Making a chair – Mock-up.

A project I have been avoiding: Making a chair.

Admittedly, I was apprehensive about this. While I have built things before like tables, boxes and cabinets, I haven’t built anything that was supposed to hold me up off the ground. With a broken door on a cabinet, you might have things fall out to the ground. A broken leg on a chair and you’re falling to the floor with no-one to blame but yourself.

Add to this the compound angles, curves, ergonomics, trying to not make it ugly. However, any challenges would have to be overcome if I were to replace the sorry piece of awfulness that is the metal fold-up chair I was using. Also, with the metal chair sitting too low for my desk, I was stressing my elbow joint when typing so something had to be done.

So, to begin. How do you design the rough dimensions of a chair from scratch? If you’re like me, you don’t. You find another chair and work from that. Enter the bench stool/chair that I recently replaced in the workshop.


This chair actually has a nice angle on the backrest. I extended the length of the back by clamping on a couple of blocks of wood. Near the top this expanded back, I clamped on a board to serve as a back rest. Then I sat up on this and tested out how far to have the floor from the seat so that my legs fell comfortable. This was done by building up blocks on the floor until I could sit on the seat with my legs in a good position.

I’m sure there is a chart somewhere showing proper height for ergonomics etc, but this is a custom chair. Custom to suit me. So I tell myself anyways.


So, with a rough idea of what I wanted, I started to cut up an old 2×6. Here you can see the leg drawn out on it.


I cut one out with the bandsaw, planed it flat and then used it as a template for the other.


My stool mock-up was sacrificed in the name of education. One of its stretchers would be used as a test leg.


Stretchers were cut out and screwed to each leg. Then, topped with some scrap plywood, this thing started to look like a chair-shaped object.


I roughed out a crest rail with my radius-bottomed plane and attached it to the upper part of the legs.


I then brought the chair into the house and tested it out. I had to modify the front-to-back distance of the seat and also shorten the legs as they were about an inch too high.

I also found this old chair in the house and brought it to the workshop as a reference. I noted how the seat was attached to the frame and also how it had corner blocks for added rigidity. I liked the way the rear stretcher is flush with the front of the legs so that they plywood for the seat does not have to be notched out. This helps with the upholstery.


Next up: Designing the chair.


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