- Ideas & How-Tos
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These classic-looking outdoor chairs combine function and simple design. They're affordable, easy to build, and comfortable, and they provide a burst of eye-popping color.
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To begin, cut the legs (A), stretchers (B), and angled braces (C) to length (Project Diagram & Cutting List) from 1"×6" cedar boards.
Cedar boards often come with one smooth and one rough face. Sand all surfaces of each board with 100-grit sandpaper as you assemble the chair -- sand the rough face just enough to remove any splinters. Sanding before assembly will save time and make sanding and assembling the parts much easier. Turn the rough surface toward the inside of the chair so the side of the boards you touch will be smooth.
Assemble two side frames using exterior glue and 2" screws (Project Diagram, Drawing 1). Drill pilot holes and countersinks at each screw location to prevent splitting the wood; drive the screws to assemble the chair frames.
For the angled braces, cut a 5-degree angle at one end of the angled braces (Project Diagram, Drawing 2). When installed, these boards will establish the angle of the seat. The angles can be cut using a miter saw or a circular saw or jigsaw and a straightedge.
Set the angled end of the brace against the front leg, mark the exact length of the board on the opposite leg and cut the brace to its final length. As you cut and assemble the side frames and angled braces, be sure you are creating a mirror set for both sides of the chair.
Lay a frame down on a work surface and install the brace. The part is offset from the outside face of the frame by the thickness of a board. Use some part scraps to create the offset (Photo 1). The bottom edge of the brace is located 8-1/2" up from the bottom stretcher at the back of the chair. Secure the brace with 2" screws; repeat for the remaining side frame assembly.
Cut the two seat rails (D), back rail (E), and back cleat (F) to length from 1"x6" boards (Project Diagram & Cutting List).
How thick is a board? A typical 1"x6" cedar board is usually thicker than the pine or pressure-treated pine boards you find at the store. The cedar can run up to 7/8" thick, while the others are typically very close to 3/4". This 1/8" difference can add up in a hurry and throw your dimensions off. If building the chair as we did with cedar for the frame and pine for the slats, you've got no worries. However, if you choose to build the frame out of pine -- or pressure-treated pine -- you'll need to make a few small changes. For the seat rails (D), back rail (E), and back cleat (F), cut the parts 1/2" longer than called for in the materials list. This is due to the variation in the thickness of the angle brace and the offset on both sides of the chair. Add the 1/4" dimension shown on each end of the rails to account for the changes ( Project Diagram, Drawing 2).
Lay out the scooped cutout on the top edge of one of the seat rails (Project Diagram, Drawing 3). The scoop creates the curve that the seat and back slats will rest upon, and this makes the chair more comfortable. Cut the waste from the board using a jigsaw (Photo 2).
Trace the scoop cut on the first and second seat rails (D) and the back cleat (F); cut the scoops and secure the first seat rail to the inside face of the front legs (A) (Project Diagram, Drawing 3 and Photo 3) using glue and screws. Add the back rail, attaching to the back legs. Drive the 1-1/4" screws from the inside of the chair when installing these parts to reduce the number of visible screws.
Position the remaining seat rail between the angled braces, locating it 14" back from the front seat rail. Secure through the angled braces using 2" screws.
Glue and screw the back cleat (F) along the back rail (E) (Project Diagram, Drawing 4 and Photo 4).
Cut the arms (G) to length and secure to the top of the stretchers (B) using glue and screws. The arms overhang the back legs by 5-1/2" (the width of a 1"×6"). Drive screws from underneath --drive through the stretchers into the arms to keep the screws out of sight on the finished chair.
Cut the back rest (H) to length and cut the scoop from one edge of the board (Project Diagram, Drawing 5). Glue and screw the back rest to the underside of the arms (G) behind the rear legs (Photo 5).
Cut the remaining parts to length -- use whitewood (pine) for the back slats (I) and seat slats (J); use cedar for the side slats (K) (Project Diagram & Cutting List).
We made the seat and back parts from whitewood and painted them. This saved money on materials and added a splash of color. You could also use cedar and a semitransparent or solid-color deck stain. If you use cedar, place the rough face down or to the back. The entire chair could also be built with pressure-treated pine.
Place the four back slats in position and secure to the chair using screws (Project Diagram, Drawing 6). The bottom of the back slats should align with the bottom face of the back cleat (F). Space the slats equally across the back rest, leaving about 5/16" between the parts.
Place the seat slats on the seat rails (D) and against the back slats (Project Diagram, Drawing 7 and Photo 6). Use a compass set to about 3/4" and scribe the angle across the width of the seat slat where they meet the back slats. Jigsaw the angles and set the seat slats into position.
Mark the final length at the front of the slats (Photo 7); the front end of the seat slat should be even with the front face of the legs.
Lay out the arch on the back slats (Project Diagram, Drawing 6) using a 3/16" dowel and a couple of clamps to form the arch (Photo 8). Trace the shape of the arched back along the dowel.
Place the two side slats (K) into position between the legs and secure with screws, leaving a 1/8" gap at each end.
Remove the seat slats and back slats from the chair, cut the arch for the back slats using a jigsaw, and sand the slats smooth with 100-grit sandpaper.
For the whitewood parts, we applied an exterior primer and two coats of semigloss exterior paint -- choose from the three colors we used or select one of your own. For the cedar, apply your choice of stain (we used a natural cedar finish applied with a foam roller). Let dry.
Reinstall the seat and back slats and apply a bit of paint to the screw heads to help them blend into the chair.
When selecting screws for outdoor projects, consider the material you're using. Today's fasteners are designed and coated to be compatible with a variety of materials. Stainless-steel fasteners offer the ultimate in corrosion resistance and are great for all materials. Because the stainless steel is soft, however, drilling countersunk pilot holes should be standard practice. Coated deck fasteners are designed for compatibility with the chemicals found in wood, last the life of your material, and come in a variety of colors. Choose a coating based on your material, such as cedar, treated pine, and composite decking. Many of these screws will drive without a pilot hole, but drilling a pilot hole when working near the edge of a board is always recommended to avoid splits.