Giant 555 Timer Chip Cardboard Piano Bench




Introduction: Giant 555 Timer Chip Cardboard Piano Bench

or seat, stepstool, endtable, coffee table, poster bed, nightstand, etc.  Just as versatile as it's electronic component integrated circuit counterpart, use cardboard or "card" in the UK, to make this dandy piece of furniture. Besides being appropriate for electronic musicians, this is the geeky thing to have as a conversation piece in the living room, den or hackerspace.  Try your hand first at the Giant Fn Computer Key to get some Fn practice in building with cardboard.  This takes it a another step with engineered cardboard components to give it strength.

I think I might need a giant 20 megawatt soldering iron to solder this in place.

The idea was from seeing this scaled up 555 timer chip footstool.  It was made from lasercut plywood panels and glue laminated together.  1. I do not have a lasercutter. 2. Not the most efficient use of materials, especially cabinet grade plywood to form a chunky solid mass.  So what do we do?  1. Make it bigger. 2. Build it out of cardboard which is plentiful waiting to be recycled.  3. Demonstrate cardboard can be engineered in structures for great strength.

Maybe a giant transistor or LED cardboard barstool is my next project.

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Step 1: Basic Components...

You need lots of cardboard boxes to use.
Try to salvage the boxes that have a good thick coating paper and don't compress too much or are not squishy.  Thicker heavy duty boxes are more rigid.  Don't try to use cardboard that have a glossy printing or surface on them.  Rip off all packing tape, labels, and just discard the stapled seams.

For this project you need about a quart and a half of glue.
I use carpenter's glue which is tackier and sets up faster than white glue.  It might help to have some spring paper clamps or real clamps to hold some parts where the cardboard wants to flex out and not stick on.  Stapling with a heavy duty stapler seems not to work too well as there is no solid surface for the staples to really bite into.

I also had some white glue to mix with water 50/50 to use for papier mache.

Have a ream of coverstock paper or 50lb weight rated thin cardboard.  I find it better than using old newspapers since it gives a more solid finish and you don't need that many layers to bridge a gap in papier mache.  I use pieces as glue tabs to help the cardboard pieces get clamped in place while the glue sets up.

You will need some material to make the cushion.  Maybe about a yard of fabric in a dark color.  I found this cool techno looking houndstoothy micro-dotted fabric.

I used two old pillows folded in half and stuffed side by side in the seat cushion cover.  You can also get seating foam but that might be expensive for a nice 4 inch thick chunk of foam.

I used a serger to just seam my seat cushion cover.  It is really a big pillowcase.  A simple straight stitch sewing machine would also do the job or take your time and hand sew it.

You will need some black paint, gray paint - or mix it up with back and white paint, and I used some fabric first aid bandage tape to do the lettering on the chip.  Caitlin banned me from raiding her fabric paint stash. 

And lastly, have your assortment of cutting tools like utility knives, scissors, shears, etc to cut the cardboard.

CAUTION: Utility knifes and other blades are sharp.  Be aware it can cut through and damage something under the cardboard like yourself.   Do not force it through the material.  Know how to use your sewing machine and serger safely. Know how to paint without making a mess.  And peel off the glue from your fingers every once in a while.

Step 2: Get Rolling...

Corrugated cardboard itself is a pretty neat trick of engineering.
You take a wavy sheet of paper, glue all the ridges on both sides to an outer layer and you form a solid sheet good.
The ridges distribute the forces in such a way that you get great strength from what is essential pieces of paper.

The first component we are going to make are the legs of the bench.

For this IC chip package, we need eight legs.

Cardboard tubes are pretty strong, but if you gang them up together, they are stronger.  Similar idea in gathering multiple strands for a rope or bundling a bunch of straws together for a stronger column.  This concept is used a lot in architecture.

I did not do any analysis of what my structure or bench will be rated for but went along on feel.

I knew my final bench height was going to be about 19-20 inches so with the seat cushion and rim accounted for, I needed the legs to be about 15 inches high.

Create three cardboard tubes to be bundled together for each leg.  The corrugation should be going lengthwise along the tube.  Crease into a tube shape.  Apply glue, roll up. and wait until dry.  Try to form the tube as tight as you can, maybe use rubber bands to hold it while it dries.

Form a cover piece for the leg.  Glue each tube down side by side.  Start laminating over with pieces of cardboard.  Vary the direction of the corrugation of these cover pieces so that the lamination will get strength from crossed directions of the corrugation.

As always, you can piece together smaller pieces of cardboard to get a larger piece.  Since we will be laminating several layers, just bridge the jointed pieces with a full piece to cover and strengthen the seam.

Step 3: Train Trestles...

We can now take the legs and combine them into our basic support units.

From a single piece of cardboard or pieces, make a channel type shape about 18 inches wide to enclose the ends of the upright legs.

You need four sets of trestles.

Sort out the legs to be even sized pairs. Glue on the cross piece.

You can use a level to check you are making an a level set of legs.

