Sculpt a "Snofa"




I started this project after I saw the instructable about a Snow Hand from PenfoldPlant, but didn't think the snow I had would support such a tall structure. A friend of mine had mentioned that she wanted to build snow furniture when we learned about the impending snow blizzard in the midwest, and the snow-day resulting from it.

I'm dividing this instructable into separate categories of the portions of the sculpture, but in reality I kind of did it all at once, in order to help me get a better over all picture of the couch I wanted to build. It's not necessary to follow the instructions in order.

Please comment if you have any questions at all, or suggestions for this or future instructables!


Step 1: Materials

Of course, none of these tools are absolutely necessary, you could do it naked and with your hands,  but what I advice to use is:

- Tough snowpants with plenty of insulation since you'll be on your knees a lot

- Proper winter layers including jacket, shell, and hat

- Water-proof gloves and boots , a life saver

- a large shovel for scooping and piling

- a smaller shovel , with a  straight and flat edge for shaping

- a small brush cutting saw , for fine shaping

- a screw driver or trowel for accents

- a good idea of the kind of sofa you want to make

- plenty of snowfall, at LEAST 3 or 4 inches of packable snow

Step 2: General Tips

Start the project on a warm day , with sub freezing days forcasted for the next few days. This way it is easy to get a general shape of the couch with fluffy snow, but then it will get harder and will accommodate fine details and sharp angles.

To smooth the snow , use the blade or back of your small shovel to lightly compact everything. You can also add more snow and smooth that, and come back to it later if you've a problem

To shape the snow tap or pound the back of your small shovel lightly against where you want to cut out. The tapping motion helps prevents chunks form flying out by just cutting them in half. make sure you go slowly when you reach an edge in order to avoid tear-out

To carve the snow use the saw and cut at least two of the three dimensions you have access to on the piece you're looking to cut. Don't worry too much about sawing too far into the snow because it binds back together pretty easily.

Attack all angles of the couch equally this helps not only to prevent a misshapen couch, but also to help you get a greater understanding of the "couch within". If you just shape the arms or legs or seat at one point, they may be disproportionate to the rest of the couch. I basically circled the couch, refining each detail of it to an equal level before making more precise and final cuts.

When you are completely finished spray the snow with water from a spray bottle on mist setting. This is probably the most tiring part of the project, honestly. But the spray bottle ensures that the snow won't melt and lines won't be left by a stream of pure water. chuckr44 wisely suggested that a pump bottle from the garden isle suited for pesticides might work better. After you have a solid little layer of ice built up over a few nights, feel free to pour water on it so that it can harden all the way through. I do not recommend sitting on it with your full weight until this is completed.

Step 3: Make Your Mound

I started off shoveling up snow from right around the base of the couch with my shovel. Pictured is the small shovel, but if i had a larger one at the time, it definitely would have helped.

The key to making the mound is that once you think it's big enough, add at least a foot of buffer snow around it to allow for mistakes and cave-ins. It is absolutely possible to add snow after you're in the middle of the process, but there are a few reasons why I don't do this

- It's my understanding that snow gets its integrity from being compacted, and it's much easier to compact snow in a big, vague mound without any delicate features on it yet

- It is easier to uncover the couch within then to build it up

- It prevents headaches , by getting the snow addition part out of the way early and not having to deal with it again.

My pile ended up being about 5 feet tall. Looking back, i probably could have made it shorter, but it was a safe bet to take.

If your couch is going to include arms , It is very important to  build up on the sides of the mound where you imagine the arms to be. They will be among the most delicate parts in the end, so make sure to pack plenty of snow at the edges in order to get a proper base for the arms. while the seat does not need to be as projected, the arms will need to come to the end of the cushion and project upwards; you might need to pack the snow with your shovel to get it to stick to the sides.

When you are finished , give it a good, hard smacking all around with he back of your shovel in order to compact all of the snow, integrate any large chunks, and prepare it for carving. This step is very important in having a smooth and carve-able surface later.

Step 4: Rough Carving

Once you've acquired a large snow mound , It's time to start shaping and getting a rough idea of what you're seat will look like. Start by squaring the ends up. It helped me to place my shovel parallel to a side so that I could tell if the other side was square with it; the snow makes it hard to tell. Square you're couch much larger than you anticipate it to be, because it helps to have plenty of snow to work with. Once you've squares all of the sides, judge where you're seat will go. I left my arms about 2 feet wide each, and carved my seat about a foot higher than I expected it to be. Make sure to clear the surrounding snow around the couch so you can get a good feel for how high the arms and seat are up. I do not square the top at first, because I was skeptical if i had made it high enough, and did not want to touch it.

