Introduction: The Rustic Garden Chair
Often, when I am halfway through one of my whimsical projects and nothing is going according to plan (because I didn't actually have a plan), I have a pause for thought and I wonder - Why am I doing this? These things can take up a lot of time and cause no end of frustration and anyone else would have just bought a cheap one form a shop.
Well, I never really answer that question, other than to say that I enjoy trying to work out how to make things, learning some skill along the way and, hopefully, inspiring my kids to think about what they might be able to do. Also, if someone says, Wow, that's cool! It totally makes my day.
After I made our Rustic Fruit Cage I then continued to build a stand for our guinea pig cage. Then, one day, my wife said, why don't you make a bench for the garden? I thought about combining the limited joint cutting skills I learned from making the stand, with the rustic aesthetic of the fruit cage.
Later that Winter, I found some branches of oak that had been cut down in woods near where I worked. I brought them home thinking that they would be handy at our allotment. Then I said that I was going to try to make a rustic style bench! After a short consideration, I revised this to a chair. I should say that this is very much an idea in progress...
The problem with my plan was that the oak had no straight lines and so right angles were next to impossible to create. Also, I had no plan. Undeterred by these fundamental issues, I blundered forward regardless.
Step 1: The Rustic Garden Chair - Equipment
Oak branches about 6-7m
Some scrap dowel 1cm wide
Chisel and Mallet
Step 2: The Rustic Garden Chair - Measurments
Because none of the wood was straight or square, there seemed little point in trying to measure anything to any kind of tolerance. So, I looked at a work chair and measured it roughly against my body for the following...
- Seat height (top of my calf muscle)
- Seat width (elbow to finger tip)
- Seat depth (elbow to finger tip)
- Arm height (just above my knee)
- Back height (top of my leg)
All the other dimensions were based off these and everything was done by eye or lining one part up to another.
I cut as many parts as I could to my "specifications" and paired the various parts up, to ensure I had all the pieces that I imagined I would need.
Step 3: the Rustic Garden Chair - Cutting Some Joints
Once I had enough parts that seemed to line up to the overall 3 dimensional shape that I held in my head, I began to cut some joints.
I did these in the normal way by sawing down to a line and then chiselling out the hole. The problem was that, because the wood was not straight, it was difficult to clamp down and impossible to be sure of cutting accurately, straight or square (the fundamental requirements of joints). I reasoned that I would not be able to see how far I had gone wrong, until some of the project was joined together.
I did my best and cut out the joints before placing the parts together to see how well they fitted. I did the side profiles first and, as you might expect, there was quite a lot of gaps and misalignment.
However, I was generally enthused by seeing the rough shapes coming together and thought, I'll sort that out as I go along...
Step 4: Starting to Glue and Peg the Back
As things got more complete, they inevitably started to get more complicated too.
I realised that I would eventually have to start fixing the parts together. I drilled holes into the joints, thinking I could use dowel pegs instead of unsightly screws, which would not look good in the wood.
I was secretly dreading this part because I knew that once things were glued, any errors (and there were going to be lots) would show up.
I decided to fix the back and rear legs together first. I used pegs and glue and weighted the whole structure down with logs. It was clear at this point that some of the joints were not going to sit as well as I had hoped but I pressed on regardless.
Step 5: Continuing With the Frame
After setting the back part, I tried fitting pegs, without glue, to see how the other parts might fit. They kept falling apart but when they held I could see things did not line up well.
It was clear that the next joints for the seat sides, arms and front legs were badly out of alignment. So, I did my best to change the angles of the existing joints. This was really difficult, especially on the parts that were already fixed. In retrospect, I should have seen this coming and this is probably why proper craftspeople do not attempt to make furniture in this way.
Whilst in the midst of pulling my hair out and trying to work out what to do next, my wife popped in to helpfully tell me that the seat would never be even slightly level. In fact, I could see that this was the least of my problems and told her that the ground at the allotment was not level and so this would compensate.
The main problem with the remaining alignment was that the sides angled out. This would not be too much of a problem but the front brace that I had cut was the last bit of oak I had left, apart from a small off cut and I didn't want to use cut wood as it simply would not look right or the way I had imagined. So I pressed on with trying to fix the joints as best I could.
Eventually, I got them to look as good as I thought was possible (with my skill and available time). I pegged, glued and clamped them.
Step 6: Main Frame Completion
When they were set, I realised that the joints for the front brace were now, predictably, at the wrong angle (small errors were being magnified). This was going to be very difficult to fix, because working on the frame was very tricky and only so much could be done anyway. In the end I compromised by adding another joint to accommodate the existing angles and used my last off cut to create a diagonal brace, which I hoped would help to prevent the whole structure slowly sliding into a parallelogram.
Eventually I had to bite the bullet and fix the whole damn thing together. I would then see where I was going to go from there.
As you can see from the pictures, the whole thing looks somewhat lopsided but I was happy to have finally got this far.
Amazingly all four feet touched the floor simultaneously. This was largely because, each time I pegged and glued any joints, I gave the whole thing a shake to allow the joints to settle into as strong a position as possible.
The next thing to consider, was going to be how to create the seat and see if I could make it close to level.
Step 7: Somewhere to Sit
Originally I thought I would use small bars of oak to form the seat but I had not created a flat or level surface on the side bars of the frame.
I also considered cutting rough planks from some another oak log that I found.
I considered weaving thin rope around the seat frame to form a rattan type seat.
In the end, I found some tent guy ropes, which were long and strong enough. I tied them to the back of the frame, then wove them in and out and back and forth, until they formed a hammock like seat.
Then, at last, I made a cup of tea, sat in my chair and relaxed in the garden.
I hope you enjoyed this instructable and feel inspired to make a better version, taking into account my schoolboy errors and complete lack of planning/technical skill.