Neutra Boomerang Chair

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About: I am a software engineer with a background in bridge engineering. In 2012 I bought myself a table saw and started to get in to woodworking which now takes up quite a bit of my spare time. I like to make anyt...

Intro: Neutra Boomerang Chair

I was looking around an expensive designer shop one day and came across boomerang shaped chair that looked really cool. What wasn't cool for me was the price, the one I saw was about £1600 ($2200 USD), I'm sure a designer chair is worth that amount but not something I could afford, but I was sure I could make it!

When I returned home I searched for the chair on the internet and found out it was a Richard Neutra Boomerang Chair. Richard Neutra was an Austrian architect born in 1892 and the chair was designed in the 1940's when he intended it to be a do-it-yourself design. He also published a plan of the chair in the Women's Day Magazine.

You can find the magazine plan with an internet search which was my starting point.

I should also say that I did just make this one chair for my own use and don't intend for the following Instructable to be an aide to anybody's capitalistic tendencies to make and sell for their own profit!!! Rather a brief explanation of how to go about making such a chair.

Step 1: Planning

The chair that I saw and most of the commercial ones I've seen online use high quality plywood to make the chair sides but I didn't have any ply hanging around and oak faced ply was rather expensive. The plan in the Women's Day Magazine was made of two bits of hardwood doweled together and shaped. I had a couple of long planks of brown oak which had a lovely strip going down the middle of the plank and though it would be a good idea to try and make the stripe continuous along the boomerang shape.

The hardest thing was planning the cuts to create a continuous stripe and to make the shape out of 200mm (8") wide planks. I started off by getting rough dimensions of the chair from the Women's Day Magazine plan and sketched it in a 2D CAD software package. To get the missing dimensions I imported a photo of the chair and scaled it in CAD so I could measure the parts I needed.

Once it was sketched out I drew boxes of 200mm (8") over the boomerang shape to work out how I could use as little wood as possible and still sticking to the width of the planks. I worked out that I need to add a smaller bit of wood to one of the planks for the internal corner of the boomerang.

I have attached a pdf so you can see the layout.

Step 2: Chair Sides

I started off by cutting the first angle on the vertictal part with a circular saw on a homemade track.

I then layered this on top of horizontal part prior to cutting it so I could visualize and get the angle right on this second piece. I also layered these on top of the additional wood I'd need for the corner. Once I knew how everything was going to be put together I glued the small bit on the horizontal part and then cut the other angle once it was completely dry.

I then sketched the boomerang shape on the two bits of wood and cut the shape out on the parts with a band saw followed by planing the outside edges flat and sanding the internal edges smooth. To fix the parts together I used a glued butt joint using three pocket hole screws temporary clamps. Once it was all dried I removed the screws and filled the holes later with oak plugs. I did do both side at the same time so once I had the shape finalized on the first side I clamped them together and used a flush pattern bit on the router to make both sides the same.

Step 3: Cross Bars

The sides are fixed together using pegged through mortise and tenon joints. I started by marking the mortise with a pencil and drilled out the majority of the waste on a pillar drill finished by pairing the sides square with a chisel. I then cut the cross members to size and created the tenons on the bandsaw with a fence.

I could then fix the chair together and mark the positions for the peg holes which I then cut will a drill bit and chisel as before.

To make the pegs I constructed a jig for the bandsaw to cut small angles on small bits of wood. The photos explain the jig better than I can describe here!

The lower cross piece would be fixed to the sides later with pocket hole screws.

Step 4: Huge Dowel

The whole chair is supported on two 40mm (1.5") diameter oak dowels. I haven't made dowels this long or wide before so I needed to make a new jig. To make the jig you need to drill two different size holes halfway though a bit of wood. Where they join you need to cut a vertical hole with a router bit (see photos). You then attached a bit of wood to a drill with the router on and push it through the jig which essentially removes the edges of the wood to create a cylinder.

To work out the required size of holes required a little maths. The diameter of the larger entrance hole needs to be the same as the diagonal dimension of the square bit of wood that you're going to cut. The diameter of the smaller hole needs to be, at most, the dimension of the side of the square bit of wood.

Say you had a 40mm x 40mm hole the larger hole would need to be sqrt(40^2 + 40^2) = 56.6mm and the smaller hole would be 40mm. You do have to adjust these dimensions according to the size if drill bits you have though.

Once the jig is made you need to size the wood so it just fits in to the larger hole. I then put a fixing in the end of the wood so I could screw in some threaded rod to mount in to a hand drill. I then turned everything on and pushed the wood through the jig to make the dowel. I then sanded it while it was still attached to the drill for ease.

