Outdoor furniture: usually ugly, cheap plastic (though sometimes not) vs. make your own

After building the pergola, I realized we NEEDED new outdoor furniture. Truthfully, part of the reason we wanted a pergola was motivated by our multi-year desire to hang hammock chairs, which we’ve been obsessed with for some reason. I’d never, actually sat in a hammock chair, but they looked awesome and amazing and we wanted them but had nowhere to hang ’em!

Until now.

But first, we needed to get our outdoor dining area setup. A couple years ago, before we’d even moved out here, one of my first ever building projects was an outdoor dining table. My wife had wanted to throw an outdoor dinner party one summer, but had not been able to find anything that wasn’t gross/ugly/spackled aluminum/pitted glass/biege/moss green so she asked if I could build a table instead. We wanted it to look kind of like a picnic table, but without the benches and a bit fancier. It was also one of my first forays into the DIY rabbit hole of Pinterest (which would serve me well later). I found a design for a table that had been ripped off of a Restoration Hardware table – you know the ones that say, buy for $4000 or build it yourself for 75 bucks! I built it out of cedar, which cost more like 350 bucks, but it turned out really well and we’ve used it extensively since. Instead of the same cheap/ugly/gross chairs you can buy at department stores we picked up some old wood dining chairs from garage sales and painted them in outdoor paint.

Although these lasted awhile they eventually started to break and fall apart. By the time I’d built the pergola we were down to our last three chairs – we weren’t going to be hosting many dinner parties with three chairs. Also, the old garage sale chairs, well… they just didn’t quite cut it anymore with our fancy new pergola over our heads.

I initially contemplated building a couple benches on either side of the table, but the thing with benches though, if you didn’t know, is that they don’t have a back. That’s a serious problem in my opinion. Then basically I’d be back to having a slightly nicer but way more expensive picnic table.

I think I must have been feeling a little cocky from my pergola building success because I decided I would just build some deck chairs. Seriously though, who do I think I am? I’d never built chairs before. However, after building a house, I’ve found, I’m not really intimidated to try to build, well, pretty much anything.

So chairs it would be.

After some extensive filtering of some really cheesy stuff online, I found these chairs from a DIY blogger.

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They look alright, I thought. I wasn’t a big fan of the 1×6 boards for the seat and back, though I had a bunch of ripped cedar boards that I had left over from the pergola screen that I thought would look better. But at least, the basic outline of these chairs would be a start.

The plans showed the exact cuts for the chair backs and legs, so I won’t repeat them here.

However, once I got the frame attached to the seat base I quickly realized that there were going to be problems. I actually don’t know how the chairs in the plans above would stay together for more than a few uses. There was a serious amount of give in the joint between the back and the seat. I doubt it could handle a 250 lbs person sitting in them (not that I’m 250, but I know people who are). Also, if you look at the plans, there was no middle cross bracing on the seat. Again, a fat person would crush through that chair seat, and let me tell you, that would totally ruin your dinner party.

The first thing I did was add a cross brace to the seat. Then I added two cross braces to the legs, hoping this might tighten up the wobble. It did a bit, but not enough. I then added an angle brace from the cross brace of the legs to the inside of the seat base, securing this with a couple 2.5″ screws to the the seat back as well. That really tightened it up well. No more wobble. I guarantee a fat person could sit on these now. Lastly, I used the slatted ripped 1x6s for the seat and back to give it a beach chair sort of feel. Personally I think these look at least 10-12x better than the original plans I based them off. Plus these will actually last. (If someone actually wants to replicate these let me know and I can take off the measurements off the modifications I made and repost it).

I got a little assembly line together after the first one and my friend Corey and I were able to crush out the other five in an afternoon. Now we were ready for our dinner party again!

chair3chair2chair1

pergola-table


My wife was rather impressed with my handiwork and the next day asked me to replace the lounge chairs we had. These two were some old worn out, but wooden and handmade, garage sale deck chairs we’d bought a few years ago. The paint was peeling and well, now that we had a fancy new pergola and fancy new chairs, they didn’t hit in anymore either.

She’d seen plans for what’s called a “Kentucky Stick Chair” on Pinterest some time ago had asked me to build them then. stickchair-330x250

But I thought they’d be too much work and too tough to build. Now, though, my ego was feeling pretty inflated. Heck ya, I’ll build those!

The plans call for 1.5″ x 1.25″ boards, but these don’t exist. So you have to rip down three strips from a 2×4 board to get the rough correct thickness. I quickly found that this was by far the worst part of the job. I have a pretty good table saw, but ripping down 2x4x8 cedar boards is super annoying. The blade kept getting pinched by the wood, which stalls the table saw. So I’d have to reset it and cut for a few more inches before it would do it again. However, after a long time and many curse words, I got the boards all ripped. Five 2x4x8 boards of cedar are enough to make two of these chairs.

After that I simply followed the instructions and cut the boards to the various lengths. You then need to drill the holes, which unless you have the most steady hands ever, you need to use a drill press. Conveniently, I’d just inherited my grandfather’s old drill press. It’s a beast, weighing about 80 lbs, and makes the most horrible rattling noise when you turn it on, but it drills straight.

Once that was done I used airplane wire to run the pieces together and hammered the wire down with 3/4″ fencing staples. When I unfolded the chair, I was a bit skeptical that it would hold. It had no screws, no nails – just wire and the self-sustaining nature of how the boards lined up – low and behold not only did it hold me, but it was deadly comfortable and looked fantastic.

stickchair

pergola-table2


Completing the look though was the hanging hammock chairs. These I did not make. We ordered them off Amazon. Sitting in these (after our dinner on our new deck chairs), while overlooking the river, is now my favourite part of the long summer evenings.

hammock-perghammock

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