Road Sign Stools

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About: Furniture hacker. Author of Guerilla Furniture Design, out now. Find me on Twitter and Instagram @objectguerilla.

Intro: Road Sign Stools

Given a heavy, yet healthy, obsession with road signs, I created these stools for my new apartment.  They use a simple metal-bending technique to turn down the sharp edges of the signs and simultaneously brace the legs.  You can see some of my other projects that use signs and this bending technique here:  https://www.instructables.com/id/Road-Sign-Coffee-Table/ and here: https://www.instructables.com/id/Nine-Square-Chair/.

I got my signs at the surplus pile at the state highway engineer's yard.  Aluminum signs are very hard to recycle because the coating on the signs is expensive and difficult to get off, therefore making them unprofitable to melt down.  Old signs are sometimes just thrown in a big pile and forgotten about . . . all you need to do is ask.  I found three the same size, 15" x 21". 

Don't steal signs.  They are expensive, paid for with your tax money, and you could potentially create a dangerous situation by removing an important sign from the street.

All the wood was found 2" x 4" scrap that I milled down to about 1-1/4" square.  The only expense was the screws, 3" drywall or similar, that ran me about two bucks for half a pound. 

You will need these materials:

Road signs
Approx. 16' of wood per stool
3" drywall or wood screws
#10 washers
wood glue
sandpaper

You will need these tools:

Miter, circular, or jigsaw
Impact driver and/or drill
Hammer

Step 1: Framin'

The frames for these stools are very simple.  Start with some scrap 2" x 4"s and mill them down on a table saw to 1-1/4" or 1-1/2" square.

To make the top of the seat square, take the short dimension of the sign, in this case 15", and make that the length of the top piece of your "A" frame.

Cut the legs to your desired length with a 5 degree miter to get a nice taper effect.  A rule of thumb is that a stool should be a around 8 inches shorter than the surface where you will be sitting.  So, for a 42" bar, make your stool 36" tall; for mine, designed to match up with a standard 36" kitchen counter, I made them 28". 

Make the miters at each end of the legs parallel to one another so the stool will sit flat.  Measure up from the floor 6-10 inches for the crossbar brace.

Attach everything with one long screw and a healthy dose of glue.  Pre-drill for your screws with an 1/8" bit to prevent splitting, and counter-sink your screws so the heads are flush.

Knock down all the sharp edges with some sandpaper.

Step 2: Signin'

To create the seat, bend the signs into a "U" shape.

Begin by measuring the long side, in this case 21".  This makes the sign 6" longer than it is wide.  To make a square, 15" x 15" seat, measure in 3" inches from each end and strike a line across. 

Space your holes at 1" on center on each line.  Drill an 1/8" pilot hole, then go back, alternating 1/4" and 3/8" holes.  The alternation isn't necessary, but I did it for visual interest.  Feel free to just do all the same size holes.

While you're at it, punch the holes for the screws to attach the sign to the frame, three along the edge of what will eventually be the seat top, and two on each side of the turndown.

Step 3: Bendin'

To bend the sign, place a 2" x 4" along the seam, stand on it, and beat it with a hammer until it goes.  Over-bend the sign to nearly 90 degrees so it will fit tightly to the stool frame.

Step 4: Assembly

Start by pinning the sign to two A-frames via the middle screw hole.  Align the A-frames and get the other twelve screws in, flushing the sign edge to the frame as you go.  Use 1-1/4" screws with a #10 washer for superior old, as the aluminum is so springy it can snap and pull out screws if it doesn't feel like cooperating.

Pop in a cross-bar with two long screws per side and some glue.

Take a rounded bastard file and hit each of the holes along the seams so they won't scratch or snag clothing.  A couple quick strokes per will do.  Also make sure to sand or file the coating on the sign where it cracks; the sharp plastic there is actually more of a scratch hazard than the aluminum itself.  Older painted signs don't have this problem.

Clean them off with some dish soap and a sponge, then a final swipe with Windex and have yourself a well-deserved seat.

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    28 Discussions

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    arturopavon

    2 years ago

    Really original. Powerfull idea: fresh, dinamic, retro... I love it. Thanks, i'll try.

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    ginger20037

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Oh these are awesome! I just wish I knew were to get street signs here in NC :(

    There's three main signs I'm looking for just as decorations around the farm; a stop sign, a tractor sign, and a horse riding sign.

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    Hmff

    6 years ago on Step 4

    I LOVE IT!
    so easy to do and looks great.

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    Loopstyle

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Great job! You are more then welcome to visit www.loopstyle.se and post a Loop! Idea + creativity + recycling = Loopstyle

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    omalachowski

    6 years ago on Introduction

    For people searching for signs, you should be able to contact your city hall or town hall and find out where the signs for your municipality go. Google your town name and "City Hall" for a phone number. Ask where you can purchase street signs. You may also try "Transit", "Transportation Department" or "Highway Department". Some cities (like here in Seattle) sell their signs for about 5-10 dollars once a year. Larger signs go for more. But on the last day of the sale or the day after, you can often go pick through and take some less desirable signs or leftovers.

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    Chumlee

    7 years ago on Introduction

    just managed to buy a sign thats right for the job, ifs a bit beat up tho (very rusty) so im debating weather or not to re-paint it, but looking forward to making the stool

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    Clayton H.

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Does anyone know the best way of contacting their local highway engineer yard? I can't seem to figure out where one is.

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    static

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice finished project. A good instructable. Have you ever tried constructing sacrificial jig, and use heat to aid in bending the metal? I' think one could get sever bends before a wooden jig was scorched beyond further usability. Here I'd grab the 18 inch crescent wrench to get leverage during the bending.

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    faelenor

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice idea!

    I would just recommend to use a rubber hammer to prevent all the scratches you made on the sign while bending it.

    Great project. I am in Georgia. Do you have any suggestions regarding how I can contact my local State Highway engineers yard or other legal means of locating unwanted signs? Thanks.

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    wholman

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hey all, I addressed legal sources of signs along with a disclaimer about stealing signs right here in the first step. Please don't post comments that ask questions that are directly answered in the text.

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    sismart

    7 years ago on Introduction

    How illegal is this, though? This isn't going to cause anyone to be tempted to go around snagging signs just to make home furnishings, is it? :P

    2 replies
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    This project is illegal because it's possible for someone else to make their own version using a stolen sign??? You might wanna think that one through again.

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    GingerMonkeysismart

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    It is not illegal if you own the signs. If someone is stupid & disrespectful enough to steal something, that is the responsibility of the thief, not the author of an instructible.

    Talking to your local city, county, stave provincial works yard that deals with road signs may just get you the materials you need to make a project like this. There may be bullet holes or other "character" in your stool seats, but that is something I, for one, would appreciate.

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    matriarchy

    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice work! Got me thinking, though... I don't have any street signs, but I do have a lot of license plates. Got any ideas for those?

    Awsome! Well done!!!! Would also be a visual reminder (the stools with the arrows,) to cue family members to push their stools in when not in use, so that clumbsy mom's (moi) don't trip over them ;0)!! BTW, I have no wood working skills, nor do I own carpentery tools. Do you think there might be an IKEA hack some how?