Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dining chairs - halfway done!

Actually more than halfway since the difficult part is over and the only thing left to do is the upholstery part. I went over the top and built the maximum number of dining chair my dining table can accommodate, EIGHT! Two bigger chair that can carry more weight and six regular parson chairs. The following steps are what I've finished so far.

Warning: this project needs a lot and lot and lot of patience :)

How to DIY/Build Dining Chairs (for novice)

Bigger dining chair when finished measures 40 inches tall, 20 inches seat height and 20 inches wide
Regular dining chair when finished measures 40 inches tall, 18 inches seat height and 18 inches wide

My Cut list:

(32) 1 X 5 X 40" (back legs)
(4) 1 X 2 X 18" ( long pieces of front legs,bigger chair)
(4) 1 X 2 X 16" (short pieces of front legs, bigger chair)
(12) 1 X 2 X 16" ( long pieces of front legs, regular/smaller chair)
(12) 1 X 2 X 14" ( short pieces of front legs, regular/smaller chair)
(6) 1 X 2 X 16" ( front and back apron and top rail on back for the bigger chair)
(4) 1 X 2 X 18" ( side apron, bigger chair)
(18) 1 X 2 X 15" ( front and back apron and top rail on back for reg. chair)
(32) 1 X 3 to 4 X 18" ( corner bracing)

My steps:

1. Make leg template from cardboard (plywood is even better) and trace on the 1 X 5 X 40" pieces.

2. Cut with jigsaw, glue and clamp two pieces to make 2" thick back legs.

3. Glue and clamp the leg pieces using short and long pieces to form the front legs.

Make sure to pair the parts accordingly, mark each piece. It is also important to sand every piece before attaching.

4. Use blue tape to mark where to stop drilling.

5. Twice the drill hole measurement equals the length of the dowels. I decided to choose dowels for my wood joinery since according to most, it's the second strongest joinery next to mortise and tenon. It is also easy for me to make since I don't have those fancy routers.

6. This is the trickiest part: to align the dowels and drill hole perfectly. To do this, I smeared caulk on top of the dowel and press the other part so I know exactly where to drill and would fit right.

If you don't want to leave mess on your dowels, put blue tape first then peel off afterwards.

6. Carefully drill the wood.

7. With glue and dowel, attach the back legs by hammering/rubber mallet.

8. Drill the side of back legs for the side apron.

9. Attach the side aprons.

10. And the top back rail.

11. Attach the front apron and front legs.
Note: the dowels used in this step is one wood thickness longer than the other dowels used for the side apron so that the dowels passes through the three members.

12. Drill the side apron using the aligning trick discussed above.

13. Attach the front legs to the back part.

14. Cut the corner bracing, 45 degrees both ends.

15. Attach bracing using screws.

16. Reinforce the back middle joint with mending plate ( like mini version of truss). I don't really need to use this but I like my chair to be overly strong :) 

This step can be done before attaching the back apron so hammering it in be easier.

17. Make the regular/smaller chairs.

And more!

19. I mixed my stain of 1:2:3 ratio ebony, dark walnut and red oak.

20. Stain the legs. Stain the whole chair if you want. I only stain the legs because the seat and back part will be covered with foam and fabric anyway (and save me time and energy :) Let fully dry and recoat if desired and finish it with clear coat.
two stain intensity since red oak and poplar varies in porosity. 
Whew! now that the difficult part is over, I am very excited to move on to the upholstery part where my favorite furniture making, designing pattern and finishing are involve. But I have to wait for my stain to dry and clear coat and let fully dry. This will keep me waiting for at least two days, should be enough time to find the right fabric :) Pin It


  1. What kind of wood did you use for the legs? Is the whole frame made of the same kind of wood? I like your caulk technique with the dowels. I've been making step stools and have just been dipping my dowels in paint and pressing it to the piece to be drilled. I don't always get my mark and end up having to make huge holes that my dowels will fit right.

  2. How did you make your template for the back legs? Did you just freehand it or is there a measurement we need to use?

  3. I love these chairs! Do you have measurments for where the holes are suppose to be drilled? I've never done any sort of woodworking and would love to try these!

  4. What would be your estimated cost for construction all 8 chairs. I'm trying to decide if the cost is worth the effort.

  5. Wow, really nice. Instead of the caulk to mark where to drill the holes when joining with dowels, get a set of Dowel Centers. They're inexpensive, and very useful. Also, your dowels with the corner braces are really strong you surely could have left out the ugly metal braces!

  6. Wow, really nice. Instead of the caulk to mark where to drill the holes when joining with dowels, get a set of Dowel Centers. They're inexpensive, and very useful. Also, your dowels with the corner braces are really strong you surely could have left out the ugly metal braces!


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  18. I'm going to make something like this, but covering mine in some fancy duct tape. It'll strengthen the rack and look nice :)
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