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This is my gargoyle chair. I love it. It is easily my favourite build for years. It lives in my workshop and I regularly just sit in it and laugh because it is so freaking satisfyingly weird :)

Why?

I made this it because I like weird stuff and it's kind of cool to chill out seated on your own creepy beastly throne. Everyone wants that, right? I love this chair so much.

Made from thrown away, scavenged and abandoned stuff
The best thing is that it was made entirely from discarded, scrapped and waste materials The main chair structure is made entirely from reclaimed oak, by rough jointing heavy baulks of wood together then carving it into the gargoyle figure you see. It's very solid.

The very comfortable padded leather upholstery is based on the shape of a crocodile's belly and all the leather and internal padding came from a thrown away sofa.

The total project budget was a very modest of about £20 ($25) for a few bits and pieces from my shed like a few screws and glue and I did buy French polish. The rest was scavenged and reclaimed form trashed and discarded stuff.

I like this sort of extreme recycling. I am always amazed at the quality of raw materials that are thrown away. Here's what you can do with it if you keep an eye out for good stuff in the rubbish.

What is covered here, that you might find useful

If, like me, you like weird, creepy or any other generally absurd stuff and you want to build something similar in wood, there's probably some technique in here that will be worth considering. I've tried to include as much depth of detail as possible for each method used so you should be able to recreate it or build upon it. Some steps are about simpler techniques than others, but none are especially difficult. This was a lengthy build. It required patience more than anything.

I've split the different processes into self-contained steps as far as possible, so if you only want to figure out one technique, you can see it all in one place. Roughly speaking these things are covered:

How to get excellent quality raw materials for free, from stuff people throw away...

  • where to find quality scrap wood that can be salvaged and reclaimed for free
  • how to disassemble a sofa to reclaim materials such as leather, foam, fluffy filler and wadding

How to work out the practical construction plan for a complex irregular design

  • conceptualising and working up a structural design for a carved form
  • sketching in 2D using drawing and 3D using rough DIY physical prototyping

Practically building a complex chair frame using standard and non-standard jointing methods

  • heavy mortice and tenon joinery to create a base structure from which to carve the final shape
  • connecting complicated shapes using custom pin and glue joint
  • how to join up multiple blocks and layers of wood when making irregular forms

How to adapt carving techniques to tackle complicated forms in wood

  • roughing out with hand rasps, power saws, power planers and sanders
  • traditional hand-carving using chisels and gouges
  • power carving using rotary rasp in the hand-held router and Dremel

Rough upholstery on a complex frame

  • building up decorative panelling for the chair back and seat
  • using old carpet off-cuts for strengthening the inside of the upholstery
  • stuffing with recycled polyester fibre
  • fitting irregular stuffed edge piping
  • reinforcing the seat base with plywood and screws

Finishing techniques

  • traditional home-made iron and vinegar wood staining for antiquing oak
  • filling using wood plugs, and glue-and-sawdust paste
  • progressive sanding passes from power sanders and to fine finishing using steel wool
  • French Polishing

Step 1: Scavenged materials

Quality materials reclaimed from stuff thrown away

I like to make things out of old stuff that has been thrown away.

In making this chair, all the wood for the frame and all the leather and padding for its upholstery came from reclaimed, recycled or foraged materials. In fact, pretty much all the raw materials used to make it were "waste" material that had been chucked away by someone:

  • Old oak fence posts collected from hedges and skips over the years
  • Oak fascia boards scavenged from the skip outside a decorative fireplace shop
  • Green oak logs left behind after trimming back a storm-damaged tree
  • Leather from an unwanted sofa that was on its way to the dump
  • Foam rubber block from the same scrap sofa
  • Fluffy stuffing material also from this sofa
  • Sprung steel from an old thrown-away saw blade
  • Stainless steel sheet from a skip
  • Various offcuts of plywood, also from skips
  • Some offcut sections of a carpet I kept when we had it fitted a few years ago

It is very satisfying making things using the really good-quality materials that are frequently thrown out as rubbish. I did used some shop-bought glue, a few nails, screws, sandpaper, steel wool, wood glue, hot glue, rivets and French polish, to pull it all together but that was all. Everything else was from scrap.

Here's what was used in this Instructible and where it came from

It's mainly about the wood

The most important material in the chair is oak wood. All the oak was recycled from discarded and/or unwanted wood. It took quite a lot of getting together.

Reclaimed waste oak from various sources...

You can see examples of most of the various wood used in this build in this picture. Left to right they are

  1. Reclaimed partially sawn green oak log (with mould discolouration) - the arm-rests were carved from this
  2. Reclaimed raw split green oak log - the claw ends for arm-rests were carved from this
  3. Vintage weathered oak fence post - the chair legs, arm uprights and chair frame were made by joining sections of this
  4. Carved reclaimed green oak log - this is what the log in example 2 looked like when carved
  5. Another section of partially-sawn reclaimed green oak log - also carved into an arm-rest
  6. Reclaimed oak floor board or wall panel offcut - the carved skeletal back was made by gluing together jigsaw cut layers of this into a boat shape then carving it.

