Make your own fishbone chair out of a single sheet of plywood! A work of art for your home

Picture of Make your own fishbone chair out of a single sheet of plywood! A work of art for your home

One of my first projects at the TechShop San Francisco was to use the ShopBot Alpha.
It started off with me wanting to make some single sheet plywood furniture, but I had no clue where to start.. After some exhaustive internet researching, I couldn't find a simple yet fun example that actually included the vector files and directions (the lazy route I was hoping for). Instead, I found some images about a fishbone chair, thanks to Upcycleus, that was originally designed by Nicolas Marzouanlian, and sells for 1100 pounds! I was able to snag some basic dimensions and get a jumpstart on the design for one on my own!

Now, you can use whatever skills/techniques at your disposal, but I chose to design/model my entire chair in SolidWorks. Then on to VCarve Pro to calculate the toolpaths to fit it all into a single sheet. Then I popped it over to the Shopbot to allow the CNC to do the cutting for me.

Shopbot/Vcarve Pro
3/4" 4'x8' Plywood Sheet
Lots of luck
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Step 1: Design and 3D sim

Picture of Design and 3D sim
Figuring out the details and dimensions based on some magical reference tool (called the eyeball) was a challenge. Once I knew what I was looking for, I got a basic idea of the dimensions from the guys at Remodelaholic that featured Upcycleus.
With a little creativity, I figured out what had to go where and started designing my version.
I didn't want to make some mini-me scale replica, I wanted something functional that could support my weight without concern (210lbs).
DON'T FORGET!!! Measure your materials! Instead of assuming the sheet was 0.75 inches thick, I busted out the calipers.
The pine plywood I got was actually 0.720 inches in with, as opposed to the 0.703" it was advertised as. This means I made a few adjustments to the designed slots so they would fit snugly.

 I busted out my trusty 3D design program and set to detailing and dimensioning the individual pieces. I'm a newb at that too, so it took me HOURS to get the splines and curves right, and then to make sure my pieces were fully defined before creating an assembly. The components I made are below,
Spine:2 of these
Big foot: For the Back
Little Foot: For the front
19 inch Rib:(basically an arc with a shallow radius of curvature and 19inch span): 2 of these
21 inch rib:(basically an arc with a shallow radius of curvature and 21inch span) 2 of these
23 inch rib:(basically an arc with a shallow radius of curvature and 23inch span) 13 of these

To check that my design might actually work without pieces butting into one another I put them all together digitally, and made some modifications to make sure that they all fit. And, Voila! 
Due to some collision detection, I dropped one of the ribs and changed my slot size to 1.5 inches instead of 2.0
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tekit1 year ago
Finally got round to making one of these based on this instructable thank you very much for the inspiration.

Hopefully the picture attached properly. And your right it's more comfortable then it looks
2013 12:57.jpg
could we possibly get your cad file so we can build this?
ohmdaddy (author)  leseanbiz1 year ago
I have updated the instructable with a link so every one can have access to the ShopBot or Vcarve file for download
alcurb ohmdaddy8 months ago

Can you post a PDF of the pattern in step 2? We're interested in building the chair using a scroll saw and jig saw. With the PDF we can print the pattern in actual size and lay it out on the sheet of plywood.


BTW: the CAD file on Etsy is no longer available.

alcurb alcurb8 months ago

What I meant to say can you post the DXF version?

PDF is fine but there's the risk that the output may be rasterized which would lose resolution when you blow up the image to full size. DXF, oln the other hand, scales nicely.

cgmarmion alcurb8 months ago

hey, were you able to obtain the CAD files for this chair?

cgmarmion alcurb8 months ago

hey, were you able to obtain the CAD files for this chair?

ohmdaddy (author)  tekit1 year ago
Pretty awesome, right?
cfox281 year ago
Nicely done. I wanted to add a couple of tips for others. I've used the notching technique on a larger scale project, and your advice for measuring thickness is quite pertinent. In my case I assumed the .75 thickness, and when I went to assembly the notching was too tight to fit together, even though ideally it should work. It would always be advisable to test a notch before full production, if you have longer slots, if you have smaller slots like the ones above, some elbow grease will most likely work.

Also if one is considering taking on a project like this, but wants the ribs to be flush with the framing members, then you need to consider the bit diameter being used. to have the pieces flush, you will need to make the slots on either group a little longer to accommodate the curve that the bit leaves at the end of the slot.

Again, nice work! this type of project is fun to do, and is awesome considering it only uses one pieces of ply
ohmdaddy (author)  cfox281 year ago
Thanks! It was pretty fun, and squeezing it into a single sheet was as much about conservation, as well as a challenge.
You are right about sizing your notches as well. I was precise as I could be with my measurement because I wanted to about too much after-cut work. Still ended up hand sanding it smooth anyhow...
rob35368 months ago
any way I can to print the plans out so i can use jigsaw? I really want to build this chair
cgmarmion8 months ago

has anyone got the CAD files for this awesome chair? happy to pay for them if so....

cgmarmion8 months ago

hey all, do any of you folk have the CAD files for this? DXF or DWG would be perfect.....looks like an amazing design and would love one for home.

