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The complete process is broken into three sections: Lumber and frame making, fabric and template making, bioplastic recipe and cooking. Part of what makes this process affordable is that there is no need for expensive clamps, table saw, sewing machine and other tools that many people do not own. What you will need are many items that you may already own which are listed in the 'tools and parts' section of this guide.
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Part 1 of 3: Lumber Selection and Frame Making Process. Depending on duty required to make this furniture, the lumber you choose should be strong enough to support your weight. The lounge and ottoman featured here use 1” square maple stock. Nothing smaller or thinner in hardwood should be used, preferably over 1” square should be sufficient depending on form choices. You may want to design this object keeping in mind that many lumber yards sell square stock in either 36” or 48” lengths.
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Once the lumber type and size have been chosen, take your ideas to a CAD program or you can draw the object at ~ ¼ scale for modeling and angle template making. The program used here was 2D program where only the profiles of the Lounge were drawn and redrawn in different ways that looked interesting, strong and within 48” lumber lengths. After chair form has been drawn cardboard templates can be made to set the angles for frame assembly using a protractor. Lumber lengths can be cut using miter box and saw.
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Part 2 of 3: Fabric Selection and Template Process. When selecting fabric for seating area try to purchase a fabric that is open weave (burlap, crinoline, buckram, etc); this will make saturation easier for the bioplastic that will be applied and will be stronger because of the saturation. Using fabric saturated with corn starch plastic it took about six laminates of this composite to make the object structurally reliable. Keep this amount in mind when purchasing fabric. Many of these fabrics come in several colors; now is the time to choose which color looks best with the treated wood.
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Fabric templates can be cut at this time. Final form for this object is made by sitting in the fabric when it is wet with the plastic. This can be the tricky part when cutting templates; In order to cut about six templates the builder will need to obtain template dimensions by lightly placing their figure in the fabric that is retained in the frame by using thumb tacks. Be very careful; thumb tacks are not intended to hold your weight with fabric and a lot of balance is required to get a comfortable and accurate contour.
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- Adjustments can be made from this point. Some questions to consider: Is there enough pocketing area for a headrest? Is this too formal? Not formal enough? Make final adjustments to fabric amount and trim cut fabric with three or four inches of overhang from top of wood frame. This three to four inches will be the hem area and hand sculpted area of the fabric which provides the strength and makes a pocket around the frame to retain the fabric.
- Remove this first fabric template from the frame; this will serve as your layout for all other fabric pieces except for the final layer. The final layer of fabric should have another inch bigger than all of the other pieces; this will allow a final wrapping and hand sculpted hem area which will visually unify the fabric layers.
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- Part 3 of 3: The Plastic; Manufacture and Application. Now that at least six fabric layers have been cut it is time to make your first bioplastic mixture. This is a non toxic plastic made from items that you can buy at the grocery store. What you will need are: corn starch, sunflower oil, vinegar and tap water. Normally glycerine is used instead of sunflower oil. Sunflower oil is employed as it is more affordable. Each piece of fabric needs about ½ gallon of this bioplastic; it is a good idea to saturate two fabric pieces for one session so one gallon at at time is a good amount to make.
- Recipe: ~ One gallon Corn Starch Plastic
- Water 12.75 cups
- Corn Starch 3.25 cups
- Vinegar 1 cup
- Sunflower Oil 1 cup
- In an eight quart pot mix corn starch, water, glycerin and vinegar. Stir until there are no clumps. On the stove turn heat on full amount and stir the whole time the mixture is being heated. When the mixture reaches a critical temperature a gel-like and somewhat clear compound are made. Remove from heat and with silicone heat resistant gloves put fabric in pot and saturate each fabric piece individually. This organic plastic can also be applied with a roller paint brush; a large table is required for this method of application.
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- After the fabric has been thoroughly saturated place the layers on the chair frame and pin the top. Make sure that all edges of the fabric are hanging over the edge of the wood frame and with a plastic bag lightly place your physique into chair. This will be final form of the fabric and over a day another two layers may be applied. As the edges hanging over the side during initial layout make sure to sculpt wet plastic and fabric around the chair frame. This gives a bulbous, hemmed effect that makes the fabric shell stay rigidly on the frame.
- After two layers of the fabric have been applied and the edges have been forced together, use clothes pins to retain pressure on the two layers.