I’ve been through the gambit of store-bought collapsible chairs to bring along on my canoe trips and none of them have really grabbed me. until I came up with this one. I ran across a photo of a two-piece chair similar to this in a book about ancient Vikings and was inspired to modernize it. I played around with the shape and dimensions and came up with this comfy model. On a recent canoe trip with five seasoned campers, this wooden camping chair was by far the camp favorite. The two large holes at the ends provide a nice spot to hold the chair pieces while carrying.
I made the original from hard maple in a glue-up method that I’ll show first and then transferred those dimensions to a Baltic Birch plywood version with a cut-out method. Both designs have the same interlocking backboard and seatboard. The solid maple version is more rigid. The Baltic Birch chair has a bit of flex to it. If you’re over 230 lbs, I’d recommend the solid wooden camping chair.
Glue-up method using Solid Maple
To make the seat board assembly, cut two pieces (E) to length and then glue and clamp them to part D (see the drawing above). Be sure to use water resistant or waterproof glue.
Glue up the backboard assembly as shown. Be sure the assembly is dead-flat and that the space between parts A and B is 1/16” wider than the thickness of your stock. Test with a scrap of stock as shown. Scrape away any excess glue once the glue firms up (usually a couple hours).
Drill the holes for the carrying handle with a 3” holesaw for both the seat and back assemblies. If you’re using a drill table fixture, set a spacer beneath your work to protect the fixture table as you cut through the workpiece.
Smooth the rounded edges, holes and curves with a drum sander. Next sand the surfaces to a 150-grit finish and then ease the edges with a sanding block. Clean all the surfaces and then finish with your favorite wood finish. I used wipe-on polyurethane (three coats) but if you’re exposing them to a lot of weather, consider an exterior spar varnish.
Cut-out method using Baltic Birch Plywood
Cut the Baltic birch into two 10-1/2” wide pieces and then cut the length to 32”. Use a cutting guide as shown or a tablesaw if you prefer. Standard ¾” plywood is not rigid enough for this project. Baltic Birch (also known as multi-ply) is a must.
Set your blade height to 7/8” and then mark your fence where the teeth of the blade disappear under the table. As you do a partial rip on the tablesaw (shown in the next step) do not push the 9-3/4” mark on the board past the line drawn on the fence.
Mark a line 9-3/4” from the end of the seatboard on each side. Partially rip each side of the seatboard blank. First do one side then flip the board upside down and rip with the fence positioned as shown in the photo. Set the fence so it’s 1-17/32” from the fence to the LEFT side of the saw blade.
Drill the carrying holes in the middle top area of the back and on the wide part of the seatboard. Use a ½” waste spacer panel below the workpiece to avoid drilling into the top of the drill press fixture.
Apply three coats of finish to all sides of the pieces. Wipe-on poly is a good finish for careful campers. Spar varnish is good for those rainy camp outings. Keep your chairs as dry as possible to prevent warping. A warped chair will not fit together properly. Store in a dry place in the off-season.