Make Your Own Fishbone Chair Out of a Single Sheet of Plywood! a Work of Art for Your Home




Introduction: Make Your Own Fishbone Chair Out of a Single Sheet of Plywood! a Work of Art for Your Home

About: A chemical engineer from Oakland, CA. I've come to find I like making thing as much as I used to like blowing them up! A TechShop SF member. Interested in collaborating on some projects? Lets go!


One of my first projects at the TechShop San Francisco was to use the ShopBot Alpha.
It started off with me wanting to make some single sheet plywood furniture, but I had no clue where to start.. After some exhaustive internet researching, I couldn't find a simple yet fun example that actually included the vector files and directions (the lazy route I was hoping for). Instead, I found some images about a fishbone chair, thanks to Upcycleus, that was originally designed by Nicolas Marzouanlian, and sells for 1100 pounds! I was able to snag some basic dimensions and get a jumpstart on the design for one on my own!

Now, you can use whatever skills/techniques at your disposal, but I chose to design/model my entire chair in SolidWorks. Then on to VCarve Pro to calculate the toolpaths to fit it all into a single sheet. Then I popped it over to the Shopbot to allow the CNC to do the cutting for me.

Shopbot/Vcarve Pro
3/4" 4'x8' Plywood Sheet
Lots of luck

Step 1: Design and 3D Sim

Figuring out the details and dimensions based on some magical reference tool (called the eyeball) was a challenge. Once I knew what I was looking for, I got a basic idea of the dimensions from the guys at Remodelaholic that featured Upcycleus.
With a little creativity, I figured out what had to go where and started designing my version.
I didn't want to make some mini-me scale replica, I wanted something functional that could support my weight without concern (210lbs).
DON'T FORGET!!! Measure your materials! Instead of assuming the sheet was 0.75 inches thick, I busted out the calipers.
The pine plywood I got was actually 0.720 inches in with, as opposed to the 0.703" it was advertised as. This means I made a few adjustments to the designed slots so they would fit snugly.

 I busted out my trusty 3D design program and set to detailing and dimensioning the individual pieces. I'm a newb at that too, so it took me HOURS to get the splines and curves right, and then to make sure my pieces were fully defined before creating an assembly. The components I made are below,
Spine:2 of these
Big foot: For the Back
Little Foot: For the front
19 inch Rib:(basically an arc with a shallow radius of curvature and 19inch span): 2 of these
21 inch rib:(basically an arc with a shallow radius of curvature and 21inch span) 2 of these
23 inch rib:(basically an arc with a shallow radius of curvature and 23inch span) 13 of these

To check that my design might actually work without pieces butting into one another I put them all together digitally, and made some modifications to make sure that they all fit. And, Voila! 
Due to some collision detection, I dropped one of the ribs and changed my slot size to 1.5 inches instead of 2.0

Step 2: Transmogrification

So, I have to get the details of my design out of SolidWorks. YMMV, but I took the route of converting into DXF file and then slapped that bad boy into Vcarve Pro. (Thank goodness the TechShop has all the bells and whistles)
Now, if you don't know how to use Vcarve, well, you are in for a little learning curve. Don't fret, however, it is short and sweet! There are all sorts of programs that can do the same thing, so choose your own weapon.

Oh! One thing I would like to mention that no one else thought to tell me was that you HAVE TO LAY OUT ALL YOUR PIECES INDIVIDUALLY FIRST, and then you can use the Vcarve power to nest the individual items and add the tabs, etc
1. Be sure to close all the vectors
2. Set your material and tool dimensions correctly
3. Add the tabs (another Vcarve pro feature that is automated!)
4. Save that toolpath
Now that I have the file all laid out, like so, it is on to the Shopbot!

Step 3: Get the Wood, Slap It Down, Set the ShopBot, and Watch the Magic!

I put down the piece of pine plywood, secured it to the bed, and set the shopbot on it's way!

The title speaks for itself. If you've gotten this far, it's all coasting from here.

Step 4:

Pieces are all cut up and now I gotta sand off some sharp edges and assemble. I'm doing a dry fit first, and then will take to it with some wood glue and clamps. I made it at the TechShop!
If you are serious about it, you can lacquer this baby up to a bright shine. Myself, I am probably going to just give it a linseed oil coat or two and call it a day.



  • Water Contest

    Water Contest
  • Tiny Home Contest

    Tiny Home Contest
  • Metalworking Contest

    Metalworking Contest

42 Discussions


4 years ago

Finally got round to making one of these based on this instructable thank you very much for the inspiration.

Hopefully the picture attached properly. And your right it's more comfortable then it looks

2013 12:57.jpg
7 replies

I have updated the instructable with a link so every one can have access to the ShopBot or Vcarve file for download

Can you post a PDF of the pattern in step 2? We're interested in building the chair using a scroll saw and jig saw. With the PDF we can print the pattern in actual size and lay it out on the sheet of plywood.


BTW: the CAD file on Etsy is no longer available.

What I meant to say can you post the DXF version?

PDF is fine but there's the risk that the output may be rasterized which would lose resolution when you blow up the image to full size. DXF, oln the other hand, scales nicely.

Nicely done. I wanted to add a couple of tips for others. I've used the notching technique on a larger scale project, and your advice for measuring thickness is quite pertinent. In my case I assumed the .75 thickness, and when I went to assembly the notching was too tight to fit together, even though ideally it should work. It would always be advisable to test a notch before full production, if you have longer slots, if you have smaller slots like the ones above, some elbow grease will most likely work.

Also if one is considering taking on a project like this, but wants the ribs to be flush with the framing members, then you need to consider the bit diameter being used. to have the pieces flush, you will need to make the slots on either group a little longer to accommodate the curve that the bit leaves at the end of the slot.

Again, nice work! this type of project is fun to do, and is awesome considering it only uses one pieces of ply

1 reply

Thanks! It was pretty fun, and squeezing it into a single sheet was as much about conservation, as well as a challenge.
You are right about sizing your notches as well. I was precise as I could be with my measurement because I wanted to about too much after-cut work. Still ended up hand sanding it smooth anyhow...


2 years ago

Very Nice build! sure wish I had a cnc router?
If I were to design this I would make one like the one you have made and another that continues the curve down from where the backs of your knees would usually rest in the seat down towards the floor so it becomes almost a lazyboy recliner but I guess youd need 3 pieces of plywood - 1 for the first chair and 2 for the second.

any way I can to print the plans out so i can use jigsaw? I really want to build this chair

has anyone got the CAD files for this awesome chair? happy to pay for them if so....

hey all, do any of you folk have the CAD files for this? DXF or DWG would be perfect.....looks like an amazing design and would love one for home.

Hey there,
jwestenberg said that the CAD files are €7,43.
Where can I buy them?

Too bad you ask €7,43 for the cad files. If the chair looked more like the original I would have bought the files, but now it's just not worth to buy and remodel.

Great project though, very nice that you made it fit in a single sheet of plywood.


5 years ago

Can you upload de dxf doc? Or the cad? Only to get the idea, thanks

1 reply

I have updated the instructable with a link so every one can have access to the ShopBot or Vcarve file for download

Could you attached your 3D model and shop bot file so I could cut this out at the tech shop? Nice job again!

1 reply

I have updated the instructable with a link so every one can have access to the ShopBot or Vcarve file for download