How to Make a Chair

Lead Image
What You'll Need
1 6 ft 2×2 – Front legs
1 8 ft 2×4 – Back legs
1 8 ft 1×4 – Aprons
1 6 ft 1×3 – Back support
1/2” plywood – Seat
1 1/4” wood screws
Wood glue
Heavy gloves and safety glasses
Miter saw
Tape measure
Spirit level
Carpentry pencil
Drill and bits
Router 1/4” round bit or sandpaper to smooth edges
Pocket hole jig

If you're an avid Sesame Street fan, you may remember that video “A Stool for Me”, where a young girl and her dad build a three-legged stool from scratch. The satisfaction on her face (and the jig she danced), and the desire to create something of practical value in the home has inspired this adult version. Get ready to be overwhelmed by the immense satisfaction you'll feel when you build a simple wooden chair.

Tips Before Starting

We can't stress enough: Measure twice, cut once!

Make life easier by pre-drilling holes before driving in screws.

Use wood glue during assembly to strengthen bonds.

Step 1 - Cut out back legs

This is probably the most difficult part of the project since the back leg is one single piece that merges into the back of the chair. Using one of the 2x4s, cut it to 39” length. Mark it 21” from the top, and 14” from the bottom. That should leave you a 4” section in the middle.

The width of the back leg is 1½”. Measure that distance from the edges of the bottom to the opposite edge of the 14” mark. Measure the same distance from the top of that 14” mark straight up to the 21” mark. Make the same measurement and connect it to the opposite corner at the top of the plank. You now have the pattern for the back legs. Cut out the piece using a jigsaw, and smooth the edges with a router or sandpaper.

Step 2 - Cut out front legs and side aprons

Use the 2x2s for the front legs by cutting it into two 17½” lengths. Cut four 16” lengths from the 1x4s for the aprons. You’ll use two of them for the sides in this step, and the other two in the next step.

Drill pocket holes into the aprons and secure them with 1¼” screws and wood glue. These components make up the two sides of your basic chair.

pocket holes in wood

Step 3 - Attach aprons to sides

With the remaining two 16” 1x4s, attach them to the front and back of the chair with wood glue. Ensure sides of chair are completely straight with a plumb bob, then drive the 1¼” screws into pocket holes.

Step 4 - Add support slats in back

These can be created in varying sizes using 1×3s, 1×4s or even 1×6s for a customized look you find appealing. Cut pieces to 16” lengths, line them up in place, and use a spirit level to make sure they are level. Drill pilot holes before attaching wood screws to keep slats from splitting.

Step 5 - Cut out seat braces

The braces help add strength to the chair when added underneath the seat. Start by cutting both ends of 4 2x2s at a 45 degree angle with a miter saw. Lay them into place and drill pilot holes before inserting 2” wood screws, again using wood glue to enhance the bond.

screwing the seat onto a chair

Step 6 - Add seat and bottom braces

Attaching the seat can be a bit tricky. Using 1/2” plywood, create a notch in the back corners so the seat can fit around the back legs. Use wood glue to secure the seat to the top edges of the aprons, then clamp it down to let the glue set. Secure the seat in one of two ways: Use 2” finishing nails hammered in from the top of the seat, or secure from the underside with screws drilled through the aprons.

Braces at the bottom of the chair will add stability and strength to your homemade chair. Cut three lengths of wood for the braces, two measuring 18” and one measuring 17”. Attach the 18" lengths to the two sides, and the 17" inch length between them.

Step 7 - Finishing touches

Fill holes with wood putty and leave it to dry for several hours or overnight. Sand down the spots you filled, and any other areas that need it. Vacuum or wipe off any grit or residue from surfaces before staining your finished product. Or if you're feeling like putting more of your personality into your creation, customize your chair with upholstery or bold paint.

Now stand back and admire your handiwork. Or take a seat like that little girl in the Sesame Street video who first inspired this DIY wooden chair. Then do a little jig to celebrate!