Introduction: Low Back Pallet Chair

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Not the normal pallet, saw, nails, and hammer job!

There is a whole playlist of build videos from the making of this chair, which you can find on my YouTube channel 'womadeod' ( ).

Step 1: Materials

What can I say - A few pallets!

You'll also need PVA wood glue, Superglue (CA glue), brass or copper fillings, and several long screws

Step 2: Tools

Minimum would probably be a hand saw, coping saw, plane, drill, chisel, mallet, rasp, clamps, screwdriver, sandpaper, and measuring and marking out equipment. But you'll find it quicker if you have a band saw, table saw, router, angle grinder, and sander.

Step 3: Plans

If you're good with visualizing 3D shapes then you can pretty much make it up as you go along. However, for everyone else, I drew up some simple plans.

There is also a very basic SketchUp model available.

These are all available to download for free from my website ( )

Step 4: Prepare Your Pallet Wood

Dismantle your pallets - There are lots of videos online showing different ideas for doing this. Find what works for you and stick with it. My preference is to use folding wedges (two wedges, one on top of the other, facing opposite directions) which force apart top and bottom slats as they are hammered against each other.

Square the boards on four sides, keeping all the bearers the same dimensions, and all the slats the same dimensions, (width and thickness are important, length less so). This can be done with a hand plane, but a power jointer/thicknesser will really speed up this batch like process.

Fill any defects - Knot holes, nail holes, etc. should be filled either with wood filler, sawdust and PVA glue mix, or preferably brass or copper filings set in CA glue (or epoxy resin). Scrape or sand flat with the surface when dry.

Step 5: Build Up Laminations

Make laminated blanks, using the plans to guide you on size.

Glue slats together to form blanks large enough to cut the arms, legs, and back rest out of.

To form the seat, I use the bearers for a thick base layer, and sections of slat to 'beef up' the top of the sides, rear, and pommel area. You might like to use dowels or biscuits to help align the bearers. Just keep then within the lower half of the thickness, to allow for the seat to be shaped, and avoid areas that will be visible when the seat outline is cut. At this stage, I make the seat in two halves, as it is easier to handle, gluing these halves together later.

Step 6: Seat Joints

Mark out the seat joints using the plans. These are 'Maloof'ish style joints, for which there is much information online.

Step 7: Cut Seat Joint

Saw and chisel out the central notch of the seat joint, before cutting a radiused rebate (rabbet) around the top and bottom. The easiest method is to use a router with a rebate bit (the radius of which must match the round-over bit used on the leg joint, later on), but you can also drill the radiused rebate corners with a forstner bit.

Step 8: Leg Joints

Using the seat joints as a reference, mark out and cut the leg joints to fit.

The front leg blank should be sized to a snug fit across the rebates first, then the notches cut on three sides.

To splay the back of the chair, the section of leg from the top of the seat to the floor is first tapered at about five degrees (the exact angle is up to you - it's your chair!). The leg joint is cut on this taper, giving the splayed result.

Once the notches are cut, it remains to round-over the joint corners so that they fit into the radiused rebate corners. A router with a matching radius round-over bit is ideal, but this can also be done with a plane.

Step 9: Measure for the Back Rest

Dry assemble the seat and legs on a flat surface, and measure width at the top and bottom of where you would like the back rest. The position will depend on your shape, so sit on the chair and determine the best height for it (make sure the chair is well clamped together!).

The angle on the ends of the back rest will match the angle that you tapered the back legs.

You should have enough measurements now to cut the back rest blank to fit perfectly.

Step 10: Profile the Back Rest

Lay out the curved profile of the back rest, and saw it out.

Round the top and bottom off with a rasp.

Step 11: Shape the Legs

Using a saw and rasps, shape the legs, leaving them a little large at the joints (these will be blended later).

WARNING If you use a band saw, be extremely careful as some cuts will be unsupported near the blade.

Step 12: Profile, Scoop and Shape the Seat

Mark the seat profile from the plan, and cut it out.

An angle grinder with a coarse sanding disc or a carbide 'donut' makes short work of scooping the seat out, or you can use a scorp and travisher, or just a chisel and sandpaper, to do it by hand.

Now shape the pommel and front edge for a comfortable seat.

Step 13: Glue Up Seat Halves

With the joints all prepared and the shaping done, you can glue the seat halves together.

Because of the seat profile, you should use wedges to stop the clamps from digging in (see photo).

Step 14: Attach the Legs

Now you can temporarily attach the legs.

Drill two clearance and pilot holes from the side, at a slight angle to each other (creating a dovetail effect), through each leg joint into the seat, and counter bore for plugs.

Use slightly shorter screws to attach the legs at this point. Reserve longer ones for the final assembly.

Step 15: Attach Back Rest

In a similar way to the leg to seat joints, attach the back rest temporarily through the top of the back legs.

Step 16: Prepare the Arms

With the legs and back rest attached to the seat, you can now offer up the arm blanks and prepare a butt joint at the shoulder and a single doweled joint at the top of the front leg.

The arm profiles (top and side) can now be marked onto the blanks, and the basic shape cut out.

Step 17: Attach Arm and Shape Shoulder

The shaped arm is fixed at the shoulder with two long screws into the top of the rear leg.

Shaping of the shoulder is done with a band saw and/or rasp. Care being taken to avoid the fixing screws, which may need deeper counter bores made during the process.

Step 18: Finish Main Shaping

Whilst the chair is still able to be dismantled, the majority of finish shaping is done. This allows greater access to some areas - necessary for power sanding, etc.

Step 19: Assemble

Finally you can assemble the chair for the last time.

Use glue on all the joints, and the full length screws. Assemble upright on a flat surface, and clamp the arm to front leg joint closed tight. Cover screws with glued in wooden plugs.

Step 20: Flush All Transitions and Finish Sand

The really boring bit - I find

Go through the whole chair, scraping and sanding, until all joints are flush and the chair is lovely and smooth.

Step 21: Finish With a Polish

The hard work is over, but don't rest until you've protected your chair with a few coats of polish.

I like to use a finishing oil, applied with a rag and the surplus wiped off after a couple of minutes. Repeated as many times as necessary (allowing to dry in-between coats) to achieve the desired lustre.

Step 22: Enjoy It!

Thanks for taking a look.

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