Intro: Eames-Style Chair Made From Satellite Dishes
I'm sure this isn't the first chair made from discarded satellite dishes, but it's probably the first recliner made as an homage to the classic Eames lounge chair. This is chair is 90-95% materials culled from 4 discarded dishes. The only non-satellite dish parts are a few feet of flat steel used for extra bracing, a chair reclining mechanism taken from a second-hand office chair and the cushions. Wanna make your own? Watch the video and read on!
You will need a welder, grinder, some basic wrenches and other basic metal working tools to make this but not much else, really. Oh yea, plus patience and problem solving skills ;)
Step 1: Collect, Dismantle, Assess
When scavenging you never know what you're going to get! Well, now we know satellite dishes offer a ton of good quality steel bits and well-engineered parts. I had 4 of them (with various amounts of hardware for each) and I knew each dish would be used for a panel of the seating area and ottoman. The rest of the build was a mystery until i dismantled them completely and assessed the "haul."
Great haul! I could see fairly quickly almost everything I needed was there. the mount is darn near perfect for a seat base, the steel is strong... the only thing missing was a chair base that swivels and reclines...
Step 2: Merge a Donor Chair Base With the Dish Parts
A used office chair provided the perfect mechanism to base the chair around. I cut it from a thrift store chair and welded a pice of satellite dish pipe to it. This pipe fits right into the coupling it was mounted in on the dish, and if you don't tighten the collar it swivels all by itself. Now it could spin and recline.
I welded the satellite dish to the chair base and had to add some stabilization so the sitter doesn't tip over. I did this with the square steel tubing that was used on the dishes to hold the LNB (low noise block down converter, whatever the hell that means. I have netflix ;). These made a nice spread out base with a little welding and support.
I used another style LNB holder to fabricate a back rest that welded to the seat bottom and held the back support in place. I also added some support using scraps of flat stock.
There is a lot of eyeballing and trial and error in a build like this. Kick and stomp the box you're already thinking outside of and you'll do just fine.
Step 3: Figure Out the Structure and Headrest, Plus a Simple Ottoman
Once I had the bottom and back roughed in, I went back and make it strong enough to hold me. I used some scrap flat steel to add a little support. I also figured out where I wanted the headrest to be and cut the top dish to fit over the back dish without overlapping. The adjustable hardware that came with the dish was great for helping me line up and support the headrest. Once I had it sketched out and cut, I welded it to the back.
I also made a footrest by simply welding a dish bracket to the bottom of the dish. With the pipe that holds it all up cut to length and using the hardware it came with, I was done with the ottoman in about 15 minutes. This design would probably translate into funky stools, with a little reinforcement and stability. I may make some.
Step 4: Adding Armrest for Comfort and Support
The bent portion of the satellite dish mounting pole makes a pretty good armrest. It also added much needed structure to keep the back and the bottom together and firm. A lot of compound angles made it tricky to get clean cuts and welds at the seams, so to cover the ugliness, I welded a pipe clamps from the dishes over the joints.
It works great! But should be a little more plush...
Step 5: Upholster
While this whole build was new territory, outside my comfort zone, I struggled the most with upholstering it. I am terrible with fabric and I didn't want to cover and hide all the dishes, but I also wanted a comfy surface.
I'll probably make something better some day, but for now, I cut up a couple cushions I got from a friend into satellite dish shapes, mounted them with spray glue to a thin plastic backing (should have used 1/8" plywood) and did a real simple upholstery job with a staple gun. I used inexpensive vinyl. I'm a vegetarian and don;t work with leather.
I also cut a pool noodle and upholstered it with spray glue and vinyl to put over the arms.
Step 6: Grind, Sand, Prime and Paint
No pics, but you get it. There is a lot of grinding, sanding, finessing and painting involved. Then you're done. Grab a drink, pull up a TV and bask in a job well done!
Thanks and be good,