World's Best Cardboard Chair




(OF COURSE you can just skip to the pictures :-D)

This instructable is about making a die-cutter to make THE WORLD's BEST CARDBOARD CHAIR. The chair design is simple --a profile cutout that is stacked.


The project can be found here as well:

Our goal was create a project that was relevant to college students and, as always, to challenge conventional thinking about sustainability. We found that as college students, we deal with very little reality. Our food is prepared, the electricity bills are paid, and we never have to mow the lawn. However, one reality we deal with more than most is relocating (between college and home). Imagine moving everything you own twice, sometimes more, times a year. It can become very tiresome, especially if you want large furniture. We asked the question: How could be both improve this situation while introducing sustainability? The "Cardboard Chair" project was born. Light, recyclable, cheap, and comparably comfortable  Cardboard furniture has all the workings of a great solution.

Overall, we want to present cardboard furniture as a viable option as opposed to currently available dorm room furniture. Additionally, we will introduce sustainable practices by reusing waste cardboard to build said furniture (rather than recycling it, saving energy needed to do so).

Our first prototype is based on Frank Gehrys Wiggle Chair," popularized in the 1970s. Gehry discovered that cardboard layered many times builds enough strength to make it suitable for the everyday use. He went on to create a series of furniture objects, such as the "Easy Edges Wiggle" side chair, that take advantage of the versatility of cardboard as a medium. We will do the same with our chair.


Step 1: Materials and Design!

- Cardboard - We got all the cardboard we needed at the township's cardboard recycling dumpster. Look for large pieces, but be careful of double ply and triple ply as they are hard to work with (with our system). FREE!

- Plywood -Two sheets large enough for the chair's profile. Look for the hardest wood you can find. It needs to stand up against a lot of wear and force! About $40.

- Router -Yes we need powertools! Price varies.

- Bandsaw blades (2 or 3) -Thin blades, look for flat teeth, and about 1in tall. About 25 each.

- Design! -Be creative!

- Projector -This will help with the design.

- Design -You will need a design! We picked the Wiggle-like chair. So we took drew an image in MS Paint, then used a projector to project the image onto a plywood board. Then we trace! Now we have our design perfectly on the board!

You can likely do this freehand...

Step 2: Build Tool!

Okay, here we are building the die-cutter to make the cut outs!

1. Route out groove for chair profile! We went in about .5 in. (The plywood is 1in thick) You will need to do this on two boards, one will have the blade (male), and one will have the matching notch (female).

2. Bandsaw blade! Note when picking bandsaw blade, you want the thinnest one you can get! Get the 1in tall blades. Carefully open package! The bandsaw blades to spring open from the packaging!

3. Cut Bandsaw blade! Bandsaw blades come in closed loops. You will need to cut it open. We used a grinder to cut it open. BE VERY CAREFUL.

4. Install Blade! Wear gloves! You can place the blade into the groove (you will need help!). We wedged ours in with small slices of wood and lots, and lots, and lots of hot glue. I know it sounds dumb, because it is. But it worked!


Step 3: Cut Cardboard!

How it works!

Note: I made up a word in the video. "Unveal," an odd mixture of the word 'reveal' and 'unveil' both meaning to make visible.

Step 4: Repeat...

Now you need to do this about ... 70 times.

Yes, it is going to take time. BUT this will turn out better than other methods, and this will give you the best cardboard chair of all time!

Now that you have all the slices:

Lets put them together! We used two methods, hot glue and wood glue. We found that the hot glue was fast and easy, but the wood glue made the most solid product. I would recommend a mix.

You can speed things up by alternating a slice with small square inserts (See picture).

Step 5: Sit and Enjoy!

This seat is actually VERY comfortable!

You can improve this whole project by finishing the chair with fabric and batting. It would be very simple to do with this design.


Yes, that's me.



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    65 Discussions


    2 years ago

    is the chair stable can you sit in it?


    4 years ago on Step 5

    Now paint it with stain, let it dry and then varnish or lacquer it or use a two part acrylic to cover the entire chair. Repeat the hard surface cover several times until your desired thickness is achieved.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Just a word of warning about hot glue. It's hard to find the high heat glue sticks now and the low heat glue will melt if set in front of a window with direct sunlight.
    As for strength, I made a rocking horse using similar technique when I was in college and it held up to several years of abuse until my husband got tired of having it around


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hi everyone .. its been a while I'm searching for a site with good instructions on cardboard furniture making and i found it here.
    I am very much satisfied with the quality of information provided here in free and even i'm planning to move on to Pro version.

    Anyways, thanks for this useful content :-)

    I am aviation enthusiastic and just found very useful content regarding aircraft technician salaries and careers.

    Mugsy Knuckles

    9 years ago on Step 5

    How is this sustainable? You have to grind up a bunch of trees to make the cardboard in the first place.

    13 replies

    Be serious , he is taking cardboard that was already used and reused it again . Also after using it as a chair it can be recycled again .

