Introduction: One Board Minimalist Chair

Picture of One Board Minimalist Chair

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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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.

Picture of 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.

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of Storage

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


More Cowbell (author)2015-03-17

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

ive seen 4 people sat on top of each other on one :)

GeeDeeKay (author)2015-02-19

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...

JonGoku (author)GeeDeeKay2015-02-19

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.

GeeDeeKay (author)JonGoku2015-02-20

@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!

GeeDeeKay (author)JonGoku2015-02-19

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!

More Cowbell (author)GeeDeeKay2015-02-19

That PDF is awesome! Thanks!

GeeDeeKay (author)More Cowbell2015-02-19

Glad you like it. Thx for the credit above!

EdwardM135 made it! (author)2017-04-03

love these chairs so cuftable i ended up making lots !

secretshedfreak made it! (author)2017-01-07

Good instructable, thanks! I fancied it up a little with my dremmel.

T0BY (author)2016-11-28

Genius! I am very impressed!

silverf1 (author)2016-07-07

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.

wolfsingleton (author)2016-06-02

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.

NZarcher (author)2015-02-19

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

badrobot (author)NZarcher2015-02-19

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.

More Cowbell (author)badrobot2015-02-19

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!

mestep (author)More Cowbell2016-05-17

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.

I would also very much appreciate a link to any supporting documentation you have NZarcher. Thanks!

Dumisanic (author)NZarcher2015-02-24

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.

spark master (author)Dumisanic2016-04-11

truly awesome carved chair

jjaramilo (author)2015-02-19

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

spark master (author)jjaramilo2016-04-11

dead link got another?


More Cowbell (author)jjaramilo2015-02-19

Very cool - it seems that that design has the seat fairly low with a more rearward lean on the seat back.

NRaygun (author)2015-02-21

Will these hold up to my fata$$? I'm 200-210 lbs. I really like the minimalist nature of these things.

spark master (author)NRaygun2016-04-11


SIRJAMES09 (author)NRaygun2015-03-17

I fail to see where there would be a problem with this chair holding anything less than 300 pounds....

I have seen these made with 2 planks instead of one, which would double their holding capacity...the double chairs are a wee bit heavy but still look great once they have been stained & so forth....

More Cowbell (author)NRaygun2015-02-21

Easily! When this snow thaws I'll pull out the chair and load it up with a barbell and weights....

leishmi made it! (author)2015-07-21

I made this for Scout camp. The scouts and Adults loved it. I added a head rest and seat cushion that I had made and carved a Celtic Dragon into the back rest. Over all it is very comfortable, the angle of the back is perfect. It is a little heavy so I added a couple of carry straps to make it easier to transport.

spark master (author)leishmi2016-04-11

are you sure that carry strap is not a beer holder???? Oh I fergit Scouts, nothing but water, milk ,bug juice, tea and coffee, riiiiiight riiight! :-)

This would be very cool to do with the scouts. My kid is over Scouts, (Eagle then aged out), But I am sure he would have loved this... I just need to make them taller for my knees. Carving in them and an added back roll/support and head pillow would be nice.


dsprior (author)2015-10-11

I made a second one and I'm starting to really appreciate what this design is capable of being.

spark master (author)dsprior2016-04-11

did you paint the desings or burn them in?

silverf1 (author)2015-09-20

I made one for myself, but made it to fit the taller gentleman & Lady. Not all of us are 5'5"..I am over 6' and 250lb, so made one that fits the taller heavier guys/gals. The difference is the seat and the curvatures, think Apple Smart Phone. I prefer sitting comfortably, not squatting. Cottage country has interest in my design, since storing is easy. Think also IKEA design.

BlackSheep1 (author)silverf12016-01-03

Could you give an idea of the different measures you used?

silverf1 (author)BlackSheep12016-01-10

I used my friends to give me an idea as to a more comfort level. The management at RONA sat on the Viking Chair and he is over 6'6. He found it comfortable...I use 2" thick poplar, 12" wide..but the seat height is up to you. play with it! Most seating I have seen on line, is good for children and really short people. Not everyone is 100lb, and skinny.

Dustin Rogers (author)silverf12016-01-22

So you just positioned the hole in the upright board farther from the ground? How much longer did the seat piece need to be to keep the back from being 'reclined'?

silverf1 (author)Dustin Rogers2016-01-22

angle the feet of the back rest. The comfort for people is seeing it, then sitting. Its solid, wide. It good for sitting and other activities. The ladies love it. Grandpa and Grandma seniors. And those in a wheelchair.

tyler roberts (author)2016-01-22

ah the two board chair, simple, strong, comfortable. still need to make me one.

silverf1 (author)tyler roberts2016-01-22

as you see from the picture below, most are made for kids sitting height. I make mine for adults..big/tall guys like me, that need more height. I added a slight angle in the feet, to tilt back.

BlackSheep1 (author)2016-01-10

Too right, silverf1 -- most online seating's great for children. Since I'm a generously sized adult, I am gratified to see this one can be altered to fit us too.

lenparhs made it! (author)2016-01-09

1/3 size for the kids, they love them! Thanks heaps for the easy to follow instructions.

jeanniel1 (author)2016-01-05

So easy, even I can do this! Useful - def for camping!

MarkC140 (author)2015-12-10

This design is awesome. I grew up in Southern Africa and the design was common at craft markets - but ornately carved and the upright was usually rounded, using the outside of a hollow tree

silverf1 (author)MarkC1402016-01-05

Mine is not awesome or amazing..its fine! The seating picture is too low, good for kids, but not for an adult.

RobB4 (author)2015-04-03

Has anyone experimented with raising the seat and changing the angle? I'm 6'2" and would love to make one that's seat is 14-18" off the ground.

yesimadeit (author)RobB42015-12-31

Exactly my height! I too, would love to make this chair, but need to know how to modify it to fit a 6'2" frame. I really like this idea and will now stop searching the internet for a chair for my living room, this is IT! Thanks for the great tutorial.

silverf1 (author)yesimadeit2016-01-05

its it too low..I have a bad back..and raised mine to 19".

silverf1 (author)RobB42016-01-05

I have made one for me..I am 6'6". 220lbs..I raised my seat to the height that is comfortable for me at least 19". AND I changed the angle of the feet of the back wood that you lean on, . Works fine. Kids love it. Most I have seen on the web are fine if you are very short..under 5'

rainbowridergrma (author)RobB42016-01-01

Raising the seat higher is really pretty simple. The wood that touches the ground meets at a right angle with basically a 1/3 ratio. As written the seat is approx 12 inches off the ground. You can raise the seat 1 inch farther off the ground using the wood you already have, Just don't cut the 3 inches off the slotted end and move the slot up about 1 inch. For each additional inch you want to raise the seat you will have to raise the slot another inch (or so) and increase the length of the slotted portion by 3 inches. Buy a 10 ft board instead of an 8 ft board and put any extra into the back if you want. If the math becomes too much ask the help of an 8th grade algebra student.

ymasullo (author)RobB42015-12-31

I was wondering...did you get any answers? My knees are bad and it appears that this version is very low to the ground.

EdH5 (author)2016-01-01

My parents brought back "chief chairs" from Malawi - curved and hand carved, but the same basic design.

About This Instructable




Bio: 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 ... More »
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