This is a scale model and modification of a chair designed in 1918 by Gerrit Rietveld, a Dutch architect. His goal was to make a chair that required little woodworking expertise. Because the design was so simple, he hoped the chair could be made by most individuals or easily mass-produced.
Rietveld called this design his Red and Blue chair because of the way he painted it. Rietveld painted the back red, the seat blue, and the frame black. This chair is also known as the Wave Hill chair, as many of the outdoor chairs at Wave Hill, a public garden in the Bronx, share its design.
More on Rietveld's chair at Museum of Modern Art: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/4044
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Step 1: Scale
In the normal-sized chair, the four tall posts are 24 inches long; the posts on this chair are 5 1/4 inches tall, so the scale of this is 1: 4.5. Obviously, you can choose whatever scale you wish. I made a full-size chair for my yard and liked the simplicity, yet elegance, of the design so much I wanted to make a model to have inside.
Step 2: Tools and Materials
Scroll saw, or any small toothed saw
C-clamps or weights
Materials: I had some thin trim available that is 5/16” by 5/16” so I used that for the frame.
4 Tall posts (back and middle) 5/16” x 5/16” x 5 ¼”
2 Short posts (front) 5/16” x 5/16” x 3 !/4”
2 Rails (front to back) 5/16 x 5/16 x 5 ¼”
5 Bars (side to side) 5/16 x 5/16 x 5 ¼”
I used poplar from the craft aisle at a nearby home improvement store for the back, seat, and arms.
1 Back ¼” x 9 ¼ x 3!/2”
1 Seat ¼” x 3 1/2” x 3 1/2 “
2 Arm rests 1/4" x 3 ¾” x 5/8”
Step 3: Build the Sides of the Frame
Make one side of the frame by gluing a rail to three posts. Place the three posts on a surface and glue the rail on top of the posts; the rail can overhang the posts by ¼ inch on each end. See the photo for the exact distances for placing the middle rail.
Glue another side so it is a mirror image of this first side you did. The rails will eventually be on the inside of the chair’s frame, so it is important to have a right-hand and left-hand version of the sides
Step 4: Start Adding the Cross Bars
After the sides have dried, use blocks to make the two sides stand up so you can glue the front bar on. The front bar goes right behind the short front post. The bar extends past the rails ¼ inch on either side. (Or not . . you can make it a little wider or a little narrow . . . this design leaves a lot of wiggle room.)
Step 5: Add a Second Cross Bar
The frame will now stand up on its own. Glue a second bar right in front of the middle posts.
Step 6: Glue Three More Bars
Glue a bar at the top and front of the front short posts. Clamp and let dry. Then glue a bar to the top front of the rear posts. Clamp and let dry. (See photo for a better understanding of the location of these bars.)
The placement of the first four bars can all be determined without measuring, as they are all at the ends of posts or in the nooks of pre-existing parts.
The placement of the fifth bar determines the slope of the seat, so you can adjust this height until you find something visually pleasing. The seat will be sloped similar to the seat in an Adirondack chair. At this scale, the top of this bar is 2 ½ inches high from the bottom of the post. At any scale, the top surface is about 80 % of the height of the front bar. Glue and clamp the fifth bar in place.
Step 7: Glue the Back in Place
Before gluing on the seat and back and armrests, cut two of the corners on the seat, the back, and both armrests. I cut isosceles triangles off the front edge of the seat, the top edge of the back, and the front edges of both armrests. You could leave sharp corners at these places, but on the full size chair I made, I cut these sharp corners off just for comforts sake. I didn't want a sharp corner poking into my leg as it hung over the edge of the seat, and I wanted the model to look like the full size chair. For the seat and the back, the triangles have ½ inch legs. For the armrests, I cut off the corners ¼” from each end.
If you want to stain or paint the back, seat, and armrests differently from the frame, do so after you cut off the corners and before you glue them in place.
Fit the back into place and glue. The back rests against the top bar in the back and the bottom bar on the middle post. The upper bar on the middle post goes in front of the back. So the glue won’t run, I tilt the frame at an angle, so that the back is level and parallel with the surface, Then, I put a strip of glue between the bars and the back board.
Step 8: Glue on the Seat
The seat butts up against the back and lies on the two exposed bars. Glue the seat to the bars and back.
Step 9: Glue on Armrests
Lastly, glue armrests in place on the top of the long posts on each side.
Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Rietveld's chair design!
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