5 December, 2020

How to Build an Outdoor Folding Chair // Basic Tools Project

Today we’re making outdoor folding chairsso we can fully enjoy the sun without leaving home.

This project can be done by anyone with justa handful of tools, so let’s get started! I built this project using rough pine beamsI had in storage to avoid going out purchasing new wood but you can totally skip all theseinicial steps and purchase ready to use wood from your lumber store.

If you can, I would recommend you using awood that is more suitable for outdoors like cedar, for example.

This nordic pine that I used was not idealbut still works.

What might happen is that the chair won’tlast as many years in good shape as a cedar chair would.

So I started by cutting the beams right atthe center because large boards that are cut closer to the center of the tree will alwayshave a tendency to cup.

By cutting them, some pressure will be releasedand the wood becomes more stable.

Then, I cut them in half lengthwise becauseit will be easier to joint and flatten smaller stock.

Also, our chair parts won’t be longer than60 cm.

I went ahead making these cuts super fastand easily on the bandsaw.

The cut is being made slightly rounded asthe piece doesn’t fit properly, but it doesn’t really matter because there is more than enoughwood.

I’m now going to use my new bench top jointerto flatten and square up two faces.

It is a pretty small machine but does a reallynice work.

Once I got two adjacent faces nice and square, I can feed them to the thickness planer so it can chew up a bunch of shavings, makingthe remaining two sides perfectly flat and parallel to the first two.

These are ready to be sliced in 3 at the bandsaw.

Since I ended up with pieces in the centerwith two rough sawn faces, I had to joint one face before throwing it at the thicknessplaner.

I planned them all into 2 thicknesses: 27mmfor the leg and arm structure and 22mm for the seat and back panels.

I was making two chairs so this is why yousee this many boards.

Now that our wood is in good shape ready tobe used, we can finally start the build.

To help you out, I made a template that youcan download for free and print at home.

I’ll have the link the description.

I never built a chair before, so I reallyfelt I needed to do some research first.

This design was inspired by a chair that Ifound during my online research and made it grow a pair of arm rests for a more comfortablelounging experience.

Once the template was put together and cut, I could start laying out the pieces over the wood.

Make sure to avoid as many knots and cracksas possible because those are weak points in the wood and you don’t want your chairto break when you sit on it.

It’s also a good idea to keep all partsidentified until they are assembled.

Here are all the pieces needed for 2 chairs.

You can cut them in several ways, dependingon the tools you have available.

If you don’t have access to stationary powertools, do not fear as you can still make it happen with a simple jigsaw or circular saw.

But keep in mind that some cuts should bedone before others.

For example, if you decide to cut along thisline first, this whole part will fall off and then will be harder to hold a smallerpiece to finish the cuts.

You will need a few clamps to keep your woodfrom moving around and take your time following the outer side of the line.

Even a handsaw will work if you have somepractice with it.

If you have bigger tools like a table sawor a bandsaw, things will go a lot quicker.

As I was doing two chairs, I needed to workfaster and ended up using the bandsaw to cut the remaining pieces.

Regardless of the saw you are using, the bladeshould always be touching the outer side of the line.

With all the trapezoidal pieces cut, it’stime to refine the shapes and make them as straight as we can, keeping the template sizeand angles.

If you have a sander, this might be a loteasier but a board with coarse sandpaper spray glued to it can work well.

Also you get to shake that body and move thosesleepy muscles.

Alright so now I’m going to work on theseats and backs and I need to glue the boards in pairs to make them wider.

So after deciding which one goes with which, I will close them like a book and place the edges to be glued facing up on the workbenchvise.

I have a video covering the entire processof making this workbench and installing this awesome Rockler vise that you can check outup there.

So the trick here is to plane the two edgestogether as one.

This way, they will always match perfectly, no matter if you plane them at 90 degrees, 89 or 76.

They will always match.

Once they are flat, I make a couple passesat the front and back, making slight ramps.

This will create small gaps at the front andback, leaving a higher point in the middle and the purpose is to simplify the clampingprocedure.

If you have a small amount of clamps, thiswill be perfect because now you only need clamps at the ends as the central portionof the board will be already forced together.

Make sure you use wood glue that is meantfor exterior use.

You can apply a little more glue than I didhere, although it worked perfectly, but you know you have enough glue when a small amountsqueezes out along the joint.

I can now trim them to final size and sandthem smooth.

To make sure all seats and all backs werethe same length in pairs, I clamped a scrap piece to the table saw fence to work as astop block.

The seats must be shorter by double the thicknessof your leg and arm structure.

In this case, the leg and arm structure is27mm thick, which means that the seating panels will be 54mm shorter than the backing ones.

