GOING WITH THE GRAIN: design an object using sustainable wood

Competition Details

Plywood Rocking Chair

by Hugo Roell


We need to integrate the use of sustainable materials into everyday life as quickly as possible in order to make an immediate impact on our environment. The idea of this design is to make an everyday object that everyone recognizes and likes out of a sustainable material. This will start people thinking about the small changes they can make by using sustainable materials – both at home and work.

The Object - A Rocking Chair

The rocking chair is a familiar classic design. Rocking chairs have been popular since early pioneer times, evolving into porch rockers and modern rockers. Rocking chairs are associated with comfort and relaxation, from mothers rocking their babies to grandparents sitting on the porch enjoying a cool breeze.

The Design

The design should turn a two dimensional material into a three dimensional object that is pleasing to look at and comfortable. The chair uses plywood’s unique strength in compression and tension. The chair consists of four pieces – two side rings, a seat and a back – that slot together. The two plywood side rings form the sides of the chair and hold the seat and back together. The side rings are cut in the back and open up to allow the back to slot into place. The seat is installed last, and once it is in place the side rings close and lock the pieces together to form a solid rocking chair.

The First Prototype

The prototype was made out of two sheets of ½” birch face plywood screwed together to make the cutting easier with a jigsaw (some photographs may show these screws). The chair is comfortable to sit and rock in and the slots in the seat and back make them more flexible. The prototype also successfully tested the chair’s center of balance, both when empty and with somebody rocking in it. The design uses no hardware or glue, and the pieces can be cut from one 4 x 8 feet piece of plywood with a router. The chair weighs 26 pounds and can be flat packed.

Design Improvements

The material widths should be slimmed down where possible without compromising the chair’s strength. The overall size of the chair can also be made a bit smaller. The slots cut into the seat and back can be further refined to make the seat and back more flexible and comfortable.