DIY Furniture
February 9, 2005 12:17 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to build some furniture without advanced (or possibly any) woodworking skills. Say I wanted to make a basic chaise (seems easy enough) or a Stokke Ekstrem knockoff (harder.) What are some easy ways to put together some just-for-me modern furniture? For example, you can put together some simple stuff with PVC tubing, but it isn't very attractive and isn't that versatile. Are there easier materials/techniques to work with?
posted by callmejay to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
well, i've just come back from looking at some work by toyo ito and will be thinking hard about the possibilities of using plywood...
posted by andrew cooke at 12:27 PM on February 9, 2005

What tools do you have available?

Not many, but I'm willing to spend a little money. I don't have the space for a tablesaw or a shop, though.
posted by callmejay at 12:48 PM on February 9, 2005

Check out "structural framing systems/fittings" at McMaster Carr. These let you assemble linear members (like 1" pipe or slotted-steel L-section beams) with various corner pieces. You'd need a hacksaw or pipecutter and a wrench. It'd be cobby but sturdy.
posted by adamrice at 1:18 PM on February 9, 2005

For woodworking, here's some basics, not too expensive:

- Circular saw (a.k.a., "skilsaw")
- Drill
- Jig Saw
- Router and Router Table
- Bar clamps
- C-clamps

With a circular saw, and some straight lumber and some C-clamps, you can make any cut that a table saw can do.

The drill is essential for piloting screw holes or for drilling out for peg-and-glue assembly. A cheap drill press is really useful, too, but doesn't replace the hand-held electric drill.

The jig saw will enable you to do some jointery, and add some flourish to your work if you're concerned about the appearance.

The router and table are somewhat optional for a beginner, but really really handy. You can do much more jointery with the router and table than any other simple shop tools. Often, the router and table is less expensive than what you might eventually spend on router bits, though. Also useful for rounding off sharp corners (with roundover bits, etc).

Bar clamps and c-clamps are absolutely necessary for any kind of glued jointery. Get more than you think you'll need. Without them, you're restricted to screw assembly.

I've done a fair bit of designing and building of furniture, and most could be done with the tools listed.

For designs, check out woodworking magazines.

It's hella fun.

Pay attention to finishing work, too. You'll want a palm sander, so add that to the list. Still have to finish with hand-sanding for showroom-quality finish.

I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have.

Oh - a couple other things I forgot --- small things -
- Speed square
- T-square
- tape measure
- pencils

If you don't want to do the woodworking, you might check into fiberglass. You can make any shape you want out of styrofoam, then coat it with fiberglass, and that's pretty much it. For techniques, google for fiberglass boat building. You would want to use foam sandwich techniques. You would not want vinyl esters, but true resin epoxies.
posted by yesster at 1:27 PM on February 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

I just checked out that chair you linked. That is very do-able with foam-and-fiberglass methods. It'd be super light, too.
posted by yesster at 1:30 PM on February 9, 2005

I think it's an excellent opportunity for you to pick up some woodworking skills.

I build things every once in awhile for fun, and I would say the most valuable tools for me have been:
dozuki (Japanese dovetail saw)
jack plane
assorted chisels

Go to the library and check out any book on japanese joinery

It's fascinating the things you can make without glue or nails, just wood holding wood together.

For more full fledged wood working, take the post by yesster, print it out, and laminate it - it's a very good list.
posted by icey at 1:48 PM on February 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

Tage Frid's books on joinery are classics and are a great overview of the different ways to make wood stick together.
posted by TimeFactor at 2:21 PM on February 9, 2005

Core77 has some "how to" ideas, and designboom has some online tutorials that look useful. They also have a great Chaise Lounge through history page for inspiration. Poke around those sites for other suggestions.
posted by fionab at 6:31 PM on February 9, 2005

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