For shaping , I employed a chisel-like strategy. with the straight blade of my small shovel, i chipped away in bumps to the back of the shovel's handle. This helps to avoid large snow chunks falling out, or the blade swerving off and going too deep.

Once you've shaped all of the sides , you can do a once over, a twice over, whatever you want in order to help clean it up a bit and finalize the basic size and shape of the sofa.

Step 5: Carving the Seat Area

After you've got a general shaping , you should decide on the seat height. I wanted my couch to be a functional one, so I knew it had to be a normal height. I built my sculpture on the side of my sidewalk, so that passers-by could sit on it for a novelty rest. Because of this, i wanted to make sure that my feet were on the ground when i sat down, to help take some of the pressure off.

I compacted the snow a bit first, then sat down to test the height. I took off about 2 or 3 inches at a time with my short shovel, watching the backrest as i did, before i settled on a height that seemed safe. The seat is the easiest part to rebuild, so don't worry too much about getting it perfect the first time.

Make the seat slightly tilted downwards towards the back, as it's more comfortable to sit on, people won't be sliding off of it, and it is also a more natural for a couch. The seat back should also be tilted back to give the sitter a reclined posture. Make the seat how you want it, and then make notches that separate the cushions of your couch. You can have as many cushions as you want! You could also add lines in the form of diamonds or squares, just for look, but i do not recommend it because it tends to look busy.

Step 6: Shaping the Arms and Back

Once you've got a rough carving of the arms and seat, it's time to get serious about the shape of the arms. The seat height you've decided on will dictate the end point of the arms, and for my design, the overhang. My arms started extremely wide, but ended up about 1 foot wide, the majority of the snow being taken off of the outer edge, not the seat. Look at the final pictures to get a good idea of the intersections between the arm, the seat, the overhang and the front. It is very customizable and a variety of looks can be obtained. With an overhang, there is a big risk of cave-ins because there's nothing supporting the overhangs. Be careful about this, and take chunks of snow off slowly with your saw, never actually scraping at the snow with anything blunt.

in order to make the back look natural be sure to give it a backwards cant. It's interface with the arms is you're choice; i chose to span my back across the entire couch, intersecting the arms, and sloping slightly at the ends. The back ended up being about a foot thick. The back of the back was flat and straight up and down. I had a small lip hanging over the edge that I later rounded out, similar to how i did the arms, I call it a "scroll" look.

Step 7: Sculpting the Bottom

In order to add another dimension of realism to my sculpture , I wanted to scrape out the bottom and add legs like a real couch. The entire bottom, of course, would not be scraped out because that would most likely be way too weak. I ended up making the legs about 2 inches in on each size, and about 6 inches square and 3-4 inches up. I made them by first carving out about two inches into the snow, and 3-4 inches up. I was able to cleaning cut the snow away at the ends with the saw, but in the middle i picked at it with my hands. Most of the time, it cleanly broke away at the seam I had created. When it didn't, I just used the tip of my saw to chip away at it. I did not do this to the back, mainly because I didn't have enough room to get on my hands and knees back there, and it would not be seen.

When I had a 2 by 3 inch rectangle carved out around the front and two sides, I then started on defining the legs from the inside. To do this, I carve the same 2 by 3 inch rectangle out around the front three sides, but stopped at the legs, about 8 inches from the sides, instead of the ends. Because i was not able to get the saw in there to make a fullow seperating cut, I just cut the top, sides and bottom and chipped it out with my gloves and saw. It is easily overlooked to cut around the bottom, but it helps a lot to separate the snow from the ground when clearing it out.

After I had all of this roughly cut , I squares everything up with the saw by poking it around any corners that still had snow hiding in them. You might need to cut these slits deeper  if you are not getting the full affect and can still see the snow behind the legs. Or you may need to keep them shallow if your snow is not holding very well.

Step 8: Dealing With Cracks and Breaks

Inevitably, there will be some unexpected cracks or breaks. You've got three options when this happens.

-Do nothing -This isn't really a bad option, unless the chip is big or in a noticeable place and you are far into the finishing process.

