Introduction: Transform an Office Chair Into a Ski Rack
During the last snow season I got into cross country skiing in a big way. I bought a complete set up of gear for myself and I found myself out on the trails at just about any time you can imagine. In fact, I spent most of my time skiing in the dark with my mother and sister. One thing that was always a bit of a pain was that when we got back to the house after an outing we had wet skis to deal with. Most of the time they just got propped up in a corner to dry. Aside from occasionally falling down, this worked fine for the three sets of skis that we had.
This season is a bit different. The success that we had last year prompted us to purchase skis for the other members of my family. Now we are up to six sets of skis and the corner is not a good place to stash that much gear. It was with this problem in mind that I began to look around for something that could be used as a ski rack. The main hurdle I had to cross was space management. With six people at my house, there isn't room for much. The solution came in the form of an old backless (the back had been removed at some point in the past) office chair. A rotating ski rack would fit the bill nicely.
Those that know me well know that I am a terrible pack rat. I keep just about anything that I can see as useful. Normally this would be great but as I said before space is an issue at my house. I decided that I would use as much of the materials around my house as possible. Not only would this keep the cost of the project down, but it also helped limit the time involved and helped eliminate some extra clutter. Talk about a multipurpose project! Below is a list of the materials I used as well as the tools that I used to complete this project. This list is admittedly not comprehensive but it does give the general idea of what I used. I found many occasions when I had to adapt my original design to fit the materials I had on hand. This is what made this project so satisfying. It was fun to try to come up ways to use more or less random pieces of plywood, carpet, and glue to make something useful. I believe this to be the true spirit of DIY.
Plywood: I used two pieces of 5/8 AC grade plywood that were about 32 inches by 24 inches. I work at an cabinet shop and these were sides that where cut wrong. This plywood has a very nice pine face ply that usually makes up the interior of our cabinets. I really don't need plywood that is this high grade. In the end I didn't leave any of the plywood open to casual inspection. I just had this on hand so...
Lumber: I used a redwood 4x4 post that I had left over from another project. Also used were three lengths (about 40 inches each) of pine 2x2 and about six feet of pine 1x2. These last two where used in the mill finish, I did no sanding beyond taking sharp edges off and removing the blowout from sawing the pieces.
Carpet: There was 12 to 15 square feet of a neutral brown carpet used.
An office chair: 'nuff said
Misc.: Wood screws, wood glue, spray-on adhesive (I used 3M Hi-Strength 90 Spray Adhesive from The Home Depot), wood shims for the base, and metal washers for running screws through the legs of the chair
All of the materials used in this project should be readily available at places like The Home Depot, Menards, are similar stores. The office chair can be found at thrift stores, on the curb to be taken away with the trash, or in other more imaginative places. The only criteria for the chair are that it is stable and the seat pivot is free to move. The tools I used were also those that I already have. I used a compound miter saw to make the cuts on the lumber but even a hand saw will get the job done. Compass, pencil, push pin, floss (to be explained), tape measure, steel ruler, cordless drill, a screw bit, a twist drill bit, a jig saw with a wood blade, clamps, and a sturdy table. These are just the tools I used, as with the materials, these may also be adapted and substituted as need dictates.
Step 1: The Basic Layout
I had three basic goals for this project: require a minimum of floor space, rotates to allow easy loading and unloading, and has some sort of positive retention to hold the skis in place. With these in mind I made a plan for what I wanted. The base would be just a carpeted ring for the skis and poles to rest on. The hole in the center was sized so that the part removed could be used for the middle "adapter:" piece. This piece had to be big enough to cover the metal bracket that held the seat of the chair yet small enough to allow the skis room to stay on the base. The top is where the magic really happens. It is slotted so the skis and poles can lean in toward the center. Flaps of the covering carpet would then be left in place to provide the retention that I wanted. Holding the skis more or less upright would mean that this rack would only need about as much floor space as the chair had originally. The swiveling wheels on the bottom of the chair legs would let this thing rotate and I would just disable the seat pivot to keep the skis from splaying out when you try to turn it. I actually managed to follow this plan pretty well but there where a couple of changes that were made which yielded better results.
