Introduction: Bear Chair and Table Set for Kids

About: I am a freelance translator living in Japan. I like to create furniture and signs etc. using reclaimed wood. See my blog for photos of other projects, and a link to my 3D models on the 3DWarehouse. My "How to …

I made this bear chair and table set for my daughters a few years ago and they really enjoyed it.
I used 3/4" thick lauan, a fairly light wood from the Philippines usually used for shelving and door frames etc.
This was my first attempt at furniture not using any screws or nails. Only dowels and glue were used.
I don't have photos taken during construction, but I have included "blow-up" illustrations in the following steps. I have also uploaded a Sketchup 3D file of the plans, and a 2D EPS file of the cutting layout on a 4x8' sheet of plywood.
This whole set will take up a bit less than half of one 4x8' piece of plywood.
(Click on the [i] at the top left of photos to see an enlarged version.)

Materials used
- One 4x8' piece of plywood (3/4" = 2 cm thick)
- 24 4 cm dowels (1 cm diameter)
- Wood glue

Tools used
- Handheld circular saw
- Handheld jig saw
- Power drill (and 1 cm bit)
- Hand saw
- Router (using a corner round bit, and a straight plunge bit)
- Large woodwork bar clamps (in my case I just used weights so clamps were not really necessary)
- Small orbital sander
- Paintbrush and varnish

Step 1: Plan Layout

All of the pieces will fit into just under half of one 4x8' piece of plywood (*see the last step if you are not using plywood)
I have also uploaded an EPS version of the plan layout, and a 3D Sketchup version, which can be downloaded from the first page of this Instructable.

- Next step, how it fits together.

Step 2: Cutting Out Pieces, Then Routing the Bear

I used a handheld jig saw (band saw also OK) to cut out the bear pieces, and seat back support with the hearts, as well as the curved parts of the table legs.
For the rest of the straight edges I used a circular saw (you could also use a table saw).
  • After cutting out all the pieces, I used the router with a corner round bit to take off the sharp edges. Note: I did not round off the left and right sides of the back support, or the seat (a flat surface is required for the glue to bond).
    (In the above 3D illustration, the bear side pieces are not rounded, they are rounded in real life.)
  • I then used the router with a straight plunge bit (maybe 1/4" or 3/8") and routed the grooves 0.5 cm deep in the bear side pieces, and a slot across the bottom of the seat.
- Next, drilling holes for the dowels.

Step 3: Drilling Holes for Dowels and Then Assembling the Chairs

The "mortise and tenon" process. The dowels are the tenon, and the hole is the mortise.
  • Next, I drilled 7 holes into each of the bear side pieces using a 1 cm drill bit.
  • I used the router to round the edges of the eye hole only (not rounded in this illustration)
  • I then laid the left bear piece on the floor and inserted the back, seat, and bottom support into the routed slots. Then I placed the right bear piece on top (fitting into the slots as well).
  • I then drilled through the existing 6 holes with the 1 cm drill bit. These holes are about 1.5 cm deep. This leaves about 0.5 cm sticking out when the dowels are inserted. (You could use a special mortising drill attachment, but I just did it by hand). Flip it over and then drill 6 holes in the opposite side.
  • Next I put lots of wood glue in the routed slots, then attached all the pieces.
  • Finally I inserted the 4 cm long 1 cm thick dowels (with glue in the holes), about 0.5 cm will protrude.
You could use long clamps to hold it all together. However, I didn't have any long bar clamps so I just put the chairs on their side on 2x4's (avoiding the dowels), with lots of weight on top.
Once it has set, cut off the dowels with a handsaw, preferably one with teeth that do not stick out to the sides so you do not damage the surface.

- Next, the table

Step 4: Assembling the Table

The table is much simpler than the bear chars.
  • I routed the edges with the corner round bit, but left the left and right sides of the bottom support flat, as well as the tops of the table side pieces.
  • I then routed the slots under the table top, and in the side pieces with a straight plunge bit, 0.5 cm deep.
  • With the table I did not use any dowels as there would not be as much weight on top.
    (Of course, you could put a couple of dowels on each side for extra support if you are worried.)
  • Next, I put wood glue in the slots, put the table in the upright position with a lot of weight on top, and tied some rope around the sides to prevent them from spreading (of course bar clamps would do a better job).
- Next, finishing up

Step 5: Finishing Up

After all glue has dried, I sanded the chairs and table, then put on a couple of coats of varnish.
As they are for kids and will be generally abused, I would recommend varnish or paint, as an oil finish will be ruined after the first "tea party", or spilled paint, felt pen, etc.

*As I mentioned in the first step, here is something to take note of if you are not using plywood.
I used a relatively soft, light wood called lauan, which would have been fine - BUT, I cut everything with the grain running horizontally.
BIG MISTAKE. Not a problem with plywood, but using grained wood, you have to make sure the grain is vertical to the ground.
I learned this the hard way when my kids tossed the chairs around, and they cracked (and broke) the legs along the grain. A few repairs later and they are good to go, but this is something that could have been avoided by using vertical grain from the start.

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