The homemade deck chair project with my nephew and great-nephew – a photo post

Note: I’ve edited this posting to provide a few more photos with dimension information superimposed.

There are those things in which cooperation yields a great result. Last week (here’s a punctuation challenge), my great nephew and my great great-nephew came down and helped me get a bunch of things done around the house. And we had a side project.

This is a great example of how we are all made to work better together. I could not easily have built this without help. And the guys had a fun project, doing the building part, while I took care of the ‘scut’ work – the sanding and staining stuff.

As I’ve mentioned before, I sit outside on the deck almost every night, in all kinds of weather, to try to honor God for this wonderful place in which we live, and for all the things with which he has blessed us.

But my comfortable deck chair is now about 15 years old, and it’s been repaired about three times now. The metal in it is beginning to fatigue, and so it’s time for a replacement. I’d been thinking about this lately, and happened to see this online video here from Popular Mechanics about a guy who builds deck furniture out of heavy framing lumber. After watching it, I began to get excited about something like this for a replacement chair, and emailed my nephew. The excitement was contagious, and soon we were spending time emailing back and forth about dimensions, materials, finishes, and so on. This design has several advantages: I won’t have to go down into the meadow to pick it up after a strong breeze, and I came up with the idea to use truck tie-down rings inset into the insides of the armrests to attach a bungee cord – this is to hold the cushions in place in an upright fashion to keep them dry on the seating side, and also to keep them from getting blown off and down to the bottom corner of the meadow in a strong breeze.

After watching the video a few times, my nephew noticed several flaws in the guy’s design: first, if you built it like he did, then your backside would be right down near the floor and it’d be nearly impossible to get out if it. That’s OK if you’re young, but with my old knees… That was the first modification. Second was that the back is too low – no support. Third is that the seat doesn’t seem to have any angle at all. If you sat there for any length of time, your back would be killing you.

Our third modification came when we were discussing the brackets to hold the seat and the back. What the guy used were joist hangers, and they’d be mighty rough on any seat cushion materials. So we chose instead to use good heavy L-brackets.

The fourth modification came when we went to the ‘box store’ (although I prefer to do business locally whenever possible, my local lumber yard was closed) and the box stores don’t carry 4×8″ material. However, they do carry 4×6″ material. Makes me notice, if you’re framing up a door and find yourself out of header material on a Sunday,  you’re just out of luck!

These things in mind and the lumber now home in the truck, we set to work. My great great-nephew (okay, I’ll stop… he’s a terrific great-nephew) cut the beams and I did sanding while he was knocking the material down to finished size. Same for the seat and back material. I also gave the 4×6s a coat of stain on the mating edges, both to ‘stick’ them together and for weather protection. This would be the only time I could get protection on them, so they got done now.

The guy online had just lagged the side pieces together, one on top of the other, and that’s probably OK if you’re using that thicker material. We didn’t have that much ‘meat’ to work with, so we offset the lag bolts from one beam to the next.

I don’t have any ‘in-process’ shots, as we were hurrying to beat the sunset, but I do have a few -mostly-finished shots of the chair the next day, with one coat of stain.  I used Cabot Gold because I wanted something that won’t sun-damage and will last for years and years.

It looks uneven because of the grain. I’m really pretty good at stain work. This was only a one-beer job, although I brought out two, just in case. Here’s from a different angle:

You’ll notice that we elected to have ‘feet’ on the chair; this is another modification, both to save material, and to allow for air circulation under the sides so that the bottom beam doesn’t rot. Here’s a back view; notice that we have ‘stretchers’ attached to the bottom two boards to allow us to have a third board for a taller and more comfortable back:

I gave it a couple days to dry, then gingerly (because that first coat of stain wasn’t fully cured) tried it out. It is wonderful! Comfortable, easy to get out of, and it isn’t going to suddenly crumple and dump me on the deck. In this closeup below, you can tell it needs a second coat of stain. But here Dara is telling me that my glass is empty:


And yesterday I did a quick sanding to smooth it up, and got a final coat of stain on. You can always tell what the final finish is going to be, by the way the brush drags (or doesn’t) on the surface. And I think I did a pretty good job, because there was almost no drag from the brush. The finish is going to be smoooOOOOoooth…. In total, I used about a third of a gallon of stain.

Here’s a shot of how it looks now. Notice that the grain is more evened up, it’s got a great shine, and the color is much richer.

Thanks to God and the guys for all the great help and for a comfortable chair for the years to come.

The hard part?  The waiting!. It’ll be fully dry and cured in about four more days….

Update 1:

Last night the stain was completely dry – AND my cushions had come in. It was raining but I had the umbrella up. Check out the final product!

(And yes, that’s the old chair , with the old cushions in the background.)

It’s so comfortable and solid, I feel like royalty…

Update 2:

Here are photos with dimensional information and to show how we recessed the tie-down ring for the cushion:


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