Saturday, December 25, 2010

The fishbone chair

This is probably my biggest project to date. The fishbone chair is totally inspired  from the creation of the designer Nicolas Marzouanlian. The chair is so creative and simple that I decided to give it a try.
 The original chair.
The Tools Needed:

To make it you really need 1 tool : One good jigsaw ( I love the Bosch one) and optionally, to get smooth edges I would recommend to use a router with a rounding over bit, if you don't have the router you can use a sander, it will take longer but you will get the same nice finish.

The Material:

3/4 inch plywood (4 x 8 feet)
You'll need more than one sheet (1.5 to be precise).

The Cost:

One sheet of plywood range from $30 to $80 depending on the qualityand the origin of the wood.
Mine was $35 each.
For $70, I got one funny chair and extra plywood for more projects!

The Result:

How to make it:

To start, I had no plan, just the picture of the original chair above.
So let's look at the chair again:

There are three different shapes : the croissant shape, the "spine", the legs.

The croissant shape:

I started drawing on the plywood a croissant shape that look like this:
The croissant shape
And I used only 3 different croissant size.

Croissant 1, 18 are 19 inches wide.
Croissant 2, 17 are 21 inches wide.
Croissant 3 to 16 are 23 inches wide.

One thing to keep in mind: the space between the 2 notches must be the same in all the pieces (13 inches).

The "spine":

The legs:

The legs are made of 2 circles,  2 3/4 inches wide and 18 inches diameter (the front) and 21 inches (the back).


It's a project that needs patience and a little bit of skills, but if you have the patience of going through all the cuts with enough precision you'll end up with a fun and sturdy seat that is more confortable than it looks.

Update: The Fishbone chair is generating a lot of traffic on line, so, If you decide to try and need extra tips (like how to keep the notches at the exact same distance all the way through...) , don't hesitate to leave a comment, I'll be happy to help.


  1. I'm making a scale model of this chair for a 3D Design class. Do you have any suggestions as to how to make sure all of the edges and cuts are clean and crisp?

  2. Hannah,

    I'm assuming your model is made of wood.
    To get clean edges using a jigsaw, I'm using blades (Bosch) that are said to be "clean cut" they are very good to cut plywood at moderate speed. "Extra clean cut" exist too, but it's not necessary.
    In my case, since I use the router to smooth and round the edges, this was not such an issue, but cutting this way should do it for you.
    Also for the notches, I didn't cut them with a jigsaw but with my router. I premade a template (or jig) out of thinner plywood with the exact space between the two notches, and I followed this template as a guide to cut all the time the notches at the perfect distance for each croissant shape piece. Even if you don't use the router to cut the notches, I recommend that you make this template (or you first croissant shape with notches) and then use it to draw the notches on all the other pieces, this way you are certain to get consistancy in your pieces.
    Are you planning on making your 3D model out of card box first. It's actually what I did before starting my real scale chair to understand the problem I would get into later. Keep in mind that the drawing I put on the blog are not exact scale and proportion, they are here to help understanding how it should look like.

    I'll be really happy to get a picture of your final chair, I could even add it to this post with your permission, that would be awesome! keep me updated!!

  3. Oh holy cow! This is AH-MAZ-ZING! I would LOVE to have you come and do a special guest post about this project at Remodelaholic if you are interested. Please, let me know and I will get you the details.

    (did I mention how awesome this is!?)

  4. This looks frickin amazing. So it's actually comfortable, or do you throw some pillows on it to help? And just how sturdy is it?

  5. Dear Cassity,
    I sent you an email. Thanks a lot for this nice comment! That's the kind of comment that motivates us to post more and more, and you certainly know that.

    Miserychick2602, the chair is more confortable than it looks, it's obviously less confortable than a sofa but I had some friends who sat for hours on it without pillows and were happy with it. I thought about making a nice ergonomic pillow but it would hide the structure unless I find a way to make a transparent pillow :-) the chair is really sturdy, nothing moves even when heavy people are sitting on it. Thanks for your interesting comments and questions!

  6. I'm sincerely took a beautiful chair and reinterpreted it in your own way. Bravo!

    Got three questions about your choices, beginning with your choice of materials.

    1) The original was obviously made of high density fiberboard which would eliminate dealing with all those rough plywood edges. HDF is often difficult to find, but MDF is dirt common.

    2) The original has significantly different proportions. Is the higher back or greater angle between the back-seat a personal preference?

    3) The original has a seat which is sculpted much more deeply than yours, which lends more visual weight to the piece. Same question...personal preference?

    Is there a reason your chair deviates so much from the original?

    Well, regardless of what or why, you obviously did a LOT of work, and did it beautifully. The result is simply spectacular. I'm genuinely impressed.

    You've inspired me to build one myself...but I need a desk chair for use on carpet, which means a lower back, and different legs. Any suggestions?