Old fence posts

The original gargoyle stool was made from nice solid oak from old fence posts that came off a property that had been built in the 1930s. It is quite possible that they could have been originally in place at that time. If so they could be as old as 80 years old, which is kind of cool.

Even if not quite that old, they are almost certainly at least 50 years old. The oak would have been green wood when the posts were made. By the time I got hold of them they were lovely solid baulks and a pleasure to work.

Oak is very hard and goes a lovely orange colour. Here you can see a post in its raw form as it was found. It is being fitted to extend the carved gargoyle to add an arm-rest support. Although it may not look like it, the carved creature is made from exactly the same wood as the post.


Oak plank offcuts

The chair back was built from oak floorboard off-cuts. I couldn't believe my luck when I found these thrown away in a skip about 10 years earlier. I had these in the shed ever since, waiting for a decent project. The convex curve of the back was built up from several pieces glued together and further shaped, before final carving of the vertebrae details.


Raw wood from logs

But most satisfyingly, the armrests and the claws on the end of them were carved from green oak which I cut from foraged logs. These were logs left behind by the foresters when they had finished felling a large oak that had fallen in a storm. I was carving from this wood about a year after it was cut, so it was not fully seasoned.

This is a block of oak cut from a log

To get this, I cleaved it from a log using axes. For control, the axe was not being swung. It was used as a wedge and hammered into the wood using the heavy lump hammer. Oak splits quite easily, despite being so hard.

Here is a raw log and a claw made from it...

This log was distorted because it was from the shoulder of a branch of the original tree. It was used to make arm-rests. You can see saw marks. These are from a circular saw. This was the only saw I had to hand.

Luxury upholstery materials on the cheap

The other main source of materials was this unwanted sofa, which was offered free on gumtree or its owner would take it to the dump. Look at all that lovely leather!

This was dismantled...

To get metres and metres of leather...

This was carefully trimmed off with my penknife.

It would have been a shame to have thrown this into landfill. It is top quality leather.

It's easy to remove because the thread used to sew leather is usually pretty coarse and widely spaced so, you can pop the stitches with no real effort.

As well as big pieces, you get a load of handy smaller bits. On the left you can also see the foam rubber that I got from the sofa.

And here is some fluffy polyester filling material. Very springy and versatile for irregular shaped upholstery.


Here it is out of the bag

The sofa had loads of foam rubber cushioning...


Other construction materials

Defunct saw

This old discarded handsaw - this was not being used as a tool. The whippy steel was recycled and used as to create the internal spring mechanism for the spring-loaded back.


Reclaimed stainless steel sheet.
Found thrown out in a skip. Used to make a counter spring in the chair back

Reclaimed offcuts of plywood from skips, used in the lower chair back

Glue, stain and finishing materials

Wood glue for mortice and tenon joints used to join fence posts to construct the chair frame and legs before they were carved


Waste plastic bottle
This is a glue spreading spatula cut from a mosquito repellent spray bottle


Sawdust - by-product of sawing and rasp-carving
Sawdust and wood glue paste was used as filler. Although often considered a waste product, saw dust has very good filler properties as it is rough and fibrous and adds bulk and strength.

Oak blackening stain
This is a stain made from diluted vinegar and steel wool. This creates a dark liquid that reacts with tannin in oak to stain it black. Used to age oak.


absolutely F'n cool.need one.amazing job.very impresive
<p>cheers - </p><p>go for it. It took a while to make, but it was worth it. </p>
<p>Amazing Chair!</p>
<p>Thanks very much. It is also pretty cool to sit in - I use it when I am drawing :)</p>
<p>Absolutely amazing! You just got my vote :)</p>
<p>Cheers - much appreciated!</p>
<p>That's the most amazing instructable I've ever seen!</p>
<p>Blimey, thanks! It was a mammoth build, but I had a load of fun making this.</p><p>cheers.</p>
<p>Absolutely amazing and very well documented.</p>
<p>Thanks. It took me about a month just to write it up!</p>
This is absolutely Amazing. Loved the detailing. Extremely well implemented and explained. Good job. Thanks for this i'ble. You rock!!!
<p>Cheers. really kind words. I love this chair so much. Shame you can't touch it too, because it feels fantastic too</p>
This chair is freaking. awesome! Great work!
Cheers mate. I am pretty pleased with it. I wanted to feel like that when I sat in it and every time I relax in it, I do get a great urge to laugh. Can't be bad.<br><br>If you have never tried carving with a router, then well checking that out!
<p>This is really an amazing piece of work. I love the finished look and all the little details. Fantastic techniques on display too. </p><p>Thank you so much for sharing this! </p>
<p>Cheers - I am so pleased with this one. I spent ages on the chair so I really went for on the notes - It took me almost a month to just write the steps up! <br><br>Thanks for the kind words. Appreciated :)</p>

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Bio: I like making all sorts of stuff, out of found materials: furniture, wild food, whatever! I've learnt loads from generous people out there, so ... More »
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