With a set
of outdoor chairs like this on
your patio or deck, you and your
guests can enjoy the open air in
comfort and style. This chair is
comfortable (the seat contours were
patterned after a Mercedes Benz
seat!), and so simple to build you
can put one together in a weekend.
You’ll need only basic tools: a tablesaw
(or radial-arm saw), bandsaw,
drill press and router.
Because I live on the coast of
Florida, I designed my patio chair to
stand up to the ravages of salt-laden
air, hot sun and heavy rain. And I
didn’t want a patio-full of chairs
that required heavy maintenance.
You can enjoy these without worrying
about scraping and painting
One of the tricks to building a
low-maintenance chair is to select
the right wood. I made these chairs
from vertical-grain cypress. The
grain pattern is visually appealing,
and cypress holds up extremely well
outdoors, without any finish. Other
suitable woods are teak, mahogany
and cedar. Another secret to a longlasting
chair is to select the right
hardware. I used square-drive stainless
steel screws, which won’t rust or
stain the wood. Also, be
sure to use a weather-resistant glue.
I’ve had good luck with Titebond II,
a yellow glue that’s easy to work
with and holds up well in moist conditions. Alternative glues are
resorcinol, epoxy and plastic resin.
(For more on glues, see AW #34,
Oct. ’93). Finally, to protect the end
grain of the legs and to keep them
out of any surface water, I added
Cutting the frame parts
Begin construction by cutting the
legs. They have an L-shape in crosssection,
which I made by ripping the
center out of 1-1/2 by 2-1/4 in. stock,
leaving a 3/4 by 1-1/2 in. recess. You
could also glue together two pieces of
1-1/2 by 3/4 in. stock. Once you have
the L-shaped stock, cut a 12-degree
miter at both ends so the legs are
23 in. long. When cutting the miters,
remember to make two right legs and
two left legs!
Next, make the front and back
rails, which have a 12-degree
beveled top and bottom edge.
Starting with 1-3/4 in. stock, bevelrip
the first edge of both pieces at 12
degrees. Next, flip the boards over,
reset the saw’s fence and bevel-rip
the other edge of both boards. The
width of the board’s face should be
1-1/2 in. Crosscut the two rails to
length and keep the offcuts to use
later as spacer blocks (Photo 1).
Cut the foot rail to length, then
cut the arm and side rails to the
rough length shown in the Cutting
List. They will be cut to final
length during assembly.
I made a jig (Photo 1) to help
assemble the sides. The jig has
blocks to position the legs so the
outside corners are 27-1/2 in. apart
at the bottom, and the legs slope
inward at 78 degrees. A horizontal
block locates the side rail at the correct
height (Photo 1).
Place two legs on the jig, and cut
one end of an arm rail to 12 degrees.
Put the arm rail in position, mark
the opposite end, and make the
opposing miter cut so the rail fits
tightly. Drill and countersink the
arm rail, then attach it with glue and
1-1/4 in. screws. To assemble the
seat rail, first retrieve the two
beveled pieces of scrap that you
saved earlier and position them on
the jig (Photo 1). These are standins
for the front and back rails. Cut
one end of a seat rail to 12 degrees,
then cut the rail to fit between the
legs as you did the arm rail. Remove
With the two sides assembled,
you’re ready to attach the front,
back and foot rails. This can be awkward
for one person, so get another
set of hands, if you can. A piece of
scrap cut to the same length as the
rails will also help.
On a perfectly flat surface, clamp
the two sides, the three rails and the
spacer, without glue. If everything
fits, glue and screw the rails in position,
foot rail first (Photo 2). Be sure
to drive the eight screws that go
through the front and back legs and
into the ends of the side rails,
because they lock the joint together.
The seat supports
The shape of the seat supports is the
key to the comfort of the chair. To
get a comfortable curve, I traced the
seat contour of my neighbor’s
Mercedes, a seat revered for its
relaxed fit. I made a full-size template
of the curve from heavy card stock.
To make the blank for the seat
support, make a 75-degree cut on
the end of a 1x4, as shown in Fig. C.
