Saturday, December 29, 2012

DIY Simple Wood Child's Chair

So, if you've been following along this holiday season, you'll recall that we've been talking about making more Christmas gifts and buying less. Now that the holiday is over and I'm not spoiling any surprises, I can tell you that it worked out pretty well. For adult friends and family, we made beef jerky (hubby's specialty, eagerly anticipated by several friends), homebrewed beer (again by hubby), jars of apple butter, cinnamon swirl bread (to go with the apple butter), assorted candies (peanut brittle, toffee, chocolate fudge and brown sugar fudge), and a cloth log tote (instructions will follow sometime in the next week or so....).

In addition to all of that, we also decided to handmake one "big" gift for each of the boys. I am particularly pleased at how close each of the finished products matched up our plans AND that both myself and my hubby had a hand in completing them.

Before I give you the outline of what we made for the littlest dude, I have to give you a little background: Growing up I had a favorite rocking chair. Sized just perfectly for a child, I used it from the age of 2 until probably I was 7 or so (and had totally outgrown it) and was forced to hand it down to my younger brother. He enjoyed many years of use and then it ended up in the attic of my parents' garage. My brother and I cleaned that garage shortly after my oldest had turned 1. I reclaimed the chair and promptly took it home. I sanded, refinished it and recovered the seat-- repairing some damage and updating it to match our modern black furniture. I gifted the chair to the little dude for his 2nd birthday.

As a smaller sized child, little dude is still quite comfortable in this chair and not quite ready to do a hand-me-down. On the other side of the story, our littlest dude is in love with chairs. He hasn't met a chair he didn't want to climb up and explore. I thought it was about time he had his own. Now, we certainly could have just bought him a chair. But, in addition to wanting to spend time making something special, we really wanted this chair to match his big brother's. Not easy considering the original was crafted in the early 70's. Using the original as a guide, we did our best to duplicate the chair. We made one or two changes, most notably changing it from a rocking chair to a static chair since littlest dude still has some balance issues.

On the left is our NEW chair. On the right is the original rocking chair.

Basic Materials Required:   (note: all lumber is ACTUAL size, not labeled size!)
sheet of 3/4" plywood, approximately 24" x 24"
4' long piece of 3/4" x 1.5" pine board
2' long piece of 3/4" doweling
12" x 12" piece of 1/4" plywood (for back)
12" x 12" piece of 1/2" plywood (for seat)
1/2 yard cotton or poly batting for seat cushion
1/2 yard fabric for seat cover
quart of paint + brushes
wood glue
wood screws, assorted sizes but 1- 1 1/2" work well
Tools needed:
circular or table saw
router or dremel tool
sand paper or sanding tool (we used the black and decker mouse)
phillips screwdriver (hand or electric)
heavy duty stapler (not office)
tape measure

