I was in need of a chair mat and didn’t want one of those ugly plastic ones that they sell in the staple/max stores. Then I checked around some more and found some pretty nice ones made from bamboo, but for the size I wanted, they were pretty expensive (about $200). Plus, they were too thin and could only be used on commercial carpet with no padding – strike 2! So, I decided to make my own, using some bamboo planks, a sheet of plywood and some molding. The advantages of the DIY method is that you have a choice of surface material and can make it any size you want. And the whole project should cost less than $50 in materials. Here are the steps:
Step 1: Gather Materials / Tools
1. ¼” thick plywood – L 63-3/4” X W 38-1/2”
2. (16) pieces of bamboo plank - 37 3/4" X 3 7/8" X 3/8"
3. 3/8” thick cove molding - 18' total length
4. Fast grab construction adhesive like Loctite Fast Grab Premium
5. Brass nails 1/2" x 18 gauge
6. Wood stain
7. Stain brush
9. Power Miter saw OR miter box and hand saw
10. Table saw OR wood planer OR utility knife
Step 2: Cut Tongue Off Short Side of All Planks
I chose a solid black bamboo plank, 3/8” thick. The planks have a tongue and groove design to lock them together, so we need to cut the tongue off all the short side edges since we don’t need them. Use a power miter saw or handsaw with miter box to do this.
Step 3: Cut Long Side Tongue Off a SINGLE Plank
Now that all the short side tongues are off, we also need to cut the long tongue side off a SINGLE plank. There are several ways to do this – you can use a table saw, which is what I did. If you don’t have a table saw, you can also using a planer. Clamp the piece down and plane off the tongue. You can even use a sharp utility knife, but be very careful, and wear thick leather gloves! The tongue along the long edge is fairly easy to cut away, because you are going with the grain, not across. Set this plank aside, as it will be the last one you install.
Step 4: Cut Wood Board, Miter and Stain Molding
Choose an appropriate molding for the edge. I used a 3/8” cove molding from Home Depot. Miter the corners of the molding with a miter saw or miter box. Do a dry run with the planks to determine your final size, making sure you add space all around for the molding. In this case, I added ¾” to the length and width (3/8” x 2) of the bamboo planks – this will be the size of your plywood base. A 1/4” thick plywood will work well. Cut your plywood, then measure around the perimeter for the molding. Cut the molding, then stain with several coats, let dry and seal with a polyurethane topcoat. Let dry overnight.
Step 5: Glue Plank Onto Plywood Board
Now you’re ready to assemble the mat! Apply construction adhesive onto the first plank, and press onto the plywood, being sure to leave enough space along the edge for your molding. Then before the glue has a chance to set, take a piece of molding and check to see that it fits flush against the edge of the plywood. Make adjustments to bamboo if necessary. Once you are satisfied with the first plank position, clamp it down, or place a heavy weight on top. Wait about an hour for the glue to set. We want to make sure this first plank is perfectly positioned. Once the adhesive on the first plank has set, you can continue with all the remaining planks – no need to wait between each one, as the planks will lock together nicely. Remember, the last plank will be the one that you cut off the tongue side earlier. Clamp down the last piece, or place a heavy weight on it. Let dry for several hours.
Step 6: Glue and Nail Molding to the Board
Place a thin coat of adhesive along the molding, then set along the edge of your mat. Using small nails, carefully nail the molding into place to secure, and wait for adhesive to dry. And that’s it! You have a beautiful and unique chair mat for your office.