Recently my roommate and I moved into an apartment. We both lacked any furniture so we had somewhat of a shopping spree at the local IKEA. So with all that new furniture came lots of boxes. However, a box from IKEA does not equal the fun large box of my youth. They are flat and kinda boring. But as we was obviously in need of some furniture I thought it would be good to reuse all that material to get a free piece of furniture. Not just any piece of furniture though& a chaise lounge! Chaise lounge is kinda long and it feels funny to say it so we'll stick with "couch" in this Instructable.
In this Instructable we'll show you how to make a very solid piece of cardboard furniture. The basic components of the couch are a few large frame pieces that form the sides. These frame pieces hold the heart of the support, the cardboard beams. The beams are slid into slots that are cut out of the frame. Some cardboard padding/shims are positioned within the internal section of the couch, and then a nice long sheet is adhered to the top of the couch. After all that hard work you'll probably need to sit back and relax... on your new couch!
Step 1: Gather Materials
Acquire lots of cardboard.You should ideally find several large flat boxes to use for the outside frame sheets of the couch. The boxes we used came from two bookcases, two desks, a small kitchen table, a bed, a coffee table, and some miscellaneous boxes we borrowed from friends. However, you can make due with lots of small boxes as well, though a few large pieces is recommend.
Hold on to any large pieces of styrofoam that come with the boxes. A packing tube can also be useful too. They can be used for internal supports. Finally, our design does use some tape. We tried to minimize tape as much as possible but some is useful in some sections. So have some packing tape and some double sided tape ready for the steps at the end.
See the schematics below for an illustrated guide but here is a parts list for the final couch:
6 frame sheets: 57.0 x 28.0 (in) sheet per frame sheet.
1 cover sheet: ~70.0 x 20 (in) sheet.
1 bottom sheet: 57.0 x 18 (in) sheet
12 front beam sheets: 20.0 x 5.0
12 2nd beam sheets: 20.0 x 10.0
12 3rd beam sheets: 20.0 x 12.5
12 4th beam sheets: 20.0 x 12.0
12 5th beam sheets: 20.0 x 7.0
8 6th beam sheets: 20.0 x 10.0
12 7th beam sheets: 20.0 x 18.0
16 back beam sheets: 20.0 x 23.5
Lots of scraps and small bits of cardboard
Step 2: Create Your Design
The design we used had radial supports with a swooping seating area that works good for sitting on the edge of your chair or for lounging back. The basic principal of the cardboard chaise lounge is that a few large frame sheets rigidly fixture several strong beams of cardboard. The beams support your weight, and the frame confines the beams so that the couch will not skew or twist. While we'd be thrilled if some of you follow our design, we think it would be the bee' s knees (i.e., exciting) to see what variations people come up with.
We wanted something a bit more organic with some curves to it. So we have two radial areas of supports. One for the upper body and one for the lower body. You can see that only two of the subborts are vertically aligned, and some of the beams are probably more decoration than functional. But hopefully it illustrates that you can have fun with the form of your couch
Concept Considerations as you ponder your own design
How do you want to sit on it? Would it be used at a table. Would it be more for relaxing? Watching TV? Reading a book? Would you like it to be low to the ground? If you're going to build a cardboard couch you might as well design it as you want it! So these will are good questions to ask if you decide to make your own design.
You will want a few key beams reaching from near the bottom of the couch to near the top. The number of beams also helps make the couch rigid along the horizontal plane. So that when you sit on the couch, it wont twist back and forth. So rule of thumb guidelines: 1) have a few vertical supports for areas where weight will be concentrated, like where people's fannies will go :b 2) have several beams distributed through the length of your couch to prevent wiggling
Step 3: Cut Frame Sheet Pattern
On the ugly side of a large piece of cardboard trace out the cutting lines with a marker or pencil. We consider the ugly side the one you don't want to be seen on the finished couch. For us that was the side with any left over tape or logos. This can help by being folded under the base of the couch. For drawing the curved surface, we had one person lie on the floor in a position that they would like to sit, and then the best artist of our group drew a rough curve. (note: when you cut with the exacto knife it will essentially smooth out your curve. So the drawn line is more of a guide) Don't worry about the markings being unattractive because these will not show on the finished couch. Cut out your frame sheet with an exacto knife.
