Introduction: Child's Popsicle Stick Deck Chair
This chair never fails to charm both children and parents alike. It's a deck chair made to look like it is constructed from popsicle sticks. This is a straightforward project for anyone from beginners to experienced woodworkers. If you are in the business of making and selling things like this, I bet you could walk into a any children's photo studio and sell one. It would be great for taking holiday photos.
Step 1: Select Lumber and Cut Out the Sticks
For this you are going to need three pieces of some sort of light colored wood that is 3/4" thick, 3-1/2" wide, and 40" long. If you want to be authentic you should use basswood as that is what Popsicle sticks are made of. I used aspen because it's cheap and so am I. It has been cut and milled to size. If you do not have the tools to do this then use 1x4s of pine or spruce, available at any lumberyard or home center. On the ends of each stick use a compass to draw a semicircle and cut it on your scroll saw, band saw copping saw or whatever method suits you. When done with cutting sand all surfaces of each stick, with 120 grit sandpaper. You now have three giant craft sticks.
Step 2: Dye the Sticks
What makes them Popsicle sticks is the color. These are dyed with Kool-Aid. This is my favorite dye for children's projects. It is inexpensive, safe, and smells good. (If left unfinished the Kool-Aid smell lingers.) The dyeing container is a two foot piece of 4" drainage pipe, capped at one end. The dye is made by mixing eight packets of Kool-Aid with 5 quarts of water. This chair used grape, cherry, and orange. Make a mark on the stick at 22" and place it in the dye. Note that it is set with the mark a bit above the dye surface. This is because the dye will wick a bit up the length of the stick. Leave the sticks in the dye for 24 hours and then let them dry a few days before proceeding.
Step 3: Sand to Clean Up Dye Line
No matter how hard you try to control how far the dye wicks up each stick, it will wick pass where you want it to stop and it will look ugly. Fortunately the dye is not deep and, with a little determination, can be sanded away. Use 120 grit sandpaper and sand away any dye past the 22" mark. Now you have three giant popsicle sticks.
Step 4: Cut to Length
Each stick with be used to make part of the chair seat and part of the chair back. Cut each stick so you get a two toned piece, 22" long. This is a seat piece. The remaining single tone piece is a tad bit (saw kerf) less than 18". This is a chair back piece. Take two of the chair back pieces and cut off an addition inch. Examine each piece to determine the best side to be the top of the seat and the front of the chair back.
Step 5: Cut Halving Joint
Cross halving joints are simple joints to mark out and cut. They are used whenever it is necessary to join two pieces of wood that cross over each other. To help visualize the construction a diagram has been included in the attached PDF.
There are many methods to cut halving joints and all can be found on the internet. I cut mine with hand tools.
On the top of the seat piece. mark a line 9" from the edge. Use a square to mark a line that goes a tab bit farther than the middle of the width.
Step 6: Mark 7 Degree Bevel
This joint is not square but is skewed by 7 degrees. This makes the chair more comfortable to sit it. To mark this joint you will need to make a line 7 degrees off square. (It is more apparent in the PDF.) Do to this I used a 1:8 magnetic dovetail designed and built by David Barron. (The ratio 1:8 is 7.1 degrees).
The guide was really intended for hand cutting dovetails but it also works well in this application. He has all sorts of clever tools. Check them out!
Turn the stick on it side, lay the guide next to the line and mark the angle.
Step 7: Mark Other Angle
To get the correct width for the cut, take one of the pieces and lay it on the line so it is further back of the seat. (Again the PDF.) Mark this width. With these bevels, draw the cut lines on both the top and bottom. Also mark the depth of the cut which is a bit more than half. You are ready to cut this joint.
Step 8: Cut Joint
Put the guide on the line and lets its magnet control the cut. Make sure the you cut on the waste side of the line. This guide was not designed to cut so deep, so when it no longer works as a guide, remove it and cut the rest by eye. The cut all ready made will serve as a guide. After finishing both cuts use a chisel to knock out the waste. Try fitting one of the pieces into the joint. It should be snug but not to hard to insert. The joint can made loosened with sandpaper, a chisel, and a file.
Step 9: Cut Other Half of Joint
Follow steps 5 through 8 to cut the chair back piece. The only difference is that for step 5 you measure 4" of the back side of the chair back piece.
Step 10: Dry Fit the Joint
This is where the rubber meets the road. The two halves of the halving joint and been cut and it is ready to assemble. This is a dry fit so do not use glue at this time. The joints may need a little sanding or paring to fit.
Step 11: Repeat for Other Two Sticks
Repeat steps 5 through 10 for the other two sticks. You now have three chair pieces. Note that the outside back pieces are an inch shorter than the middle piece. I think this is a nice little design touch. Also note that the chair seat and back colors match. I did this intentionally however you could mix them up if you wish.
Step 12: Making Connection Rails
What you now have is three really skinny chairs. You need some rails to connect them together. There are six connecting rails. Three are ¾" by 1½" by 11" long. (1 by 2 dimensions). The other three are ¾" by 2 ½" by 11" (1 by 3) with one edge beveled at 7 degrees. Either set your saw to make a angled cut and use a plane.
There are 5/32" diameter holes drilled in them with the specific locations are called out in the PDF. These holes serve two purposes. They make it easier for the rail to cinch down and they also make it easy to evenly space the screws to make it look neat and clean.
Step 13: Blank
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Step 14: Glue and Screw Rail #1
First you will need to disassemble the chair pieces, apply glue and reassemble. (You can skip this for any of the pieces that have swelled together and don't want to come apart.) Now you have three chair assemblies.
The position of rail #1 is apparent for the diagram in the attached PDF. Take the three skinny assemblies and place two 1/2" spacer between them. Put the rail in place to dry fit where it goes, and lightly mark the placement with a pencil. Remove the rail to apply glue. Then replace the rail and screw in 1-1/4" screws. Here are the ones I prefer.
These screws are designed to not split the wood. They have a Torx head which makes them easy to install with an electric screwdriver.
Step 15: Glue and Screw Rails #2 and #3
Position rail #2 in the correct place. Make sure to use the spacer to hold the pieces in the right position. Note that a clamp had to be used to pull one to the piece in. Mark the position of the rail then glue and screw it into place.
Step 16: Glue and Screw Rail #4
Position rail #4, 2-1/4" down from top of the shorter of the two pieces. Make sure the spacers are in place then mark, glue, and screw the rail into place.
Step 17: Glue and Screw Rail #5
Position rail #5, 3" back from then end of back legs. This insures it won't touch the floor when in use. Make sure the spacers are in place then mark, glue, and screw the rail into place.
Step 18: Glue and Screw Rail #6
Position rail #6, 3/4" back from the front of the seat. Make sure the spacers are in place then mark, glue, and screw the rail into place.
Step 19: You Are Done
The chair is done. I like to leave them unfinished because the smell so nice. If I was to finish it, I would use spray shellac and spray satin lacquer (Deft). The little girl is in the picture for reference and she is 38" tall. The thing wrapped around her little finger is me.
Step 20: Afterthought
After building this chair there are two improvements I want to make.
I would give the front top edge of the seat a bit of a bevel or rounding . It can be too sharp for some and dig into the back of legs.
The chair acts like a teeter totter when getting out of it. Some think it is cool while others find it unsetting. To keep the chair from moving this way, drill a 3/4" hole in the middle of the front rail and place a 6-1/4" long dowel in it. Place the dowel in to stop the movement or take it out if you like the movement.