In this Instructable, I'll walk you through how to make a modern backyard lounger from just two boards. I'd call it a basic to intermediate woodworking project, but I hope to make it approachable for almost anyone.
This chair is based on the iconic, yet little known Westport design that was the predecessor to the Adirondack chair. In my humble opinion, I think this design as well as the Westport is a more modern version. This chair is easily half the cost of materials of the Westport design with a bit more angular look. The Westport has an interesting history and is worth taking a few minutes to read up on it here.
- (2) 1x10x10 boards
- 48-50 1 1/2" exterior grade screws (I personally like GRK screws, but any deck screw will do)
- Whatever finish you care to use, but it isn't necessarily required
- A printout of the instructions at Popular Mechanics. It has the cutlist that you'll need. I don't know if it's OK to repost it here, so I'm simply including a link.
- A tape measure
- A speed square (easiest way to measure the angle, but a protractor would do in a pinch)
- A circular saw with a rip guide and extension cord (A jigsaw would do, but would take forever)
- A screwdriver (electric or otherwise)
- PSE (Personal Safety Equipment) - at the bare minimum ear/eye protection
Nice to Have Tools
- A table saw or job site saw
- Sawhorses and/or a workbench
- Electric sander
- Trim router
- Impact driver
Step 1: What Kind of Wood to Use?
I've made these chairs from various types of wood, but mainly from common pine and western red cedar.
Tip #1 - a proper lumber yard is your best friend.
In my case, I can get cedar 1x10x10 for less than $18 each at the lumber yard. The yard I go to usually has them in stock, but if you're planning on making a few, it's best to call ahead to be sure that they have stock.
Depending on the yard, some may let you go pick through the stock and select boards yourself. I would strongly encourage you to do this if it's allowed. Some yards won't let you do it, and all you do is hand the picker the order and they return with your boards to load up. I've found this chair to be pretty tolerant of less than perfect lumber, so it's not a huge deal.
Tip #2 - if you don't have access to a lumber yard, a big box store will be just fine.
You can get the right size in common yellow pine with no problems, and usually around $20 a board.
Keep in mind, if you make them from pine and plan to keep them outside uncovered, you'll need to apply a finish to them (exterior grade paint, water seal, stain, varnish, etc.)
Pros/Cons of weather resistant materials
Cedar - Rot/weather resistant, and smells AWESOME while you're working with it. Finish is optional, but recommended if you want to keep the wood from graying with UV exposure. If you don't finish it, it can save a lot of time in the project.
Untreated Pine - If you're using it outside, you pretty much have to finish it if you want it to last more than a year or two. However, pine takes all finishes beautifully. The best finish for a pine chair? Quality exterior grade latex paint with a mildewcide mixed in. The sky is the limit on color. However, you will need to plan for a multi-day project to allow for drying time before assembly (or do it on a hot dry day and paint in the right order so that you can start assembly after the last coat on the first pieces dries).
Exotics - Sure, you could make it from mahogany or ipe, I guess. You'd need to be able to mill it to the correct dimensions for this design, and if you can do that, you can/should make a legit Westport chair. Not to mention, it would be ridiculously heavy and take predrilling every hole, etc. There's really no positive here other than just to say you did it (which does have merit on occasion, but not here).
Step 2: Get Your Work Area Set Up
The best way to ensure that you have a great result is to set yourself up with enough room to work. Remember - you'll be using power tools! be sure that you have a level work area free of obstructions and tripping hazards. You'll need somewhere that you can move around ten foot boards with ease.
This is also the time to be sure that you have your PSE/PPE. Eyes and ears, folks! If you're using a table saw, be sure that you have push sticks, feather boards, etc.
If you've bought some new tools for this project, take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with them and how they operate.
On to the construction!
Step 3: Time to Start Milling the Parts
Here's the pieces that you're going to need from your two boards:
- 2 Seatback 9¼" x 32"
- 2 Seat 9¼" x 20¼"
- 1 Front stretcher 5½" x 21¾" (beveled 30 degrees along one edge)
- 1 Back support 4" x 25¾" (beveled 30 degrees along one edge)
- 2 Front leg 4⅝" x 21¼"
- 2 Armrest 4⅝" x 28"
- 2 Rear leg 4⅝" x 32"
- 2 Arm support 3" x 11½" (tapered from 1½" to 3" along length)
Remember, the cutlist diagram comes from the Popular Mechanics article listed in step 1.
