If using rough sawn lumber your exact cut list will vary so I’m not providing one for this project. It’s just too simple of a chair to make a full set of plans. Follow along with the video and you should have no problems. To make this chair you will need roughly 14′ of a 8-1/2″ wide 4/4 board OR two 8′ 1×10 boards OR you can get three complete chairs out of a single piece of 3/4″ plywood. Each chair consists of four side pieces (two of each template cut) and 15 slats that are 2″ wide by 19-1/2″ long. The following image is a cutting diagram example of three complete chairs on a single piece of plywood.
After a rough layout my next step is breaking down this long board into more easily manageable sections at my miter saw station. By this point Molly and Dylan were already rolling on their build so we went back and forth sharing the miter saw.
The ash I’m working with is rough sawn so in preparation for the planer I stacked all the pieces in the correct direction to feed them through the machine. Right about here I realized I should have made one more crosscut to separate the side pieces.
And then planed to final thickness. For these chairs there is no exact thickness you need to get the boards to. I’d say anything between 1/2” and 3/4” is fine. As a matter of fact I think the side pieces were a little thicker than 3/4” just because at that point they were flat and the only benefit of further reducing thickness is to reduce weight. Also, having someone catch and stack the boards coming out of the planer is a luxury I’m not familiar with. It really helps out a lot!
But first lets talk about the templates. Which I do have available for purchase on my website. The whole point of making these templates was to make this chair incredibly easy to build, as it eliminates figuring out the radius for the overall shape, eliminates laying out and locating all of the slats, and provides perfect spacing between all of the slats. To use this template you need a flush trim bit with a 1/2” or less cutting diameter. You also need a 1/4” radius round over bit for the slats.
So here’s my recommendation on router bits. Bit #2 in this image is a 1/4” radius roundover bit. This size round over bit is necessary for the slats. Bit #1 is a 1/2” diameter flush trim bit. Because it fits the template perfectly and it’s a little more rigid than a 1/4” diameter flush trim bit, my plan was to use just this flush trim bit and this roundover bit to show you that you can get by with just two bits. However, as an investment for long term shop use and to have many more options in the future my recommendation is to pick up a larger flush trim bit to do the majority of the work and then a smaller diameter bit to be more versatile and get into tighter areas.
Bit #4 is one that I’ve had for almost a year and it’s a beast. It can chew through quite a bit of material at once due to the cutting diameter without digging in too aggressively due to the supporting material behind the cutting edge. Bit #3 has a 1/8” radius so while it does a great job at getting into tighter areas I wouldn’t want to stress this bit too much with excessive waste removal.
One thing to notice about all three of these flush trim bits is that they are spiral bits. You can get the job done with lesser expensive straight cutting bits but this is a proven “you get what you pay for” situation. Straight bits cut in a chopping action where spiral bits have a slice cutting action. Under the same demanding situations, a spiral bit will stay sharp longer and produce a cleaner surface. Bits #1 and #3 have down cut spirals going into the bearings, where the template will be. This means the wood fibers will be supported by the template as they are cut which will result in a tearout free edge. And bit #4 is a combination bit meaning it has cutting edges going in both directions.
The templates are attached to the wood with a few pieces of Nitto tape (double sided tape).
As I start routing I want to touch on a bit of safety advice and that is “if you don’t feel comfortable doing something then don’t do it.” Here’s an example. Using push pads at a router table is often considered the more safe way to use a router table. From my own personal perspective, I completely disagree. When using push pads I feel disconnected from the material. Like there is a barrier between me and the task at hand…which there is. I see it like using boxing gloves to help catch a football. Now I’m not telling anyone out there that you should or shouldn’t use push pads at the router. But I am saying that over the years of trying to use them at the router table I always feel safer and in more control by firmly holding the material with my hands, rather than push pads.
At this point I realized I left a bit too much material when rough cutting at the bandsaw so I went back to the bandsaw and made a bunch of quick relief cuts. Because I had a 1” wide resawing blade on the bandsaw these relief cuts were easier than trying to get into the curves of the template. Later in the day Molly and Dylan said that these tabs were actually being shot across the shop at them so while the relief cuts were a good idea to reduce stress on the router bit they weren’t such a good idea with other people working in the shop at the same time…
And then more template work back at the router table to get the slot perfect. I don’t think the chisels were entirely necessary but it reduced the chances of the bit grabbing on the ridges between holes.
Next the slats can be ripped out of the remainder of the stock at the table saw. I ended up having about 40” of extra material after getting the 15 slats that I needed. So I really only needed 13′ of that 16′ board I started with.
Each slat will get a round over on all four long edges that will match up perfectly with the template. With a fence installed at the router table this is a quick and easy process that can be knocked out in just a couple minutes. Again, I feel much more safe holding the material with my hands rather than using push pads.
Before leaving the router table I used the same roundover bit on all the edges of the seat and back supports, starting and stopping as the bearing hit the slat supports and, of course, not routing the areas where the slats will be.
The last step before assembly is to cut the slats to their final length. You have a little wiggle room here as the width is really up to you. I cut these at 19-1/2” long, which means the chair will be 19-1/2” wide.
Assembly is incredibly easy due to using the template. I started with the back support clamping the lowest slat in place making sure to have a 1/4” overhang on both sides. Then the second to last slat can be installed by drilling pilot holes to prevent splitting and securing with two screws per side. With the first slat still clamped and this second to last slat secured the assembly becomes rigid. The top slat only has one alignment side so it should not be used to establish rigidity and instead should be installed last.
With the assembled back upside down on the table the seat section is assembled in it’s nested state. The seat supports slide into the back and are clamped to the back sides with a couple spacers. In my case I used four 1/16” drill bits which will result in 1/8” of wiggle room when nesting the chair. If you don’t have four 1/16” drill bits than four evenly sized nails will do the job just fine. Four pencils would even work. Just make sure the seat sides are clamped parallel to the back sides at an even distance from the ends. Make sure the clamps are not so tight that they bow the side pieces.
The very last slat installed is the captured slat in the seat assembly and the whole point of it is to add a little rigidity to the ground side of the seat assembly. The slot is sized for a maximum thickness of 3/4” but the slat should still be installed even if you’re using 1/2” thick stock.
That’s it! This is one of the quickest and easiest builds I’ve done in a long, long time. The seat nests inside the back of the back for storage and transport and slides in the front of the back to be used as a seat.
And if you’re wondering how much weight it will hold just know that I’m approximately 2.4 Molly and Dylans, which is about 200 pounds and it held me no problem. I’d be willing to bet that this chair out of plywood could hold 300 pounds no problem.
The last step is to give it some really good outdoor protection and for that I sprayed a few coats of Halcyon from Total Boat. It’s a durable outdoor rated finish that dries really quick and cleans up with water. It also gives a very slight amber tone, so unlike water based polyurethane this really highlights the wood grain, like oil based finishes do. It looks much better than any of the water based finishes I’ve used in the past which easy to apply but they give the wood a milky, muddy, dull look in comparison.
And of course Molly and Dylan have been enjoying the chair ever since. They like to travel and I’m sure this chair will get a lot of use from them. But as I mentioned earlier, we were building something for each other so head on over to their channel and see what they built for my wife and I. My wife actually put it to use the following day and really likes it on our front porch. So there’s a hint for ya. If you’re interested in one of the chair templates I do have them for sale here.