I've made quite a few pieces of furniture and decorations from pallet wood so naturally I figured I should make a chair to sit down and relax on.
About 2-3 Pallets
x6 5/8" Bolts
x6 5/8" Washers
x3 5/8" Threaded Rods
x1 Large Bottle Extra Strength Wood Glue
Black Paint (Optional)
Wood Filler (Optional)
Dremel (Metal Cutting/Grinding Heads)
Sand Paper Grit 60-180
While the project could have been done with any saw and without a power sander, I chose to use a compound miter saw to make quick and accurate cuts. For the sanding I used a palm sander and a random orbit sander. I also used a oscillating multi-tool to sand tight spaces and cut small adjustments to make the chair level.
Step 1: Design and Cutting the Side Pieces
I chose what I think is a pretty simple and elegant design. First I drew a side profile of the basic shape and the rough size. I still wasn't too sure about the slatted seat and back but it ended up looking quite nice (and saved on wood to boot). I also like the look of black metal and wood together so I knew I wanted to incorporate rods and bolts into the chair. Having them at each intersection of angles not only looks nice but provides some internal strength and compression so the wood glue is not doing all the work.
I used a compound miter saw to make the cuts at the proper length and angles. A circular saw or jigsaw (or even a hand saw) could be used also but would possibly be less accurate.
When choosing wood for the legs I tried to find as many pallet boards as possible that were the same width to create a relatively even look. This was only for the legs as almost any boards with at least one flat edge can be used for the seat and back.
UPDATE: I took measurements for everything and made an auto-cad plan for it. These are the closest approximations I could get with what I had to measure on hand. When I built the chair I chose the dimensions on what looked best to me and not mathematically.
Step 2: Gluing the Side Pieces Together
To make the tops of the legs and sides of the seat flush with each other I cut and glued the legs and seat sides together with two longer pieces on the inside with a shorter piece on one side. This allowed the seat, back, and legs to join together and still have a completely flat side (It should be noted that in the end I decided to make the legs and back one more board thicker for aesthetic reasons). Once I dry fit the pieces I put a generous amount of wood glue in between each piece and clamped them together. Any excess glue that comes out the sides can be wiped away with a damp cloth.
Once one side is finished it can be used as a template for the other side (measurements should still be taken to ensure accuracy).
Step 3: Attaching the Back
Once the sides have dried it's time to give the chair it's back piece. I chose a reclined angle of about 65 degrees. After gluing the back piece in place I cut a board so that it would sit on the side piece and be flush with the back. After cutting the triangle off the end of that piece, I glued it and the board on either side of the back piece.
Repeat this step on the other side piece of the chair. With the back piece on, it's safe to call your project a chair and not a stool!
Step 4: Cutting/Drilling Back and Seat Boards
Now to begin constructing the back and seat. I chose to use slats to save on wood and because it looks nice.
In order to have slats, there must be spacers in between each slat to keep them apart (each back and side board will need an accompanying spacer). Measure the approximate width of your boards and cut square spacers the appropriate length. I say approximate because as long as the seat and back boards create a flat surface where a person will sit, the other side of them can be irregular. This irregularity creates a pretty cool look on the bottom and back of the chair while still keeping the seat smooth and level.
What's nice about this chair's design is that the size of both the seat and back slats can be taken from the measurements of the side and back pieces and then just repeated until a desired width is achieved.
To see how wide the chair would be I stacked the slats and spacers on top of each other vertically. Once I was satisfied with the width, I began drilling 5/8" holes at each end of both kinds of slats and through every spacer and into the side pieces also.
After the holes were drilled I re-stacked everything to make sure I was still satisfied with the width of the chair (this also made the transport of all the wood in it's proper order easier).
Step 5: Dry Fitting and Gluing Seat and Back
With all the pieces cut and holes drilled, it's time to dry fit each piece around the threaded rods and then glue them in place.
After placing a bolt and washer at the end of each of the three rods, insert them into the holes drilled into one of the side pieces and begin dry stacking your seat and back pieces. It should alternate between back piece/spacer and seat piece/spacer.
After the dry fit it's time to glue them all together. I used a little less glue for this as the rods provide most of the strength and support for the chair, the glue is mostly to ensure the spacers and slats don't move around.
As I glued each piece down I would clamp every third or fourth back/seat piece and wait until the glue had dried before continuing. After the chair became wider than the clamps, I placed the washer and bolts onto the other end of the threaded rods and essentially used them as clamps, tightening them to press the wood together.
Once all the slats and spacers are glued together, the other side piece may be glued/bolted on.
Step 6: Removing Excess Rod
Now that the seat and back are complete the chair is functional but still needs come minor touches.
The first of these touches is to remove the excess rods sticking off the side of the chair. For this I used a Dremel with a metal cutting head. Because of the thickness of the rods being larger than the diameter of the cutting head, I ended up cutting mostly through them and then snapping the rest off with a screw driver/hammer.
I followed this up by smoothing down the jagged ends of the rods with a Dremel grinding attachment.
Step 7: Filling Gaps
This was the only part of the process I would not have done if given a second chance. I used wood filler to fill in small gaps between a few pieces of wood but because this was my first time using the stuff it didn't look that nice, even after sanding most of it out. It seemed like a pretty straightforward idea but I should have researched it. Luckily the spots I used it on were few and far between.
Ideally the wood filler is filled into the gap (kind of like patching drywall) and once dry is sanded down to be flush with the wood.
Step 8: Sanding
I had quite a few sanding options for the job. I used a random orbit sander to round out corners, smooth down very rough boards and even to make the chair perfectly level.
I used a palm sander in the corners of the the chair, specifically where the back and seat meet at an angle, and to give the boards an overall smoothness.
To get in between the slats I used an oscillating multi-tool with a flat pointed sanding attachment but this only got so far. To get the rest of each slat relatively smooth I hand sanded in the spaces a tool would not fit.
While sanding is very important when using pallet wood (especially in furniture that people will sit on) I try to keep some imperfections and blemishes in the wood so it still looks like pallet wood.
Step 9: Staining
For the stain I chose Minwax Natural 209. It's a light stain that shows off the natural beauty of the wood without changing it's color too drastically. It also looks very slick with the black hardware.
With the wood smooth I applied the stain evenly across the entire chair. With the use of two saw horses it was very easy to do the top and then bottom. Without saw horses it would have to rest on the ground and thus take a little more care and time to stain.
Step 10: Applying a Finish and Other Final Touches
The finish I chose was Minwax fast drying polyurethane. It's an oil-based gloss and should be applied with a brush along the wood's grain and sanded with an abrasive pad in between coats. I didn't want too strong of a gloss so I only did two coats .
After the finish was applied I touched up the bolts, washers, and rod ends with black paint as they had gotten a little scraped up in the process of building.
Step 11: Have a Well Deserved Sit
With your very own pallet wood chair complete, have a well deserved sit and enjoy! And if you feel so inclined (or reclined haha), vote for my chair in the pallet contest.