Comfy Office Desk Chair

Chair from auto seat

Chair from auto seat

Most office desk chairs are crap. Spend a couple of hours in a typical office chair and you wonder if it had been designed by aliens who, perhaps, read the specs for human beings, but never actually met a person in the flesh.

Conversely, you can drive for a couple of hours and get out of the car feeling at least OK. (Well, if you buy a decent car, that is. Last rental car I drove had terrible seats.)

Anyway, you can buy an office chair made from a car seat, but they seem staggeringly expensive for what you get.

So, a couple of decades ago, I went to a junkyard and picked up a nice seat from a fancy wreck for about $50, built a plywood base with six casters from Home Depot, put a 1-foot-diameter Lazy Susan bearing between the two, and bolted everything together. The seat even had power adjustments, so (just for fun) I tucked a battery underneath.

After a while, I stripped off the seat belt doodads… and, of course, you really don’t need power adjustments after the first week.

Worked like a champ for about a decade, but even a high-end seat cushion eventually goes flat. So I swapped in a front seat salvaged from one of our cars (a Toyota Camry wagon, from back before minivans ruled the road) and that lasted another decade. It finally went flat and I swapped in the other front seat.

The 2×6-inch upright boards have slopes and cutouts that match the peculiar shape of the seat frame, with holes drilled in the wood for the metric machine bolts, and that’s a good enough anchorage for an office environment.

Chair base

Chair base

The Lazy Susan bearing is between the top plywood layer and the square corner sticking out to the front. That layer bolts to the bottom sheet, providing enough clearance for the various heads and whatnot.

You really need six casters on a fairly large base, because the chair is immensely heavy (it was, after all, designed to not fall apart during a full-on collision) and rather top-and-back-heavy without you in place.

Considerations:

  • Get the seat close to the right height, as the adjustment range isn’t all that wide
  • Put your center of gravity in the middle of the base. Fortunately, the seat has plenty of forward-aft adjustment
  • Get the seat base pretty much horizontal

A closer look at the front:

Front detail

Front detail

The back isn’t a lot different:

Back detail

Back detail

Maybe I just have a weird butt or don’t spend enough money on office chairs.

About these ads

  1. #1 by david on 21-September-2010 - 17:18

    Maybe it’s the photos, but that looks *really* low to the ground, something like half of where I want my butt to be for a standard desk. It’s a heck of an idea, though!

    But have you tried the Aeron? I was Deeply Suspicious(TM), back when they were all the rage, but then I went out to my employer’s Furniture Hut Demo Room and tried every single chair we could requisition. And out of the bunch, the Aeron *was* by far the nicest, and middle-of-the-pack in price. Of course, that makes it obscenely expensive for home use, but repo’d ones turn up pretty regularly.

    • #2 by Ed on 21-September-2010 - 17:53

      that looks *really* low to the ground

      The cushion is actually 16-17 inches off the ground, about an inch lower than our kitchen chairs. My feet go on a homebrew footrest and it’s all good.

      What’s really low is my desk: I removed the center drawer and legs, then put it on 4×4-inch blocks so the surface is elbow-high with an inch clearance between my thighs and the bottom of the desktop. That puts the keyboard (a low-profile MS Comfort Curve) at exactly the right height to keep my wrists happy.

      The monitors sit on little stands that jack ‘em up where my (progressive) bifocals must have them.

      Took quite a while to get everything adjusted (and several passes through the radial-arm saw for the chair), but it’s really really comfy. Which is good, because I spend plenty-ever-too-much time sitting here!

      obscenely expensive for home use

      Way I see it, I’ve got umpty kilobucks of custom office furniture that’s either homebrew or cheap-on-sale + grievously modified. Can’t buy stuff like this, nohow!

      Of course, stuff looks like hell after I finish perpetrating on it. On the Internet, nobody can tell you have an unnatural relationship goin’ on with raw plywood and power tools…

  1. Bed Bugs: Furniture Isolation « The Smell of Molten Projects in the Morning
  2. Buckle Up For Safety « The Smell of Molten Projects in the Morning