One Board Minimalist Chair





Introduction: One Board Minimalist Chair

About: I'm a computer engineer - but please don't judge me by that. I heat with wood, fix broken things and love camping with my family. I'm a closet solar nerd, love coupons, not scared to dumpster dive and love...

This chair design is old. Some say it dates back to the the mid 1700's with Mountain Men roaming the US. Some call it a Viking chair and claim it is a Medieval design. For certain it popped up in Boy Scout camps in the US in the early 20th century. Leave a comment about the oldest you've seen!

Regardless of who did what where or when they are still extremely comfortable, affordable, durable and can be used anywhere. My wife has owned one for the past 20 years. We have a few now. They store flat in a 45x12x4 inch space. They have followed us from a very small apartment, to garden parties at our house, into the mountains and down by the sea. They are always the first seats taken at any of our get togethers. They are more comfortable than any other any other outdoor chair we have - and honestly more comfortable than most of our "indoor" chairs. For that reason they have been our living room, camping and outdoor companions for the entirety of our married life. You might get one or two seasons out of a cloth folding chair - but this $8 investment will last you decades.

This design only requires one 2x12x8 board - typically used for load bearing headers and decking band boards. No nails or glue is required. Only a few basic tools are necessary.

Step 1: Materials

You will need one board about 12 inches wide and 8 feet long. Sorry my metric friends. This is all in feet and inches. This cost me $8 at the big box home store.

Circular saw
Jig saw
Straight line tool of some kind at least 3 feet long
Drill with large drill bit
Tape measure

Step 2: Cut 1: Back Board

We need to cut off one 48 inch board. This will be the back board. Cut and set it to the side.

I've included a grid paper graph of what we are cutting. Each square is 1 inch. Grey shows the cuts. Maybe one day I'll get around to using sketchup.

**Edit: User GeeDeeKay hooked us up with a great PDF version of the plans.**

Step 3: Cut 2: Butt Board

With the back board set aside we now turn to the other one. It needs to be cut 45 inches long.

Step 4: Cuts 3, 4, 5 and 6: Slot Board.

Mark a 12 inch line from one end of the butt board. This will mark the seat. On that line mark two inches in from either side. Move down 33 inches and make marks at 2 inches in as well. Use your long straight edge to connect the 2 inch lines.

Basically we are cutting off 2 2x33 slices of the butt board.

Use a circular saw for what you can and finish the cuts with a hand saw.

Step 5: Cuts 7, 8, 9, 10: Back Board Slot.

Find the back board you set aside. Measure up from one end to 11 inches. This will be the bottom of our slot.

I cheated here.

  • I cut down the 3 inch piece of scrap to the size of the slot board.
  • I placed the slot board on the back board at the 11 inch line.
  • I marked the width of the slot board. I did this because I'm not the best carpenter in the world. My cuts could have been off.
  • I then used the scrap piece to mark the height of the slot.

Once you have your slot hole marked drill a hold to drop in your jig saw blade. This could be done several different ways. It is better to have the hole slightly larger than smaller.

Step 6: Insert Tab 1 Into Slot A

Time for a test fit. If it fits - great! If it does not trim a little more out of the slot.

Step 7: Finishing Touches

I like to trim off 1 inch corners off the head board and the seat.

It would also be appropriate to paint, stain or protect the lumber however you see fit for whatever you are using if for.

Step 8: Storage

This chair easily stores flat under a bed, under a couch, behind a door and tucks away easily for camping.

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123 Discussions

Well - I did a weight test. I ran out of plates at 427 pounds (193KG).

15, 6:53 PM.jpg
1 reply

Love this idea! I've been looking for this sort of thing for a friend's lake house. It's a pretty rustic place, and there are always too few seats down by the water during the day and by the campfire in the evening. This is a great solution, and they can become art projects for the kids to decorate. Always looking for ways to occupy their time so the "big kids" can have their own fun...

I drew up a set of dimensions based on your graph paper. I think this way when I work, so I wanted to put something down on paper for when I build some myself. Feel free to use it however you want...

5 replies

Neat drawing. Keep in mind that the actual size of a 2x12" is typically not 2x12" but 1.4x11.25". In order to compensate for actual dimensions it would be ideal to have both the parts cut off from the butt board and the slot in the back board be measured from the edges and not a set width.

@JonGoKu: Ok, you got me thinking about this, so of course I had to do another drawing. Here is the original using 2" x 12" stock, and a second page using nominal 2x12 dimensions, 1 1/2" x 11 1/4".

@More Cowbell: I corrected a mistake I did my my original drawing, where I only had 2" removed from the seat instead of 3" you have in your graph paper drawing. I also added a note on the drawing to use your idea of using the cut-off piece of the seat end as a template. This is brilliant, as I'm terrible at measuring so if there is something that's already cut to size, then use it!

Good point, what I would do is just take 3/8" off the side cuts and leave the rest of the measurements the same. Another technique could be to mark a center line and measure 1/2 the width measurements off either side of the centerline. As long as the mortise in the back e piece matches the through tenon in the seat, that's what matters.

Good catch on the actual nominal dimensions of the 2x12!

thanks for sharing!


1 year ago

Genius! I am very impressed!

made one but the height for our seat is much higher, therefore easier to sit in. The pictured ones, are too low, great for those under 5'. For us big guys and kids, we cranked it up to more comfort level. how high! what ever YOU feel comfort with.

When I was growing up on Cape Cod, there was a trend of doing these slightly taller and bringing the top to a point. Putting a row on the beach would look like little surfboards in the sand when not in use. Don't really see them around anymore though.

Kindly get your historical facts correct! These chairs originated in Medieval Europe .They ARE NOT as you imply AMERICAN IN ORIGIN

6 replies

If you read the first paragraph the author clearly mentions Vikings and Medieval times.

"Some say it dates back to the the mid 1700's with Mountain Men roaming
the US. Some call it a Viking chair and claim it is a Medieval design."

Both are presented as possibilities, not facts.

In fairness - I re-did a bunch of research over the past few days and updated the first paragraph. Basically this chair is found all over the world and nobody can pin point where or when it came from with historically accurate documentation or literature. The first to publish in a document that still exists today is the Boy Scouts. I really had no idea a single line that said this chair was found here during this period would spark such a lively discussion - but I've really enjoyed it!

Where is this mentioned in Boy Scouting? I'm teaching this chair for woodworking merit badge this weekend at a merit badge fair and would love to find it and show it.

Good instructble and we have made a couple as demos, but this is the first I have read about the "controversy" on your ible.

Thanks for the info and help.

Here is a two piece carved chair from Malawi. I dont know how far back in history this goes, but I doubt that it was brought in by the colonialists. This kind of chair is found throughout East and Central Africa.

Two piece chair.jpg

Widely known in the SCA community as the Viking chair. More instructions at