Stretching an Ikea Chair Into a Bench Ivar - Ingolf





Introduction: Stretching an Ikea Chair Into a Bench Ivar - Ingolf

The Ingolf bench retails for $229. Instead, almost any cheap Ikea chair can be stretched for a total material cost of $36. Power tools make things easier, but this can be accomplished without a table saw, jigsaw or router table and with the most basic skills.

UPDATE:  This bench was featured in an article by Amanda Kwan of the Associated Press in August of 2009.  I completely forgot to post an update until I was in IKEA this weekend!  A photo of the painted bench has also been included.

Step 1: Buy the Materials

Ikea clears out models every once in a while. Expect to pay between $20 and $25 for a solid wood unfinished chair. The one used for this project was an Ivar, but the basic design is the same regardless of the model used. I've seen the chairs for as little as $9.99!

IKEA Chair - $20
Home Depot Super-strip $2.97 (2)
Home Depot Laminated Pine Panel 1/2" X 18" X 48" $12
2" wood screws (4)

The remaining hardware is included with the chair.

Step 2: Cut the Boards

First determine the size of your bench. For my example, the bench will be just under 4'. The width of the bench is limited by the length of the panel. In my case, that made the benchtop 46-1/4" or 30" wider than the original chair.

I used a CNC to cut my benchtop, but the same results can be achieved with a jig saw. I've included an image of my benchtop with the standard 1" square background. This can be printed full size at Kinko's (or similar) for about $10.

This isn't necessary, since the bench has two parallel sides. You can extend this the same way as the rails (by adding 30"). To do this, draw two parallel lines 15-1/2"(in my case) apart and 30" long. Next, mark the centerline for the seat and trace around each side of the seat at each end of the two 30" lines.

Next, the rails will need to be cut. There will be four. Two for the back, and two for the seat. I used the "super strips" because they're a little beefier. Only the tenons needs to be the same as the rails. I ran into one small problem with the seat rails. The original rails did not support the seat. I cut the rails taller(I'd say wider, but that would be even more confusing) to add support for the width of the bench.

The chair back rails will lose the curve of the originals, but over the width of the bench, it will not matter. The images below show the width and height of the tenons. Again, the placement of the tenon will vary from the original chair if you are planning to use it to support the benchtop.

The hole drilled in the center of the tenon will be addressed later.

Step 3: Cutting the Tenons

This step will be brief since cutting the tenons is pretty simple. The placement and the size(length and width) of the tenons are the most important. The tenon does not need to be centered on the rails. For aesthetic reasons, the rail only needs to be wide enough to cover the mortise.

The tenon length and width do not need to be exact (calipers are not required). Tight fitting mortise and tenon joints are far better than loose joints. The corners of the tenons need to be trimmed (they will not have to be rounded as the original rails).

A router table is the best choice for this step, but a router or even a handsaw can be used. Get the tenons close then finish them up with sandpaper. I did not glue the joints, they are only held together by the mechanical fasteners.

After you have test fit the tenons, dry fit the bench. Drill through the existing holes and into the tenons. If you are marginally accurate with your drill, the finished product will look very similar the original rail.

Step 4: Assemble the Bench

For this part, you can use the same instructions as the chair. I added a support rail between the two seat rails right in the middle. This is what the four 2" screws are for. You won't need to cut tenons and mortise the rails if you don't want (I didn't!).

Step 5: Enjoy the New Bench!

Follow Pancho's example and enjoy!



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    Ain't you a clever duck? That's a first-rate idea. Have you thought of constructing a box underneath and putting hinges on the seat. You could store all sorts of junk in there, or maybe some toys for Pancho.

    8 replies

    That is how the original bench is constructed. I thought about just slapping some of the entire assemblies out and selling them as kits (or completed benches) but have been flat out surprised how unpopular this instructable is. Setting up a box for the base would certainly make the bench more stable and provide some much desired storage space, but would add time to the project and push it well beyond 30 minutes! We are talking at least 35!

    I absolutely love this instructable. I am in no means handy, and will probably just ask someone at my local Home Depot to help out with the cutting and such. I was wondering if you had the time, could you put your awesome brain to work on a box to work with this chair? As I said I'm not very knowledgeable, but would the box you originally mentioned be an open box between the legs, or more of an under the seat type of box? Either way, with or without box this is absolutely lovely and I'm going to be painting my red.

