Build a Garden Chair

Garden chair project by Les Kenny

wooden garden chair

This garden chair was designed as a project for Jess – a novice woodworker.
Jess came to a small workshop I was running in Melbourne to do her first ever woodworking project. This is her chair
More » Jess’s first build, her story and photos

This is a very comfortable garden chair and it doesn’t look too bad either. It would pretty much look good in any garden.

Made out of mostly 140mm x 35mm (1-1/2″ x 5-1/2″) wood, it is a very solid, wide, and deep chair with decent size arm rests. You can laze back in it and do whatever you do when you sit in such a chair.


Note: About the measurements.
These instructions are given in both metric (mm) and standard (inch) measurements.
The metric measurements are given first followed by the standard in brackets ().
In some cases the metric measurements and the inch equivalent are not an exact match. This is for practical reasons.
Just use one or the other and you will be fine.
The metric measurements are suitable for Australasia,
and the inch measurements are suitable for North America.
The rest of the world should be able to work out something between the two.

NOTE: As well as this free version, this article PLUS A MATCHING BENCH PLAN can be purchased in downloadable clean copy PDF format for only $5 USD (tax if applicable). To purchase click here

Wood sizes and source

Three different size woods are used in this project.

They are:

Australasia (metric):
140mm x 35mm, and 190mm x 35mm, and 90mm x 90mm treated timber.

North America (standard)
1-1/2″x5-1/2″, 1-1/2″x7-1/2″, and 3-1/2″x3-1/2″ treated Lumber.

Actually, there is also a bit of 25mm x 25mm (1″x1″) strip needed as well.

At the time of writing some Lowes stores in North America stocked 1-1/2″ x 5-1/2″ and 1-1/2″ x 7-1/2″ Pressure Treated Lumber in 8ft, 12ft, and 16ft lengths.

Bunnings in Australia stocked 140mm x 35mm and 190mm x 35mm treated timber in various lengths up to 6 meters long.

90mm x 90mm (3-1/2″ x 3-1/2″) should be available in most places.

What the sizes mean

140mm x 35mm means wood that is 35 millimeters thick by 140 millimeters wide.
1-1/2″ x 5-1/2″ means wood that is 1-1/2 inches thick by 5-1/2 inches wide.

Materials you will need

Wood
8 meters (27ft) of 140mm x 35mm (1-1/2″ x 5-1/2″) stock, that allows for a little bit of wastage. Always cut the longest pieces first and cut the shorter pieces from the off-cuts

1800mm (6ft) of 190mm x 35mm (1-1/2″ x 7-1/2″) stock.

1200mm (4ft) of 90mm x 90mm (3-1/2″ x 3-1/2″) stock

2400mm (8ft) of 25mm x 25mm (1″ x 1″) stock

Other
Infill of choice for the back of the chair. That can be strips or slats of wood, wrought iron, just about anything to fill an area 530mm (20-1/2″) by 210mm (8-1/4″). Imagination needed.

About 40 wood screws 75mm (3″) long.

Some glue and a smidgen of small nails for the infill (what ever you put in the back opening) and also for the cleats.

Cutting list

90mm x 90mm (3-1/2″ x 3-1/2″)
• 2 @ 564mm (22-1/4″) for the front legs.

190mm x 35mm (1-1/2″ x 7-1/2″)
• 2 @ 900mm (35-1/2″) for the rear legs.

140mm x 35mm (1-1/2″ x 5-1/2″)
• 2 @ 742mm (29-1/4″) for the arms
• 1 @ 672mm (26-1/2″) for the front piece
• 1 @ 600mm (23-1/2″) for the back piece
• 2 @ 606mm (23-7/8) for the side pieces
• 5 @ 478mm (18-7/8″) for the seat pieces
• 1 @ 530mm (20-1/2″) for the lower back rail
• 1 @ 800mm (31-1/2″) for the upper back rail

25mm x 25mm (1″ x 1″)
• 2 @ 600mm (23-1/2″) cleats for ‘under the seat’
• 2 @ 530mm (20-1/2″) cleats for the ‘infill’

In General

Fix every join with glue and screws.
Use two screws at each meeting.
Pre drill the screw holes.
Pre drill the screw holes through the face piece of wood only. That’s the piece that will
display the screw head. Not the piece that is being screwed to.
Use a drill bit the same diameter as the screw.

