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My DIY home theater chairs.

post #1 of 85
Thread Starter 
This is just a reposted excerpt from my main theater build thread. With the demise of Berkline and the general DIY nature of this board I though it would be of benefit to some to give this project it's own thread. For the most part I'm just cutting and pasting my other posts so some of it may seem out of place.
post #2 of 85
Thread Starter 
Now for the fun stuff. All along I had planed to use Berkline 086 chairs in my theater. They were narrow and would fit nicely in my narrow layout. We went to a showroom that stocked the 086 model and we were satisfied with the comfort BUT:

1) They had a few of them that had been in the showroom for a while and they looked VERY worn out.
2) They seemed to be constructed very poorly.

So we decided that even though the Berklines were priced low you get what you pay for. Back to the drawing board for seats. What I really liked were some seat made by Fortress called "Crosstown"

BUT, Fortress seats are WAY, WAY, WAY out of my price range. So there is the problem. I though about it for a while.... How is a recliner constructed? It can't be that hard to make some wooden boxes (arms), attached to wood to a recliner mechanism, and upholster some foam to the chair. I have plenty of woodworking tools and I have done some upholstery before.
post #3 of 85
Thread Starter 
So I decided to make a prototype chair just to see if it could be done. The first challenge was finding the recliner mechanism. Not just any recliner mechanism but the one that Fortress uses in their chairs. Fortress has lots of good pictures on their website and from that I was able to figure out who made and which model of recliner mechanism is in their chairs. Next up was finding out were to buy it. The manufacturer of the mechanism literally has dozens and dozens of divisions all over the country and it seems that no one from one division knows what the other one does. It took me months to find the correct part numbers and locations to purchase the entire mechanism. Now for the prototype, I wanted to keep costs down since I did not know if it would even work so I built a single chair with a manual mechanism. It just happened that my father-in-law needed a new recliner so I built it for him to his specifications. I did not take many pics of it while I was building it but here is the finished result:

There were a few minor errors in the design but overall it worked well and was comfortable.
post #4 of 85
Thread Starter 
Now it is time to start making the chairs for my theater.

I started by acquiring all the seat racks for the project since those are the most important part and if I ran into trouble getting those the entire project is off. I also decided to use power racks in my seats.

First thing to make are the arms. I started with 3/4" thick A-C grade plywood and cut it down to a rough size for the arms.

Next I laid out the arm parts on each piece of plywood.

Next I started cutting out the arm parts.

Here are all the arm parts cut out. All the curved parts had to be cut on a band saw and then sanded to their final size.

Here are the two arm side parts test fitted together.

Next we cut out all the spacer blocks for the arm parts. There are LOTS of spacer blocks.....

These are the block that the recline controls will mount into.

Here are how the upper arms are put together.

And a stack of completed upper arm frames.
post #5 of 85
Thread Starter 

Here are the frames for the lower arms.

I had to put a string on the inside of the lower arm so I could pull the recline switch wiring through after everything was upholstered.

And here is the stack of lower arms.

Next I needed to cut the notches of the stringers that will space the arms when everything is finally assembled.

Some of the lower arms have both sides cut, and some of them only have one side cut depending on were they will be mounted in the end.

Next I had to cut the hole for the cupholder in the upper arm.

The cupholder fits just fine!

The seat rack is mounted to the arms with four 1/4" lag bolts. The rack has notches so you can pre install the bolts and just drop the rack in place. I'm using 3" long lag bolts and the spacers are there to let me pad the inside of the arm without causing too much interference between the arm and the seat bottom.

Next I needed to assemble a single chair to test for function and interference. Here are a pair of arms with the stringers mounted and feet attached.

And here are the upper arms attached to the test setup.

The seat rack fits like it should.

Here is a piece of 4" thick foam on a 3/4" board over the seat rack. This will be roughly the finished height of the seat.

Here is the footrest extended.

The next step is to get the back shaped correctly. Once that is done I can make all the parts for the footrests and the seat bottom.
post #6 of 85
Thread Starter 
I had a productive long weekend.

We started out by laying out the parts for the back sides.

The back sides are the most complex parts of the back so we cut them out first.

Here are all the parts for the foot rests, lower backs of the chairs, and the seat bottoms.

Next I drilled all the holes for the nuts.

These are the nuts that will hold all the parts to the recliner mechanism.

Here are all the parts with the nuts pressed in.

Next we built the seat back frames.

The frame has to be reinforced with screws because of the tension of the stretch strapping.

I needed to as some spacers to the inside of the back frames so the back would be the same width as the seat bottom.

