Make a Combination Kneeling Chair and Desk

To save some money and improve your posture, build your own ergonomic workspace.

| September/October 1983

If a good part of your day is spent sitting, chances are you know how fatiguing that so-called "rest" position can be. And despite the fact that chairs of all types have been designed over the years to suit specific needs, none that we know of have successfully addressed the fundamental problem of encouraging ideal posture, until recently.

We're referring, of course, to the backless stools you've probably seen displayed in current popular magazines. Consisting of just a seat and two knee supports, these kneeling chairs are said to ease breathing, encourage circulation, and improve posture, all by virtue of the fact that they force the user to sit upright with his or her thighs slanting toward the floor, thus loosening the cramped angle at the waist that results from sitting in a conventional chair.

As you might expect, these well-finished pieces of furniture are expensive, some costing nearly $200. But by following our design (using inexpensive materials and, for the most part, a few basic tools), you can make your own kneeling chair that—though it won't be the same as the ready-made chairs—is actually a tad more versatile, because it's a desk-and-seat combination. 

To start, you'll need these materials: a piece of 3/4" plywood measuring 15" × 18" to make the foundations for the seat and the knee pad, a second section of 3/4" plywood that's 20" × 32" for the desk surface (if you don't mind searching for a bargain, sink-top cutouts are usually available—from cabinet shops, lumberyards, or even local flea markets—at scrap prices, and they're already surfaced with a laminate), a 3" × 18" × 25" hunk of foam rubber padding, a 30" × 36" length of upholstery material, some fabric adhesive (you could use tacks or staples to secure the covering instead), seven 1" conduit clips, an equal number of No. 8 × 1-3/4" roundhead wood screws, and three 10-foot lengths of 1" electrical metallic tubing (EMT). 

Once you've collected all of these items, you can begin forming the desk's conduit base. (To do the job neatly, you'll need to buy or borrow a 1" conduit bender, since the support's arcs should be accurately shaped and symmetrical.) The large platform is to be braced by two legs, each of which is the mirror image of the other. Start at a point 3 inches from one end of a complete section of conduit, and form an acute-angle bend that absorbs 16" of material (this will eventually support the knee pad). Then leave a 5" straight section, and make a second arc—this one 90° and 12" long—that's offset from the plane of the first by 15° or so. The third bend, beginning after a straight stretch of 14", should consume about 12" of tubing and describe a 95° angle, and—after only an inch—the final (90°) arc should be formed perpendicularly to the third.

Naturally, the opposite leg should be formed to the same dimensions, and must match its mate. Then the two butting ends can be trimmed so that the legs' upper (desk-supporting) siderails are 27 inches apart, while the lower rails should be separated by a distance of approximately 14 inches.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!