Anatomy Of An Office Chair: The 5 Key Components

All office swivel chairs are made up from 5 key components:

  • Base
  • Pneumatic lift
  • Seat
  • Back
  • Arms

Most of these parts are critical to your working comfort. Over the next few weeks we're going to take a deeper look at them as we delve into what matters. We will cover the things you should be looking for as a minimum and what you should take care to avoid.

So let's get right into the first of them the chair base.

Different types of chair base
Swivel chair bases come in a number of different materials, including plastic, steel, aluminum, and wood (usually on a steel base). The one common thing with all these different types of base is they have 5 arms. Years ago 4 star bases were the norm, however these were superseded by 5 star versions as they are much more stable.

Let's take a look at each type and what matters.

Plastic bases

These are by far the most common form of office chair swivel base in use today. Modern plastic technology makes it easy to produce high quality injection molded bases.

5 star plastic base

Office chair plastic base

The main advantages of plastic bases are they are strong and lightweight. They are also cost effective to produce too.

It's important to choose a base with reinforcing struts as part of the construction as they make it far stronger and able to take the stresses applied to it.

So when choosing a plastic base make sure it includes reinforcing. The underside should have a honeycomb of plastic cross members which combine to keep it rigid.

Steel bases
Steel bases have started to become more common over recent years, particularly on cheaper chairs from China. These are very often chrome plated which makes them look high quality. Unfortunately they are often anything but. When you look at the underside of the base the steel is often heavily pitted and of low quality. Sometimes the ends of the arms where the wheels attach have been crudely crimped to form a curved shape. This weakens the steel at the very point where it needs to be strongest.

Definitely avoid these sorts of bases on cheap chairs. On better quality chairs steel bases are normally finished in paint, satin or polished chrome and are very robust. So no quality issues with these.

Aluminum bases
Aluminum makes a great material for a swivel base. It is both lightweight and strong.

aluminum base

Polished aluminum base

Due to its flexibility in manufacture it's often used to make great designs maybe incorporating curves or shaping to give it a unique look. The aluminum often has either a satin or polished finish.

Paint finishErgo Depot bases are also popular too. Generally speaking aluminum bases are only found on better quality chairs as it's too expensive to meet the price point of cheap chairs.

Wood bases
Wood bases are less common these days. They are mostly used where the user wants to match the chair finish to a natural wood desk. With these bases the wood is decorative. The base has a steel core and the wood is fitted on top of it. Unless you turn the chair upside down you wouldn't be aware it was made like this.

So much for bases let's move on to the gas lift.

Pneumatic gas lifts
The purpose of a chair's gas lift is to provide easy height adjustment for the user. Although they do come in different qualities generally speaking most gas lifts will handle the loads imposed on them. Just be sure to check the load capacity, most will support users up to 250lbs in weight.

Some suppliers offer more than one height of gas lift to cater for different height users. Here's a quick rule of thumb. When standing without shoes on, measure from the floor to your knee joint. Then make sure the gas lift will adjust a little above and below this measurement and you should be fine.

OK that's it for chair bases and gas lifts, the next post takes a look at the heart of any office chair, the seat.


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