Here is my test chair with some of the strapping (I ran out before I could finish the bottom) and then the foam for the seat bottom.

The location for the recline button.

Here are the backers for the arm top and front inserts.
post #7 of 85
Thread Starter 
The first pieces of leather and suede arrived last night and I was able to get a little done.

This is a hide of the leather that I am using for the seat and the upper parts of the arms. This is a "small" hide too (55 sq ft or so).

This amazingly crappy pic is of one of the suede hides. They are only about 12 sq/ft so I will need several of them for the lower parts of the arms and the lower section of the back.

These are the pieces that will for the upholstery for a lower side. They are cut approximately 1/2" oversized all the way around so I have something to sew and staple on.

I started with the inside of one of the outside arms. It's hard to see but I applied spray glue to the surface to hold the foam in place.

The foam I am using is more dense than regular batting so it does not mat down over time. The foam is 1/2" thick.

I applied the foam to every surface that was going to be covered with upholstery. I also made sure to cut out the holes for the recline button and for the wiring.

The sewn together suede is slipped over the foam covered lower arm and pulled into place before I started to staple it.

I then stapled the upholstery to the lower arm. I started at the ends of the curve, then stapled the top edge and finally the front edge. After that I flipped it over, pulled the sides tight, and then stapled the bottom edge. Once the upholstery was secure I cut and stapled the holes for the recline button and wiring exit and then stapled down the suede around were the recline mechanism mounts to the arm.

Using the string that I attached inside the frame while I was building the frames I pulled the wiring for the recline button through the frame and out the wiring exit. The button is secured with four screws and then a trim ring snaps over the screws.

A better shot of the button.

Here is the part I upholstered in relation to the rest of the arm.
post #8 of 85
Thread Starter 
I did a little more work this weekend on the chairs.

First off I needed to round over the edges of the arms so there would not be any sharp corners to wear the upholstery out quickly.

I did the same on the foot rests and seat bottom parts.

I made a template and laid out the pieces for the upper arm on the back of the leather.

These are the parts for the sides of the upper arm.

I had to sew the rear panel to the sides.

Here is the upper arm with the foam attached. On the next arm I did I did not staple the foam. You could feel the dips were the staples are at though the foam.

And here is the arm with the leather attached.

Here is the underside of the arm that will be exposed. I padded the area and now it's ready for leather.

To attach the panel that goes on the underside I will be using tack strips. The cardboard one is stapled in place and the metal one is hammered into the wood frame.

To start off I tacked down the leather piece so it would not shift.

Then I stapled down the cardboard tack strip. The purpose of the cardboard strip is so when you fold the upholstery back over you get a nice crisp edge.

Next I pushed the metal tack strip through the backside of the upholstery. You should position the strip about half the width of the strip past the width of the area that you are covering.

Then you roll the strip and the upholstery over so the points are facing the frame and carefully hammer the points into the frame. I used a soft mallet with a piece of foam between it and the leather.

Once all the metal strips are in you end up with this.

Here is the upper arm mounted to the lower arm.

This is one of the arm inserts with the foam attached.

The material that the arm inserts is too thin to staple so I had to glue the leather to the insert.

Here is the finished insert.

Here is the arm with the inserts in place.

And another shot of the arm.
post #9 of 85
Thread Starter 
The foam and stretch banding arrived yesterday. Now I can get a few things done!

The first thing I did was finish the suspension for the seat bottom. Just enough give so you don't feel like you are sitting on a board but not enough that you feel like you are in a bean bag.

I started with a footrest. First thing is the foam core.

Then the foam padding.

Then the leather upholstery.

The corners are simply tucked and folded.

The little middle footrest was done exactly the same was as the main foot rest.

I covered the seat bottom and then put it everything that was upholstered together. The seat bottom was covered exactly like the footrests except that the corners were sewn rather than folded.

And with the footrest open.

A closeup of the button area.
post #10 of 85
Thread Starter 
We were able to spend some quality time with the chairs this weekend.

I ordered all the suede needed for the lower arms and the lower back.

And here we turned it into a pile of cut parts.

Then they are all sewn together.

The rear backs are covered in suede too.

There are brackets mounted to the rear panels to mount them to the arms.

And finally all the lower arms and backs are covered.

Next we made the stringers that set the spacing for the arms and hold the individual chairs together.

Here are the front stringers mounted.

And the rear stringers mounted.

Next we mounted the rear panels. We also mounted the transformer for the power seat to the back panel.

The seats now need some feet so they are not just sitting directly on the floor.

Next we painted the feet black.

