Telephone Book Chair




About: Artist, Woodworker, Laser Marquetarian

Telephone Book Chair

The materials for this chair are readily available and completely recycled.  I used plywood from an old shipping crate for the sides, and the phone books were requested from my neighbors when the phone company came around to leave new ones on all of our doorsteps. 

10-12 phone books depending on size and thickness
¾” plywood - two sheets sized at least 17 x 33”
*(Recycled is always better!  Look for a shipping crate or construction cast-offs).
Threaded rod
Hollow rod with 3/8” inside diameter.

Band saw, jig saw, or hand router
Table saw or sharp razor blade
Drill press or hand drill
Sandpaper and finishing supplies
Clamps reaching at least 14”
Angle grinder with cut-off wheel

1.  Use the template to cut the chair sides out of ¾” plywood with a band saw, jig saw, or router. 
2. Drill the holes in the sides with a 3/8” drill bit as marked.
3. Sand and finish the wood as desired before adding the phone books.
4. Cutting phone books on the table saw can be dangerous!  I used a sled that will support the back of the book, and also clamped a support on the top of the book to reduce tearing and support the top edge.  Cut one book at a time in half.  If you don’t have a table saw, you can cut through the phone books with a sharp razor blade, although this may take you a while.  If your books are different thicknesses, make sure you use one half on the seat and one half on the back to get an even chair width.  Your chair should end up being no less than 14” wide.
5. After cutting the books, drill them one at a time using a drill press.  Clamp plywood guides/supports to both the top and bottom of the book halves to keep them straight while drilling.  On the top plywood drill guide, pre-drill the holes to match the chair sides and use it as a guide when drilling into the phone books.  Drill one book at a time with a 3/8” drill bit.  A hand drill will also work, but make sure you keep it aimed as straight as possible as you drill through the phone books.
6. Depending on how many books you have, and the thickness of them, cut the threaded rod to size and allow some extra length for the thickness of your plywood and for securing the acorn nuts at the ends. 
7. Using 3/8” threaded rod, maneuver each phone book in place one at a time, adding to both the seat and the back at the same time, so you can put the other side of the chair onto all four rods at once.  Use clamps to secure them against the chair sides.  You will want them to be as tight as possible, so keep clamping and tightening as you go.
8. The best rule is to clamp the books and sides together as tightly as possible before cutting off the end of the threaded rod with a cutting wheel on an angle grinder after you secure the other side of the chair onto your rods.  You may end up with more or less rod than you anticipated depending on how tightly you clamp your books, so start with more than you think you’ll need.  Use acorn nuts to secure the ends of the rods and use Loctite on the threads to assure the nuts won’t work themselves loose in the future.
9. I used hollow rods over the threaded rods between the chair sides as added supports.  The size of these will depend on the size of your books, and again, how tightly you clamp the books and sides together, so cut the hollow rods after you determine the final measurements between the legs.
10. Sit, enjoy, and delight in the irony while you look up phone directories on your smart phone.

This instructable is entered in the furniture challenge, I appreciate your vote!

I also have an instructable entered in the ShopBot challenge here, and more of my work is at




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    14 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Check your website and found your work very interesting.
    I'm higly impressed.
    However I think that asking the question “Does art hold less value if it is made by a machine?” has no point here (I don't say it doesn't have per se) as you are definitely the designer behind it all.
    Machinery here only helps to go fester : the same could be done by had (although it may take a thousand hours at least…) !!…
    You are THE designer, and an excellent one !…


    6 years ago on Introduction

    After seeing this I had a look at your website. Wow! What beautiful work. Thinking back to my industrial design studies prompts me to comment on the chair's usability - surely the brace along the front lower part of the side frames gets in the way of the user's feet and legs. Often people will move their legs under the seat while sitting (sitting is a dynamic activity) and positioning the feet below the users bottom is an important part of standing up comfortably and easily. How far back could you move that brace while still maintaining the required stiffness? Nit picking aside, well done and thanks for the inspiration.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Gadzooks! Now everyone can sit on phone books at the table, no matter their height.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Wow! First I was impressed with this, then I took a look at your Website and other work. Brilliant! I'm so glad to learn about you. I'm curious, do you have access to the same equipment you had while working on your MFA?

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Introduction

    That's what we can do with those phonebooks. Finally useful again.



    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is a very well executed phone book chair. Any chance you've got pictures of the building process and want to post a full Instructable? I think I'm becoming a quick fan of your design aesthetic and just want to see all the juicy details. Nice work christyoates.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks noahw, glad you like my work. I built this a few years ago and didn't take process photos, sorry. If you have any questions about the process, let me know, I'd be glad to give you more details.