Place the level on top of your head.  Check to see if your head is level.

Step 4: Send in the Reinforcements...

Laminate on several more layers of cardboard to build up the thickness of the channel wall.  It should feel sturdy but will still bend in if pressed hard enough.

This is where the internal bracing will come into play.  We want to create a strong beam to carry the load from where the seat will be in the center to the legs to the floor.

You've probably seen this on bridges and similar structures.  Zigzagging pieces that join the outer rims with a triangle being a rigid shape to use as the basis for reinforcement.  Fill in the channel with some uprights and some pieces angled as shown.  I did it randomly but this can all be designed from an engineering standpoint.  Once you start gluing them in, the structure becomes more rigid.  Add pieces where you can still squeeze in the sides of the channel.

You can begin to papier mache any open joints or exposed cardboard corrugations.  This continuous "skin" does help the structure become more rigid.

Add pieces of cardboard to form the thicker part of the IC chip leads.  Fold over, glue and reinforce the ends with some cardboard. 

Where the upright legs meet the cross piece, create a fillet or smooth transition on the inside of the "L" by layering several pieces of cardboard to reinforce the joint.  This should keep the legs from bowing out.

As you go through construction, after the glue dries, flex the joints to make sure they will be rigid.  If not, add more cardboard and glue. 

Papier mache all the seams of the structure, set aside to dry.  I used a hammer to pound down the corners to give it a smoother shape.

Step 5: Get It All Together...

Lay out your trestles in size order.

Mock up the IC chip body with strips of cardboard to form the outline.  Cut that semi-circle notch for the IC chip orientation indicator.

Glue to the trestles.  I had to weight it down with some objects till the glue dried.

Build the rim that will contain the seat cushion.  I have found that about 3 or 4 layers of the cardboard I was using made it stiff enough for this purpose.

Build up the thickness of the rim.

Layer in cardboard to fillet the "L" shape of the rim.

Add in pieces to bridge and reinforce the gap between the trestles.

I felt it only needed one straight brace between the trestles.  You can add more angles to from more triangle shaped bracing if needed.

Step 6: Reinforce the Bottom...

Flip the entire structure over.

You can now add a bottom skirt piece to fill out the overall thickness of the IC chip.

You can cover this with a full panel of cardboard but having the guts of this thing exposed is pretty cool.

You can design this with a set of drawers or bottom storage if you like.

Build up the thickness of the cardboard sides.

Add a reinforcement brace to the ends and sides if you feel they flex too much if they may be pushed in.

Fillet the joints with cardboard.

Papier mache all exposed seams.

Step 7: Paint Your Wagon...

Prime with paint primer.

Paint the legs first.

You can try to do a faux-metal paintjob with grey paint or use metallic paints.

Paint the rest of the IC chip package with black.  The paint can said flat but it came out kinda satiny/glossy.

I only painted around the inside rim of the top and bottom,  parts that may be visible, just like furniture people do to cut down on labor and material costs.

Step 8: Make It Cushy for Your Tushy...

Cut out a piece of fabric doubled over the size of the IC chip.

I had a few old bed pillows to use as stuffing.

They will be doubled over in half to provide loft.   I needed two pillows to fill out the seat cushion.

You can get fancy and make a box pillow case with sides but all I did was serge around the top and side to form a pillow case.

Stuff the pillows inside and tuck the end under.

Step 9: Data Sheets...

Now your pillow case should match the data sheets.

I used some white bandage tape to apply the markings for the IC chip.

You could get fancy and use fabric paint or silkscreen on the chip markings.

So there you go, make something uber-geeky and sit on it!


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    17 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Have you thought about putting a real timer inside and connecting all the legs together (your fabric would have to be conductive fabric of course) so that it would really work?


    8 years ago on Introduction

    that would be epic if the legs were medal and were atached to a real 555 inside. then you could connect it up!

    Gary Viveiros
    Gary Viveiros

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    You could do that if you made others out of CMOS logic gates, because the capacitive coupling could do binary counting when certain people hold hands, on other logic elements, with the 555 acting as the master clock. ha ha - gotta love ths one! Makes you wonder why no one thought of it before...


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    good idea!, and make other giant components and make a circuit!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very cool!

    now the next step would be a breadboard floor and a 24DIP IC for the bed. maybe some giant LEDs for lighting and an electrolytic capacitor for a night stand...


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    But you would have to keep your room clean otherwise there would be shorts on the floor.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    So, now you need the fully-functional cardboard piano to sit at.

    Or possibly a giant Stylophone...


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I heartily endorse this idea and look forward to the instructable.

    Robot Lover
    Robot Lover

    8 years ago on Introduction

    I would totally make one of these! Although, I would make mine outta wood. Kinda like this one:


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    It would be easier to make it out of wood but the point is, you can make it out of cardboard and suited for stealth projects in the dorm room where you can't lug up sheets of plywood and timber and be hammering, sawing or screwing away all night....wait