  7. Hi Chuck,

    Thanks for all these compliments, it is also from far the most deeply thought comments I had.
    1) I assume your first question is why I did not use MDF?
    It's basically because I like the Cherner chair made of bent plywood, and I love the look of the plywood on the edges. That was my first reason, just aesthetic. MDF would be probably easier to work with, cutting plywood cleanly is alway a problem that MDF should not bring.

    2) The differences from the original are mainly due to the fact taht I didn't have any single measurement, just one single photo with 2 different views. Also, I was so inspired by the concept itself that I didn't try to copy the original. The original model has for example 19 croissant shapes, the one I made has only 18, I think the space between my croissant shapes are bigger than the original. Same for the angle chosen, I tried to measure a position I liked on a chair I like to seat, I have no idea of the exact angle chosen but as you said, it is not the same one.

    3) It is true that the original seat is deeper, and it is something I tried to reach but was confronted to different problems, but mainly, I wanted the chair to be built with a minimum of different croissant shapes (3 in my case) building the seat the same way as the original would have been a bit more tricky but doable. The original is made (I think) of 19 different shapes. I think that if the back seat look so much higher, it because I did not raised the seat like the original. Note that if the seat hase to be deeper, it actually has to go higher from the spine. The other other would not look nice because you want the spine to be "flush" with the croissant shape.

    So to summarize, the reason why my chair deviates from the original are due to few factors, the main one is I wanted my own version of this chair, also maybe because I didn't have the exact measurement to do a perfect replica, and maybe because of my lack of experience in the field.

    A desk chair will have to be a complete different project, the legs will have to beway longer, unless you increase dramatically the "thickness" on the seating. To keep the chair aesthetically pleasing you'll have to use round-shaped legs, maybe 2 oval-shaped legs with one flat side in contact with the floor...but if you want to add wheels, I dont really know. A desk chair has to be really confortable so I would put each croissant much closer to each other (like 1.5 inches).

    I'm so happy that I could inspire you! I wish you good luck with your project, don;t hesitate to send me pictures if you want me to publish it in this blog, I'll be more than happy to show your creation. I'll be happy to help if you have more questions.

  8. Yeah, my desk chair will definitely be a very different project, but heavily inspired by your efforts. I genuinely appreciate your posting this, as it convinced me to actually commit to this project, and get it started.

    Perhaps I'll send you a photo, when I finish!

  9. When are you starting? Did you draw it already?

  10. Nope, it's still evolving in my mind.

    As I don't often use that desk, I'll probably keep the back fairly low, and very sculptural. Too many chairs have that "ergonomic look" that, while comfortable, is so very uniform in appearance. My intention is to have something unique...AND comfortable.

    Feel free to send me an email, and we can talk at length about it, without cluttering up the public comments. I'd send one to you, but can't find the link on this system!

  11. Replies
    1. Hello again Stephen,would you be so kind and send me any measurements etc that would assist me in trying to build your wonderful chair I'm retired through illness and would very much enjoy a wee project
      Regards George (

    2. Hello again Stephen,would you be so kind and send me any measurements etc that would assist me in trying to build your wonderful chair I'm retired through illness and would very much enjoy a wee project
      Regards George (

    3. Hello again Stephen,would you be so kind and send me any measurements etc that would assist me in trying to build your wonderful chair I'm retired through illness and would very much enjoy a wee project
      Regards George (

  12. If you look really hard at the original chair and plan out each croissant, it really helps.

    The bottom halves are always the same, which gives it the bowl effect. The top is stretched up and out a little bit each time. Croissants 4 & 5 are where it peaks and 6, 7, and 8 are angled forwards a little. The pieces of the back get skinnier, peak at 13-16 (in how far they wrap around you) the last 3 taper and #19 is a few inches shorter.

    Imagine the back being flattened out.

  13. Everything is explained very well but for some reason Im not computing the complete design and shape of the "spine". For me the curvature is throwing me off. I can't get it down to draw it out. Its probably just me. Do you have any more drawings for the "Kindergarten" woodworker ? LOL

  14. plase give me all the sizes for the croissant
    all that you have
    thank you very much
    u can send me at:

  15. plase give me all the sizes for the croissant
    all that you have
    thank you very much
    u can send me at:

  16. Hi. What are the extra pieces attached at croissants 5, 6 and 7?

  17. Would you mind giving me the precise sizes of the three parts?
    Also how do I keep the notches at the same distance?
    I am trying to make it with 2D deisgn so I would like some help.
    Thank you.
    You could send it to my email

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Hi Steph fandabidozi chair any help you can give me to try and build one would be very helpful

  20. Steph,

    is there a reason why the croissant shape is higher on one side (left) than the other? Also, there appear to be extra pieces attached to croissants 5, 6 and 7 in your images. Are there and, if so, what are they?


  21. CAN I Know what kind of joinery u people used?

  22. Anyone know where I can locate the drawings or DFX files for the chairs designed by Gregg Fleishman??? Any help woud be most appreciated. We would be happy to pay Gregg royalties.

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