Cut a frame piece with an exacto knife according to the schematic below. Trace out the beam slots using the schematic below as a guideline. Following the dimensions exactly and spacings of the beams isn't critical, just work to make each beam slot a nice regular rectangle. Then cut the beam slots out slots.
Step 4: Cut Remaining Frame Sheets
Once you have cute one frame sheet. Use that as a pattern to trace and cut the other frame sheets. My design used 6 frame sheets total including the pattern. Use the same frame sheet as the pattern each time to maintain a consistent frame sheet.
Also note that two of your frame sheets should have a nice side. Two of the frame sheets will face outward and the remaining 4 will be internal frame sheets. We picked ones without tears from tape or markings for the two outer frame sheets. Also, try to make these two sheets have flaps along the bottom. These flaps may be used to attach the bottom sheet. Having bottom flaps on other frame sheets is also helpful.
If you have a limited number of large sheets then you can cheat on the internal frame sheets since they do not have to be as pretty. Combine medium sized sheets together to form a larger sheet. For example, you can tape two sheets together, or you can use one sheet for the back radial beams and another for the front radial beams. What you want to achieve with the frame sheets is to form a connection between the beams. The frame sheets themselves do not provide direct seating support so if you have to use some of the above cheats it will be ok.
Step 5: Cut the Pieces for the Front and Back Beams
We will first make the front and back beams. With these two beams you can get the frame and beam structure started. It's helpful to begin to see the couch take shape and make any adjustments if needed to your pieces or method. (For example, we learned a trick to make the beams more visually attractive which I'll share below)
First break down a box so that it can be laid our flat.
The front beam is 20.0 x 5.0 x 1.5 (in) . To form this beam cut approximately 12 rectangular sheets that are 20.0 x 5.0 (in)
The back beam is 20.0 x 23.5 x 2.0 (in). To form this beam cut approximately 16 rectangular sheets that are 20.0 x 23.5 (in)
You will be cutting lots of these beam sheets. It's helpful to find a good straightedge like a yard stick or as you may notice in my photos we used a whole foods catering tray that I pulled out of the trash :)
Also we wanted to avoided having creases in our sheets, so we cut off flaps and stray pieces to leave a nice rectangular sheet of cardboard. Don't recycle those scraps just yet! We will reuse them in later steps!
Tip: When we cut the rectangular pieces we cut the edges so they aligned with the corrugation pattern of the cardboard. When you cut a rectangular piece you will notice that two adjacent sides have a different appearance when viewed from the side. One side reveals the zigzag pattern. The other side, the non-zigzag side, will look more like two sheets of paper with a small gap in between. I would recommend cutting your 20 dimension so that it is the non-zigzag side. This will make the edge that people see show the zigzag patterns. It looks cleaner and perhaps aesthetically looks stronger than the non-zigzag pattern.
Step 6: Slide in Front Beam and Then Back Beam
Select two frame sheets and put them next together. We doubled up the outer frame sheets to make them a bit more sturdy. One of these sheets should be your nice clean sheets that you want to show. Next individually slide in the pieces of your front beam. For every half inch width of a beam slot, you will need around 4 sheets (i.e., for a 1.5 wide beam you will need around 12 sheets and for a 1.0" wide beam you will need around 8 sheets) When you get to your last one sometimes it's easier to slide it in-between two beam pieces. Slide on the third frame sheet spaced 5-6 from the the other two. Slide on the fourth frame sheet spaced 5-6 away from the third one. And then double up the fifth and sixth ones (the sixth one having the pretty side facing out) and slide these on near the end of the beam. Now slide in the pieces for the back beam. Now slide in the sheets for your back beam.
At this point your couch should be able to stand up on its own fairly well.
Step 7: Attach Bottom Sheet
Now is a good time to attach the bottom sheet. Cut a bottom sheet to the dimensions of approximately 57 x 18 (in). Depending on the spacing and size of your frame sheets the size of the bottom sheet will vary. If you had flaps on the outer frame sheets then tape the bottom sheet to these flaps. If your frame sheets did not have flaps then leave some flaps on your bottom sheet. Tape the frame sheets to these flaps. The bottom sheet mainly functions to enclose the final couch.
