Fast-and-Easy Sling Chair

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This article is from Issue 40 of Woodcraft Magazine.

A portable folding seat for the park, pool, or beach

Enjoy nature’s bounty in a comfy outdoor chair that loves you back with its comfortable, polyester sling and cushioned headrest. Made from cypress, the assembly weighs a modest 10 pounds, making it ideal for folding and toting from place to place. The secret behind its construction lies in the sturdy connecting nuts and bolts and their precise locations on facing parts. Building shouldn’t take more than a day. Use the day after to test the chair at a choice location with a favorite beverage.

See the Convenience-Plus Buying Guide on page 51 for the items used to make this project.

Build the basic chair

1 Cut the bottom seat stretcher (A), bottom back stretcher (B), bottom front stretcher (C), crest rail (D), leg braces (E), front legs (F), and rear legs (G) to the sizes in the Cut List. (Note that all the stock must be 3⁄4" thick. Plane the stock if needed to achieve this thickness.)

Rout radiused dadoes in the ends of the stretchers and crest rail, flipping the parts end for end. 

Use a round-over bit and backer fence to rout the radii on the stretchers, crest rail, and legs.

2 Chuck a 3⁄4" bowl-cutting bit in a table-mounted router and adjust the height for a 1⁄4"-deep cut. Referring to Figure 2 for fence adjustments, rout the dadoes on the stretchers and crest rail (A, B, C, and D) as shown in Photo A and the Dado Detail.

3 Choose from one of two ways to cut the radiused ends on parts A through G. Referring to Figure 2, mark and cut the radii on a bandsaw and sand smooth. Or, to save time and create perfect radii, chuck a 7⁄8" radius bit in your router table and rout the ends (Photo B).

4 Carefully lay out the holes for the connector bolts in the stretchers (A, B, C), crest rail (D), and leg parts (E, F, G), where shown in Figure 2. Note that parts A through E have 1⁄4" holes; the front and rear legs (F and G) have 3⁄8" holes.

5 Chuck a 1⁄4" brad-point bit in your drill press. Using a fence and stop, drill centered holes in the faces of parts A through E where marked. Switch to a 3⁄8" brad-point bit, and drill centered holes in the faces and edges of front and rear legs (F and G).

6 Switch to a 1⁄4" round-over bit, and rout a test piece to fit in a radiused dado cut in Step 2. After achieving a snug fit, rout both faces of parts A through G. Sand smooth.

Fabric Fundamentals

Using a rotary cutter or sharp blade and framing square, cut the fabric for the sling and pillow to the dimensions in the drawing below. Fold the ends of the sling fabric over, and sew at the stitch line where shown.

Next make the headrest pillow as shown in the three-step illustrations right.

Step 1: Fold 163⁄4" length of polyester fabric in half, and stitch where shown to create a pocket.

Step 2: Turn pocket inside out to hide the seams.

Step 3: Cut a piece of 2"-thick foam to 41⁄2 × 15" with an electric carving knife or bandsaw. Insert the foam into the pocket and stitch where shown. Attach the pillow with three washer-head trim screws to the crest rail (D).

Make the armrest assemblies

1 Rip and crosscut enough 3⁄4" blank material for the upper braces (H), armrests (I), and support brackets (J), referring to the Cut List. Temporarily bond each blank pair together with double-faced tape.

2 Enlarge the Sling Chair Patterns on page 75 or download them from With spray adhesive, adhere the patterns to the appropriate blank pair for upper braces (H), armrests (I), and support brackets (J). Now, bandsaw the coupled parts to shape. Use a spindle and disc sander to sand the perimeter smooth.

3 Mark the left and right top or outside faces of upper braces (H) and armrests (I). Referring to the patterns, use a 3⁄8" brad-point bit to drill the 3⁄8" counterbores 1⁄4" deep where indicated, along with the shank holes for #8 × 11⁄4" flathead screws.

4 Referring to the patterns, rout the 1⁄4" round-overs where shown.

With the upper brace held firmly in a bench vise, drive the screws to attach the armrest.

5 Guiding off the shank holes, hold the armrest assembly parts together and drill screw pilot holes in the mating parts. Note that the inside faces of the upper braces (H) are flush with the inside edges of the armrests (I). Now with waterproof glue and exterior-grade screws, assemble the left and right armrests (Photo C). Add the support brackets (J).

6 Using a plug cutter, cut 3⁄8" plugs from scrap, and glue them into the counterbored holes, aligning the grain. Trim the plugs with a chisel or flush-trim saw and sand flush. Then sand the armrest assemblies smooth.

7 Remove dust and apply an exterior grade oil finish.

Assemble the chair

1 Hacksaw 1⁄8" off the 1⁄4"-20 × 40mm connecting bolts, shortening them to 13⁄8" for the leg assemblies. Also gather up the 1⁄4"-20 × 50mm connector bolts for attaching the stretchers.

2 Referring to Figure 1, assemble the chair sides (E, F, G, H) with a 5⁄32" Allen wrench, noting the locations of the connecting bolts, cap nuts, and 1⁄4" fender washers. Attach the dadoed stretchers (A, B, C) and crest rail (D) onto the chair side assemblies.

3 Cut and sew the sling and pillow as described in “Fabric Fundamentals” at left. Remove the hardware from the left or right end of the bottom seat stretcher (A) and crest rail (D), and slip the sling sleeves over them.

4 Center the pillow and attach it with trim screws where shown in Figure 1.

5 With the chair fully assembled, prevent the bolts at the pivot points from working loose by applying a thread-locking compound (such as Loctite) to the threads as shown in Photo D. Quickly reattach the nuts for a permanent bond. 

Spread Loctite on the connector bolt threads to firmly secure the cap nuts.


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