To determine the cutting angle of the dowels I clamped the dowels to the side of the chair and clamped a piece of mdf to the dowels. By drawing a line along the dowel length you get the cutting angle, which I then cut on the bandsaw with an angle cutting jig I made. The dowels are fixed to the chair with bolts and insert nuts with brass olives (used in plumbing) to create a gap between the dowel and sides. Once I had installed the insert nuts I used some pointed dowel bar to mark the position of the bolt holes I needed to drill in the sides of the chair. I then added a chamfer to the end of the dowel on the router table with a 45 degree cutting bit.

Step 5: Router Slots for Straps

The main body holding is done with webbing. Having never used webbing before I needed to research how-too's on the internet. I didn't quite find what I was looking for but ended up using a system where you have two different sized slots, halfway through the depth of the cross pieces, to each side. The webbing is then doubled over and pushed through the smaller width slot, a dowel inserted in to the loop and the webbing pulled back tight so the dowel 'locks' the webbing in to place. I marked all the positions of the slots and used a router with fences to cut them.

You can see on the photos that I initially used some blue webbing but this ended up being far to elastic and couldn't get a good, comfortable shape so I switched to a much more inelastic webbing in the end.

The photos show quite well the method I used on the chair.

Step 6: Finishing

Now I had all the parts I plugged the pocket hole holes and sanded the entire thing to 320 grit. I then added a couple of coats of hard wax oil. All that was left was to put it all together and have a lovely sit down!

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    12 Discussions

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    spark master

    3 months ago

    As much as I like the look, they are hard to get in and out of, for my wife and I. Most unbrella folding type chairs are as well. But for those who still have woking knees and spines these look awesome. Nice job to say the least. Keep on making splinters and wood chips!

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    jsebastian-1

    3 months ago

    Nice Job!! I got excited when I saw this update arrive in my inbox this am enjoyed your process!!

    I am a furniture designer/ fabricator in Canada and am greatly inspired by The designs of Richard Neutra , Charles Eames and Paul Mccobb to name a few!!

    I also designed and built an interpretation of this piece. I call it the Leentu Lounge Chair I made a few design changes that I thought would really make this piece stand out but yet pay tribute to the original Design by Mr Neutra

    I constructed it from 3/4" Maple plywood light weight and plenty strong .

    I use a nylon webbing that is upholstered in a vinyl upholstery and is more of slung seat lounge instead , which gives this chair more of a beach / pool feeling.

    I created an inverted boomerang leg as I felt that flowed more so with the body of the chair.

    I designed and build this piece in the early 2000's 2003-4 IIRC and back then there were so few pictures of this piece online so that I was unaware of the board that joined the two chair pieces on the lower base was there. In any pic taken it was always at an angle that hid that support....and for good reason it looks out of place on this piece.

    I used a brushed aluminum bar that was taped and threaded and the fastener that holds the leg onto the frame also attaches the aluminum bar support at the base.

    I offer this piece in a plethora of stain and upholstery options on my Etsy site. www.lunarloungedesign.etsy.com

    Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.

    Keep up the good work!!

    - Jonathan

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    petachockjsebastian-1

    Reply 3 months ago

    Hi. I believe I have seen your chairs when I was looking at the internet while doing my research, good job!

    Before seeing this chair in the shop is never really heard about Neutra and gave me another avenue of furniture design to look at.

    Plywood, if you can source good quality stuff, is definitely the way to go if you're manufacturing furniture to sell (time wise) and gives the sides a good continuous feel. The brown Oak I used was left over and I thought the stripe would add to the design. The additional board at the bottom adds rigidity but I guess you've found it's not needed on your chairs, maybe my through tenons were a bit loose!

    Webbing wise I did see a lot of pirelli webbing about but the cost was a bit much for me so went for the cheapo option.

    Thanks for the comment!

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    LeslieGeee

    3 months ago

    Beautifully done, thank you for sharing :)

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    Nascenta

    3 months ago

    It looks cool and your instructable is very easy to follow. Great job! I have to ask though, is the chair comfortable?
    It reminds me of beach chairs we used to use on the New Jersey shore. They were cheap, transportable and comfortable but didn't look awesome like your chair. Was the comfort of this chair worth all the effort of making it, to you personally?

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    petachockNascenta

    Reply 3 months ago

    The chair is fairly comfortable, not as comfy as an Adirondack chair with a cushion, but more so than a normal deck chair. I think it's more to do with the design than anything else which I think makes sense (as an engineer) as it was designed by an architect. It was well worth making though as I had never made anything with webbing before and never made such an large diameter long dowel either.

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    rayp1511

    4 months ago

    Beautiful work, I like that you didn't go with plywood for the legs. Well done.

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    petachockrayp1511

    Reply 4 months ago

    Thanks very much. The one I did see in the shop did look amazing with the plywood but I guess it was very expensive good quality Oak faced ply. I think the stripe in my Oak worked quite well though.