Zig Zag Structure - Cardboard Chair




About: Studied Architecture at Brighton But now spend a lot of time building replica props or random gadgets.
This whole thing was a University project so documentation is a bit spotty.

I designed a robust chair, it survived many a party (unlike most fragile chairs I've seen) and the principle could be applied to any household furniture.

I've included a step by step of how the basic structure goes together (along with an IKEA type instruction book).

But the best bit is the video of me putting together a whole chair.

- Enjoy

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Step 1: Basic Structure

This will take you through making the basic structure, you can make whatever you want out of it. The pictures (and notes) do most of the explaining.

The first layer will need 3 strips of card, one longer piece to create the zig-zag and two 'sandwich pieces'

Mark out and score your longest piece at 42mm intervals on each side, make sure to stagger the lines so that when scored it will fold up properly (fig.2)

Take one of your other pieces and mark out and glue it (fig.3)

Now carefully glue down the zig-zag piece, you may need to use pins or tape to hold it while it dries.

After about 10 minutes you can glue the second sandwich piece on top.
Use something heavy to weigh it down and make sure it all sticks. (fig.4)

You can continue to add as many layers as you need (fig.5)

you can make this stuff in big sheets and cut it to the right size later, or you can cut out the shapes you want and build them up layer by layer. (like i did)

Step 2: Simple Chair

The following video is a time lapse of me putting together an entire chair over the period of a couple of days. 
The circles were cut with a special circle cutter (like a compass with a scalpel attached) and the tubes are from an A2 plotter roll, and carpet rolls (relevant shops gladly give these away)

The instruction book I made (mock IKEA style) is attached in the intro.

If anyone wants more Info I've got loads more on this project but it would be really boring to post it all here.

More furniture

This was my first attempt and there's loads more I'd like to do with it.

For designing your own furniture here are a few tips.

- Make this material up in large sheets then cut it to shape and cut out holes etc, you'll save a lot of time / hassle.
- Three layers is probably overkill for most applications, two layers will do, maybe re-enforced at certain points.
- If using horizontally (e.g. a tabletop) then cross laminate pieces. i.e glue layers so that one layer of zig-zags
  runs at 90° to the one below it.
- This set up can be used for beams / posts but it's not as strong, you're far better off using found tubes (they're free).
   Carpet shops have loads and are happy to give them away, large format printing places have tubes from the printer rolls.


I left mine raw, but with a coat of acrylic primer and some quick dry-brush work you can get a really good wood effect (see last pic)
or just paint it however you wish.

Note: primer is needed as this is a very absorbent material.

Anything else just ask.

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    36 Discussions


    Question 1 year ago on Step 1


    pouvez vous s'il vous plait me donner les mesures

    d'avance merci



    7 years ago on Introduction

    So, you corrugated some corrugated cardboard?

    I can't work it out - is that "meta" or "über" corrugation?

    4 replies

    7 years ago on Step 2

    Nice - especially the integrated cup-holder!

    You can get adjustable hole cutters, similar to your circle cutter, for drills - though I don't know how well they'd cope with the thicknesses you're working with here.

    A couple of questions - how did you figure your seat-tubes layout? And is it as comfy as you think/thought it should be?

    11 replies

    I think the hole cutters would work great on this, maybe not as neat.

    I used anthropometric data from "Architect's Pocketbook" It had average seat heights and angles etc.

    Unfortunately I couldn't find similar info online, I would just find a chair whose dimensions you like and measure that.

    As for comfort it's not great, If done again I would use 6 smaller tubes for the seat, instead of 3 larger. But throw a cushion in it and it's fine.


    Thanks for that - I'll have to look on Amazon for the book, as well as finding a chair or three to measure.

    Just off the top of my head, keeping 2 large tubes (one at the front, for comfort on the backs of your knees, and one at an appropriate point to support the lower back) might be an idea.


    It's worth noting that if you just want Anthropometric data, you can buy books aimed specifically at that, with loads of detailed info (down to average finger proportions etc.

    Architects pocket book has some useful basic stuff, but also has standard door/window sizes, prevailing wind conditions across areas, standard sizes in paper/stationary, common bugs likely to eat your house, loads of other random stuff.

    (basically a bit of everything)


    Thanks again. 

    Knowing my scatterbrain self, I now definitely want the "Architect's Pocketbook" (and given the variety of projects on Instructables, I'd suspect your explanation will cause a bit of a run on it) ;-D


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    No doubt the book might be interesting, but at least as a first approximation, you CAN find similar information on the web. A rapid search showed these:



    (This last reference links to a few free useful PDFs on standards.)

    But measuring existing furniture should be a safe way to go.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, you can find stuff on the web - IF you can figure out the right combinations of words/phrases to filter the extraneous search results to save having to scroll through thousands of pages full of the most tenuous (if any) link to your subject... (Sorry, rant over - for now).

    And a bit of memory-jogging doesn't go amiss, either. To that end, your bracketed comment reminded me of "The-Blueprints.com", so I dug out an old link, had a search on the site, and found some chairs on:


    If nothing else, they'd save 'you' the measuring of those particular chairs - though it may still be necessary to do some maths to figure averages you can transfer to your own design(s).

    The site seems mainly 'dedicated' to "Planes, Trains and Automobiles", but each of these tends to have at least one chair...

    And they have a 'Humans' section, so you can sort out proportions.

    You'll need at least a free account to do much of anything (basically, downloading as graphic images, via the right-mouse-button), but a paid-for account will let you actually download usable files.


    I use the-Bluprints.com a lot when I want to drop a car or something into a sectional drawing.
    My only problem is that the pictures you download don't have measurements on them, so you have to know at least one dimension of whatever it is, to be able to scale it properly.


    That's odd - I just downloaded this Adirondack Chair - both by right-clicking AND via the Download button - and I don't have a paid-for account, just the free one (or am I mis-interpreting your problem?):


    I haven't been on in a while (and I'm usually looking for vehicles) Do most of the drawings have dimensions on now?


    I believe so - there's been a lot of re-organisation recently (and it may still be going on), and there may have been a newsletter mentioning something along those lines.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the links, I did google 'free anthropometric data' to no avail, but these diagrams are a good start.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice work. Aesthetically pleasing and creative use of materials. If I may ask a design question though:

    How does the triangular corrugation add to the structural integrity of the chair. Of course it will help resist sheer (or is it lateral) force, but it strikes me that the primary challenge in furniture building is downward force. So my question is, will the triangular corrugation improve the chairs ability to hold weight, or is the vertical and multiple layers of cardboard in the arms the only weight bearing design feature?

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I am probably not understanding your question (I suspect you already know what I am going to say) but to complemeht the author's reply:
    You are right that in a chair probably largest loads are downward. So what vertical corrugation does is increasing the stability of the design. It increases what is commonly called Moment of Inertia. Take a sheet of paper and stand it on edge. It will support no weight. But corrugate it, or transform into a vertical tube, and it will be a lot stronger.
    Also: for strength, the amount of material is no more important than the placement of such material: for a sound (and not overweight) structure you want to put the materials under load as separated as possible. Thus, what corrugation also does is to separate one flat paper from the other.
    There is a video where aircraft designer Burt Rutan shows that a mini bridge made of two lateral supports and a horizontal piece of, say, 1 inch rigid (insulation) blue foam cannot hold the weight of a single house brick. Equally, two layers of a thin fiberglass+resin laminate cannot support the brick either. But if you epoxy glue one fiberglass layer at each side of the foam (a sandwich structure), the assembly (FG-foam-FG) will support, without even bending, the weight of many bricks.