I moved into a new unfurnished flat a couple of months back and thought that this was the opportunity to build furniture which would cater to my specific needs.
I came across a book by Will Holman called Guerrilla Furniture Design (How to build lean, modern furniture with salvaged materials) two years ago. It stated four values which made a lot of sense to me and they are:
ECONOMY: Each project is an exercise in material, visual, and fiscal efficiency, built from the by-products of the modern consumer industrial complex. A guerilla designer should maximize resources, minimize waste, and leverage available assets.
HONESTY: Materials bear a patina of time and marks made by the passage of human hands, thus communicating their history and potential. A guerilla designer should obtain material honestly and treat it respectfully, avoiding elaborate ornamentation or obscuring finishes.
UTILITY: Furniture is a functional art meant to solve a number of mundane, practical problems. A guerilla designer should strive for ergonomic, stable, structurally sound solutions.
BEAUTY: Beauty is, of course, subjective and elusive. However, if a design is spare, honest, and useful, it often ends up being beautiful by nature. The guerilla designer should develop coherence of form, color, craftsmanship, and conceptual idea.
I decided to make a table, bookcase, bed, chair, stool. I started looking at various types of furniture which people had done. I was also inspired by Ben Uyeda‘s philosophy of using materials which are readily available and not to get too much into joineries. I also wanted the furniture to be flat pack to an extent so that in case I need to shift my house I can take the parts apart and move them easily.
I made a couple of sketches then moved over to CAD to get a rough idea about the proportions and aesthetics of what I was planning of making. I thought I could make it out of Plywood or Pine and I started inquiring about the price and specifications from various timber seller in Ahmedabad.
And it was one of the days that I had gone to buy some metal with my friend Somil that we spotted a shop near Mehndi Kuwa which seem to have huge planks of Pine. We made a stop and got into the shop and it was a Pine wood paradise. Ramesh Bhai, the owner of the shop gets huge planks of pine which are used by shipping industry for. Most of the wood he has is New Zealand Pine which is already seasoned and pressure treated and hence wont warp over a period of time. He sells it by kilogram which when compared to buying seasoned pine is super cheap. I got back home and started making a list of stock which I needed to make the furniture.
After two days I was back in Ramash Bhai’s shop and ended up buying around 150 Kilogram of wood which was then moved to my house using a handcart.
I started working on a lot of pieces simultaneously. I was making them whenever I was getting time. It has taken around 2 months to finish the loft bed, media console/bookcase, easy chair, Table. I’m planning of making a few stools and a low workbench as well.
The first thing I started with was a loft bed. Since I was a kid I wanted to have a loft bed and this need to have one in the present house got amplified by the fact that the builders who are making flats now a days don’t understand the concept of having a store room, they think that we Indians have started practicing the art of minimal living and just live with a suitcase of clothes.
So, I made a couple of iterations of the bed in CAD and decide to make one which would be around 45 inch high and would help me store most of my things under it. The initial plan was to have a table next to the bed which I could use as a step to get on to the bed but I dropped that plan and decided to use the crates I had as steps.
I started building the bed out of 2″x6″ 8 feet long pine planks. I made a quick frame using a finger joint which I made using my circular saw and compound miter. I used screws to fix the frame. Then I split a 2×6 into 3 pieces which I used to make a centre and side supports for the slats.
I got 1/2″x3″ teak beading to make slats. I cut these to the required width and fixed it to the side and centre supports using screws.
In the meanwhile I made the legs of the bed using 2×4. I screwed two 2×4 to each other to make an L cross section which makes it really strong and rigid.
I bolted the legs to the frame using 3 M10 nut bolt and some screws. And also added cross members for stability and rigidity of the structure.
I need to attach a curtain around the frame.
I make audio systems (Sonic Architect) and have a couple prototypes with me and I use some of them from time to time and also a Audio Technica vinyl player. I also have around 100plus books with me which because of moving were in a box for a couple of months. So, I thought I’ll make a media console/bookcase for the speakers and books.
I had to glue four huge 8’6″ long pine planks to get a wide board. I used dowels and glue to join two boards to each other.
As I don’t have a thickness planer I had to use an angle grinder with a flap disk to sand these super massive and heavy boards. As sanding with an angle grinder can create a lot of fine dust, my building guys suggested me to move to the basement of the building where I would not disturb anyone and also not make the entire staircase covered in saw dust.
Once the sanding was done. I cut 2 pieces each from the two boards which were to be used as two sides and two vertical partition.
I had to free route rabbet and dado to fixes the vertical parts. I used dowels to align the panels and then used 2″ long screws to fix the book case and then used some of the cutoffs to make the legs.
As these were rough cut boards the front of the case was not entirely flat. So, I glued teak beading on the front and then flushed it to the panels using a flush trim bit on my router.
I oiled the front of the book case to make it look more rich. It houses a lot of books, my current setup of Audio Technica LP60 vinyl player, Bookshelf speakers, some old prototypes, a couple of toys and lights.
