Build a modern and inviting rubber hose chair with reclaimed materials.
Anyone looking for versatile, modern and inexpensive furniture has to look no further than PlyDesign (Storey Publishing, 2012) by Philip Schmidt. Schmidt, a former carpenter, offers toys, games and furnishings suited for everyone. Each design is crafted using plywood, or a number of other readily available sheet materials. The following excerpt is an upcycle of reclaimed materials into this rubber hose chair.
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Designed by Will Holman
This piece comes from an architect and designer who makes a lot of great stuff with junk — things like chairs fashioned from road signs, lighting using traffic cones, and tables constructed with cardboard tubes and greenhouse glazing. All are perfectly functional, human-scaled pieces, but none seems more inviting than the Rubber Hose Chair. “It’s like sitting on a bed of rubber bands,” says its creator. Like many of his other works, this chair can be made primarily with found or reclaimed materials. Just hit up any carpenter, mechanic, or tool hound you know for an old air hose to upcycle, and you’re halfway there.
• One 2 x 2-foot piece 3/4” plywood
• Wood glue
• Sixteen 1 1/4” coarse-thread drywall screws or deck screws
• Four 24" lengths 3/4” zinc-plated all-thread rod
• Sixteen 3/4” zinc washers
• Sixteen 3/4" zinc nuts
• One 40-foot (or longer) length 3/4" (outside diam.) rubber air hose
• Two #10 zinc washers
• Two 1" coarse-thread drywall screws or deck screws
Note: Use only exterior-rated materials if the chair will reside outdoors.
• Circular saw
• Jigsaw or handsaw
• Drill with:
3/4" spade bit
7/8" spade bit
1 1/2” spade bit
• Sandpaper (up to 220 grit) with sanding block
• Router with 1/4" or 3/8" roundover bit
• Socket and adjustable wrenches
• Utility knife
1. Lay out the plywood parts.
The chair’s four legs and two L-shaped side supports are cut from a 2 x 2-foot piece of plywood. Because virtually every cut affects more than one piece, it’s important to cut with accuracy and avoid overcutting all interior cuts.
Lay out the parts on your 2 x 2 panel, following the cutting diagram (see Slideshow): Start by drawing two straight lines that run diagonally between opposing corners. Mark one of these diagonal lines 3" in from each opposing corner. Mark the other diagonal line 7" in from its opposing corners. Connect these four points to create a parallelogram on the interior of the panel; the four legs will be cut from this section.
Across the top of the parallelogram, mark off the leg ends alternately at 3 1/2" and 5". Do the same at the bottom of the parallelogram, starting with 5". Mark a 3" right triangle at the two panel corners corresponding to the 7" marks. Finally, erase or cross out the original diagonal lines from the 7" marks to the panel corners; you will not make cuts here.
2. Cut the plywood parts.
Using a circular saw with a straightedge guide, cut out the parallelogram from the panel. This requires a plunge cut to get the blade started inside the panel. Cut just to the marked corners of the parallelogram (do not overcut), then finish the cuts with a jigsaw or handsaw. Remove the parallelogram piece, and cut along its marked lines to create the four legs.
Next, cut along the 3" diagonal lines to separate the two side supports, then make the 3" triangular cutoffs at the bottom of each L-shaped side support.
3. Customize the chair geometry.
This step sounds more complicated than it is. All you’re doing is setting two of the legs over one of the side supports and experimenting with different positions to find the ideal reclining angle and seat height for your comfort; see the side view drawing.
In the chair shown here, the front legs are at a 61-degree angle from the ground, and the back legs are at a 50-degree angle. The lowest point of the seating surface is about 12" above the ground.
Once you find the geometry you like, have a helper hold the legs in place while you place a straightedge between the front bottom corner of the front leg and the rear bottom corner of the back leg, and draw a line along the straightedge to mark a bottom-end cut for each leg. Also mark the legs’ positions on the side support, and trace along the front edge of the front leg onto the side support; trim off the side support at this line, to match the angle of the leg.
4. Cut and install the legs.
Cut off the two leg bottoms at the newly marked angle lines. Test-fit the legs on the side support and make any necessary adjustments.
