Intro: Broom Chair
While I was walking through the park. I noticed a gardener leaning on his broom. Wandering further, I imagined how fun it would be to make an entire chair out of brooms. So I grabbed a pen and a piece of paper and start working on it right away when I arrived home. I knew I wanted to share this project before I started working on it. So I tried to use as many manual tools as possible. Except for the use of a power drill. All tools are common hand tools. The chair sits surprisingly comfortable and is more stable than it looks like. This project took me several days to complete. Which was primarily because it involved a lot of gluing (no screws or nails are used) and I only had a few clamps.
Step 1: Requirements
As said before, this project uses primarily manual tools. Cause I wanted this project to be made by other people who do not have an advanced workshop. But of course, you should not feel restricted by using the tools I have used. Using other tools might even help to increase the accuracy of certain tasks. Using a drill press instead of a normal power drill will make it way easier for example to drill 90-degrees holes. Below is a list of all the tools required for this project. I'd like to add that the 3D printer could be optional. I used it to print the parts to keep the legs together, to prevent them from sliding away and to print a tool for drilling 90-degrees holes. But there are, of course, alternative methods to achieve the goals.
Step 2: The Design
When I started working on this design. I realized that a lot of these first sketches were primarily based on the structural strength of the sticks. This ended up in a normal chair which just had the story of using brooms to make it special. Rather then the design itself communicates this. After a few hours of sketching, I felt stuck. I realized that I wasn't getting towards any interesting designs by sitting at my desk and making sketches. So I went to the store and bought two broom heads.
I just started fiddling around with the two pieces and discovered that the fibers intertwining with each other added a surprising amount of strength to it. It was not enough to hold my weight. But it did inspire me to make the whole seat out of broom heads, rather than only using the sticks for the structural strength. So I went back to the drawing board and made a few more designs which now were a lot more convincing than the first ones. Eventually, I made a dirty sketch of how it should look like and went back to the store to buy all the materials I needed.
This project is a fairly simple one, once you have manufactured all the pieces. You can assemble it with wood glue and you're done. The list of pieces which you need can be found in the illustration below. In the next step, I will guide you through every step I made to manufacture these pieces in detail, as well as the assembly. Please note that the measurements I have, might not be the same as yours. Since this project uses an existing product, the dimensions of this product might differ between stores. But no worries, in all steps where something needs to be measured I explain how the measurements are related. So if your materials are slightly different, you should understand the process well enough to make your own decisions on these dimensions.
Measurements are specific to my project, please do your own measurements, cause dimensions of your brooms might differ.
Step 3: Process
Step 1 - Extending broom heads
The first step is to extend the broom heads so they are long enough to sit comfortably on them. The total length should be around 380mm. Since the heads I had where roughly 270mm in length. I needed to extend them. For this, I first needed to cut a straight edge on one side of the broom head.
So I drew a line to guide the handsaw while cutting. Use a square in order to make sure you are cutting in 90 degrees, so the two pieces will be straight when you extend them.
Since I personally do not have a vise, I clamped the pieces with a clamp cause you can not put them flat on the table if you want to cut them. My first attempt cutting was not successful. The fibers of the broom are attached to the wood with a steel wire. This messes up my handsaw so I tried to continue using a metal saw. But that took way to much time. So I reached out to a pair of pliers and pulled the fibers out. This approach is way faster. You can pull the fibers out easily by clamping the fibers with the pliers as close to the wood as possible. Then you pull them out, so the fibers will come loose with the metal wire attached. Make sure you do this through the entire project for every cut you make or hole you drill.
The smaller piece required to extend the broom head is made by using another broom and cutting next between both sides of the center hole. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of this action. But it is pretty straightforward. Don't forget to use a square for these pieces so the extension will not be crooked after gluing.
Then it is just a matter of repeating this process 7 more times so you will have 8 broom heads of the same length in total (in this project ~380mm).
Step 2 - Cutting angled edge
For 4 of the 8 pieces, we will now need to cut the angles for the backrest . For this, I folded a piece of paper in the same width as the wood of the broom head and cut a slight angle at one end. I held it next to another piece and used a pencil to draw a line with the desired angle. I think my angle is only slightly tilted, max. 80 degrees or so. But this is just a matter of personal feeling. I used an existing chair to measure the desired angle. With this piece of paper, you will need to trace 4 broom heads. Make sure that you flip the piece of paper for 2 of the extended pieces. So the edges will align when you put them together. TIP; mark 2 pieces on the short side with side A and the other 2 pieces on the long side with side B of the paper. Again, to enhance the strength of the glue.
Step 3 - Drilling holes
Now comes the tricky part. I say tricky, cause with the tools I had, it was pretty hard to get really accurate measurements since the wood has rounded edges. But with a bit of patience, it was doable to get good results.
We need to drill 2 holes in the pieces with a slant angle and 3 holes in the other pieces. All holes are drilled in the center of the wood. I used ~25mm from the edge for all the outer holes and the center holes are, well... In the center. But I would advise to use 60mm from the edge, so they won't be in the way for the holes of the legs later on.