I've built these both with and without a table saw. I've found it easiest and most efficient to crosscut all the pieces to length, and then rip them to width. So, we'll proceed that way.
Before you cut - set the depth on your circular saw to 1", as you'll be crosscutting 3/4" thick boards and you don't need any more blade depth than that.
TIP- Measure twice and cut once. The layout of this project doesn't leave you any extra if you short yourself on a cut. If you're using cedar, you may want to take a sec and square up each end and measure/trim them to 10'. Some times they're a few inches longer and definitely out of square on the ends.
Take the first board and cut the seats and backs from it. As you'll note in the pic above, use the speed square to give you a guide that will keep all of your crosscuts square.
Next, take the second board and crosscut the stringers, arms, and legs. The first time you make one, it also helps to lightly mark the length on each piece with a pencil. We'll rip these pieces in the next step.
In the image above, there are enough milled pieces for 6 chairs.
Step 4: Bevel Cut the Front and Back Stringers.
On the second board, your first crosscut was 25 3/4". Go ahead and get that piece.
You'll need to set your blade angle on your saw to 30 degrees. Most circular saws have an easy adjustment for this. It doesn't have to be perfect. Within a few degrees either way is fine. As you can see above, you'll want to set your guide to 5 1/2". As beveled cuts can be a bit tricky, a good use of the scrap from the first board is to test the width of your rip.
Again, you don't even have to be down to a 1/16" precision. Close to 5 1/2" will be just fine.
Once you make the rip, you'll need to crosscut the wider piece to 21 3/4".
Step 5: Cut the Back Legs, Arms and Arm Supports.
In this step, you'll take the pieces you crosscut from the second board and cut them again to give you two pieces from each board.
What you want to do here, is rip them directly in half lengthwise. As you're using dimensional lumber, you lose 3/4" in width, so you're working with half of 9 1/4". Generally, saw blades are about 1/8". So, you'll want to measure 4 9/16". Again, 1/16" on this chair isn't going to kill you, but get as close as you can.
Once you've done that, it's time to cut the angles for the legs, arms and arm supports.
For the rear legs, grab the 32" long pieces you just ripped. As you can see above, you'll need to mark a 20 degree angle with your speed square. The pencil is pointing to where you measure the degrees. On the other end, mark a 1"x3" triangle. These cuts are easy enough to do freehand. You can also clamp your speed square to the board if you're so inclined.
For the arms, grab your 28" pieces. Pick a corner. Any corner. Mark a 1 1/2" triangle on that corner, and trim it off. Now, this is really an optional step, but it does make it look a bit more finished.
For the arm supports, you should have two smaller pieces that are around 12 1/2" long. Take one of them, and measure 1/2" on each side and draw a diagonal between them. Careful cutting these, as they're smaller pieces. Best to clamp the piece down before cutting.
Optional but extremely helpful later: Make an alignment tool. Take one of the scrap pieces and cut an "L" shaped piece 3/4" wide on each side, and around 3-4" long. You'll use this to easily set the overhang on the arms at assembly.
Now, you should have all of your pieces milled and are ready to move on to the next steps. You've come a long way from two boards already and are closer to the finish than you are to the start!
Step 6: Sand and Route (Completely Optional)
This step is completely optional (and mostly unnecessary if you're using pre-sanded pine).
However, if you're using cedar, you probably need to at least sand it a bit to cut down on the splinters. You can see in the above pics the difference in the boards direct from the lumber yard and sanded to 80 grit. You could go up to 100 or 120 if you're so inclined, but it's outdoor furniture.
As for routing, I have a router, so it was an easy decision for me. It really finishes off the project nicely (and I really like routing). I chose a chamfer bit, as I thought it was a better match for the angular nature of the chair. Feel free to put whatever edge profile you like on it, just be sure to go across the end grain first to hide any tearout when you route the edges. Hopefully, you can see the difference above.