Place each cut leg over its corresponding uncut leg and trace the end cut (and trim cut, if applicable; see the note below) to the uncut leg. Cut the other two legs to match the originals. Fasten the legs to the side supports with wood glue and 1 1/4" screws driven through the insides of the legs and into the side supports.
Stand each side assembly upright and use a level to mark a level line along the top end of the side support. Trim at this line so the top end of the support is level with the ground.
5. Drill holes for the hose.
Mark the holes for the hose on the outside face of each side support; see the side view. On each side support, the first hole is centered 1" from the top and front edges of the support; the remaining nine are spaced 1 1/2" on center, in a line parallel to the seat.
Mark the bottom most backrest hole so it’s aligned with the crook of the side support (between the seat surface and backrest surface), then mark 10 more holes going up the backrest portion of the side support, again with 1 1/2" on-center spacing.
Drill the holes with a 7/8" spade bit. To prevent tearout on the inside faces of the side supports, drill about halfway through from the outside face, then flip the side support over and complete the hole from the inside face.
Smooth the edges of the holes with sandpaper, creating a slight roundover for a finished look.
6. Drill holes for the all-thread.
Lay out the four holes in each side assembly for the all-thread rods, following the side view drawing. The holes near the top of the legs are centered over the width of the legs.
At each hole location, drill a counterbore for the washer and nut, using a 1 1/2" spade bit (the bit must be slightly larger than the outside diameter of the washers). Check the depth of each hole as you work, drilling until the washer and nut will be flush or nearly flush with the plywood surface, but don’t drill any deeper than about 1/2". Then drill through the piece(s) at the center of each counterbore with the 3/4" spade bit.
Sand the edges of the counterbores and through holes, as before.
7. Rout the side assemblies.
Mill a roundover on all the edge corners of each side assembly, using a router and 1/4" or 3/8" roundover bit. A partial roundover is sufficient for a finished look and a comfortable edge. Test the bit depth on some scrap plywood to find the roundover depth you like best. If you don’t have a router, you can simply hand-sand the edges with 60-grit sandpaper and a sanding block, then work up to finer grits until the edges are smooth.
8. Finish the side assemblies.
Finish-sand all the plywood surfaces, working up to 220-grit paper. Finish the assemblies with three coats of polyurethane (use an exterior-grade product if the chair will be used outdoors), as directed by the manufacturer.
9. Assemble the chair structure.
Assemble the chair structure with the four all-thread rods and 16 washers and nuts; each rod gets a washer and nut on each side of the side assemblies. Use a socket wrench and an adjustable wrench to tighten the nuts and rigidify the chair. The outer nuts should be flush with the ends of the rods.
Note: To keep the nuts from working loose over time, apply a touch of thread-lock, polyurethane glue, or similar adhesive to the all-thread ends or nuts before installing the nuts.
10. Thread the hose.
Cut the metal fittings off the ends of the hose with a utility knife. Feed one end of the hose through the inside of one of the front-most seat holes (in the side support), and secure the end to the outside of the side support with a #10 washer and 1" screw (place the washer on the outside of the hose, and drive the screw through the center of the hose and into the wood).
Thread the hose through the seat holes, looping it on the outsides of the side supports. Stretch the hose tightly as you lace up the seat; it’s even okay if the side supports flex inward a little bit.
Continue lacing up the hose to complete the backrest, then secure the end to the side support with another screw and #10 washer — this will be on the opposite side support from the first screw. Trim the hose end about 3/4" from the washer.
Note: Rubber air hose is very strong and elastic, and the tighter you stretch it, the more comfortable and long-lasting the chair will be. However, if the hose begins to loosen or sag over time, simply remove the screw at one end and rethread the hose, stretching it tight again.
Air hoses are commonly used for pneumatic shop tools and are typically 1/4 to 3/4" in diameter, with a wall thickness of up to 1/8". They are made of tough, flexible rubber. Once a hose develops hairline cracks or pinhole leaks, it has lost its usefulness for pneumatic tool applications, but it’s still plenty strong enough to make a comfortable lounge chair. New air hoses can be quite expensive, so look for discarded hoses at places like cabinetry shops and construction sites (including Dumpsters), or you might post a wanted ad on Craigslist to ask for decent used hoses. To clean an old hose, start with a damp soapy rag, and use denatured alcohol to remove varnish, paint, and old stains.
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