Sign Chair





Introduction: Sign Chair

About: Furniture hacker. Author of Guerilla Furniture Design, out now. Find me on Twitter and Instagram @objectguerilla.

This chair is made from, obviously, a 25-year old metal sign -- but, to complete the concept, all the wood I used is recycled campaign sign posts. In this election season, those wooden stakes should be plentiful. They are generally crap, rough-sawn wood, but with a little sandpaper and elbow grease, they can be cleaned up. It is 100% recycled, save the fasteners.

I cut and bent the sign in such a way as to try and capitalize on the inherent properties of the material, namely its tensile strength. Since I designed it as I went along, the substructure is a little weird. I just kept adding pieces until it stiffened up. With a little more forethought, you could organize the structure better, but I kind of like how it developed organically, and the final form reflects that.

That said, it is still surprisingly flexible, and conforms to your body some when you sit in it. At about 13" off the ground, it is a low, lounge-type chair. Given that the wood is already weathered, and the sign was meant to be outside, this chair is great for a porch, patio, balcony, or deck. Originally 2' x4', the dimensions aren't ideal for a chair, in that the seat pan is a little long tailbone-inside-of-knee wise. However, when you sit in it, the big 45-degree cutbacks on the front edge are where your legs go, and it works out fine that way. It is really comfortable and incredibly lightweight -- you can pick it up with one hand.

I don't expect you to find the same sign, or the same dimensioned sign, so I'm not going to include any dimensions. In true readymade style, I measured everything just by holding it up and eyeballing. You can do the same . . . .

Step 1: Bending the Metal

I lacked the tools to make these cuts and bends as crisply and precisely as I would've liked. I used tin snips and a rubber mallet; one would be better served by an angle grinder, and some big bench vises. However, this works, in the quick and dirty sense.

I marked the sign into two 2' square halves. Off that center line, I made two sets of two 45-45-90 triangles with legs of 5", 5", and 7". Snip down that center line 5". Then carefully line up the hypotenuse with the edge of the workbench and hammer it down with the mallet. To get the cleanest bend, hit right on the edge, not down at the bottom of the piece. Repeat for all four triangles.

I did the same at the corners, but those triangles have 8" legs. For what will eventually be the back, hammer them down all the way flat. Leave the triangles at the front of the seat at 90 degrees or so.

Last, bend the whole thing in half along the center line by pulling the centerline triangles together until they completely overlap. Drill a hole through both and bolt through to hold the sign that way (see the last photo of the intro to see those bolts up close).

Step 2: Legs!

I made the legs to sit the chair about 13-14" off the ground, with a decent slope from front to back. This makes for a lounge-type feel.

Each was made from a signpost that had been ripped from a 2" x 4", down to roughly 1-3/4" square in cross-section. To get the miters right so the feet hit the floor, i propped the bent sign up on some boxes and just eyeballed it by holding up the wood. Drill a hole in the foot of each piece, a couple inches up from the bottom, for some tension cross-bracing later.

To help attach the legs, I ran two rails from front-to-back. First, tape them underneath the sign, then flip it over, drill pilot holes and screw through with drywall screws. It is important to drill pilot holes because the wood is thin, old, and dry, and splits could be fatal.

Put another screw, say a 2-3" deck screw, through the sign into the end grain. Bend down the triangular flaps and screw them into the front legs as well. Don't worry if the legs are still kind of floppy at this point, we'll take care of that.

Step 3: Bracing

As I said in the intro, I kind of winged the bracing -- adding a piece, testing it, adding a piece, etc. Again, with a little more forethought, you could plan out all these rails a little better. So, I added two diagonals, parallel to the rails on the underside of the seat, and two braces cross-ways at front and back.

The tension brace that runs in an X at the floor end of the legs is made with nylon string. Tie wire or rope works just as well. This brace does a couple things: it prevents the tendency of the legs to spread outwards from the center when weighted, it tightens the legs against the top joints where they join the sign, and it can exert a lot of force on the still-flexible chair, straightening it out so all the feet hit the floor evenly.

The brace is made similarly to a tourniquet: run a loop of string from corner to corner, then put a dowel or bolt or something in between the strings and twist until taut. Tie it off at the intersection to keep them from spinning out.

Step 4: Back

The back grew organically based on what pieces of wood I had left. First, a horizontal piece a couple inches down from the top edge of the back provided something to screw to. I attached that with the same method as the rails underneath, taping it on and then drilling through the seat from the top.

Then, four verticals run from the back legs up to that rail. They are staggered, so a horizontal could be inserted and pushed up until tightly wedged into place, then screwed through. You can see in the fourth picture it runs in front of two of the verticals and behind the other two, which really tightened things up. A center rail comes down and attaches to a last horizontal running crossways between the back legs.

Finally, I trimmed down bolts and too-long screws with a Dremel. I also ground away rough spots and edges, because that metal can be killer. Clean it with denatured alcohol (careful, depending on the age of the sign, the alcohol can strip some of the paint) or 409/similar general purpose cleaner.



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    25 Discussions

    nice work! love the idea!
    Whats the rough size of the sign and do you think I can build it with a 23 inch × 19 inch one?

    nice sharning

    Like a good neighbor State Farm is there...WITH A CHAIR!!!!!

    Just don't take current road signs. The police don't look kindly on such things.

    the fact that the sign is 25 years old is in no way obvious to me other than that, nice instructable, awesome idea too

    1 reply

    That is a very nice idea. Cool beans! I am scanning the alleys from now on (as if I wasn't before...)

    that would explain it. but my dad's sign is the lighty uppy kind, therefore unable to be used as a chair. whoa. lighty uppy chair. got to get on that.

    Your projects are awesome! Please keep them up! This furniture style is so different from anything else on the market that nothing can compare to it. It is pure DIY genius.

    2 replies

    That's a very cool idea. good use of used material and with a coat of paint it would make for a respectable booty-holder-upper. Does it hold water in the seat when it rains or does it run off mostly?

    2 replies

    The holes would be unnecessary of you had used a political campaign sign. Noting sticks to politicians - not even water. :)

    The holes at the apex of the slits cut for the bends in the middle of the sign drain water, because they are the lowest point in the finished piece. And to the earlier post, yes it's quite comfortable. As I said in the intro, your legs go over the 45 degree cutbacks on the front of the seat since the seat is a bit long, tailbone-to-inside-of-knee-wise. The whole thing has retained a surprising amount of flex, and the metal bows around your back when you settle in. Great for a hot afternoon and a cold beer.