To join the parts together we will be usingdowels and Rockler has very good dowling jig kits.

They are super easy to use and reliable everytime, so the alignment of your work pieces always comes up right.

I will leave some links in the descriptionfor products I used in this video in case you’re interested.

But if you live in a country where you can’tfind this jig, let’s see how you can make one.

You just need some scraps of wood and if youuse a hard wood, it will work best.

Then you attach two scrap pieces togetherthat you know having a perfect 90 degree angle on one side.

Get a wood drill bit that has the same diameterof your dowels and drill a hole into the hardwood scrap doing your best to keep the bit flushagainst that reference corner.

Check if you got it perfectly square and makea few more tries if necessary.

If you have a drill press, things are a loteasier.

You will need to attach another piece of wood, that can be thinner, and drill a large hole right where it meets the center line of thelittle block.

You can use a piece of clear acrylic insteadif you happen to have some.

We will use this reference line to bump againstthe pencil marks on our chair pieces to drill the holes for the dowels in the perfect spot.

So these are the parts needed for each sideof the chair and we need to make some marks on specific measurements that will be pointedout on the template.

This is where the smaller pieces will meetand keep both side assemblies similar to each other.

After figuring out the layout for the dowels, you can go ahead and trace line segments that are perpendicular to the meeting edges.

This means that the center of the dowels willbe aligned to these lines.

So we can grab our jig, match the pencil lines, secure it in place and drill.

I put a little bit of green masking tape onthe drill bit to create a visual depth stop.

The Rockler doweling jig already comes witha stop collar to keep the drilling depth consistent every time.

After checking for fit, we can start gluingthe parts together.

Please note that the glue will take some spaceand might difficult the assembly when things get too tight so you can always enlarge theholes just slightly or sand the dowels just a tiny bit.

You will need a couple of clamps to make surethe pieces are firmly pressed together.

We’ll repeat the procedure for the legsassembly and it might be a good idea to use a longer and thicker dowel to create extrastrength since your body weight will be forcing this joint.

To clamp such an open angle, I quickly cuttwo clamping blocks that I also included in the template in case you need them.

These will assist in closing the gap.

When the glue is dry, I scrapped off the gluesqueeze outs and sanded everything smooth with a palm sander.

Now it’s time to grab the template piecesand mark the place to drill a few holes.

I started by drilling larger holes to laterplug with some dowel rod and have all the screw heads hidden.

This is totally optional, although I thinkit’ll look a lot better without the screw heads visible along the entire chair.

A couple of these holes will be drilled allthe way through matching the diameter of your Chicago bolts.

This is where the pieces will pivot when foldingthe chair.

Now it is a good time to refine some areasand give them a final sanding.

Here we have the components for the chair:2 leg assemblies, 2 side assemblies, two sitting boards and two backing boards.

You’ll also need a support piece where theseat will rest upon that I forgot to show at this point.

If you don’t have a workbench vise, thismight be the time to reach for a helper to hold the pieces securely while you drive inthe screws.

The gap between the boards doesn’t haveany particular size, it’s up to you.

I used a scrap piece and made that dimensionconsistent for all the gaps.

Once you have both parts assembled, it’stime to connect them with Chicago bolts or sex bolts and a stainless steel threaded rod.

You can easily cut the rod to size with ahacksaw and thread it into the nuts.

We still need to attach the support pieceand you can call for your helper again or use your portable drill like I did here.

All you need is to find the perfect spot wherethe feet sit flat against the floor and trace a line on the inside of the front legs.

Now you know where to place the support piece, at what angle, and can now drive the screws.

We can finally fill in the screw holes withwood plugs, making everything nice and flush.

It’s probably a good idea to round oversome sharp corners and it’s ready to receive the finish! It’s easier if you separate the two partsagain.

Make sure you use something durable and meantfor exterior use and follow the recommendations written on the label.

I hope you enjoyed this project and hope thathis brings you motivation to build your own chair! As you can see, having just a small amountof tools doesn’t prevent you from achieving good and functional results.

In most cases, the difference is the buildingtime.

It might take you longer to build one of thesechairs with a jigsaw, sand and drill them by hand, but the final product can be justas good as making it with big power tools.

There’s really no excuse to not gettingstarted in building stuff with your own hands and there are several products like the dowelingjig from Rockler, for example, that allows you to create strong reliable joints for avery low price.

Take this lockdown period to be with yourown self or with you family making something that matters.

Big thanks to Rockler and all my Patreon membersfor supporting this project.

If you want to support my work, head overto my online store and grab a t-shirt or a notebook and visit my Patreon page.

Thanks everyone for watching, keep safe andgo get your hands dirty!.

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