Minimalist Steel Rocking Chair




About: Hey! I'm Henri and I love making things. I'm currently studying to become an architect

Welcome to my instructable. I have titled my intro with a quote by Picasso "Good artists borrow, great artists steal" because, I'm afraid, the design for this rocking chair is a shameless copy of a beautiful piece of furniture by Muller Van Severen. I fell in love with their design and since I don't have a spare £2k lying around I thought I'd have a go at making one myself.

I believe copying is a great way of learning. Making this chair I have greatly improved my metal working skills and even learnt a bit of needle work. I hope this instructable will encourage others to have a go at making something they love, even if it is a copy of someone else's design.

I opened on a quote and shall close the intro with a saying "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery"

Step 1: Get Your Metal

Step one is to get your metal. I went to my local metal fabricators, the guy there was super helpful, I told him what I was planning and he was able to advise as to the best choice considering my aspirations and the capability of my tools.

Since this is a minimal rocking chair only one gauge of steel is required. I got 20mm Ø round steel rod. Ideally I would have used tube since the rod is very heavy. I used rod though because my welding is not the best and I figured I would have a better chance bending rod than tube.

I managed to get my rod cut to length for an extra £10, well worth the money since it would have taken me ages with a grinder.Ber

A: 4 x 650mm, B: 2 x 268mm, C: 2 x 867mm, D: 2 x 600mm, E: 2 x 896mm

Step 2: Grind to Fit

You will need to do some careful angle grinding at the ends of many of the rods to allow good contact when it comes to welding. Perhaps if you have a pillar drill you could do this more easily.

Referencing the diagram in step 1:

'A' Lengths need curves grinding in both ends

'B' Lengths need curves grinding in one end

'C' Lengths need curves grinding in one end

'D' Lengths do not need curves grinding

'E' Lengths do not need curves grinding

Step 3: Weld

I started by welding the two sides (B,C,D). I did this flat on the floor to ensure a good straight form. If I had one of those welder magnet angle things I would have used one. Instead I placed a breeze block at the points where I needed a 90º joint.

After welding the sides up join them together with the 'A' lengths.

Step 4: Bend

Devising a way to bend the 20mm Ø rod required a little imagination. I don't own any tool that has the capacity to bend such thick rod so something more primitive was employed, leverage and a tree. I went out into the garden and found a tree with two trunks growing close together. Jamming the rod in this gap and with a long piece of pipe over the end I was able gradually create a curve. I found the best technique was to start from one end, bend, put the rod through the gap a little, bend, put it through some more, bend and so on. Small gradual steps will make for a nice even curve. Try to get your two curves as similar as possible.

Step 5: Add Your Curves

The frame is almost completely welded. That was pretty quick! I grinded a slight angle on the ends of lengths 'D' and 'B' to help with contact between them and the curved rods. Then just weld on those curves and you are ready for a test rock as my little brother George demonstrated.

Step 6: Test Fit Fabric

Being very keen to see if my welding would stand up to the job I enlisted the help of my mum and her sewing skills. We took an old rug and cut a 600mm wide strip. This strip was looped round and sewn once to form the sling in which you sit. Super simple and it worked great.

Step 7: Clean

If you are anything like me your welds are probably not the prettiest. You will probably want to grind back the welds and make them look pretty and clean. It is definitely worth investing some time here.

Step 8: Paint

This is such a satisfying part of any project. Paint really makes such a difference and the change is dramatic and quick. Take your time to first clean the frame with hot soapy water to remove any dirt and grease. Rinse and dry well.

Hang up the frame in a well ventilated ideally clear room. Try and paint on a warm and not too windy day. Start with a base coat of primer, my can of top coat advised grey primer for best redults. I put on two coats waiting a few hours between them. I then left the primer to dry for 24 hours, came back and did 2 coats of top coat. When that has had another 24 hours to dry I put on a final matt finish lacquer.

I am really happy with the finish. I had though about having the frame powder coated but decided against this as this is just an experiment. All in all I spent about £30 on paint from Halfords, whereas I think powder coating would have been between £60-£100.

Step 9: Fabric, Choose Your Colour

For the fabric I went to a haberdashery and bought some heavy 100% cotton fabric in a plain, natural off white colour. I then dyed it in the washing machine which was really easy. I can really recommend doing this as it allows you to completely decided on your own colour scheme. Infinite possibilities!

Step 10: Sew

I was very lucky here in that my mum was willing to help since my experience with a sewing machine is very limited.

Basically the sling is made from a piece of material that is roughly 1200mm wide and 1300mm long. it is then folded in half to make a rectangle 600mm x 1300mm.

