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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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Check out these plans for a complementary set of outdoor tables that are just as easy to build.
Cut the legs (A), stretchers (B), and angled braces (C) to length (Project Diagram, Cutting List and Diagram) from 1 x 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. 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-inch screws (Project Diagram, Drawing 1). Drill pilot holes and countersinks at each screw location to keep the wood from splitting; drive the screws to assemble the frames.
For the angled braces, cut a 5-degree angle at one end of the angled braces (Project Diagram, Drawing 2). The angles can be cut using a miter saw, a circular saw, or a 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 the other side of the chair (Project Diagram, Drawing 1).
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 scraps to create the offset.) The bottom edge of the brace is located 8 1/2 inch up from the bottom stretcher at the back of the chair. Secure the brace with 2-inch 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 x 6 boards (Project Diagram, Cutting List and Diagram).
How thick is a board? A typical 1 x 6 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-inch thick, while the others are typically very close to 3/4 inch. This 1/8-inch difference can add up in a hurry and throw your dimensions off. If building the chair with cedar for the frame and pine for the slats, as we did, 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 1/4 inch 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 1/8-inch dimension shown on each end of the rails to account for the changes (Project Diagram, Drawing 2, Drawing 3, and Drawing 5).
Lay out the scooped cutout on the top edge of one of the seat rails (D) (Project Diagram, Drawing 3). Mark out the points and then connect the dots to create the scoop shape. 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.
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 1) using glue and screws. Drive the 1 1/4-inch screws from the inside of the chair when installing these parts to reduce the number of visible screws.
Add the back rail (E) (Project Diagram, Drawing 1) in the same manner you attached the first seat rail (D).
Position the remaining seat rail between the angled braces, locating it 14 inches back from the front seat rail (Project Diagram, Drawing 4). Secure through the angled braces using 2-inch screws.
Glue and screw the back cleat (F) along the back rail (E) (Project Diagram, Drawing 4).
Cut the arms (G) to length and secure to the top of the stretchers (B) using glue and screws (Project Diagram, Drawing 4). The arms overhang the back legs by 5 1/2 inches (the width of a 1 x 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 backrest (H) to length and cut the scoop from one edge of the board (Project Diagram, Drawing 5). Glue and screw the backrest to the underside of the arms (G) behind the rear legs (Project Diagram, Drawing 4).
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 backrest, leaving about 5/16 inch between the parts.
When driving the screws for the back slats, be sure to adjust the position of the screws so they go through the sides of the slat and into the rails -- each screw position will need to be adjusted slightly to make sure you get a firm bite into the back rail.
Place the seat slats on the seat rails (D) against the back slats (Project Diagram, Drawing 7). Use a compass set to about 3/4 inch 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; 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-inch dowel and a couple of clamps to form the arch. 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-inch gap at each end (Project Diagram, Drawing 7).
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, apply an exterior primer and two coats of semigloss exterior paint – use our color 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 paint 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, 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, or 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.