Carpentry 101: Help me upcycle my chairs
February 18, 2013 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Looking for how-to guide to replace seat and back of metal framed chairs.

I have two metal chairs which had vinyl and foam seats and back (similar to this). The vinyl and foam part was beyond repair and I've successfully removed it.
I would like to upcycle them to look like this which uses repurposed metal but I want to use found wood or old pallets. I also like this which uses pallets but with a wooden frame.

Can you give me instructions? Or point me to online resources to do this?

Difficulty level: I have only basic carpetry skills.
Tools available to me: I have an electric drill, electric sander, hack-saw, hammer, nails etc but no jigsaw.

Thank you!
posted by sconbie to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In short, no.
To rephrase your question: How do i accomplish $task without the tools or the skills necessary?
That is kinda hard to answer. Would you be able to do the task with good (power?) tools and new materials? If no, you have your work cut out for you: Working with found wood ain't easier than working with new wood. I'd say make a test run with new wood, and then switch to the nice, but troublesome, found stuff, when that works. is a place to start for techniques and inspiration.
Best of luck!
posted by Thug at 2:50 PM on February 18, 2013

The chairs are designed to have a 1 piece seat and back. Did you keep the back and seat? It likely has a masonite or wood base. Get new foam if you want it to be cushy. New fabric; you can pick up leather clothes cheap at a thrift shop, and repurpose the leather, or find a fabric you like. It should be quite sturdy. Look at jackets & coats, printed burlap of canvas rice bags, or other sturdy found fabrics. You can go to a fabric shop, and get great fabric, but I like the recycled approach. This is the easiest kind of upholstery; a good staplegun and decorative tacks are used. I've done this, and I am not especially handy.

To use found wood, you'd have to drill through the metal to bolt the wood to the frame, and the wood slats would have to be as wide as the frame.

Metal would require skill to work properly and keep its shape.

Have fun!
posted by theora55 at 3:08 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The seats and back are incidental, the frame of the chair should hold together with out the seat and back. They DO add stability, and also are screwed to the tubing. You should have already noticed this.

You have probably 4 holes in the seat area and 4 holes ( hopefully) for the backs. You will not make example #2 without outsourcing the job. You can glue enough found wood together to make use of existing holes, or you can drill more holes and just screw/bolt your found wood on e slat at a time.

You would need a center punch to drill new holes in the tubing and probably a countersink for the wood, unless you don't mind pan head screws, locking washers would be handy too. Drill through the tubes, use machine screws and bolt that together.

Jointing and gluing up found wood to use existing holes? Not with those tools.
posted by Max Power at 3:25 PM on February 18, 2013

Pallets are gross. And I think you need to develop your skills and tool chest a bit more before tackling a project like that. It will be an exercise in frustration.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:48 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Got it: pallets are gross.
I did find some alternatives to wood via your link though. Like webbing and rope. Thanks all
posted by sconbie at 12:20 AM on February 19, 2013

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