-Modify your design - make the part a bit smaller, or perhaps add a crazy curve to compensate for it. Numerous times, large pieces of my arms chipped off, but I was just able to carve them down further and further. In order to prevent this, make each of your parts to the sofa large enough to account for these

-Replace or fix the piece - This is the hardest option, and many times it's not worth it. Do this only if the first to options are unacceptable to you, or you're a perfectionist, which is totally okay. the best way to do this is to save the piece, but If you don't have the piece, you can use your saw to cut a block of snow out, if it's the proper consistency, and toughly cut your own plug. wet the piece (but not too much!), and see if it sticks back where it came from.

If it doesn't, then you can  pack slightly moist snow onto the place layer by layer. You can use your spray bottle to mist each layer you put on, and even if the snow is really powdery this should work.

If that strategy fails for you too, then the best option is to build up slightly moist snow around the break. Build it all the way up from the nearest horizontal surface, and leave it there overnight to harden, and carve it in the morning!

Step 9: V 2.0

The 2014 winter has brought plenty of couch making snow, so I decided to bring life to another Snofa this season. This years Snofa iteration was a sectional type, with sculptural, cubist abstractions sprouting from the periphery. I added a tv across the sidewalk from it to provide the Snofa patrons with coverage of the Superbowel and Winter Olympics. I did struggle with snow quality and consistency so not every cushion is perfectly smooth and white, but it turned out alright.

First Prize in the
Snow Contest 2



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      IoT Challenge
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      Arduino Contest 2019
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      Party Challenge

    37 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    "Spray the snow with mist from a spray bottle."

    In the summer they sell these pump up sprayers either in the garden center, or Walgreen's. They might work well instead of a small hand sprayer. Just fill them with water, pump up the pressure, and spray away. The personal size sprayers give off a very fine mist intended to cool you in the summer heat.

    The other sprayers are for spraying pesticides. But a new one will be fine if used with plain water. Just mark it "water only".

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    That sounds like a fantastic idea! The spray bottle in the end did not end up working for me, but mainly because it did not have enough time to freeze and the weather quickly warmed up. It was also really really tiring to keep pumping the trigger. Thanks for the suggestion!


    5 years ago



    7 years ago on Introduction

    i'm gonna put one of these in my igloo/snow tunnel/snow fort this winter.


    Reply 7 years ago on Step 2

    That would work out perfectly! It's just that most people wouldn't have their hose out in the winter to prevent it from freezing up.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, I've only just noticed this one. Fantastic job!

    I hope that you spent some time relaxing on your sculpture once it was done. It looks great and you did a brilliant job writing the project up.

    3 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the comment!
    Your hand really was my initial motivation! I loved the idea that I could make something so big for free.
    Unfortunately I never got to fully relax on it since it got too warm after I finished!
    You're project was very well-written too!

    Did anyone ever stop and ask about your sculpture or comment while you were making it?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Actually yes, a lot of people stopped to chat while I was making my sculpture. Different people seemed to interpret it in different ways. One person thought it was a religious symbol, while others thought I was just trying to give a massive middle finger to the neighbours. A few wanted to take photos with it, too.

    On the whole, people just wanted to ask what it was, since it didn't really resemble anything recognisable until the last hour or so of its construction. How about with your sofa? Did you get much interest from passersby?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    That sounds like a lot of fun!
    I got a lot of attention from my sofa. Multiple times during building, people would stop by in their cars and yell out "nice job" or something like that, and most people walking their dogs would chat with me. I even saw a few people snap photos from their cars when it was finished! I probably didn't have as many people as you had stop by though, since mine was in a more residential area.

    I also got my picture in the local paper sitting on it, and as a result of that a politician sent me a letter! It was really incredible the reaction I got just from doing something a bit outside of the box.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! The entire project and write-up really was a great experience. The Instructable aspect really gave me an immediate purpose whenever it got difficult. I'm surprised to see how little instructables these days are actually fully drawn out step by step instructions.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Well, there are a couple of contests running for which "just photos" are solicited as entries, which is part of the reason for the bias.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Ah I see.
    Just a suggestion: maybe you should devise a system so that people do not post the same instructable twice as a step-by-step and a picture only for purposes of entering a specific "just photos" contest? Just to avoid redundancy and clean it up a bit.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    In fact, the biggest complaint long-time users have is how many new people are posting just a picture, not even several, and often with little or no explanation :-(


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Absolutely! Though I think the reason for this might be in part due to the Instructables slogan itself; "The worlds biggest show and tell" doesn't exactly include anything about instructions, or DIY for that matter. It's a great slogan, but maybe it can just be misinterpreted.
    There are also those projects that are so good, people will be okay with just a picture. Not that they don't want more explanation, but just that it's so incredible.