Hey, thanks for checking out my blog! Last week I promised to write about creating the exterior of my chair. Below, I describe my thought process around editing the seat shape, choosing a color and an exterior finish. I also discuss the mistakes I made and how I corrected them.
First, I needed to ensure that the ergonomic seat I had just carved from spray foam and covered in body filler would be comfortable for any adult. Minne-faire was approaching, so I decided to display my unfinished chair in order to collect some data about the comfort level of the seat and whether or not I needed to edit the shape. My carving mistake was quickly revealed: every woman who tried the seat loved it and every man found the back half of the center ridge too high! Oops! Luckily, that was an easy fix.
Second, I considered the color. I could not decide between bright orange and white so when I invited visitors to try out the seat, I also asked them to vote for a color. Their choice was clear: classic bright red!
Third, for a sleek, contemporary look I decided to give the chair a fiberglass finish. Most of the chair received one layer of fiberglass and 4-5 layers of resin. The seat and back were coated with 3 layers of fiberglass cloth and 5 layers of resin. Between each layer I sanded the resin from 80-150-220 grit which turned out to be a mistake. Each non-final layer of resin should only be sanded to 80 grit so that the next layer will easily adhere.
The extra sanding did help by yielding a perfectly smooth surface before applying the next layer of resin. However, despite the smooth application surface, each new layer of resin consistently produced substantial mars & dents. I seemed unable to pour a smooth layer of resin which made me wonder if I was ever going to be happy with the finish.
I thought that using fiberglass resin would negate the need to paint the chair because the resin can be tinted with universal pigments (the kind that your local paint store uses). The hardware store where I bought the resin threw in the pigment for free and I combined them in a plastic bucket. The resin color looked perfect in the bucket! But once on the chair I realized that resin is super translucent because it contains no opaque base. Therefore, the 2 different colors of body filler I used on the seat were very visible, even through 3 layers of fiberglass cloth and resin!
If I ever do this again, I will make sure that the color of my chair before laminating is consistent throughout. With an even-colored base, the tinted resin and fiberglass cloth would have been adequate coverage. Still, to get a smooth surface I would have to spray the resin rather than pour or brush it on.
The difficulty in achieving a smooth surface combined with the translucency of the resin made me realize that I must paint the chair. After pricing High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) paint spray guns ($180), primer spray guns ($50), paint ($100), and the rest of the equipment I would need to do the job myself, I decided to save some money and have my chair painted at an auto body shop ($250). But this will be my final step and there is a lot more to do before I get there.
Next time, I will discuss the influence of Converse All Star sneakers on my design.
Thanks for checking out my blog post! As I promised in last week’s entry, this week I will reveal whether or not I solved Frank Lloyd Wright’s design problem. The Origami Chair famously has a tendency to tip forward; especially as the sitter scoots forward in preparation for standing up. Wright’s solution was to add anti-tipping feet; he added metal caps to make the extra pieces look more intentional.
My thought was to make the front feet larger, providing a greater surface area and, therefore, a lesser proportion of the sitter’s weight on the front corner of the feet. Good idea?? I originally made the feet about 4″ long (a 25% increase from the FLW model) and then sliced off a couple of inches from the bottom of each side of the chair, doubling the length of the feet. Result??
I still had a tipping problem. The seated person wasn’t in any danger but the experience of getting up from the chair could still be a bit startling–not a desirable quality for a chair!
I considered tossing the chair out and moving on to another project until a fellow member of Twin Cities Maker mentioned that a chair with a tipping problem might make a great rocker. Thus began a new design!
So, next I carved a model rocker out of polystyrene foam.
Determining the arc of the rockers turned out to be quite a research project. Eventually, I found a simple formula for finding the length of the radius of the circle from which the arc should be drawn. That is seat height x pi. I brought my model and 2 tubes to a steel-bending expert.
Next, I made several steel plates to screw to the feet and tail of the chair so that I could connect the chair to the rockers.
Positioning the chair, just right, onto the rockers was challenging. If there is a next time, I will get help holding the chair as I weld it to the rockers.
Next week, I will discuss creating the exterior of the chair.
Over the next several weeks I will post photos of my rocking-chair project as it progresses. I welcome your feedback and hope that you will help me find a name for this chair.
My design is inspired by 2 sources: the Frank Lloyd Wright Origami Chair and the Converse All Star sneaker. I’ve always wanted to re-design the Origami Chair as an updated, cool lounger. The Converse reference came later, after hours of observation, when it struck me (and my friend Ann who stopped by the Hack Factory for a critique session), that my placement of masking tape around the rockers was reminiscent of a pair of red sneakers (more on this in a future post).
A few years ago I made a large, black lacquered version of FLW’s Origami Chair and I kept one for my own home.
Using the chair at my home, I started my new chair by tracing a pattern onto poster board. Then, I made another pattern about 2/3 the size of the large one, tweaked the proportions and used that pattern to cut the plywood.
Once I assembled the plywood pieces I carved an ergonomic seat and back out of spray foam. To create a smooth surface, I covered the carved foam in body filler and then did a lot of sanding.
Next week I will discuss the main design problem with FLW’s Origami Chair and whether or not I solved it.