Thursday, 11 May 2017

DIY Bookcase Armchair

Late last year B said he had a particular request for a birthday gift. Being optimistic and foolish, I enthusiastically agreed without hearing what the request was. And hence, the bookcase armchair was conceived.

You must bear in mind that at this point I had never made a wood project. We had recently become addicted to Matthias Wandel videos and he made everything look so damn easy. So we got ambitious. And then B decided he wanted an armchair with bookcases in it.

And I went "I'm going to end up making this, aren't I?"

The Design

We looked at several Instructables and Pinterest designs to get an idea of proportions and construction. Ultimately some of them were far too complicated for me, and some would be far too big for the room.

A chair with book storage in the arms and big cushions
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  • Bookcase armchair
  • Doesn't fall apart (i.e. functional)
  • De-constructable into smaller parts (we live in rented housing so need to plan to move again)
  • Fits the room (very little room)
  • Fits standard fiction paperback books
  • Rests a cup of tea on the arm
  • Provides extra storage space
  • Tidiness of joins/seams/edges/finish

The sides are made up of 2x standard bookcases with 4 shelves each. I had a sample book (Ian M. Banks, The Player of Games, 197mm*126mm*19mm) to help with measurements. The sides are approx 98cm H x 84cm W x 15 D. The seat is slightly raked, which sits on runners. The shelves are held with dowels and screws.

Most of the design was invented on my commute and it went through several iterations before we decided on the simplest form. For a long time I was trying to create a design that would also house a Black & Decker workmate (which was a surprise extra gift), which means the design went through ideas to change the dimensions and also add moving parts. Eventually B put his foot down and demanded asked for the simplest (and therefore safest) design, without understanding why I was so keen to change it. Thus, it became B's problem to house the Workmate he didn't know he was getting.

When it came to upholstery, I knew we needed cushions and some soft covering for comfort, B asked that the arms be suitable for resting a cup of tea on (do you see why I like him?), but still comfy. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to work out a design that would allow the sides to be a) tidy with no visible staples and b) removable or temporary. One of the things we learn as sewists is how to make things inside out. We invert something through a tiny hole in a seam and suddenly it is transformed. I spent a lot of brain space trying to figure out how to do this for the armchair, but wood and upholstery is a bit different from fabric. In the end, we stuck with simplicity.

Testing the Cup of Tea requirement

The tops of the arms are now glued down, so we'll have to work out how to remove the padding if we need to do so in the future.

The Materials

The foam came from the foam guy at  Shepherd's Bush Market, the fabric also came from an upholstery stall in the market. I never realised until trying to make this chair that Goldhawk Road is great for garment and craft fabrics, but very lmited when it comes to upholstery fabrics. Shepherd's Bush Market next door is much better served for those types of materials.

The wood and other components came from out local Wickes. All in all, I spent about £200 on the chair. Yes, it's more expensive than some real armchairs, but it's way cheaper than this Etsy one!

The Construction

Building this was super hard. Largely because I didn't know what I was doing. I marked my dowel holes diligently but the wood was a bit twisty, so they didn't align or fit together very easily. Although I learned to drill pretty good holes and screw stuff in straight by the end of the project, I still struggled to set/limit the depth of a drilled hole and kept going all the way through the wood on several occasions.

I enjoyed using the circular saw to cut out, which is very similar to using a sewing just follow the foot and keep things moving steadily.

"Repurposing" other tools

Cutting the upholstery foam to size worked well with a sharp kitchen knife. A serrated blade caused a lot of mess, but we had good results from a straight blade.

It took about 6 weeks to make, so why am I struggling to find anything to say about the construction? One of the big challenges was racing home after work to do any "outside" work before the daylight faded - this was the autumn don't forget - which put a bit of a manic time pressure on everything.

Cutting giant plywood in the dark
Sure, there are improvements we'd like to make. They'll come with time. For now, any visitors who see the chair are pretty impressed with it. In fact, it apparently "shamed" some friends into getting started on a DIY project they'd been putting off. Yikes!

I don't know when another wood project will happen. Or what it might be. It's easy to ignore everything until a "glory project" shows up again. But there's only one way to get better, and for things to become less difficult, and that's to just get on with it and create something.

Plus I'm busy reasoning with myself to stop myself buying a laser cutter...

We've also jumped in at the deep end of gardening with SO MANY PLANTS to look after now...

Maybe I should stick with one hobby...

K x

1 comment:

  1. You do only have one hobby. Being creative. The rest is just stuff....