Build Yourself a Rustic Wood Chair

Introduction: Build Yourself a Rustic Wood Chair

About: Making something from nothing.

Building a rustic wooden chair step by step with simple hand tools.Shown is how to take a Birch tree and make a strong, long lasting chair,with many ideas to finish it with,I will cover that here later.That is why just the frame of the chair right now no seat or seat back yet.

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Step 1: Wood and Tools You Need

Wood needed-  I used one tall, fairly straight, Birch tree about 25 feet of wood from 1-1/2 inches wide to 4-1/2 inches wide.You could use two or three small trees of any kind about the same width.
                          cut into
Ten- 14 inch long by 1 -1/2 inch  or so wide 
Two- 2 foot long by 2 to 3 inches or so wide
Two- 4 foot long by 3 to 4 inches or so wide
all widths and lengths are approximate

Tools needed-
 Drill ,battery power shown but a hand cranked Brace  will work
1 inch Forstner style drill bit- [any 1 inch drill bit will work but a Forstner works best]
1 inch Tenon Cutter- [ Veritus 1 inch Tenon Cutter is what I have]
Glue  - [the wood glue has less fumes but I find Original Gorilla Glue on damp wood holds best over time]
Sponge   -slightly damp if using Original Gorilla Glue
Sanding block  - my sanding block is made from a belt sander belt [package of 8 pieces] then cut a board so the  sanding belt fit around a 1/2 inch wide block of wood .
  20 screws ,3 inch long Wood Screws are best but any length, as long as, or longer than 2 inches should work.  [if you haven't tried the square head screws try them now they work great].
If you use screws you need a pilot hole drill bit [it keeps the wood from splitting] a counter sinking pilot hole drill bit is shown here [meaning when finished the screws head is countersunk or deep in the wood where you don't see it].
Drive bit [try the square headed driver bit it holds screws on the bit better and wont strip out the head as easy].

Step 2: Cutting the Tenon Ends

  Not every end gets a Tenon or the ends rounded to fit.The 2 longest peices are the back legs and back of the chair.They do not get Tenons just Mortise holes drilled in them later.
  The 2 medium lengths are the front legs,we want Tenons on both of the smaller ends to form the seat area [I quick clamp them to a bench then carve the tenon with the drill and Tenon cutter] as shown.
-all Tenon  cuts are about 1 inch to 1 -1/2 inches long.
The thicker ends will be towards the ground.
 All but one of the smaller sticks,again ALL but ONE of the short pieces need both ends Tenon cut.One piece with no Tenons becomes the piece on the front of the seat and it will hold both front legs, it needs no pointy ends.

Step 3: Drilling the Mortise Holes

  Lay the 2 long pieces side by side with the widest ends pointed to the bottom.These ends will be the back legs ,the widest part of the ends touching the ground.
  For this chair right here, we need 4 holes on each long peice.Place the long pieces side by side and drill  all the holes across from each other.You can drill the top with them side by side then later they will be turned to fit the pieces in between them.
NOTE-All Mortise holes are about 3/4 to 1 inch deep.
  The top holes[2] on each side will hold the top of the backrest.Place them where you would like, I put mine about 4 inches from the top of the skinny ends and 12 inches lower for the 2 middle holes.
  Those two middle peices the center holes tenons [not too deep it will weaken the final chair] ,around the center are where the final webbing or string will go[not shown]both to the bottom of the backrest and the back of the seat.I want my finished chair to show as much webbing or rope whatever I choose to finish it with as possible.That is why both holes are close here, one is the backrest bottom,one is the seat bottoms back.I shaved the gap in between to make sure my seagrass rope webbing will fit through that gap.Then hid the shaved part so they face each other.
  The bottom holes we will fill later but drill them now.The bottom holes are a brace in the  bottom near the back.About 5-6 inches from the bottom or wide end works well.You may end up later cutting the legs shorter and dont want them too close to the bottom.

