Introduction: Flat Pack Laser Cut Chair

About: Hey there! I'm recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University's Industrial Design program and a former Instructables intern. When I'm not working in a studio I enjoy exploring cities by bike and brainstorming n…

Inspired by a terrible move into my 3rd floor walk up apartment last summer I decided to make moving friendly, lightweight, flat pack furniture using a laser cutter. As a college student with a mobile lifestyle, I thought my furniture should reflect that.

Step 1: Sketch Design

The first step was to draw my design. I had a few different ideas and eventually narrowed it down to one concept.

My goal was to build the entire chair using accessible tools and materials. This meant scaling my parts to fit a 24" x 36" Epilog cutting bed, and limiting my materials to 3/16" ply wood. These constraints drove many of my design decisions. The 24" x 36" cutting bed meant my chair could only be so big, and using 3/16" plywood meant I needed to box out all the structural components to give the pieces enough to support a person.

I wanted my chair to be different than other flat pack laser cut furniture. Most of the existing flat pack furniture is stiff and only uses flat pieces of wood. I decided to explore using wooden textiles to create a softer aesthetic. (Applying wood to the seat is optional and does not serve any functional purpose, I just liked the way it looked and behaved when sat in!) I think this interesting material offers some exciting potential for future furniture designs....wooden hammock?

It might be a good idea to work through the functional aspects of the design in this step as well. Think through how it will be assembled. What kinds of joints will it use? what are it's dimensions?

I decided to go for a peg and hole assembly along with finger joints to hold each part together and living hinges along the curves.

Step 2: Create Laser Cut Files

Now that everything has been sketched, it's time to build out the part as a laser cut file.

Be patient, this step can take some time to get right. You may need to tweak your design several times before it's perfect. I built a 1/2 scale prototype before moving to my final material.

If you want to use my design, I have included all the cut files in this Instructable.

Step 3: Cut Pieces

Gather your materials, my files require:

  • (x5) 24" x 36 x 3/16" pieces of ply wood
  • (x4) 24" x 12" pieces of veneer (if you plan on making the wooden textile)
  • (x1) 20" x 48" piece of canvas
  • craft glue
  • wood glue
  • clamps

Make sure the ply wood is as flat as possible. Curved or bent material will not cut as easily because the beam will go out of focus in the bowed areas.

Place the first sheet of ply in the laser cutter and send the first cut file.

Repeat this process until all of your parts are cut. This should take about 2 hours at 25 minutes per cut file.

Next place the veneer in the laser cutter and send the veneer cut file. Repeat this process for all 4 sheets of veneer. You may need to secure the edges of the veneer, I placed some 1/4" bolts and washers in the laser cutter bed to hold down loose corners.

Step 4: Assemble Parts

Lay out your laser cut parts and begin assembling the support structures.

Although the parts friction fit, it's a good idea to glue the parts together using wood glue.

Remember not to add too much glue or you'll have to sand off the excess later.

Clamp the parts in place and allow them to dry, preferably over night.

Step 5: Make Seat

Cut out the fabric that will serve as the seat.

Hem the edges and fold the top and bottom edges down to create loops.

If you're feeling particularly ambitious, glue the veneer triangles onto the fabric in a tessellating pattern. Be sure to apply glue evenly across the entire surface. You might want to get yourself an audio book or tv series to watch or listen to while doing this, it takes a while.

Allow the fabric to dry for a few hours before handling.

Step 6: Assemble Chair

Once all the parts have dried, it's time to put the chair together!

Slide the horizontal supports into the sides, feed the supports through the fabric loops and secure everything with the pegs.