In this post we show you how to combine that old tractor or lawn mower seat you’ve got lying around the shop with a broken office chair to create a great, inexpensive rolling shop chair. Why pay $30 for one from Sears — that doesn’t raise and lower pneumatically or hold your weight as well — when you can build your own for less, or even for free if you’re willing to root around a bit for parts?
Best of all, when everyone asks you, “Where’d you get that chair?” you can answer: I made it.
Lots more, including detailed build instructions and photos, after the jump.
Obviously, you’re going to need some kind of seat for this project. We built our first chair out of an old seat we found on a lawn mower rusting at the flea market. We gave $1 for it, and with a little bead blasting it came out looking great. You can also find these lying around lawn mower repair shops.
If you really don’t want to go looking, you can pick them up off eBay for $20 or less shipped. Try searching terms like “tractor seat” or “lawn mower seat.” We wanted a second seat quickly, so we picked up the one in this build off eBay for $20 shipped. (I know — shame on us. I promise we’ll dumpster-dive for the next one.)
Next, you need a busted office chair of some sort. The one for this particular build had lived in our offices for way too long before one of the arms finally broke, rendering it unusable. Most of the broken chairs you’ll find have issues in the chair itself vs. the mechanism below, which is great for this purpose.
Even when the mechanism breaks, it’ll often crack, allowing the chair body (or some metal part under it) to contact the button on the top of the pneumatic cylinder (thus lowering the chair). Chairs with this problem are also fine for this project as you can easily weld up the crack or just fabricate around it so it’s not an issue.
We feel like your budget for the broken chair shouldn’t exceed $5, and you really should shoot for free. Check used office furniture warehouses for an easy find, or the flea market works ok. Asking neighbors works, too, or just watch on “big trash day” and look for one out by the curb.
Your build will vary based on your particular chair’s mounting system, but we used just a few scraps of steel lying around the shop to mount the seat. In our case we used 22″ of 14 gauge 1″ square tubing and a 7-1/2″ piece of 1/8″x6″ bar stock. Purchased from the steel supply shop, this stuff would have cost about $5. Honestly, the bar stock is overkill, but we had a big piece in the bin from the game chair build.
Finally, you’ll need a bolt and nut to hold the seat on. We used a 1/2″x2″ carriage bolt — whose square fitting matched perfectly with the square hole on the seat — and a 1/2″-15 nut.
We used our Millermatic 250 MIG welder to hook all the parts together, but you could easily complete this project with the little Hobart Handler 125 EZ we used for the game chair. Or, if you’re still welderless, you could bolt it together. You could even use wood if that’s all you have tools to handle.
One quick note: We saw a lot of comments on our game chair build along the lines of “that’s great, but I don’t know how to weld.” We can’t stress enough how simple it is weld with today’s wire welders. It’s nothing like the bad old days of stick welding. By just reading the manual and spending 30 minutes practicing on some scrap, you can easily complete projects like the game chair — and certainly handle projects like this. Why not give is a shot?
We also used our band saw to cut the tubing and bar, and we used a small sledge hammer to close up the ends of the tubing. We used the anvil to beat on, but you can easily do this on your driveway or workbench. We also used a small angle grinder with a flap disc to clean up our welds. You can get away without most of these tools, but they do make life easier.
All you’re looking to do is connect the seat to the chair in such a manner that it allows the chair’s pneumatic cylinder to work correctly. Most cylinders have a little red button on top that releases the mechanism and allows it to move up (on its own) or down (if you’re sitting in it). This button is actuated by a lever that sticks out the side.
If the chair’s mount extends significantly above the button/lever assembly, you can just add a crossbar and drill a hole for the seat. On the other hand, if yours is like ours was this time, the mount is pretty much flat and depends on a curve moulded into the chair for clearance. In these cases, you’ll need to elevate the seat a little bit.
We figured an inch would do fine, so we just created an H-shaped piece out of two 9″ pieces of 1″ square tube and a piece of 1/8″x6″ bar stock as shown here. You can accomplish this however you want, as long as you provide clearance for the button/lever.
Read on to page 2 where we begin the build.