Introduction: Catcher in the Rye Cardboard Barstool

About: I am 37, I have a job that allows me to build and make daily. I love my job. I have 6 children, my oldest is also a maker and has written her own instructables. I own a computer repair shop, and I build a lot …

"Anyway, I'm sort of glad they’ve got the atomic bomb invented. If there’s ever another war. I’m going to sit right the hell on top of it. I’ll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will."
— J.D. Salinger Spoken by fictional character Holden Caulfield, in Catcher in the Rye (1951)

This project was born out of an idea I had, I wanted to build some unique furniture, I wanted to make something that was shaped in such a way that conventional building techniques would not work. I basically started this by looking at the room full of cardboard, and looked for a unique way of making a barstool.

I like the way that a bomb looks, I like the aerodynamics of it, the symmetry of it. I do not however like what what bombs were in world war 2. Especially the atomic bomb. They were not precision guided kind of destruction that the military uses nowadays. These were indiscriminate killing machines, dropped at extremely high-altitudes destroying anything and anyone that happened to be in the path of it. I researched a lot about "bomb notes" (solders writing notes on bombs). I found a lot of notes that while relevant at the time would be considered in poor taste now. Notes like "berlin or bust",or "to Hitler with love" while historically accurate, they also seem to advocate the violent attitude that would only have been acceptable to a wartime teenager.

In my opinion the quote that I based this design around is speaking of ones own mortality and the futility of weapons of mass destruction. It seemed to be fitting to this project, and so it became named "The J.D. Salinger Seat" or, "The Catcher in the Rye Chair".

Step 1: What Do I Do With All of This Cardboard?

There is a room in my shop I have called the "box room". I will give you 3 guesses why. I usually bring them home and burn them after a while, but it is winter, its cold, and I am a pansy. So i have been looking for a while for a way to turn the cardboard into some kind of furniture. I wanted it to be unique, and I wanted to be able to use this resource that I have an abundance of. I used a couple other parts so here is a complete parts list.


1. Cardboard

I used a lot of cardboard. I tried to stick to the same thickness of cardboard the whole way. Most of these are amazon prime boxes, lol.

2. Barstool Seat

I wanted a quality and heavy duty seat so I bought this one on Amazon.

Here is a Link to it on Amazon

3. Barstool Seat Swivel

I wanted to be able to swivel the bar-stool like a normal barstool so I purchased this one.

Here is a Link to it on Amazon

4. 3/4 in Plywood

I used this doubled up for the base, and I used this for the top plate as well. I used misc plywood that was in my scrap pile

5. 3/8 Threaded Rod x 4

I used these as the "dowels" in the chair.

Here is a Link to it on Amazon

6. 3/8 in Nuts x 12

I used 4 above the wood base, 4 under the top plate and 4 above the top plate.

Here is a Link to it on Amazon

7. 3/8 in Pronged Tee Nut x 4

These are the nuts that I hammered into the bottom of the base to provide the initial dowel support.

Here is a Link to it on Amazon

8. Olive drab Krylon Fusion Spray Paint

This is the base Paint that I used. It seems to work well, it is a very matte finish.

Here is a Link to it on Amazon

9. Bondo

I used three Different types of bondo on this project.

Bondo Hair

This is a Fiberglass - like Bondo that provides a lot of support to the external structure. I used this type for a first layer on the outside. It has 1in strands of fiber in the bondo and is very strong.

Here is a Link to it on Amazon

Bondo Glass

This is similar to the bondo hair, but the fiber strands are much shorter, This allows for application around areas where there are lots of bends and such. I used this around the fins at the bottom. I was worried that someone would kick them and break them so I coated them in the bondo glass to give them strength.

Here is a Link to it on Amazon

Bondo Filler

This is regular bondo, I used this for the final layers so that I could sand it smooth.

Here is a Link to it on Amazon

10. Bondo Spreader 3-pack

I used like 5 packs of these in the process of applying the bondo. It is a good thing these are cheap. They work well.

Here is a Link to it on Amazon

11. Elmers Wood Glue

Trust me, if you are going to attempt a project of this size, save yourself some trouble and buy the glue by the gallon.

Here is a Link to it on Amazon


  1. Boss Laser 1624 (This laser has been awesome and the support form the company is great. I highly recommend this if you are considering a laser)
  2. Dewalt 611 Router-- Amazon Link
  3. Dewalt 20V Hammerdrill -- Amazon Link
  4. Dewalt 18v Nailer -- Amazon Link

Step 2: Design

I have not done a lot of work making 3D objects, so I turned to Autodesk 123d Design. It is a simple way to create or edit a 3d model. I looked all over Thingaverse for the perfect model to make this design. I ended up using the Fat Man Nuke Bomb model by 3dCad2print. I opened the STL file from within 123d design and modified it by chopping off the top. Then I opened it in 123d Make to slice the 3d model into 300 slices that can be cut on the laser cutter. I have some 3/8in threaded rod that I am going to use as the "dowels" for this. I am also cutting the bottom two slices out of 1/4in plywood, and the top piece will be 1/2in or 3/4in plywood, whichever I find in the scrap bin. I need the top piece to be thicker so I can screw in the swivel plate for the bar stool.

When you are in 123d Make and are setting your median thickness, make sure to measure the most thick piece of cardboard and the most thin, and use an average for the thickness.

