Reuse Challenge: The Cardboard Chair

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The Reuse Challenge is an Earth911.com series showcasing ways to reuse everyday items and materials in a new way. Think you can make this project better? Show us what you can do by sending us your photos & info.

The Story

For quite some time now, we’ve been oogling many of the innovative reuse projects available on the Internet. We give a huge round of applause to all you super do-it-yourselfers out there. But since we can’t yet count ourselves among the DIY pros, we decided to stop drooling – and start building.

That’s where you come in. Every month, we’re going to show you a project that we made (or attempted to make) in our office, and challenge you to do it better. Don’t be intimidated: if we can do it, then you can too. Seriously – we are really bad at cutting straight lines.

The Challenge

Cardboard. It is everywhere. Sometimes, it’s even inconvenient (you know how it goes, you can never find enough boxes when you’re moving, but then you don’t know what to do with them when you’re done). So, we decided to take matters into our own hands and attempt the ultimate in cardboard reuse: furniture.

We’ve built the foundation to any room, the ultimate starter piece – a chair. This is just the beginning, and a small beginning it is, so we hope you can improve upon our first round of designs.

Below, you’ll find the video that inspired us to build the chair, but we’ve made a few modifications. Also, our resident engineer and writer, Bob Peeples, was kind enough to do some CAD mock-ups, along with a blueprint to help you see what we did.

All in all, we spent around five hours making the chair, not including the CAD drawings. Here’s a basic guide to what we did and how we did it:

Ingredients

We started off with basic supplies to make our chair.

We started off with basic supplies to make our chair.

  • Cardboard
  • Box Cutter
  • Straight Edge (preferably a metal ruler)
  • Wood Glue (or something similar)
  • Decorating instruments (markers, magazines to create a decoupage collage, etc.)
  • String
  • Patience

Basic Steps

  1. Gather the cardboard. You won’t need a ton, but you will need some larger pieces, such as four, 24″x18″ rectangles to make your side frames.
  2. Cut the various pieces needed. We used 17 total.
  3. If you want to decorate your pieces, do it now before they are assembled. It’s much easier to draw on a flat surface than a chair.
  4. Assemble the pieces, using the wood glue as necessary. We also used string to help hold the pieces tightly together while they dried.
  5. Give it time to dry. We recommend at least a two-hour drying time, if not more. Overnight is best, if you can wait.
  6. Sit back, relax and grab a margarita. Ole!

Tips

  1. Have a scrap piece of cardboard to place under the piece which you are cutting. This prevents your work surface from being damaged.
  2. Measure each piece twice before cutting. If in doubt, err on the side of over-measuring, as it’s easier to cut a piece down than cut an entirely new piece altogether.
  3. If you need multiples, simply measure the first piece. Then use it as a “stencil” to outline the remaining identical pieces.
  4. Have a bit more cardboard than you think you need, in case you need to redo a portion of the project.
  5. Safety first: Be careful with your box cutters. If you have work gloves, they may be a good idea in the cutting stage.
  6. Recycle your scrap cardboard once you’re done, if the excess pieces are unusable for another project.
Building furniture from reusable materials is hard work. But, it was still worthwhile!

Building furniture from reusable materials is hard work. But, it was still worthwhile!

What Worked? What Didn’t?

  • Building a Solid Structure: Success! The support grid that we built for the under carriage of the seat really worked. It was strong enough to hold the tallest member of our crew. We were a little wary to put our full weight on it at first, but were pleasantly surprised when it held us with ease. This support system is a must.
  • Cutting Straight Lines: Failure! No amount of straight edges and T-squares could lead us in the right direction and when all was said and done, our lines just didn’t, well, line up. We did utilize some string and extra layers of wood glue to fill some gaps, but in the end, our chair had some visual spaces.

We think taking more time, having sharper box cutters and maybe more, experienced builders on hand would correct some of our issues in the future. However, working with the cardboard itself was a bit of a struggle, which is a hard fix no matter how many experts you have on hand for guidance. In the end, learning to accept the flaws may be the biggest challenge of all.

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