And then mounted them to the bottom of the seat rows.

To make the rows a little easier to move around we mounted sliders to all of the feet.

You can push the rows around but they are heavy enough that they are not going to move on their own.

Clean wire routing is not just for your A/V equipment!

How it looks hooked up.

Here is how it looks right now.

We also stretched the webbing over all the seat back and the seat bottoms.

The questions was asked about how much the webbing is stretched. This is the seat bottom webbing before and after. The seat back is much stretchier so it gets pulled much further.
post #11 of 85
Thread Starter 
More progress with the chairs.

Here is the cover and foam for a seat back. This was actually the 2nd attempt, the first on looked so bad that I will not mention it again.....

And here is the back with the pads mounted to the frame.

Here is the back mounted to the rear left hand chair.

After today's work we got a back, another seat bottom, two more lower footrests and all of the middle footrests. I also have the leather cut for another set of seat back pads, two more arms, and two of the armrest pads. I might be able to finish the remainder of the parts with two more leather hides.
post #12 of 85
Thread Starter 
A little Monday update:

I have more leather arriving tomorrow so hopefully I can finish out most of the remaining parts.
post #13 of 85
Thread Starter 
More fun with peeled cows!

After we finished the first few seat backs we decided that the back needed just a little more support. I added 3 vertical rows of webbing and just lightly tensioned them. This was just enough to keep the lumbar area from sinking in quiet so much.

The chairs appear complete but I still need to cover the back of the seat backs.

Here is a composite pic of the seating area. I used a long exposure to capture the stars so the soffit lighting ended up looking much brighter than it actually is.

I would say at this point the theater room itself is 95% done. I am going to push to get that part complete soon and then focus my attention on the wet bar/equipment area next.
post #14 of 85
Thread Starter 
And that's about it. From start to finish it took us about 3 months to build them. A good portion of that time was waiting for leather or other parts that I ordered to arrive though.
post #15 of 85
Originally Posted by jelloslug View Post

And that's about it. From start to finish it took us about 3 months to build them. A good portion of that time was waiting for leather or other parts that I ordered to arrive though.

So what did they cost per chair for materials?
post #16 of 85
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by airscapes View Post

So what did they cost per chair for materials?

They averaged about $475 each for the materials.
post #17 of 85
That is awesome. Very well done.
post #18 of 85
craaazy man nice job
post #19 of 85
I hereby anoint you the DIY jedi of AVS. Very impressive!
post #20 of 85
Had noticed your original theater build thread, but wanted to post here that I'm incredibly impressed. Awesome job!
post #21 of 85
Buddy you are crazy. In a good way. But still crazy.
post #22 of 85
AND just think i can't cut a 2x4 straight.
post #23 of 85
wow, just overwhelmingly awesome!
post #24 of 85
Nice work indeed! Can I ask what your average construction time per chair would be from start to finish (without waiting on materials)?

Now this is a good sized project for sure. And this is for someone that obviously has tools and some skills as well. Can't do much without the proper tools.
post #25 of 85
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by power View Post

Nice work indeed! Can I ask what your average construction time per chair would be from start to finish (without waiting on materials)?

Now this is a good sized project for sure. And this is for someone that obviously has tools and some skills as well. Can't do much without the proper tools.

I would say that I could knock out another one in 2 weekends. If I were to do another one like the prototype it would take even less time. The tools are the key. When I started sewing the leather I knew that the sewing machine that I had was only boarder line able to sew leather. I quickly found out that the leather was just too much for it to handle. I purchased a cheap industrial grade machine and that was a night a day difference.
post #26 of 85
Amazing job jelloslug! How wide are the 2-seat and 3-seat rows? I hadn't even considered diy seating until seeing your project, but I might give it a try now.
post #27 of 85
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Duane T View Post

Amazing job jelloslug! How wide are the 2-seat and 3-seat rows? I hadn't even considered diy seating until seeing your project, but I might give it a try now.

The front row is about 60" wide and the back row is about 92" wide. They are roughly the same width as Berkline 088 style chairs. Of course you can make them just about any width you want. The width of the mechanism is determined by the brackets you purchase with the mechanism and I think they offer 10 different widths.
post #28 of 85
Those look fantastic I'm an avid DIY'r myself and was just wondering how hard this would be to do.
post #29 of 85
Amazing work! Thanks for taking the time to share with us.
post #30 of 85
You make me sick!
I've never seen anything like this on the forum in 10 years.

This is beyond nice!
So, when is your collection available in stores?
Please let us know what people say when they ask where you bought your seats from.
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