Step 2: The Plywood: Primary Shapes
This project has no real need of precision, however, I am a firm believer in doing a good job so I went a little overboard. The results were worth the effort though. I made my plans with the plywood in mind. They are just under 24 inches across. To get accurate circles for the three "levels" of the rack I marked the center of the square made by the width of the plywood. The lines used to do this need to be drawn all the way to the corners of the square (they will be needed later to cut slots in the top) After measuring the longest distance from the center of the seat bracket I found that the middle level needed to be about 11 inches in diameter to cover up the metal. This circle was scribed onto one piece of plywood with a compass (make sure that the measurements are right, I had to redraw the inner circle bigger because mine were off). The resulting circle was already divided into four pieces. I needed at least 6 spaces for skis so I divided those in half to make eight even parts. All of these lines went to the edge of the square so I could use them to space the slots evenly around the circle
The push pin, floss, and pencil were used to mark the outer diameter on the same piece of plywood. Once this was cut out I could have just used it to trace the other circle. As is was, I just used the floss twice.
For those of you unfamiliar with this method of drawing circles I will explain. The push pin acts as an anchor for the floss and pencil to go around. The floss is tied around the shaft of the pin and wrapped a couple of times around the pencil tip at the appropriate length (the radius of the final scribed circle) of floss. This works best with mechanical pencils because they don't taper all the way to the lead leaving a short distance where the floss won't slip off the end. Tip: if this method is going to be used to draw more than about 3 circles of the same size, wrap the floss around the tip of the pencil then tape the free end to the pencil so that the whole apparatus can be moved from place to place without needing to re-wrap the floss each time (even two circles was a little frustrating). Once you have the pencil wrapped up then trace the circle. As you go around you need to turn the pencil so that it doesn't wrap up more floss. Otherwise you will be on your way to drawing a very nice spiral instead of a circle.
Once all the layout has been done it was time to cut. The plywood with the inner and outer circles became the base with the cut out section in the middle becoming the middle of the rack. I used a 1/2 inch spade bit to bore a starter hole for the jig saw. The carpet covered it up nicely so no big deal. I cut each circle out in halves so I wouldn't have to adjust it in the clamps too many times. After cutting out these circles, the base and middle were ready for carpet but the top still had a long way to go.
Tip: when using a spade bit, start boring the hole from one side of the plywood but don't go all the way through. Just go until the tip of the bit has come through the other side. Then, flip the board over and use the spade bit to bore the hole the rest of the way through from the other side. Doing this eliminates the terrible blowout problem that spade bits have and results in a much cleaner hole.
Step 3: The Top: Equal Parts Complication and Necessity
I knew that the slots in the top of the rack needed to be about three inches across to accept both skis and poles. I used a standard wooden shim to trace half of each slot on either side of the eight dividing lines I had drawn. The shim was almost exactly an inch and a half wide. I cut it down to six inches long though, this is different than I had originally planned but having something physical to look at tends to help adjust measurements.
The corners of the slots are pretty close together so I decided to reinforce the top with eight pieces of 1x2. I set the 4x4 column in the center of the top then measured each "rib" individually. Tracing them where I measured them, numbering them and spots where they went made it very easy to get it put together after the slots were cut. I put a 45 degree bevel on the ribs for aesthetic appeal. The jig saw was again employed to cut the slots out. My clamps failed me here so I used my favorite improvisation, 60 Lbs. of lead diving weights! This is not the first time I have used these this way and it works amazingly well in situations that leave traditional clamps wanting. I used inch and a quarter wood screws along with standard wood glue to fasten each rib to the underside of the top. The 1x2 I used in this project is pretty cheap lumber and splits quite easily when driving wood screws through it. I practice I have picked up at work is to pre-drill the wood for screws to go through before biting into the plywood. I use a 1/8 inch twist drill to get the job done.
Step 4: Carpet: Unknown Territory!
I don't have much experience with carpet so covering each level of the rack with carpet was somewhat of a daunting task for me. I began by tracing each level onto the foam backing of the carpet I was using. I left about an inch extra around each piece so that I could wrap the edges of the plywood with the carpet as well. When it came time to cut the carpet I found that a "carpet knife" was a poor choice. It tore the pile off of the carpet and made very raged edges. However, a good pair of scissors is faster and much cleaner.
I had some trimming to do on the carpet for the middle and the top. For the middle I just found the center of the circle and cut an "X". Slipping this over the center post allowed me to cut away the triangles of leftover material for a very clean fit. The top was significantly more complex (bet ya didn't see that one coming...). I set the top on the corresponding circle of carpet and traced out where I needed to cut so that I could make clean folds along the edges. If you have ever built geometric solids by cutting and folding paper then you are familiar with the patterns I drew for myself on the backing of the carpet. It was during this phase of the project that I realized that flaps of carpet where not going to provide the amount of retention that I wanted for the gear. I shifted gears and cut eight, two and a half inch long pieces of 1x2 to glue onto the flaps. This solution works for the present but I foresee the need to put hinges in there so that the carpet doesn't rip along the seam between the wood and the plywood.