    I am being serious, that's not what "sustainable" means. This is called "reuse" or "recycling". Words have meanings. Just because "sustainable" is this weeks eco buzzword doesn't mean what ever anyone is doing is that all of the sudden.

    jlking3Mugsy Knuckles

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    But even using that semantic logic, cardboard *is* sustainable. Virtually all cardboard is made from fast growing pine trees, discarded paper, lumberyard waste, and cornstarch glue. The major cardboard manufacturers maintain their own forests (the trees are much cheaper when you own the land) and replant seedlings for each tree they cut down. They also use discarded paper and wood pulp that might have been sent to a landfill. Since the definition of "sustainable" is "conserving an ecological balance by avoiding the depletion of natural resources," even virgin cardboard can qualify as sustainable.

    jlking3Mugsy Knuckles

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    If it's made of fast growing trees that are replaced at the same rate they are consumed, instead of old world forests which are not replaced at the same rate they are consumed, then yes, according to the definition of "sustainability" which I assume you and I agree on, a chair of "regular wood" is sustainable. If the chair made of "regular wood" is made from a resource that is not replaced at the same rate or a greater rate than the rate in which is was consumed, then it is not sustainable. That's why virtually all bamboo products are sustainable: because bamboo grows so fast that it is easily replaced. Redwoods and maples can be sustainable if you severely limit production for several decades, since they grow very slowly. Pine grows faster, so it is a decent sustainable material. Heck, if we reduced our national consumption of oil to one barrel per year, oil would be a sustainable resource, because new oil would be created very slowly. My point was that your comment about cardboard not being sustainable was inaccurate. Cardboard is a very sustainable material, and the companies that make cardboard wouldn't be able to make it as cheaply as they do if it weren't sustainable. To further your suggestion: if the furniture companies planted their own forests to harvest the wood to make their furniture, and replentished their forest after harvesting the lumber, then their "regular wood" furniture would be sustainable. Same if the furniture manufacturer got it from a lumber manufacturer who practiced sustainability by only harvesting fast growing trees that were replaced with seedlings after harvest. However, it is a small (but growing) minority of lumberyards that actually practice that kind of sustainability--many loggers still participate in clear-cut logging that doesn't replace the removed wood. The desire for old-world-forest hardwoods far outpaces the growth cycle of those trees. Cardboard, on the other hand, is almost completely sustainable because of the factors I mentioned earlier: the major cardboard manufacturers do their own logging from their own forests, and replace the harvested wood as it is logged.


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 5

    ...and that`s the cool stuff, another good ecological idea?  yes, I have another: read Theodore Kaczynski , one people that no only tink about nature, him protective her   :D  

    Mugsy Knucklesjlking3

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    And you're going to have to back those claims up. It's a cool chair, there's no reason to cover it in hippy paint by claiming it's some super eco-freindly product. Stop drinking the Kool-aid.

    jlking3Mugsy Knuckles

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    See what I wrote above. No kool-aid here. Just careful study of packaging products before this instructible was ever written...including 9 resources that are not readily available on the internet (but are available through your interlibrary loan or your local college library). However, I doubt you'll accept even those sources, because your own Kool-Aid has blinded you to anything that doesn't agree with your narrow-minded worldview. And I'm no hippy--far from it. I'm a card-carrying dues-paying member of the Libertarian Party and have voted LP since 1988. I share my knowledge freely, because that's how you change things. If you deny reality, you can't change it. You're of this right-wing Kool-Aid mindset that if it's environmentally conscious, it must be left-wing liberal anti-business. That's far from the truth when it comes to paper manufacturing. Some parts of the paper making process were VERY environmentally damaging in the past--but the water and air pollution from the mills has been dramatically reduced since the 1970s. That environmental damage wasn't in the acquisition of the raw materials. The cheapest way to get the raw materials happens to be the most environmentally conscious way, too: grow them yourself close by and replace them. The companies also conveniently get more control over their product when they choose this way. It's a win-win. Paper manufacturers are LOVING the current "environmental" trend, because it's easy for them to put "recycled" on their products because they were that way to begin with!! (Post-consumer content recycling is another matter, since the raw materials have to be obtained from garbage, but pre-consumer recycling has always been a part of the paper industry to maximize the amount of product (and profits) from the raw materials.) It's like all those potato chips that claim "zero cholesterol" to appeal to anyone concerned about their health ... potato chips never had to be changed to get zero cholesterol unless they were fried in lard or tallow, and most weren't because other oils were much cheaper. Why NOT make an eco-claim if your product already is?

    jlking3Mugsy Knuckles

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I certainly do: Check out Elliot S. Rohde's "Producing Corrugated Containers Profitably" and "The Corrugated & Paperboard Container Industry: An Analysis of Current Markets and Prospects for Future Growth" from Business Trend Analysts, Inc. for starters (hint, you'll probably actually have to go to a library and probably get a inter-library loan to read them). I can produce 7 more sources for my information and data if you demand, but before I do so, tell me what sources you would accept as valid and authoritative? Your closed-mindedness (indicated by your "kool-aid" statement) seems to me to indicate that you won't accept any data I give you on whatever grounds you can imagine.

    I happen to own a small craft soapmaking company, and I've done quite a bit of study on packaging materials because I wanted to make sure I was using the best combination of price and ecology--to the point where if I needed to, I would manufacture it myself.

    I may not be the best expert on the subject, but I *have* done my homework on this subject. If your homework consists of just listening to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, then I suggest you actually learn about the manufacture of kraft paper and cardboard (which is multi-ply kraft paper glued together with cornstarch glue--cornstarch because it's by far the cheapest industrial paper glue, and it just happens to be a sustainable resource in this country).

    Just do some of your own research . Obviously you really don't care what the answer is you get ; you just want to argue . How about this word for you " conservation " that was used by my favorite ultra-conservative Teddy Roosevelt and many others, before it became fashionable to make common sense care of your resources into fads .