    I don't understand the box in question. Are you talking about storage under the seat?

    Sorry I wasn't clearer. I did mean storage under the seat. I had an old nook set where the seat was on a hinge. Is that what you where talking in your earlier post?

    Send me a message, making a box is a little more complicated because the bench seat is tying everything together. It can certainly be done, it is just more difficult.

    Yeah, that's odd. I think it's a great instructable. Maybe if you upholstered the bench, people would be more receptive. I have 2 Ikea chairs like yours, that I'd be tempted to benchify if I hadn't already upholstered them. (Who wants to pull out a hundred or so staples?) By the way, I turned one of our Ivar shelf units into a liquor cabinet, of sorts, by sticking plywood inside the ladder sides and on the back. Would have been dead simple if the troglodyte at the lumberyard had set their panel saw to the width I specified, instead of 3/16" wider, necessitating a whole mess of sanding. (perhaps I need a proper shop, and not the kitchen floor.) At least they didn't cut my panels shy.

    HA! I have a CNC and a fairly full shop...and still have to plan around the panel saw at Home Depot or Lowe's. It's just as hard with all the equipment if you don't notice the size is off and have to redesign everything when you get home. My sister has put a padded cover over the bench, but I think this is more to disguise the flaws she believes exist in the final paint job.

    Come to think of it, I have actually executed accurate panel cuts with a circular or even a hand saw, by screwing a guide board onto the plywood. Requires a whole lot of measuring, checking and cursing, especially with the circular saw, with subtracting the width of the base plate, and then being stupid and cutting the wrong side and all... I remember now, the main reason I got the lumberyard to cut it was because I couldn't fit the panel in the car (also I was feeling lazy).

    A super strip is a '1" X 4" ' they sell at some Home Depots that is nearly 1-1/16" thick instead of the normal 3/4". I have since found that they do not carry the 'super strip' in Texas, but it is a place on the shelf. These were prevalent in California, and I used they for a large number of projects. You can get the same result planing down a 2" x 4", but the Super Strip is a far simpler way to go.

    The best bet might be going to an actual lumber yard and having the boards planed to the thickness you want.

    I should have said, I'm in the UK. Thanks for the advice :) I'll get some 2" x 4" planed down. Great instructable! Thanks for sharing it. I want to make 2 benches for a long dining table. They need to be approx. 180cm long. Do you think that I could make them this long?

    Let's see, 180cm that's like 16 gallons right? Honestly, that is a pretty long unsupported span. I would suggest one of two things:

    1. add a center leg set by cutting a third chair off just above the mortise for the seat. or
    2. Make the crossrails beefier and ensure that their are supports running widthwise (front to back) not just lengthwise.

    My bench if memory serves is just under 4' (122cm). That being said, at Christmas it held two full sized adults with a combined weight of 32 Stone, not that I wasn't waiting to hear a crash. Good luck, my sister gets a great deal of use out of it.

    Being a DIY novice and based upon what you've said, I think I'll go for two shorter benches! I can put a few chairs round the table too. Thanks for the advice and encouragement. Your bench looks great; fingers crossed I can make something that looks at least vaguely similar!

    It is a great deal easier than you think. By the time you're on the fourth one, you'll be a pro! : )

    Tenons scare off a lot of people. Once you get the system down, they are easy no matter what type of tools you're using.

    Good luck!

    Just added a link to the article that included the bench from last year, and a picture of the finished/painted bench.

    Oh jeeze. I just spent about 4 hours in the last two days on google image search for bench/bench plans/garden bench looking for a good looking, cheap, easy indoor bench. This is an inspired idea. I am totally going to do this - I may even grab a cheap chair from a resale shop to do it. Great thinking!

    1 reply

    Careful now! The IKEA chairs work particularly well because of the way the sides are assembled to the stretchers, with exposed mechanical connecters (screws). I have not seen this on many other chairs, except those that you assemble yourself. On the bright side, I am in California for a few day. If you need the bench seat cut, I have my CNC here! Let me know if you have any questions!

    why not rebuild the whole chair and keep the chair as it is, i think of using the chair's parts as templates. if you can make the joints on your own, the rest would be easy - so you'd have a bench AND a well-fitting chair. if you look at the ikea drawings, you could even say that you don't need to buy an ikea chair -> save money and environment. anyway great instructable

    Yeah! This is my kind of 'ible. Super rating for you!