Step 6: Assembly and Final Touches
The first part of the assembly is to attach the dowels to the two outermost pieces of the chair. You do this by choosing one seat piece and one side piece. You will then spread some glue evenly around in the holes drilled in both pieces and stick your four dowels in the four holes. You want them to be nice and flush with the outside edge of the piece. I do this and then slide another corresponding piece on the other end of the dowel without any glue to hold it level while it dries. Use a square to make sure your dowels are coming out of the holes at right angles.
Once the glue has dried, begin assembly by removing the unglued pieces from the dowels and lay the two doweled pieces on your work surface with the dowels pointing up. Orient them so that the seat end hole and the top hole on the long piece are right next to each other with the short side of the seat piece touching the longer piece. This explanation might be a little awkward, so refer to the pictures for a clearer representation. I use spacers in between layers of wood so that I don't get the pieces too tightly packed together. This also gives the wood a little room to shrink and swell (as wood tends to do) without doing damage to the chair. If you push the pieces too tightly together, the chair will either be very hard or impossible to open and close because of all the friction between the pieces. I use spacers made of vinyl printing paper. The thickness is about the thickness of two regular sheets of paper, but because they are made of vinyl, they are very durable and can be used over and over again.
For the next layer you will stack it the opposite of the first layer. The middle seat hole always goes on the same dowel, but the end hole will alternate from left to right dowel. Always put the next seat piece on so that the angled ends form a point with the layer beneath when looked at from above. If it looks like /||\ you are doing it right, if it looks like |\/|, your are doing it wrong. See picture for clarity on this step. Keep doing this - layer - spacer - opposite layer - spacer - layer......etc until you have all 34 pieces stacked up together. Once you have them all on, the two outermost layers should be oriented in the same way. If they are opposite, you either have two layers together facing the same way or you need to look for your lost pieces.
The next thing to do is mark the dowel so that it can be cut flush with the top layer. Just use a pencil or blade to make this mark. Then remove the top layer so the mark you just made is sticking out about 3/4" from the second to the top layer and cut the dowel at this mark using a hacksaw or some other small hand saw. If it's not perfectly flush, don't worry, because we can sand it once the top layer has been glued in place. Now spread glue in all the holes of the top layer pieces and place it back on the dowels and let the glue dry.
Once the glue has had sufficient amount of time to dry, cut the brace pieces to length. We haven't cut them yet, because the width of the chair can vary slightly based on actual width of individual pieces and how tightly we have pressed the pieces together. Lay the chair down with the spacers kept in place as much as possible so that it is resting flat on the work surface and measure across the outermost top and bottom of the side pieces. Again, the picture will probably help make this much more clear. I like to cut and screw on two pieces and then flip the whole thing over and cut and screw the final pieces. (That's right! I said FINAL PIECES! We're so close now....) This step is done with a scrap flat piece of wood under the side pieces I will be screwing the brace to. This makes gaps between the brace and side pieces much less likely and keeps the pieces from moving around while you are drilling and screwing. Start by drilling holes of appropriate size for the screws your are using (slightly smaller than the screw diameter) through the unstained side of the brace into the outermost side pieces keeping the brace flush with the ends of the side pieces. So, just two holes at this point. Then put a screw in each hole to hold the brace in place for the rest of your drilling and screwing. I then go across and first drill countersink holes in the brace at the center point of each side piece (I always just eyeball this instead of doing precise measurements and have always been happy with the outcome). Once all of those are made, I will drill the pilot holes for the screws in the center of the countersink hole, being careful not to go so deep that I come right out the other side of the side pieces. Then I will screw the screws into the holes I made for them, remove the two outer screws, drill countersink holes for the outer screws and put the screws in place. Do this at the top and bottom of both sides and the chair is now a chair.
Go ahead and open it up, you know you want to! Awesome!!
Now we just have to put the finishing touches on. That would be sanding and staining the sides of the braces that were not yet stained and putting polyurethane on to match the rest of the chair. You will also need to do a little sanding on the ends of the dowels so they are flush with the outside of the chair. I like to put a little masking tape on the seat and side pieces before I do this so that I don't ruin the finish with the sanding. Use a fine grain sand paper (150 grit or so) and work very carefully even with the tape in place.
And there you have it.