written by:
September 15, 2015
Guerilla Furniture Design is a do-it-yourself bible by designer and carpenter Will Holman. Here, we excerpt his step-by-step guide for how to make a Cardboard Cantilever Chair at home. Catch our furniture-themed September issue for more inspiration!
DIY Cardboard Cantilever Chair

The Cardboard Cantilever Chair performs a bit of structural sleight-of-hand, creating a daring form out of a weak material.

Courtesy of 
Kip Dawkins Photography
1 / 3
How to make a DIY cardboard chair

A diagram of the chair's structure.

Courtesy of 
Karen Shadmi
2 / 3
How to make a DIY cardboard chair diagram

Use these drawings to create the dotted lines on the side of the chair.

Courtesy of 
Karen Shadmi
3 / 3
DIY Cardboard Cantilever Chair

The Cardboard Cantilever Chair performs a bit of structural sleight-of-hand, creating a daring form out of a weak material.

Cantilever chairs first appeared in the 1920s, as designers in Europe began to experiment with radical forms and industrial materials. Bauhaus designers Mart Stam, Mies Van Der Rohe, and Marcel Breuer all designed cantilevered chairs out of chromed tubular steel. The lack of back legs, combined with the springy nature of the steel tubing, made for a pleasant, ergonomic flexibility. In 1934, Gerrit Rietveld designed the Zig-Zag Chair, composed of just four wood planks, reducing the cantilever to its simplest manifestation.

The Cardboard Cantilever Chair performs a bit of structural sleight-of-hand, creating a daring form out of a weak material. Corrugated cardboard (strong in compression) is mated with hardboard and cardboard tubes (strong in tension) to produce a hybrid loadbearing assembly. Laminated with wheat paste and finished with water-based polyurethane, this is a guerilla take on the most iconic of modern forms.

 

MATERIALS

• Forty pieces (approximately) corrugated cardboard, 30" x 30"

• Four pieces ¼ "-thick hardboard, 30" x 30"

• Wheat paste (see page 25)

• PVA glue

• Eleven thick-walled (at least 3/16th " thick) cardboard tubes, 1 ¾ " diameter (approximately) x 24" long

• Polyurethane, wax, or other finish of your choice

 

TOOLS

• Pencil

• Tape measure

• Straightedge

• Box cutter

• Paintbrush

• Scrap plywood

• Weights or sandbags

• Mallet

• Clamps (optional)

• Drill/driver

• 1 ¾ " hole saw

• Circular saw

• Jigsaw or handsaw

 

STEPS

1. Cut enough 30" squares of cardboard to make a stack 5" tall (approximately 40 single-wall sheets). You can piece together smaller sheets, but keep this to a minimum for maximum strength; sandwich any pieced layers between two continuous sheets. Creases are okay, but make sure they are oriented at right angles to one another in adjoining layers for strength.

2. Lay out two 30"-square pieces of hardboard on the floor with the rough sides facing up. Brush the rough sides thoroughly with wheat paste (recipe on page 25), making sure to saturate the entire surface. Lay a piece of cardboard on top of one piece of hardboard. Paint the cardboard with wheat paste, and stack a second piece of cardboard with the grain (corrugation flutes) oriented perpendicular to that of the first piece. Repeat until the stack is 2." thick, with every layer of corrugation alternated.

Note: It’s important to work as quickly as possible to prevent the glue from drying and/or the cardboard curling from the moisture in the glue before the stack is under clamping pressure.

Cap the stack with the second piece of hardboard — smooth side facing out — and a piece of plywood to distribute the clamping weight. Evenly lay out plate weights, sandbags, cinderblocks, or other heavy objects on top of the stack. Let the paste cure for at least 24 hours. This is important, as it takes a long time for the center of the laminated stack to dry, and cutting into soggy cardboard will ruin the lamination. Turn a fan on the stack to promote airflow (I have had stacks take so long to dry that they began to mold). Repeat the process to create a second stack.

3. Lay out the chair silhouette on the dry stacks as shown at right. Cut out as much as possible with a circular saw, then use a jigsaw to finish up the interior cuts. Cutting laminated cardboard in this way throws up a lot of super-fine dust, so wear a mask and cut in a well-ventilated area.

4. Lay out the holes for the tubes according to step 6 of the layout sequence at right. Bore recesses for the tubes with a hole saw, being careful to drill only halfway through the depth of the side pieces.

Note: Make sure the center mandrel bit of the hole saw will not penetrate the outer hardboard layer.

The sides with holes should be mirror images of each other. The hole saw will leave a plug behind after it is withdrawn; pry this out with a box cutter

5. Glue the tubes into one side with PVA glue, seating the tubes fully into the recesses with a mallet, as needed. Repeat to add the other side. Set the seat up and twist the sides until everything is neat and even and the chair sits squarely on the ground. If necessary, clamp everything together to draw the sides tight. Let the glue dry.

6. Finish the chair as desired. Water- or oil-based polyurethane or a simple wax are good options for these materials.

DISPOSAL: If finished without wax, this whole chair can be tossed in a recycling bin, or chopped  into pieces and composted.

 

Click here to purchase the book.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016