There are two ways to do this: Mark
out the cut, bandsaw it roughly and
then plane to the line; or make a jig to clamp down the stock at a 45-
degree angle, then make the cut
with a tablesaw, radial-arm saw or
miter saw set at 30 degrees. Save the
offcut. Attach a 1x6 to the 75-
degree cut face with a biscuit, using
the offcut to help you clamp the
joint tight (Photo 3).
When the glue is dry, saw out the
shape of the seat support on the
bandsaw and smooth it. Glue and
screw the seat supports to the side
rails, making sure that the bottom
edge of each seat support is flush
with the side rail. Clamping the seat
support to the frame before driving
the screws will make the joint tight.
It’s now time to tackle the armrests.
First make a template for the shape
of the arm out of card stock (Fig. C).
Bandsaw the arms to shape and
sand the edges smooth. Rout the
decorative cove on the upper edges.
Secure the armrest to the arm rails
with glue and screws. The arm
should overhang the front leg by
1-1/2 in. (Fig. B). Once again,
clamping the joint before screwing
will result in a tighter joint.
To make the slats, first cut some wide
boards to 21-1/2 in. Allow enough
material for 23 slats per chair, plus a
couple extras. To strengthen the
chair, each slat has a dado that fits
over the seat support. I cut these
dadoes in the wide boards using a
radial-arm saw, with a stop block to
ensure that each dado is 3/4 in. from
the board’s end (Photo 5). Once
you’ve cut the dadoes, rip the wide
boards into 1-1/2-in. strips and bevelrip
at 12 degrees to a final width of
1-3/8 in. Trim two of the slats to
20 in.—these two fit between the legs
Drill and countersink two holes in
each slat, using a simple jig to keep
the holes positioned correctly (Photo
6). Drill holes in the shorter slats
without the jig.
Next, install the slats. Start with the
three slats in front, including the 20-in.
one that goes between the legs. Use glue and screws, predrilling the seat
supports for the screws. Then install a
slat at the top of the back, two slats at
the “crook” of the seat support, and
the short one between the armrests
(Photo 7). The upper edge of this slat
should line up with the top of the
decorative cove cut in the arms.
Install the remaining slats, spacing
them by eye.
In Florida we get some colossal rain
storms. To keep the ends of the legs
from standing in water, I shod them
with plastic feet. They’re made from
ultra-high molecular weight
(UHMW) plastic, that can be cut
with normal woodworking tools.
UHMW plastic is slippery, so the
chairs slide easily on rough surfaces.
I cut the plastic into bevel-edged
rectangles first, then cut them into
L-shapes on the bandsaw, tilting the
table to get the bevel on the final
inside cuts. Again, make sure you
have two right and two left feet.
Counterbore and drill the feet, then
screw them into the bottom of the legs.
Cypress naturally weathers to a
beautiful silver gray. An annual coat
of a water-repellent preservative with
UV inhibitors and a fungicide, like
Thompson’s Wood Protector (available
at home centers), will keep the
wood looking its best.
Cutting List and Hardware
Fig. A: Patio Chair
Fig. B: Chair Elevation
Fig. C: Chair Parts
Click any image to view a larger version.
1. Assemble the sides on a jig to keep the legs in position.
The side rails are cut to fit, using spacer blocks to stand for the
front and back rails.
2. Construct the frame by attaching the front and back rails
to the two side assemblies. A couple clamps and a spacer between
the back legs will help.
3. Make the rough blank for the seat support from a 1x4 with a
75-degree cut and a 1x6, joined with a biscuit. An angled wedge allows
you to clamp the joint tight. When the glue is dry, bandsaw the seat
support to shape.
4. Screw the seat supports to the seat rail and the rear leg,
checking to make sure they are parallel and 1/8 in. in from the back
edge of the leg. Shape the armrests, then glue and screw them on.
5. Dado the slats before they’re ripped to
width, using a stop block to ensure consistent
location. Then rip the slats and bevel their edges.
6. Drill and countersink the slats, using a drill
press and simple jig to get the holes properly located.
Two slats must be cut short and drilled separately. One
fits between the legs and one between the arms.
7. Install the slats beginning with the three in
front, then the top of the back, the two in the “crook” of
the seat, and the short slat between the arms. Fill in the
remaining slats, spacing them by eye.