Replace Worn Arm Rests on a Secondhand Chair (Knoll Formway Life Chair) // Furniture Upcycle

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Introduction: Replace Worn Arm Rests on a Secondhand Chair (Knoll Formway Life Chair) // Furniture Upcycle

About: Custom Design and Fabrication Workshop with a love of making things!

Check out the short build video above!

I picked up this secondhand office chair, it’s in great condition and really comfortable. However the arm rests were all coming apart. Because I’ve got no experience upholstering things I thought maybe I could make some nice wooden arms instead.

Step 1: Here's What You Need

This is a straight forward project provided you have access to a way to cut curved shapes in wood.

Here’s what you need:

  • Wood
  • Some stiff cardboard
  • Someway to saw curved shapes in wood eg. bandsaw, jigsaw, coping saw etc
  • Sand paper. Rough to fine grit (120gt, 240gt at least)
  • Danish Oil

Step 2: See What You're Working With

Started by removing the existing armrests to see what components I could use as a starting point.

I realised I could use the plastic base as a template to get the shape I needed.

Step 3: Create a Template

I traced a master template of the side profile onto cardboard, so that I could transfer it onto the wood.

Step 4: Cut Your Wood Down

The wood I had was too thin for the profile shape. I got around this by cutting strips from it and then turning them on their side to get more thickness.

Step 5: Trace and Cut

I traced the profile onto each of the strips.

And cut them out on the bandsaw.

Step 6: Glue Up

I then glued these back together so that I had a left and a right pair.

After the glue had dried I could smooth out the shape a bit more.

Step 7: (Rough) Smoothing

I used a hand plane going across the grain to get the shape roughly smooth. This may create a little bit of tearout at the edge of your pieces, so that’s why I did this step before cutting them to their final shape.

Step 8: Cut the Outer Shape

I then traced the outer shape onto the my pieces.

Using the bandsaw again to cut the shape.

Step 9: Final Shaping

I rounded the edges with the handplane.

Then sanded. a . lot. of. sanding. Moving up through the grits 120gt -> 240gt. I used mostly hand sanding because of the organic shape. With a power sander it’s very easy to accidentally put flat spots in your work, which will be noticeable at the end.

Step 10: Apply Finish

Finally I finished them with a couple of coats of Danish Oil. I like Danish oil because all you have to do is wipe it on, let it soak in a bit and then wipe off the excess - much less likely to get runs on a curved surface. The downside is it takes 4-8 hours to dry between coats :/

Step 11: Finished!

I’m happy with how they came out.

But mostly just glad they’re not dropping gross bits of foam and plastic all over my floor.

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    13 Discussions

    I like the tone of your finished wood.

    Very nice result! And people are always throwing away chairs like that because they don't know any better.

    1 reply

    Thank you! I know, it's such a shame!! but at least it meant I got a new chair haha

    I love the way it looks, but I feel like my forearms would get sore after awhile.

    1 reply

    Thanks. It hasn't really been a problem so far. But you're right, wood is overall less comfortable than foam.

    That's a really good solution to a common problem. Well done.

    1 reply

    You skipped a really important part...how did you attach them??? Nice work.

    1 reply

    good point! I just screwed them down with little screws to the black plastic base piece.

    Beautiful job, and a great save of what looks like a pretty expensive chair. Thank you for sharing the process :-)

    1 reply