Elegant Outdoor Chairs for Garden, Deck, or Patio
Three furniture makers present three different designs for outdoor seating.
Synopsis: Learn to build elegant furniture for your garden, deck, or patio with expert advice from three makers: Hank Gilpin, Michael Fortune, and Matt Kenney. Each offers a plan for outdoor seating that is both attractive and comfortable, using materials and joinery that will help it survive in the brutal, decay-prone environment of Mother Nature. If you want to go beyond these specific designs, you’ll also get some great tips on building for the outdoors in general, such as choosing the right wood, glue, and hardware, and whether to apply a finish.
As furniture makers, we aspire to build things that will look beautiful for a lifetime. We spend a lot of time on the design and choose the best-looking lumber for the project. We work hard to cut strong, long-lasting joinery and add in tolerances that allow for expansion and contraction of the wood so that doors and drawers don’t bind and tabletops don’t split. Last, we apply our favorite finish to illuminate the wood and protect it over time.
When you build for the outdoors, though, many of those efforts are in vain. Think about all that an outdoor piece must endure throughout the seasons. It gets soaked with rain and scorched dry by the sun. It freezes in winter, gets scratched up by squirrels, cats, and other critters, and even endures the indignation of being used as a Porta-Potty for the birds. Not exactly a prime environment for a period piece with a French polish.
We’re not recommending that you head to a discount store and buy resin chairs and tables. Far from it. You can still make elegant furniture for your garden, deck, or patio. You just have to figure out the best approach to building for a brutal, decay-prone environment, and accept the fact that nature always wins.
As Hank Gilpin says, “Enjoy the pleasure of making it, but remember that all things go away.”
In this article, you’ll learn about designing for the outdoors from three furniture makers. Gilpin and Michael Fortune have been building outdoor furniture for many years. Matt kenney, a FWW associate editor, had never built a piece for the outdoors until this year. So he took tips from gilpin on how to make a piece last.
Each of these makers offers an outdoor chair (kenney’s is a bench) that is both attractive and comfortable, using materials and joinery that will push back against nature’s onslaught. If you want to go beyond these designs, you’ll also get some great tips on building for the outdoors in general, such as choosing the right wood, glue, and hardware, and whether to apply a finish (some do, some don’t bother).
From Fine Woodworking #212
Watch Matt Kenney’s How to Build a Garden Bench video series.
For the full article, download the PDF below: