Sunday, 25 July 2010

How to fix the arms of an office chair ...

Like most people I have an office type chair for when I use my pc, my wife has one too, we got them on offer from Homebase, they are black leather ones, and they recline, and here is where the problems started, well for me anyway. 

Here's what the arms should look like - 

My wife's chair.

The thing I like most about my chair is that it reclines, which is quite relaxing when I'm reading things,books,online articles and when I play some games, now you would think that a chair that "reclines" would be able to cope with some one actually reclining in the thing wouldn't you ? well I did, and soon found out that my chair couldn't really handle that much reclining, this is not because I am large, I'll have you know that I've lost a stone and half since the start of the year, but that's another post.

I used to work in the plastics industry and I know a little about plastics and their properties, as it turns out the handles on these chairs aren't really as strong as you might think, and any small fault with the moulding process may well weaken the arms quite a lot, and because of the way they fix to the chair they are going to be under a load a lot of the time.

The arms fix to the chair with 4 bolts, two in the back rest and two in the seat, so the arms have to take any weight when you lean back on the chair, and reclining adds extra weight to the arms, which I found out one day one one of the arms made a very load cracking sound and snapped, this is also when I found out that four metal washers had been moulded into the arms, one for each bolt, previously I had thought that there was a metal section inside each arm.

I fixed the break using a metal strip and some screws, however this didn't last for long, and shortly after the first break the other arm broke, and in the end the repairs I made did not hold for long.
At this point I could have chosen to buy some new arms, as it turns out you can buy replacement arms from Ebay and some office supply outlets, but my thinking was that if I get a new set of arms the same thing will happen eventually, so I opted for a more permanent solution, which was wood of course.

Fixing the arms with a wooden solution is pretty simple to be honest, you will need some tools, screws,wood glue,a drill, a jigsaw for cutting the shape of the arms, a hole cutting saw (which you can fit into a drill) for decorative reasons, although decoration is entirely up to you.

I chose some 18mm plywood for my arms, and I managed to find some that had a nice look to it on one side at least, so I figured I'd use that on the outside so it looked neat.
So how to make new arms ? well firstly I took the arms off my wife's chair to use as a template, I thought it best to use both arms as a template in case there were any differences between the two arms.

Plywood is pretty easy to work with, and it's strong, which suited me, I have a right to recline in my office chair. After laying the sheet down and drawing round the arms from my wife's chair (which I put back) I cut out the shapes, I cut out four arms, two for each side of the chair, the reason being is that two pieces glued and screwed together are stronger than one, and because I was using 18mm plywood two pieces together where near enough the same thickness as the original arm rests.

 Now you have to make sure you get the holes for the bolts in the right place, otherwise you might have problems, it's best to do this when you mark out your templates.

Once you have cut out your new arms and drilled the holes for the fixings (just to note I had to counter sink the fixing holes to get them to fit properly) you can think about decoration, or not you can just leave them blank. I chose to add a little decoration.

Using my hole cutting saw (which is basically a circular saw you fit into a drill) I cut out a series of holes in the side of each new arm to make a little feature. I did consider going down the steam punk route, and for a short while I also considered making the chair look like the captains chair from star trek, but decided against it.

Here is what the chair looks like with the new arms.


My new arms.

I finished the arms by sanding and using a bit of sanding sealer to seal the wood, I think they turned out pretty good, and it saved throwing the chair away, and it meant we didn't have to buy a new one.

A couple of points before I sign off, I did actually consider making wooden replicas of the original arms, so I cut one of the sections out, but then decided against it. It didn't cost as much as new arms would have, and I think they will last a lot longer than the plastic ones.

You could get as imaginative as you like, or not at all, but in my opinion the wooden arms look better, they certainly feel better, warmer and a lot smoother.

Thanks for reading.

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