Step 8: Position Beam Wedges Under the Beams
Since the beams do not touch the ground, and they are the main structural support you need to add some material to transfer the weight to the ground (the frame sheets are not there to provide vertical support). The way we did this was by cutting and/or rolling scrap pieces of cardboard into shivs that we then wedged them under each support. Sometimes taping the wedges helps prevent them from unwinding or sliding out of place. You have basically three lanes to place the wedges. We placed wedges for each beam on the outer most lanes. You do not have to have to create wedges for all the beams in the center lane though if you want to be extra careful that your cardboard couch won't collapse you can do it for some or all. Tape them into place to secure them. Another approach, which we will use for for the upper support, is to line the whole lane with material to act as a wedge/ buffer material. But since for the underside you know where the support needs to be the wedges saves some material.
Step 9: Finish Other Beams
Go ahead and slide in the remaining pieces for the beams, adding the beam wedges as you go.
Step 10: Add Hidden Internal Supports
If you follow our design the central portion will not be as strong where the two radial sections meet. We added some extra internal support in this section. We used two different methods. You can use this in your design if you have some gaps without much structural support
The first method uses a packing tube to provide vertical support. Cut a packing tube to an approximate height (~13-14 in.). Tape some scrap parts to the top and bottom pieces (it will kinda look like a capital "I" at the end). These scrap pieces will help support it and prevent the circular end of the tube from punching through the top or bottom. We used one long tube to make two of these supports and used them on the inner lane.
The second method uses chunks of styrofoam to extend the support provided from the smaller beams to the sitting surface. The basic principle is that we will fit/wedge a piece of styrofoam between the angle formed by two consecutive beams and then cut the styrofoam so that it is nearly flush with the surface. this is a nice trick to give you more flexibility in your design. So if you want to make silly small support beams like us, you can! The chunks of styrofoam we're talking about are those they put in the corners of boxes for fragile objects (like in TV boxes). First, you need to mark the dimensions of your styrofoam. Take your piece of styrofoam and place it so that a flat side is aligned with the top side of one of the smaller beams. Now use a pen or marker to mark out where the underside of the beam above it is. Use an exacto knife, saw, or some wire to cut along this line. Sometimes these pieces of styrofoam have really odd shaps, but exactness isn't a huge issue so do the best you can, when in doubt leave extra material. Test your piece by wedging it in between the two beams inside of one of the lanes. You should be able to get it well lodged so that if you press down on it (simulating a vertical force) the sytrofoam doesn't budge. Cut little pieces off until it's a good fit. Now that we have the wedge angle you need to cut the excess parts off. You don't necessarily want the styrofoam piece to be cantilevered over your beam. So if you imagine a line going straight up from the end of the bottom beam, that is generally where your styrofoam should end. Having it stick out extra won't be a bad thing but vertical forces will torque your styrofoam wedge instead of directing all the force onto the bottom beam. What you can do if you have a large enough pieces is after the bottom beam have a portion of the styrofoam extend down to the base of the frame sheet (see figure below). Finally mark and cut the top portion of the styrofoam so that it is a little short of being flush with the top of the couch.
Step 11: Adding Upper Buffer Material
For similar reasons to step 8, we now need to add buffer material for the 1-2 inch cap between the beams and the top of the frame sheet. Since your body will be supported by this material we made it cover the full three lanes. Fortunately by this time, you will have lots of scraps that you can use. Flaps from boxes and spare pieces work great. The first layer will be the most work. Lay pieces flat between the beams, interpolating a surface. Tape these pieces to the beams. The first layer provides a canvas of sorts for you to lay the other pieces. Now the challenge is just to add enough cardboard so that it spans the gap between the this canvas and the top of edge of the frame sheet. Just keep layering until you have the buffer material flush with the top of the frame sheet.
Step 12: Extra: Covering the Back of the Couch
The back of your chair will show some of your supports you added for your back beam. We wanted this to look a bit nicer so we used three long strips, sliding each one end under the bottom wedge and taped the other to the top of the buffer material. Do this for each lane. This hides some of the internal elements of our couch.
Step 13: Applying Cover Sheet
Almost there! Cut your pristine cover sheet 70.0 x 20 (in). Now take some double sided tape (we used some double sided foam tape but that was because it was all we had). Apply the tape along the edges of the seating surface. Then carefully lay your cover sheet down. And finally flop down and rest on your new cardboard chaise lounge! You've worked hard for this moment! Hope you enjoy your new cardboard furniture!