take your piece of styrofoam and place it so that a flat side is aligned with the top side of one of the smaller beams. Now use a pen or marker to mark out where the underside of the beam above it is. Use an exacto knife, saw, or some wire to cut along this line. Sometimes these pieces of styrofoam have really odd shaps, but exactness isn't a huge issue so do the best you can, when in doubt leave extra material. Test your piece by wedging it in between the two beams inside of one of the lanes. You should be able to get it well lodged so that if you press down on it (simulating a vertical force) the sytrofoam doesn't budge. Cut little pieces off until it's a good fit. Now that we have the wedge angle you need to cut the excess parts off. You don't necessarily want the styrofoam piece to be cantilevered over your beam. So if you imagine a line going straight up from the end of the bottom beam, that is generally where your styrofoam should end. Having it stick out extra won't be a bad thing but vertical forces will torque your styrofoam wedge instead of directing all the force onto the bottom beam. What you can do if you have a large enough pieces is after the bottom beam have a portion of the styrofoam extend down to the base of the frame sheet (see figure below). Finally mark and cut the top portion of the styrofoam so that it is a little short of being flush with the top of the couch.