I wanted to have a chair which I can just use to relax, listen to music or read. I wanted to have a hybrid of a lounge chair and a deck chair. After making a couple of CAD variations I decided the form and made a cut list.
I used 2×4 pine planks for making the space frame. I used screws to assemble the entire frame. And then sanded it using the angle grinder.
I wanted to stain the frame cause all the furniture was turning into this yellowish white pine. I used black oil based Taralac stain and the frame came out super nice. Then I finished the frame using Lineseed oil.
I used 1/2″x3″ teak beading for making the seat and back rest of the chair. I countersunk all the screw holes so that the screws don’t damage the clothes or poke. I screwed in all the slats and then stained the first two slats of the seat and backrest black. And then I oiled the entire chair.
I had started working on the table when I started the bed. It took the most amount of time cause I was finishing the chair and console in between.
To make the table top I glued together 4 pieces of pine using glue and T-Bar clamps. Once the glue had dried I sanded it using the angle grinder. The table top had a lot of holed and cavities which I filled with the sawdust and CA glue. I chamfered the bottom edges of the table using my router and chamfer bit. I sanded the top again one last time.
I applied a coat of Lineseed oil and then furniture wax on the table top and let it dry.
I thought of a lot of ways to make the table legs. I thought that I’ll just make a very boxy frame and fix the top, I though I can get tapered legs turned and can make a mid century style frame. Maybe cause I couldn’t decide what sort of frame I wanted, the table took the most amount of time.
So, I finally decided that I’ll use rectangular sections as legs and will fix them at an angle from the table top and not as a boxy setup. I split two 2×6 cross section pine and made an apron and leg assembly.
To give it a light appearance I fixed the apron at an offset from the table top bottom side. This also helps in managing the chords on the table. I’ve also attached an spike stripe on one of the leg.
The next thing I need to make is a stool which I can use to work on the table. Right now I’m using a bamboo stool. I still haven’t decide how the stool is going to look. Once that’s done, maybe I’ll finish it in a couple of days.
I also want to make a low workbench, which I can used for leather working, woodworking and eating food.
There were a couple of things I learnt in this process of making Guerilla Furniture
- Things take time and it’s okay to be slow. As I was making the furniture for my own use I wanted it to be done in a very specific way and that took a lot of time to figure out. And as I was also working with material which was huge and bulky, I couldn’t sustain working very regularly. There were days when I was sanding and in the evening I could not feel my hands and arms. I understood that I’m not in a hurry to finish anything and I’m the client so let it happen at whatever pace I can manage.
- I didn’t try to control things or materials too much and perfection was not one of the biggest criteria. Though the end result looks and functions absolutely well, I didn’t want things to be as precise as it was in the CAD file. I did most of the work on the fly as I didn’t have the tools to make micro adjustments. And in the process figured out that things are going to deviate from the original path and it’s okay if they do. We have to do our best to reach where we want to while embracing the uncertainties that come our way. This not trying to control things did not affect the attention which was given to every detail.
- Our cities have huge potential to support whatever we want to do. The only thing we need to do is to go out and seek what we want. Because I stepped out and found a place which offered me the same material and that too salvaged, I reduced my expenditure by almost 40%. I met wonderful people like Ramesh Bhai who are helping people reuse and upcycle materials. I bought a couple of tools from local tool and hardware store and in the process came to know what all was available in the city. Ganesh Tools in Biscuit Gali was the store from where I got T-bar clamps, chisels etc. You need to step out of your circle and see what the world has to offer.
- I generally don’t post stories on Instagram. But this time I thought I’ll share the process of making the furniture on the go. And in doing so, I ended up getting a lot of suggestions and messages from people who were following my profile. Also a lot of people asked me where I got the wood from. So, for once the social media was helpful in giving and receiving information.
- Making this furniture also helped me connect more with friends. While I was making this, my friends who are in Ahmedabad were following the progress and asking me what stage I have reached. And once the media console was done we started screening movie at our house and the setup is pretty nice. So, we make food once or twice every week and have a group of friends come over and watch movies, play games.
- I have been making furniture for some time now but this is the first time I did so many objects together and also the scale of things. These sort of activities make you humble in a way as you are making things which are bigger than the normal product design object scale. Also it makes you appreciate people who are doing the same sort of activities. You come to know the handwork and effort is real when it comes to bespoke objects.
- You need to have really sorted and fundamental information sources. I have been watching Jimmy Diresta, Ben Uyeda, Ishitani Furniture, Mike Montgomery, Chris Salomone and a lot of other makers. These guys have been a source of inspiration, information for me and over the past couple of years have built an understanding of how things are done. A lot of time it seems to an outsider that making things are easy for me, but that’s not the case. It seems easy because I have spent countless number of hours watching and learning from these guys and training my brain about how to use a specific material, which technique to use, what tools to use etc. So, behind every functional, aesthetically pleasing, highly detailed object are countless number of hours spent in research. I’m deeply indebted to these guys for helping me in making things seem simple.
You can check some of the furniture on my Instagram handle or see them personally if you are around Ahmedabad.