Step by Step: (these will be for a static chair but can easily be altered at step one for a rocking chair)
Part 1: Cutting your pieces
1) On your 3/4" plywood, draw out your plans using your square & tape measure: We used the original chair as a template but this plan uses the same measurements and *should* get you something pretty much the same. In this design, I have removed the feet for simplicity, since we added them to get continuity with the original chair.
Note: In our finished chairs all corners, inside and out were rounded off. I have shown both below. If you are going to round be sure to mark new corners BEFORE cutting!
2) Cut out chair sides with jigsaw. Sand both sides and all edges well! Remove dust with a rag or tack cloth. Set aside.
3) From your plywood scraps, measure and cut out 2, 12" x 2" rectangles and 2, 2" x 1" rectangles. Sand & remove dust. Set aside. These are your seat supports.
4) Measure and cut doweling into 2, 12" pieces. Sand & remove dust. Set aside. These are the lower cross bars.
5) Measure and cut the 3/4" x 1.5" pine board into 4, 12" pieces. Set 2 aside. On the remaining 2, you will be cutting notches and rounding edges as follows to make the arms of the chair: remove 2"x 3/4" notch from inside back edges of both arms. Round remaining back corner. Round top edge of both arms. See diagram below, cut on red lines. This can be done by sanding, using your jigsaw or router. Sand edges, remove dust & set aside.
 6) Take the 2, 12" pine boards you did not notch in step 5.  These are going to be the top and bottom of the seat back. Use your router and a 1/4" bit to make a 1/4" wide groove, 1/4" deep in the center of the 3/4" side, down the complete 12" length of the wood. Repeat on the other piece of wood. Mark the center (6") of both pieces of wood.
7) Cut your 1/4 inch plywood into a rectangle 10" x 8".  Mark center (5") on each 10" side (top & bottom of chair back).
8) Slide the rectangle into the groove you cut in step 6. Placing one on the top 10" side of the plywood and one on the bottom 10" side. When you are satisfied as to dry fit of pieces, remove top and bottom boards, place a small bead of wood glue into the router groove and replace plywood. Be sure to align center marks so all pieces are centered. Lay on a flat surface and secure with clamps overnight or until glue is completely dry.
9) Cut a 12" x 11.5" rectangle out of the 1/2" plywood. This is your seat bottom. Sand edges as necessary.
10) Prime and paint or stain and seal all pieces. Let dry. Repeat with 2nd coat if necessary.
Part 2: Assembly

1) Predrill all screw holes. At the same time, I recommend making a countersink hole, so that the screwhead will be flush with the rest of the wood.
2) Working with one chair side only, we will be drilling and screwing the front and rear dowels. Measure 5" up from the bottom of the front and rear legs. Mark and pre-drill hole in center of leg (1" from both sides). Drill and screw one dowel to front leg. Repeat for back leg/dowel.
3) Measure from the bottom of the leg to 8". Mark and pre-drill hole in center of leg. Drill and screw one seat support (from step 3 in cutting, the 12" long one). Repeat for back leg/seat support.
4) Measure from top of seat back 2".  Mark and pre-drill hole in center of side. Measure length of pre-glued chair back-- from center of top support to center of bottom support. Transfer measurements from top drilled hole down on side of chair. Pre-drill hole. Screw through chair sides into top and bottom chair back supports.

5) Repeat steps 2-4 for the opposite side of the chair.
6) Next, we'll be placing the arms. Lay the first arm on the arm support so that the notch fits the back of the chair and the top front is rounded (for hand rest). Use a level to insure that the arm is completely horizontal (or use your square if you don't have one). Pre-drill and screw one screw from the inside back of the chair through the chair side into the arm. Watch your depth so as to NOT pop through the wood. Pre-drill and screw through the top of the chair arm into the chair support (one or 2 screws). Note screw positions in red in the diagram below and arm position in orange.

7) We will now upholster the seat. Cut 2 squares of batting about 1" larger on EACH side than the seat wood (cut in step 9 above). Cut 1 square of fabric about 2" larger on EACH side than the seat wood. Lay your fabric RIGHT side down on your work surface. Lay both pieces of batting on top & center. Lay seat wood on top of materials and center. Gently pull the center of one side of fabric up and around batting and wood. Secure on top of wood about 1" from edge with staple. Pull opposite side of fabric up and around, pull taut before stapling. Repeat on other sides. Continue to pull fabric and staple. At corners, fold as a gift, tuck under edges and staple. Trim any excess fabric.
8)On the inside of the front seat support, screw in one 1" x 2" seat block you created in step 3 of cutting. Be sure to center it and make sure it is flush with the top edge of the seat support beam. As you are screwing from the inside of the seat into the seat support, watch your depth to avoid screw tips coming out the front of the chair!! Repeat with the rear seat block and rear support.
9) Place upholstered seat on top of seat supports with narrower side as width and longer side as front to back. Seat should have a small amount of space between uphostery and chair sides. Make sure seat is centered and screw from bottom-- through screw blocks into seat wood. Pre-drilling recommended!
Your chair is now complete! Congrats!
Please feel free to comment below and let me know what you think of this project or if you have any questions about the instructions.
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