Build your own retro patio furniture – Mother Earth News


Use this template as a guide to cut the sides and back supports of the wood patio chair. Each square on the template represents a 1 inch by 1 inch square.

Photo courtesy of Will Shelton


The assembled wooden garden chair. The backrest is adjustable for sitting or lying down.

Photo courtesy of Will Shelton


If redwood is too expensive or unavailable, you can use cedar.

Photo courtesy of Will Shelton


Details of how the wooden garden chair is assembled.

Photo courtesy of Will Shelton


The armrests on the frame interfere with the slats of the seat of the retro lounge chair. Cleats hold these slats in place.

Photo courtesy of Will Shelton


Use this template to cut out the frame for the retro lounge chair. Each square on the template represents a 1 inch by 1 inch square.

Photo courtesy of Will Shelton


The frame of the retro lounge chair is made by laminating three pieces of plywood with epoxy.

Photo courtesy of Will Shelton


Retro patio furniture never goes out of style. “Retro,” in this case, is a term applied to contemporary items that incorporate design cues from the 1930s through the 1960s, before design turned to ash stone architecture and avocado appliances. Like malt houses and socks, retro is pure Americana. The wooden garden chair and retro lounge chair featured in this article are heavily influenced by design concepts from the 1960s. They are fun, functional, and easy to build. So what are you waiting for? Who knows? Maybe Elvis will come for a visit. Get out your saber saw and rock and roll, but don’t get sawdust on your blue suede shoes.

You can also download PDFs of the plans: Wooden garden chair plans, Wooden garden chair and lounge chair plans 1 (Illustrations A and B)
and Chaise Lounge Plans 2 (Illustration C).

Retro wooden garden chair

The framework

• Create a 1 inch by 1 inch grid on one of the 8 foot 2 by 12 redwoods. Recreate the full-scale curves on the board.

• Cut out the shape using a saber saw.

• Use the cut out shape as a template and trace the shape onto the remaining 8 feet 2 by 12 feet and cut it out.

• Squeeze the two frame pieces together and sharpen the curves with a wood rasp to make the two sides the same. (Note: a good wood rasp is well worth the price. Choose one that has a rough, fine, flat tooth on one side and a rough, fine convex tooth on the other.)

• With both sides still tight against each other, drill all the holes making sure they are perpendicular to the surface.

• Sand the redwood until the desired smoothness is obtained.

Assembly of the frame parts

• Cut four 1-inch to exactly 24-inch hardwood dowels. These are the ankles with braces.

Cut all of the seat slats to 24 inches long. You will need 20 to 24 slats depending on your spacing.

• 1 inch from each side, drill and countersink the two mounting holes at each end of the batten.

• Sand the top edges to a quarter inch radius.

• Use eight of the slats to evenly space the frame pieces (four at the top, four at the bottom). Temporarily screw them in place.

• With the frame pieces now spaced exactly 24 inches apart and parallel to each other, glue the four spider pegs in place.

• Once the epoxy has hardened, screw in all the seat slats. Use one of the slats for a spacer.

The folder

• Cut out the four pieces of the backrest from the boards. Match the outlines as you did for the frame pieces.

• Measure the distance between the frame pieces.

• Cut 10 to 12 pieces of backrest slats to the size you just took, but shorten them by an eighth of an inch: the sides of the backrest should fit inside the frame pieces. Drill, countersink the mounting holes, and sand the quarter-inch radius as you did for the seat slats.

• Drill all holes for the lag bolts and hardwood dowel.

• Screw on all the back slats (10 to 12 required).

• Secure the back support arms to the back using carriage bolts.

• Install the backrest using lag bolts.

• Epoxy the support arm stud. Make sure the spacing is consistent.

Applying a finish

• To preserve wood, brush on a quality varnish or penetrating wood preservative.

• Place the legs in a tray containing a penetrating epoxy until enough liquid has been absorbed by the wood. This will prevent the most vulnerable part of the wood from rotting.

Retro lounge chair

• Create a 1 inch by 1 inch grid on a sheet of three-eighths of an inch plywood.

• Recreate full scale curves on the grid.

• Cut out the shape using a saber saw.

• Use the cutout shapes as templates and trace the outlines onto another three-eighth-inch sheet of plywood and four three-quarter-inch sheets of redwood. Drill an eighth-inch pilot hole through all the dowel holes on all of the pieces. Build the left and right frames by gluing all the pieces together using epoxy. Put eighth-inch dowels in the pilot holes to line up the pieces.

• Once the epoxy has cured, squeeze the two frames together and sharpen all the curves making both sides the same.

• Drill all dowel holes with frames clamped together using a 1 inch flat bit or hole saw.

• Sand gently if necessary.

• Epoxy and screw the backrest and the cleats in position on their frames.

• Cut five 1-inch hardwood dowels each to an exact 24-inch length for the braces.

• Cut 20 seat slats to a length of 24 inches. Cut four to a length of 22 inches. Cut 15 slats for the 22 inch long backrest.

• Drill and countersink two holes at each end.

• Sand the top edge to a quarter-inch radius. Screw the four 22-inch cleat seat slats into place. This will provide a resting place for the slats.

• Screw on the two upper slats of the backrest.

• Screw the last two seat slats.

• Epoxy all studs in place ensuring the frames are exactly parallel.

• Once the epoxy has hardened, screw in all remaining slats.

Posted on August 1, 2001

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