Don't worry about the offset manufacturing hole. You won't see anything of it after the next step.
Step 4 - Glueing broom heads
We now will glue the broom heads together. This is a time consuming, but easy process. I only had two clamps, so I could only glue 2 pieces together at once. Then I needed to wait an hour till they are dried, just to repeat the process. I do not foresee any problems with this step. Do not worry too much if the holes don't match perfectly. After the glue has dried, you can easily use a file to enlarge the holes
Step 5 - Cutting sticks pt.1
Now all the broom heads are all done. We can put them together to form the seating. But first, we will need to cut the broomsticks to the appropriate length. (I put this step as an extra step, so you could combine this with step 8. If you prefer to cut all the sticks in one go.) Just cut 5 pieces of 280mm. The 280mm is based on the length of the fibers. When I pushed the fibers into each other so they were not to far apart from each other, nor to close by. The 280mm is the length between the outermost parts of the wood. So if you have taller or shorter fibers, this is the dimension the length is based on.
Step 6 - Putting the seat together
First put the seat and backrest together separately. Use a rounded file and/or the power drill to make the holes a bit wider and/or use some sandpaper for the sticks. The more friction there is between the hole and the stick. The more secure the connection is, but the harder it is to assemble. First, test fit the sticks and when satisfied put a bit of glue on the end of the stick while sliding it into the hole. Use a hammer if there is too much friction and to prevent your hand from getting blisters by twisting the stick into the hole. I found out that the best way of working was to have 1 side where the sticks needed to be put in with a hammer. Then put the other side on it with a bit bigger holes, so there is less friction. Use a clamp on the position of the sticks to put them together, so you don't damage the fibers. Also make sure that both the seating, as the backrest are as flat as possible. Since this will heavily affect the stability of the chair if it is crooked.
Now comes the most satisfying part of this project, assembling the seat! I only used wood glue, but if desired, you could put in some screws in the backrest to strengthen the connection.
The backrest is a bit angled, which makes it pretty challenging to put clamps on it. The way which has worked the best for me, was to clamp it on an angle (see picture below). I also first glued one part. Rather than both parts at the same time. This was required because my backrest was not fully flat. By gluing one part first. I could tilt it a bit when I glued the second part of the backrest. This did not made the final seating crooked at all. So in case your seating/backrest is slightly crooked, don't worry. This can be result in this step.
Step 7 - Drilling holes for the legs
This is a challenging step, because we want to have the hole in a perfect 90 degrees angle. Which is quite hard to do without a drill press. But with the tool I made. It worked out quite well. I 3D printed a cylinder with the same diameter as the width of the drill (23mm) with a flat base to it. The same tool could be made by putting a PVC tube or something and putting it into a flat piece of wood. Or just use a drill press if you have one. If you know any other tips on how to drill a perfect 90 degrees hole, please share in the comments.
Knowing how you can drill a perfect hole, it is time to measure the positions for the legs. The center points are easy, they are already there. So we only need to drill 4 holes in these gaps. For my chair, I used ~50mm, but I would recommend something like 30mm. I could not use 30mm myself, cause this would weaken my chair. Since I already had my horizontal sticks at 25mm. Please note that we will drill through the steel wires which keep the fibers in place. This could be resolved by pulling out the fibers again and (try) to glue them back after the holes are drilled. I did not pulled them out myself, but just drilled through the metal.
Step 8 - Cutting sticks pt.2
Let's saw the required parts for the legs! The first 4 are simple. These determine the height of the chair. For this I used 460mm. Since I 3D printed 4 connectors to keep the legs together. I measured the distance between the holes I drilled to put the legs in. For this, I measured 2 times 220mm and 2 times 250mm.
So in total:
4 x 460mm
2 x 220mm
2 x 250mm
The model I made as a connector can be downloaded as an attachment from this step. Note that this is a connector for sticks of 22mm in diameter.
Step 9 - Placing the legs
Let's make the frame to stabilize the legs. Use the short pieces from step 8 to assemble the frame. The pieces with the same length should be parallel to each other. Use wood glue to stick the pieces together. Now we are going to place the legs. Again, put a bit of glue on the end of the stick and put it in the hole. Use a hammer to make sure it fits well. Then shift the frame over the legs. Do not yet put the frame in it's final position. But first, use a level to see if all the legs are of equal length. If that is not the cause, mark the edges with a pencil and cut them off. If you don't do this, the chair will become wobbly. When all the legs are all level, you can put the frame back on. Shift it approximately 100mm from the edge. This is purely for aesthetical reasons. If you like it a bit higher or lower, go ahead. You can glue the frame to the legs if you want.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Hope you enjoyed it and feel inspired to make something! If it inspired you to make a chair like this yourself, I would love to see it. If you have any remarks about the format of this article, both negative or constructive ;-). I would love to hear them. Also, share any ideas you have about all the fibers I have pulled out of all these brooms
First Prize in the
Creative Misuse Contest