Carry-along Wooden Camping Chair

Wooden Camping ChairI’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

Camping Chair Glue-up method using Solid Maple

Wooden Camping Chair - Test fit the panelsRip two 32” long boards. One at 7-1/2” for the backboard assembly and the other at 7-7/16” for the seatboard assembly.

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).

Wooden Camping Chair -  Test the slot widthSand the seat and back assemblies once the glue dries and test the fit. The seat tongue should slide freely into the slot in the back assembly.

Wooden Camping Chair  Dlill holes with drill pressDrill 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.

Wooden Camping Chair - Mark the radiused edgeMark the radii for the corners as shown in the drawing. Anything between a 1” and a 1-1/2” radius is fine.

Wooden Camping Chair - Cut the curve with jigsawMark your curves with a compass or bent stick as shown in the drawing. Cut the curve with a jigsaw.

Wooden Camping Chair - Smooth curve with drum sanderSmooth 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

Wooden Camping Chair Cut-out method using Baltic Birch PlywoodWooden Camping Chair - Rip the plywood piecesCut 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.

Wooden Camping Chair - Mark the blade position on the fenceSet 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.

Wooden Camping Chair - Rip each side of the panelMark 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.

Wooden Camping Chair - cut handle hole with hole sawDrill 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.

Trim board to size with japanese handsawCut the edges away with a handsaw to establish the final shape of the seatboard.

Wooden Camping Chair - Mark the hole locationsMark the hole locations for the ¾” Forstner bit.  The holes should be centered 1-7/8” from each side edge and 10-1/8” from the bottom of the backboard.

Wooden Camping Chair - Drill holes with a forstner bitDrill the holes for the Forstner bit. Apply firm pressure to the workpiece and have a backer board beneath the workpiece to avoid tear-out as the bit exits the hole.

Wooden Camping Chair - Mark the slot locationMark the edges of the slot with a piece of Baltic Birch scrap. Remember that the holes are part of the cutout.

Wooden Camping Chair Cut the slots with a jigsawCut the slot out with a jigsaw. Be sure to use a fine-cut blade to minimize tear-out.

Wooden Camping Chair  Square the slots with a jigsawSquare the jigsaw cuts around the ¾” hole at the ends of the seat slot cutout. Move the jigsaw back and forth gently to nibble away at the corners until they’re squared.

Wooden Camping Chair - Refine the slot with sandpaper stickFine tune the slot. Rip a stick to 5/8” thickness and glue 100-grit sandpaper to the edges. Test fit the tongue of the seatboard to make sure it fits with the 1/16clearance.

Wooden Camping Chair - Smooth large curve with a drum sanderSand the curved cutouts and the radiused edges with a drum sander. Next, ease all the edges and sand the surfaces fine with 150-grit sandpaper.

Wooden Camping Chair - Brush on the exterior finishApply 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.

All Woodworking Articles, Featured Articles, Uncategorized, Woodworking Projects

  • georgeadair

    We built a version of this for our scout troop years ago. I like the material used for this version, it looks much nicer and not as rough. I still use mine when I go hunting because it is flat when not in use and sits on the front of my quad until needed.

  • James Groover

    I’m Appalled! i build Bog Chairs, the old fashioned way. Then I see this and it makes me want to throw a mallet at someone.

    • Brad

      Hi James. I’m sure the author has seen things that are done differently than he does but I think resorting to violence because of it would seem a bit unreasonable. Perhaps you’d like to share how YOU make Bog Chairs. I, for one, would love to see how YOU do it and perhaps, peacefully, learn a thing or two in the process.

    • Rick A McQuay

      You seem very angry about a chair. Looking at your comment history, you seem very angry about a lot of things.

  • Guest

    James Groover. I’m sure the author has seen things that are done differently than he does but I think resorting to violence because of it would seem a bit unreasonable. Perhaps you’d like to share how YOU make Bog Chairs. I, for one, would love to see how YOU do it and perhaps, peacefully, learn a thing or two in the process.

  • John Hoeing

    This is an excellent design! Any thought as to adding carrying straps to throw it on your back for easy toting whilst hiking? The simplicity is genius.

  • Rex

    I have been looking for ideas of some kind of seat that I can use at the Wolftrap Theater on the grass slope. They dont allow folding chairs and the angles of slope would’n't allow it anyway. This is perfect and I can’t wait to get into the shop and build it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Scott Deeck

    What would you say the user weight limit might be?

    • George Vondriska

      From David….. I’ve had a guy who weighed about 275 pounds use one of the glue-up type chairs made from maple and the chair held up well. Another good wood to use would be white oak. I haven’t tested the chair to it’s breaking point, but it seems solid for most users.

  • David Radtke

    I’ve had a guy who weighed about 275 pounds use one of the glue-up type chairs made from maple and the chair held up well. Another good wood to use would be white oak. I haven’t tested the chair to it’s breaking point, but it seems solid for most users.