Step 3: Cutting All of the Parts

This is by far the most tedious part of this project, cutting up the cardboard pieces so that they will fit on the laser bed and then cutting each piece. It took a long time. It ended up taking about a week working a couple hours a day to cut all of the necessary pieces.

Step 4: Building a Base

I was really worried that the end product would be top-heavy. I knew it would not be light, after all it is solid cardboard and about 4ish pounds of glue, plus about 20 lb of bondo and paint. So I found some scrap 3/4in plywood in the scrap bin. I drew some curcles, and cut them out to build a base. I glued the two pieces together, and then stained them and put on a layer of water based poly to protect it and such. Then I used my handy-dandy router to make an area on the bottom of the base that is sunk in 1/4 of an inch. This is so the threaded rod can screw in and not hit the carpet.

Step 5: Assembly

OK, I finally have all of the parts cut out and I can move on to the assembly part of the build. I have been looking forward to this, the cutting out of the parts just plain sucks, but the assembly is always much better. It goes a lot quicker and you can see the progress so it is a lot more fun.

To glue the layers together I used wood glue diluted with water. This made it a little easier to spread and it does not dry quite as quick. undiluted wood glue actually dries really fast on cardboard. I used a sponge brush and just put it together one layer at a time. After a while I got lazy and just used straight wood glue. The hardest part is making sure that each peice stays flat and does not pop up before the glue dries. I used several things to help each piece stay down. Sometimes It worked fine to us a couple push pins, sometimes in the bigger pieces I would use a nail gun and that seemed to work good as well.

Step 6: Bondo

Finially done with the cardboard, now to move on to the bondo. I want it to be a smooth surface that can be painted, I also want it to be strong enough that it can take normal wear and tear. So for the main body I am using "Bondo Long Hair" for strength and the fins I am using regular bondo filler becasue it is easier to mold. This took a long time as well, and took a lot more bondo than I originally thought. I would recomend doing this in a garage or a well ventilated area. I have an exhaust that will vent all the fumes outside, so Im ok there. I did hang some plastic so that the fumes did not go into every room. Spoiler alert; they did anyway. The entire shop stunk of bondo for several days after.

Step 7: Mounting the Seat Swivel

Once I had the Cardboard to the height I wanted (25in, I ended up not using the top about 40 slices) I put the nuts and washers on the threaded rod so that the wood - top plate will have something to rest on without worrying that the weight of a person will compress the cardboard. I had traced what would have been the next slice onto a piece of 3/4in plywood. I did this so that I could just drill the holes in the wood so that the threaded rods would line up. I also used a forstner bit to countersink the holes so that the nuts on top would sink into the wood plate.

Once I had all of the nuts where I wanted them and tightened everything down I used a cutting wheel in a grinder to cut all of the threaded rods off.

Once the top was all set up I measured to find the middle of the top and mounted the seat swivel to the top plate using 4 lag bolts.

Step 8: A Necessary Change

OK, I struggled for about 12 hours trying to get the bondo to smooth out the inside of the fins, what a nightmare. I would mix up some bondo, try to smooth out the inside of the fins and fail. The space inside of the box fin was just too small to get any tools in to smooth, much less sand the bondo. After many failed attempts I came to the conclusion that something had to change with the design. The square fin housing was not doable. No matter how had I tried there was no tool that could reach to apply the bondo, and no tool that could sand it once it was applied.

I decided that the fin housing would have to go. I carefully cut the housing off and reduced the number of fins by four. Well it is no longer a scale model of the famous fat man bomb, but it still looks like a version of the bomb. That is the key thing I guess.

I used the bondo short hair on the remaining fins because I was worried that if someone kicked one of the fins it would break off.

Step 9: Base Paint and Vinyl

I wanted to paint this similar to what a bomb would look like in ww2, After much research I decided to color the chair a matte olive drab, so I painted the whole thing using a flat olive spray paint. I also decided to put a yellow stripe on the top to separate the olive from the black seat. I wanted to put some nuclear symbols on it. I thought about making stencils and spray painting the symbol on it. but I wanted to to look a little sharper, so i decided to go with vinyl. I found an image that I liked and traced it in the silhouette cameo program.I have included the cameo file if you want to use it. After cutting the design on yellow vinyl, I took the main negative and used that as a stencil for the black background. Then I placed the yellow symbol over the black circle to acheave the two colored symbol.

Step 10: Detail Painting and Mod Podge

The Downside to using flat paint is that it marks up really easy. Just touching it can leave a mark on it. I also needed to preserve the viynl nuclear symbol that I put on earlier. So im coating the entire seat in mod podge. I wanted to keep the matte finish so I am using Matte mod podge. I like the clear coat that this leaves, I even like the brush stroked look that it leaves. It looks almost nostalgic.

Step 11: Stool Hardware

I already installed the swivel on the top plate in an earlier step, but attaching the seat is another prospect entirely. In order the make it so I could get the bolts into the seat I drilled a hole partway into the top of the plate. This made it much easier to install the seat.

Step 12: Final Thoughts

All in all I am really happy with the way that this turned out, I took this from an idea to a final product, with a few alterations. I was not able to get the bondo as baby-smooth as I would have liked, but it is ok. It definetly took longer than I thought. I hope you liked the project,

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