Step 5: Spray Adhesive: Havoc Potential...?
This was the most nerve racking part of this project. A good deal of effort had been expended up to this point and this step could put me almost back at square one if I would have messed it up. The adhesive I used is a form of contact cement. It is allowed to dry until just tacky to the touch on both the surfaces to be joined. Then they are pressed together and an instant bond is made which gets stronger for a while as the glue dries further. I also chose the strongest glue I could find. Once all the cutting and shaping had been finished, it was go time. I masked off parts of the top and central column to keep them clean and looking nice. Once the glue started to fly, I only had a few minutes to get the carpet pressed onto the plywood. At this point I can say that trying to do all three pieces at once was not a smart choice but I managed.
The middle was the first piece to get the treatment. Because the diameter of the circle is so small the carpet tended to ripple up as I tried to roll it over the edge of the plywood. I managed to minimize the problem and what ripples there still are don't detract from the look of the thing enough to merit starting it over. The carpet even covers the pilot hole I cut for the saw blade to go through. I was wiser on the base where the inside of the ring is an equally small diameter circle. I made cuts at regular intervals to let the carpet move as it wanted to. The end result was much better.
Sticking carpet to the top was an exercise in patience and rapid-fire, spur-of-the-moment problem solving! The shapes were so complicated that, despite having learned the need to wait to the last second to apply the adhesive, I had to spray the thing twice! The first time, I managed only to get the carpet stuck on the top of the plywood and get a start on the edges. The second time was sprayed on the blocks for the flaps and on the remaining unbonded edges. Then, in a frenzy of activity, I pressed each of the remaining edges into place. I think I was repaid though. When I turned the top over for a look, it was flawless! The pictures I took do no justice. It made the scrambling around worth it.
The blocks that help with the retention use the carpet as a hinge. I slit the carpet at the seam at the edge of the top so that the only continuous piece of carpet between plywood and 1x2 is that on the very top. This allows me to flip the block out of the way to set my skis and poles in the slot then flip it closed to keep them in there as the rack is turned.
Step 6: Comes in Pieces, Some Assembly Required!
At this point it was time to begin assembling the rack itself. I still had some problems to surmount though. The seat bracket is set at a slight angle front to back which I needed to correct before i could put the middle, central column, and top in place. I found that those wooden shims I used to trace the slots were also just about perfect for leveling the mounts for the upper half of the rack. The seat had been bolted on so the holes were too big for wood screws. I used two strips of my drop plywood to run the screws through. I also drilled out two more holes per side to add more screws. Once I was sure it would work, I moved on to the base which had to be attached before the middle could be.
I had to figure out a way to attach it to the legs of the chair. The solution here turned out to be simple too. I just used five metal washers in conjunction with wood screws to go through the plastic (pre-drilled) legs and into the plywood base. Five shims were used to help keep the legs from bending funny as the screws were tightened down.
Next, the top and middle were glued and screwed to the central column. The shims where glued in place on the underside of the middle and the upper half of the rack was glued to the lower followed by eight wood screws. I am nothing of not thorough.
This is where I stopped for the day. All the work a that had been done up to this point had been done in one day and it was no longer that same day. I snapped some quick action shots and called it done for the time being.
Step 7: "Fixed" Base + Rotating Top = Tumble-Down Skis = No Good
Ok, the rack served the way it stood for about a week. It still had the seat pivot able to move independent of the base so the skis were liable to just fall out of it if the top was turned too much relative to the bottom. Originally I had planned on putting a bolt through the steel support shaft under the seat bracket. Instead, I took the base off the legs and attached it to the middle leaving the seat pivot alone. The wheels on the legs work but they are not very smooth. The seat pivot is much smoother so turning the rack is now very easy even with skis and poles in-hand. It might be noted that the pieces of 2x2 that I used to attach the base to the middle are not symmetrical. This was done on purpose to work around the seat bracket which is a rather awkward shape.
Each end of the six pieces used was cut to about a 14 degree angle to account for the horizontal shift between the middle and the base ring. Again, glue and wood screws were used to attach them all together. A word of warning, twist drills EAT carpet voraciously! Be cautious when drilling the pilot holes for screws through carpet.
Now the rack meets each of the criteria that I began with. I am satisfied with what I have for now. It is perfectly functional and I have even managed to break away from the UBF (ugly but functional) division of DIY! I really liked the way that the carpet completes the look of the rack. Beyond looking great it has other benefits too, the skis won't slid off the base and it absorbs the water that might run off the skis. I learned a great deal working on this project and many of the methods I picked up along the way are being incorporated into other projects that I have brewing right now.