Monday, May 17, 2010


Rancherondack Chairs

A while ago I built some benches for my courtyard. If you've ever shopped for outdoor furniture, you'll understand the primary motivation for making my own outdoor furniture: cost. Secondarily, though, are the matters of choice and size. It seems that most outdoor furniture (especially if you want something modern-looking) is of a few simple styles. Additionally, you're stuck with whatever size they make. So I made the benches and now I've set about making some chairs.

Whenever you're building anything that requires more than one leg, it's good to have a system that will help you make them more consistently. This is my leg alignment jig:

When I built the benches I used a general-purpose saw blade. This time, a friend let me borrow his primitive dado set. It's a set of chipping blades that dig out a much bigger groove. More modern dado sets have "endcap" fine blades that leave cleaner cuts. With these there was some tear-out but that's fine on outdoor furniture. The dado blade set works much faster than a single blade and I no longer feel like I'm working in a deli when making the interlocking cut-outs.

Here are the two finished legs. People always ask me what type of wood I use expecting me to say something exotic. The fact is, I use standard douglas fir stock available at any (and every) Home Depot or Lowes. In this photo, I haven't sanded the frame down yet but it really cleans them up a bit and they take the stain well. Speaking of stain, since this is outdoor furniture I just treat it like a deck and use a water-proofing stain.

Here is the almost-completed chair. It was getting late and I was out of wood so I still have one armrest to make along with some staining touchups. I'm amazed at how similar it turned out to my Google SketchUp modeling. The ergonomics are very similar to an Ikea Poang chair. Never having built a chair before, I wanted to ensure a minimum of modicum of comfort so I used that chair as a guideline for things like seat depth, height, and armrest dimensions.

Here's another angle, detailing the slats.

Sunday, May 02, 2010



Okay, built-in...this weekend I decided to tackle a long-term problem. One of the things you learn in a smaller house is to really make the most of all space. In one of my secondary bedrooms there is an awkward little corner between the closet and a floor-to-ceiling window. To put it in perspective, the area you see below is about 28" wide and about 30" deep from the center divider of the window. I decided that this might be a nice spot for a built-in desk.

Below I'm making the ledgers for the top to sit on. Sometimes it's the little details that can make the difference. Normally, you would only see the bottom of this desk when hooking up your computer. However, being that we're near a full-height window and there's glass down below, it seemed like I should spend a little extra care. On the ledgers I drew the center line, laid out my screws, and pre-drilled before installation. It made them a lot easier to mount and they look a lot nicer.
The almost-finished product turned out pretty well. The angle was added because it's gives just a little extra width for a keyboard / mouse and also aligns your chair with the open window to take advantage of nice breezes. The top of the desk was also painted with high-gloss enamel to make for easier cleaning. I still need to cut in the wall-color and finish painting the window frame.

Here's the underneath. All of the ledgers have also been properly caulked so there are no gaps. Again, it's really the little things that can make the difference. There are two things that give the built-in look: 1. items that are custom-sized / proportions for a specific space and 2. No gaps between the unit and the house. I've still got some more painting to do here.

Ultimately, I was able to get rid of a large, bulky desk and replace it with a space that wasn't being used for anything. In a small room that also has a tv and queen size bed, it makes a big difference.

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