A Deck Chair Built to Withstand the Elements
Tapers, curves, and angles converge in a sleek, durable outdoor chair.
Synopsis: Influenced in part by Adirondack chairs, this outdoor chair can be made with scrap from other projects, as none of the pieces is more than 32 in. long. Beefy mortise-and-tenon joinery, epoxy with microfiber added for strength, and stainless-still screws as a joinery backup combine to make it a chair that will last decades. The seat and back slats are tapered, and a jig makes easy work of the angled mortise-and-tenons.
In 1984 I built a gazebo from green white oak. I had a 3-by-4-ft. stone slab table for it, but I needed some comfortable chairs that would do well outdoors. I came up with this design, influenced in part by Adirondack chairs, and used scrap oak from the gazebo, knots and all, to make a set of them. Thirty-seven years later, with zero maintenance and never having been stored indoors, one of those original chairs is still in use.
Since then I’ve built sets in various woods. Because no part longer than 32 in. is needed to build these chairs, cutoffs are a good source of wood. The Honduran mahogany I’m using for a current run of them is all cutoffs from another project.
Taper the slats and legs
I start by getting all the tapering behind me. I use four simple jigs to taper the seat slats, back slats, front legs, and back legs.
There is an optical illusion in this chair. The slats appear to have been tapered on both edges, but I taper just one edge. The two center slats are set up straight edge to straight edge. The outside slats have their straight edge toward the center.
Start by cutting the pieces to the basic width and length, with the ends square. Joint one long edge, set it into the jig, tape it in place, and then rip the taper. The tapered front and back legs are cut in the same manner with similar jigs.
Seat slat and back slat biscuits
Once the seat and back slats are tapered, you can start getting them ready to assemble. The first step is to cut the biscuit joints. I use #20 biscuits here but I cut the slots for them at a #10 setting. Doing so creates a consistent gap between the slats. I fine tune the #10 depth-of-cut setting to produce 1⁄16-in. gaps. The biscuits keep the slats aligned while also letting the slats flex in unison when you sit back in the chair.
From Fine Woodworking #289
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