O.K. Let’s rip into it

First have a look at the plans and then we’ll get cracking.

garden chair side view plans
garden chair front view plans
garden chair top view plans
garden chair back leg plans

Following are the instructions that were given to Jess to build this garden chair. I hope they will also benefit you should you decide to make one. Regardless of wether you are a novice or a seasoned D.I.Y.er these instructions, drawings, photos, and plans should guide you through the building process – remember, this was Jess’s first build.

NOTE: As well as this free version, this article PLUS A MATCHING BENCH PLAN can be purchased in downloadable clean copy PDF format for only $5 USD (tax if applicable). To purchase click here


Bit of a cautionary note: If you are a first timer attempting this project, ensure you have a qualified person to oversee the safety aspects of the job and show you how to use tools correctly. Do not use power tool unsupervised if you are a novice.

Cut all the pieces

Cut all the pieces according to the cutting list. Cut the longest pieces first to minimize waste.

Making the back legs

First make the back legs, which have to be shaped out of 190mm x 35mm (1-1/2″ x 7-1/2″) stock.
So with two pieces @ 900mm (35-1/2″) long, mark the legs according to the drawing below.

garden chair back leg plan

Cut the legs out, using a power saw and a handsaw (or more elaborate equipment if you have any)

Then they need to have a piece cut out to house the top back-rail

Clamp the legs together and mark for the cut-out according to the drawing below

garden chair back leg cut-out detail

Set the depth of the power saw to 35mm (1-1/2″) and make multiple cuts across the cut-out area and then clean it out with a hammer and chisel.

garden chair back leg cut-out

Round the top of the legs

Round the top of the legs with a jig-saw

garden chair leg tops rounded

Make the front legs

Out of 90mm x 90mm (3-1/2″ x 3-1/2″) stock cut two pieces that are 564mm (22-1/4″) long.

Clamp the legs together and mark for the cut-out according to the drawing below

garden chair front leg cut-out detail

Set the depth of the power saw to 35mm (1-1/2″) and make multiple cuts across the cut-out area and then clean it out with a hammer and chisel.

garden chair front leg check-out

Add the side piece

Take special notice. The side piece is fixed to the outside of the front leg (in the cut-out) but is fixed to the inside of the back leg. The following drawing and picture should explain it all.
Also, the side pieces are off-set in from the front 25mm (1″)

Fix with glue and screws, two at each meeting.

garden chair side piece
garden chair side piece added

Do one side and then mirror the other side. Did you hear that? The sides must mirror one another.

garden chair side frames

Add the front and back pieces

Place the front and back pieces in position according to the drawing below.
You will need a couple of clamps to hold them in place.
Fix with glue and screws, two at each meeting.

garden chair front and back pieces
garden chair front and back pieces added

Shape the arms and back rails

Cut and shape the arms and back rails according to the drawing below.
The back rails will need to be ripped (cut lengthwise) to achieve the required width.
Ensure the pieces are clamped to a work bench or otherwise held secure while cutting.

garden chair with all the shaped pieces added

Add the arms, top back rail, and the ‘infill’ cleats

garden chair with most pieces fitted

Refer to the plan drawings and fit the arms, and top rail. Fix them with screws and glue.

Nail the ‘infill’ cleats to the bottom edge of the upper rail, and the top edge of the bottom rail.

Off-set them back from the front, 12mm (1/2″), or whatever the thickness of the infill is.

The purpose of the ‘infill’ cleats are to support the infill.
We used 12mm (1/2″) slats for the infill, so therefore the ‘infill’ cleats were set back from the front
12mm (1/2″).

Add the ‘under-seat’ cleats and the seat boards

Nail an ‘under-seat’ cleat to the inside of the front piece and another to the inside back piece. Position them 30mm (1-1/4″) down from the top. The seat boards will sit on the ‘under-seat’ cleats and they (the seat boards) will protrude
slightly above the top of the front board and the back board.

Apply glue to the top edge of the ‘under-seat’ cleats and sit the seat boards on them.
Nails or screws will not be necessary, just put some weights on top of the seat boards to hold them down until the glue has set.

One of the seat boards will need to be ripped (cur lengthwise) to make it fit.

seat boards in a garden chair

Just the infill to go

Use whatever you want (a bit of imagination would be a fine thing) for the infill.
We used 12mm (1/2″) thick slats and spaced them evenly along, with a little gap between each one.
They were just glued in, as we didn’t want nail or screw heads showing in that part.

back slats in a garden chair

And that’s about it folks

Jess sitting in a garden chair

Post your handiwork

If you build this garden chair we would love to see a photograph and your story. You can post your handiwork here

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