Geezy1 year ago

Hey there,
jwestenberg said that the CAD files are €7,43.
Where can I buy them?

Too bad you ask €7,43 for the cad files. If the chair looked more like the original I would have bought the files, but now it's just not worth to buy and remodel.

Great project though, very nice that you made it fit in a single sheet of plywood.
tytux1 year ago
Can you upload de dxf doc? Or the cad? Only to get the idea, thanks
ohmdaddy (author)  tytux1 year ago
I have updated the instructable with a link so every one can have access to the ShopBot or Vcarve file for download
bryanbrews1 year ago
Could you attached your 3D model and shop bot file so I could cut this out at the tech shop? Nice job again!
ohmdaddy (author)  bryanbrews1 year ago
I have updated the instructable with a link so every one can have access to the ShopBot or Vcarve file for download
mamak1111 year ago
Hi There ohmdaddy.
Brilliant. I am thoroughly impressed. all i can say is "I WANT ONE, no make that TWO."
I am not very good with design software but pretty handy with woodworking tools.
So could you please share you're design and shopbot files so can I can have a local wood dealer cut these up for me.
I would also appreciate the Y-Parametric table files as well (
Thanking you in advance.
ohmdaddy (author)  mamak1111 year ago
I have updated the instructable with a link so every one can have access to the ShopBot or Vcarve file for download
tkorsgaard1 year ago

Very nice project. Would it be possible to get the blueprints of the cuts in a high res picture or pdf? So I could print it on several sheets of paper and draw then manually onto my piece of plywood.

Best regards,
this sooooooo much. I have the jogsaw and would get the plywood today if I could just print this out and then overlay it on it. maybe just the cad file??
leseanbiz1 year ago
where could I go and have this wood cut for me like this? not even sure what I would search to find something like that.
1867571 year ago
Can u use cardboard?
myronf481 year ago
Can you provide the measurements or the molds of the parts in a pdf file? I'm from Guatemala

banjoeks1 year ago
Great looking chair. Is it comfortable? Is there any chance that the layout from vcarve can be exported to an image, or even better pdf? It would be great to have that to transfer to a sheet for those of us using sabre saws.
ohmdaddy (author)  banjoeks1 year ago
Actually it is pretty darned comfortable. I don't have any plans to output to PDF, but may consider doing so next time I'm in the shop if it is an option on vcarve
tekit1 year ago
Amazing work! going to start one of my own this Friday just a quick question i don't suppose you kept the DXF file for this did you?
Very very nice work !
thanks for posting !
MimArt1 year ago
It's been great to hear back so quickly - I'm actually thinking of a skeleton piece, maybe not a chair but more of a stool or bench with porcelain (high-fired until it becomes vitreous) with porcelain slabs. Obviously they would have to be a bit thicker, etc... See how inspirational good design can be?
MimArt1 year ago
I want one too! Would it be impossible to cut all these shapes out w/ a jigsaw? Most of my sculpture work is with multiple pieces, so I don't mind repetition (even with little variations in each piece). Would the 'ribs' work as well with masonite, MDF or plexi (as if I could afford that last one!)?
ohmdaddy (author)  MimArt1 year ago
I hope you saw the other replies regarding your comment, but this is TOTALLY a project a jigsaw can handle, given the right skills that you seem to have.
Plywood does have a great strength:weight ratio due to the differing strand orientation, but other materials, if thick enough, could work as well
togo19191 year ago
It's Beautiful! Thanks for sharing this one!
ehsiung1 year ago
Stylish and economical. Very nice project.
Mackramer1 year ago
This looks really cool. How comfortable is it?
ohmdaddy (author)  Mackramer1 year ago
It is pretty comfortable, actually, but does reinforce correct posture
cfox281 year ago
MimArt, do you have a router? If you intend to have identical pieces, it is certainly possible to cut out a piece as close to perfect with a jigsaw and some sanding, and then use a flush trim bit on a router to replicate the piece, using the first piece as the reference which the bearing follows.

for materials, consider the structural value they have. plexi would work if its thick, but not if its thin. MDF i believe would work too, especially at 3/4. the nice property of ply-wood is that it has strands oriented in different directions which allow it to handle forces differently. even in ply, though, there are weaker and stronger ones, there are differences between 5ply and 13ply
I have access to all the equipment needed for this but its a shame I'm no good with design programmes! I would love one of these for my gaming room but looks like its something that won't happen because I always give up when using and CAD/CAM software.

This is a great project and you have my vote!
ohmdaddy (author)  parmstrong71 year ago
It really isn't too difficult at all. If there is some way I can help you out, let me know!
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