Step 7: Finish
On these, I chose to give them a coat of Thompson's Water Seal. Mostly, this was just for UV protection and to keep the color of the wood from graying. It's a pretty hot topic, and everyone has their favorite finish. Water Seal is available everywhere and works in my experience. Feel free to use spar urethane or any other outdoor finish.
If you're keeping these outside, you're going to need some sort of finish on them if you want them to last. Easiest? Exterior latex paint. Any color you can think of, and cleans up with soap and water. My advice? buy the new paints that come with a primer in the paint, and possibly a mildewcide. But really, sky is the limit here. Just be sure it's meant to coat exterior surfaces to account for temp fluctuations. The more you spend on paint, the better finish you'll get as a general rule. You can do two chairs easy with a quart.
Step 8: Assembly
Now, it's time to assemble. Get your parts ready and lined up.
An impact driver is really helpful, but an electric drill/driver will do.
As I mentioned, I like the GRK brand screws, as they're rated for exterior use, have a star drive head, and a drill tip, so no pre-drilling.
Your speed square will help you with alignment at times.
Step 9: Front and Back Legs
The first thing you want to assemble is the front and back legs. You want the front tip of the back leg 14" from the bottom of the front. leg. 4 screws here in whatever pattern you like. I prefer a bit of a diamond parallel with each of the legs.
Don't worry about making sure the back is at the right angle to the front legs. If you measure up 14" and then use your speed square to make sure the pieces are flush, you'll have the correct angle.
Step 10: Front Stringer and Seat
Attach the front stringer to the two legs. Two screws on each side. You're screwing into the front legs, and not he ends of the back legs. What I've found to be helpful is to start your screws until they poke through the back of the stringer by maybe 1/8". The wood is soft enough that you can press them in place and have them stay put until you screw them in.
The front stringer should be angled down toward you and even with the 14" mark where the top of the back legs are. It should be even with each edge of the front legs as well.
Before you fully fasten both sides of the stringer, test fit a seat bottom to be sure you haven't made the legs too close to each other.
Next, screw in the seat boards, leaving about 1/8" between the boards. Two screws per board per side should be fine. Depending on the lumber, you may need to use your legs as a clamp to move the rear legs together/apart to be sure that they are they are the same distance apart from front to back.
Step 11: Arm Supports
Next, you want to get your handy dandy assembly aid that you made from scrap in an earlier step.
Make marks as above so you know where the support should be fastened in the middle of the front leg. Again, go ahead and start your screws, then press the support into the screws and finish driving the screws home.
You can use either your speed square or your assembly aid to be sure that you're flush with the top of the front arm.
Step 12: Arms
Now, you're ready to attach the arms. You want a 3/4" overhang on the front and inside edges. That's where your alignment aid comes in!
Drive one screw into the top of the front of the arm as shown. This will allow you to adjust the spacing at the back of the arms before screwing in the back stringer.
Placing your alignment aid on the top of the arm also helps you to align the screws with the front leg and support below.
Step 13: Rear Stringer
Remember when you just screwed one screw into the arms? Keep that in mind during this step.
Again - predriving screws helps a lot here. Fasten one side and then measure 18 3/4" between the inside edges of the arms and drive the other side home. Two screws per side.
Test fit your back pieces before you call this step finished to be sure that they aren't too tight.
If all that looks good, go back and drive 3 more screws per side in the top of the arms. Two more into the front leg and one down into the arm support. Don't forget to use your alignment guide!
Step 14: Back
The last and most rewarding part!
Start on one side. Align the bottom of the back board with the bottom of the back leg. Go ahead and drive two screws trough the back leg into the back board. It may help to use your speed square to get the alignment right there.
Now do the other side. However, rather aligning with the bottom of the back leg, use the top of the other back board to guide your alignment. Should be pretty close, but you can cheat a bit with the bottom alignment height to make the top perfectly aligned.
Then, use your speed square to make a nice light line across the back so that you can screw it into the back stringer. 3 screws per back board. Do one in the middle of each board then split the difference between each side to get even spacing. No need to measure - just eyeball it.
Step 15: Enjoy
You did it! You just made a chair!
Now, it's your duty to take a load off and watch the world go by for a while. I think you'll find these to be incredibly comfortable, stylish, and good times worthy!