A seam is sewn and the piece is turned inside out to hide the stitching. The ends of the tube were then folded in on the themselves and sewn up to prevent future fraying. Essentially at this point you are left with a big cotton tube, hopefully with a neat top and bottom hem and a neat line from top to bottom.

Step 11: Sew to the Frame

The method used to attach the test fabric would not work here. I was keen to achieve a really clean look and didn't want stitching down either side and at the top (edges would have had to have been sewn to prevent fraying).

We sewed the first joint at the top fine but with that attached it became impossible to use the sewing machine to sew the other joint. There is a picture of my mum and I inside the frame trying to sew it but it didn't work. In the end I hand sewed the second joint. I sewed with doubled the thread and did a back stitch to ensure a strong joint.

Step 12: Enjoy!

And there you have it, my attempt at copying Muller Van Severen's 'First Rocking Chair'. I am really pleased with how it turned out.

A few reflections and things I would change:

- The chair sits quite far back (I propped it up for the picture, in reality it leans back) perhaps it could be balanced better by replacing some parts of solid rod with hollow lighter tube.

- I would have put a less severe curve on the rocking curves.

- I would have hand back stitched both joints just for consistency.

- I would pay to have the frame powder coated

- I will learn to TIG weld and make it out of a thinner more elegant less heavy metal tube.

- I will design my own beautifully minimal rocking chair.

I hope you have enjoyed this instructable. Happy making!



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    16 Discussions


    2 years ago

    good idea. I have used pipe and a hammer and clamps for bending before... Not sure how I would bend the legs in this case.


    2 years ago

    fantastic! Love the design. :)


    2 years ago

    First great instructable! You state that this is an experiment. Ok then. carefully take your grinder and cut the back square off of the chair. Move it forward at least 12 inches or more. At that new point bend the arms (the part that is now behind the new position of that rear square) down at a 45 degree angle (the idea is to connect them to back tips of the rockers, you may need to get two extra lengths of bar to weld and add length) Then re-weld the square to the arms and rockers in the new forward position.(you may need to fab two half circles of barstock to weld to the bottom of the square and the rockers to get your height correct.) This will move the center of gravity to a more forward position and possibly make the chair more comfortable and serviceable. YES I just reread this paragraph and realized you are thinking, 'he's hacking my creation to bits' but if you draw the ideas I threw out on paper you may see that they are not so hard to do and work. Or you will have better ideas to improve the design. ;-)

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Haha, thank you for your thought provoking comment. I like the way you think and I do believe your 'hack' would work. Perhaps when I am back home, currently I am at uni and the (rather heavy) chair is not easily moved between my 3rd floor flat and the uni workshop!


    2 years ago

    The project is beautiful. I wonder if the fabric could be installed on the frame before the final welding steps prevent it being done that way. If the hems are deep enough, the fabric can be bunched up against the opposite side from the welding activity (too tight and they won't bunch). I don't know how hot the metal becomes during welding, but this could simplify adding the sling seat.

    5 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you!

    This is an interesting idea. I thought about it but thought a.) as you say the heat from welding is a concern b.) painting the frame becomes more complicated.

    I think a good solution could also be to add some sort of hooks, buttons, zip etc. system in so that the sling can be removed - although this compromises the minimalist approach.

    Thanks for your comment :)


    Reply 2 years ago

    Hooks and buttons are risky because most of a person's weight would be stressing the connections in the center of the sling, so those as well as the fabric would have to be VERY sturdy to avoid a malfunction or tear. You might be able to use two separating zippers to make it removable but that would take a bit of engineering and spoil the clean lines.

    Painting wouldn't be too tricky if you would bunch the fabric into the middle, wrap it with plastic and tape so that you have a 'sausage' shape that could be suspended from another hook during the paint process, leaving two never-to-be-seen unpainted spots on the frame.

    I wonder if a heat sink could be used to protect the fabric from welding heat if that's an issue. That works for soldering jewelry when you need to protect a stone.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Neat design! I would loop the fabric all the way around and connect it with a zipper. Then it's easy to detach to wash/replace, and the fabric would be doubled up where you sit, providing some extra durability and comfort.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Brilliant. You could position the fabric loop (seat) so that the zipper is on the back, near the top, where it's not visible and can't be felt. I'd glue a strip of non-skid carpet grip to each metal rod that supports the seat so the zipper wouldn't creep out of place as easily. This would be SO much better than permanently welding the frame with fabric in place and you could change the fabric on a whim.


    Reply 2 years ago

    It would also be easier to sew a zipper on, rather than having to wrap the chair around the sewing machine as in the photos.


    2 years ago

    just move the front cross beam down. that will make the cg move forward, and it will lean less to the back. excellent project.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Hi, thanks.

    Good idea, a much needed improvement for 'Minimalist Rocking Chair 2.0'