Step 4: Lets Get It Together

  Place one short tenon ended piece at the top [between the long pieces] then two more near the middle.I shaved the middle ones so my final string or mat will fit.I plan on looping something from the top rung to the second rung that I shaved off to form the backrest.Then looping from the other shaved back of the seat to the front of the seat forming the seat [installed a few steps later].
  Take the two sides and place three sticks in one side NO GLUE YET then place the other side onto the three ends forming the chairs back.You will have two empty holes used later.Wood from a tree is bent and warped sometimes so this step is to fit those three pieces into the long ones.You can sand off the tenon end or use a saw to remove some wood so they fit. Also you can drill holes deeper just get them to fit together tight forming the back legs and backrest part of the chair.
  It is easy to remove wood a small bit at a time but you cant really make them longer [a small circle plug can be hidden to fill space if needed].
  If using screws drill your pilot holes now ,counter sink them 1/2 inch.
 Now I dampen the ends and holes with a watery sponge and apply glue to all 12 pieces , both the mortise and tenons,otherwise just glue to both ends.Place one long sides three sticks in, then align the other long side and press them together [long ones are back legs/chairback].
  If you choose to use screws ,drill the pilot holes and install screws carefully.I put them in with the drill not quite tight then tighten them by hand so I do not strip them out.If you strip out a screw in the wood it spins and no longer holds as strong. 
.If using just glue put this together then wait over-night for it to dry. 

Step 5: Front Legs Then Seat Sides

   Take the small stick with no tenon ends and the two medium length front legs.The front legs have one tenon end and one flat end.Place them in a upside down U shape with the blank stick on top.Drill mortise holes for the leg tops [not shown].
  If using screws drill two pilot holes into the legtops.
Use glue and wait overnight or dampen then apply glue followed by screws .
  With the assembled upside down U flat in front of you ,drill mortise holes for the sticks that will connect the front seat and  legs to the back legs and backrest they will be the sides of the seat [drilled into seat front small piece with no tenons].
 Apply glue and wait or dampen and screw front legs to seat front.
  Now the side of the seat parts, they hold the front leg U to the back legs/backrest.Drill the four mortise holes,two on the U and two on the back for forming the seat sides.Glue the U to the side peices or drill pilot holes then dampen glue and finaly screw the U to the sides of the seat pieces.
Attach the front legs to the back legs/backrest with glue and or screws in damp Gorilla Glued pilot holes.You now have a chair with four legs standing.It is wobbly untill we do the next steps.   

Step 6: At Last Steps

The four braces at the bottom now.Those two empty holes from the beginning will help you drill the last six of eight holes, two in each leg.The wobble will help you move each peice to drill.Then ...glue it or pilot holes,damp, glue, and screws.You now have a chair frame that can be finished in many ways,paracord,nylon web weave or try a Shakers weave with Seagrass rope[called Cane or Rush cord] made from paper to look like Seagrass.I have too many choices to show how to finish yours so use your imagination. I have shown other chairs one made from peeled Diamond Willow that shows a wood back and seat,it is shown laying on its back on carpet so it will show up,just a idea you may like.Also shown is a Shaker weave [unfinished] on a chair back made from a log the Beaver chewed on,to build this one I used the Beavers peice as a starting point and went from there. The shiny ones are trees I peeled while green then finished the wood with a finish called Watco [or Watco oil a danish finish],it is a oil that soaks in not a varnish.That is what they used on Ships a long time ago.It lasts long and you put it on with a towel with NO fumes.

Step 7: Ideas

The Diamond Willow and Alder chair shown was made in the same fashion with one extra brace on each side for stability. After the chair was complete I cut and attached this with screws no tenon cut ends,the chair with extra brace is 10 years old. Also shown with countersunk screws covered and wood plugs so no screws show except in the unfinished photo. I used small sticks as plugs to cover holes then cut and sanded them.
You can use local foliage or bark strips for the seat and also this can be done using Palm tree fronds weaved.
Fiber rush shakers weave also shown.
Finish used was Watco oil not varnish. From a local hardware store.
All my tools were purchased through the mail from 'Rockler' or 'Rockler Woodworking and Hardware' online. They ship International.So all tools shown are from Rockler USA.

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    3 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    when I was a wee bairn...(a while back)... We had similar chairs that were a little more delicate looking but had a twisted wire tensioning applied diagonally between the joints. They were made in the 1920's and still hadn't started creaking as of the 1970's so I'm thinking that was a good idea. But I think your diagonal cross bracing would give similar structure only without the actual tensioning.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I ADORE mortise and tenon furniture, and I especially love working with driftwood.

    Great Ible... Thanks for sharing!!!