A Guide to Building an Armchair Starting at the Frame

Making a DIY armchair can be tricky and requires attention to detail. Still, if you’re into crafting and woodworking, it can be quite enjoyable and rewarding to create something from scratch. So, what does it take to build an armchair starting at the frame?

To build an armchair from scratch, you need to have a clear plan of how you want it to look. You can use other chairs as templates or go online for inspiration. Make sure to use sturdy and high-quality wood. Start with the seat, then attach the legs, backrest, and armrest. Finally, smooth the edges.

In the rest of this article, we will outline how you can make an armchair starting at the frame and present two different armchairs. We will also describe the upholstery process and finishing touches and talk about the safety guidelines to follow before and during woodworking.

What Materials and Tools Do I Need?

The materials and tools for making a chair depending on the kind of chair and how strong you want it to be. Nevertheless, some tools are necessary for any woodworking project. These include:

  • 2″ by 4″ (5 cm by 10 cm) dimensional lumber
  • A tape measure to get the sizes and dimensions right
  • A jigsaw to cut the stock
  • A power drill to make holes for the screws
  • Miter saw to make angled cuts
  • Sanding block
  • Screws
  • Wood glue

How to Build a Basic Armchair

Let’s start with a simple armchair that you can make in one day. Since it doesn’t involve upholstery, you can use cushions on the seat and the back.

To make this chair, you need:

  • Four pressure-treated 2×4s
  • 4″ (10.2 cm) trim-head screws
  • Sanding block
  • Cushion, 24″ ×24″ (61×61 cm) for the seat
  • Cushion, 12″ ×24″ (30.5×61 cm) for the back

Cut the Pieces 

First, cut the 2×4s to get the following piece: 

  • Ten pieces of 23.9″ (60.7 cm) long
  • Four pieces of 22.5″ (57.2 cm) long
  • Two pieces of 26.9″ (68.3 cm) long

Now, you have 16 ready-to-assemble pieces.

Assemble the Seat

  1. The first step is to assemble the pieces to build the seat.
  1. Take the six 24″ (61 cm) pieces and lay them on the ground. 
  1. Arrange four of them in a horizontal order with 3.3″ (8.3 cm) of space between them. 
  1. Put the other two pieces in a vertical position on either side of the four pieces.
  1. Screw each horizontal piece to the vertical pieces using the trim-head screws.
  1. Lay three more 24″ (61 cm) pieces on the ground and arrange them like a U. Then, screw them down together using trim-head screws.
  1. Now, stand the pieces in front of each other. The U piece should be standing upward. Put a 3″ (7.6 cm) space between them.

Attach the Legs

To attach the legs, put a 22.5″ (57.2 cm) piece on the top in a way that it’s even with the other two parts. It should also stick out of the U piece for 3″ (7.6 cm). Then, attach this piece to the other two using the trim-head screws.

Do the same with the other side, with the same placement and spaces. Now, you have two legs for your chair.

Attaching the other two legs involves a similar process. Flip over the chair and screw the two remaining 22.5″ (57.2 cm) pieces to their respective pieces. Make sure to keep the spacing and overhang.

Attach the Backrest and Armrest 

So far, you’ve created the seat and the legs. Now, It’s time to attach the back using the remaining pieces. 

Lay the two 27″ (68.6 cm) pieces on the ground and place the 24″ (61 cm) piece between them. Attach them using the trim-head screws.  

Place this piece over the chair and make sure it’s aligned with the legs. Screw it down to the chair. This will form the backrest and the armrest.

Finish Off

Finish off by smoothing any rough edges using a sanding block. You could use wood stain or paint, or just use it as it is. You’re almost there! All you need is a couple of cushions to put on the seat and the back.

How to Build an Armchair Without a Plan

Building a chair without a plan might sound pretty ambitious if you’re a beginner. But you can use another chair as a template. This way, you’ll make sure all the angles and measurements are right. 

Still, you should make all attachment points clear and mark them exactly where they are. You need to pay close attention to the chair’s bottom and the points you attach to the supports.

Cut the Legs

Lay the chair you want to use as a template on a 2″ ×6″ (5×15 cm) piece of lumber and trace around the whole side piece. This will form the back leg and the side back.

To get the bottom straight, line up those areas with the edge of the board. Mark the point of attachment between the seat support and the leg.

Now, cut out the back leg with a jigsaw. Do the same for the other back leg as well as the two in the front. You can use the cut-out leg as a template.

Build the Back

You can draw any design you want on paper for the back of the chair, trace it onto the 2″ ×6″ (5×15 cm) board and cut it with a jigsaw. Remember, the board needs to be 19.5″ (49.5cm) wide.

Make the seat supports by cutting 2.25″ (5.7 cm) wide pieces out of the 2″ ×6″ (5×15 cm) boards. The bottom support should be 19.5″ (49.5 cm) long.

Assemble the back part, and lay the two back legs on the ground. Put the top support and the bottom support between them. To make sure you put them in the right place, mark the original chair’s attachment points. Use glue and 2.5″ (6.4 cm) wood screws to attach the supports.

If you want a square bottom on the front legs, you can just leave them to be. Or, you could use your miter saw to cut a taper on them.

Make the Seat Pieces

  1. Cut the 2″ ×6″ (5×15 cm) lumber into two pieces 2.5″ (6.35 cm) wide and 17″ (44 cm) long. Attach them to the backside supports with wood glue and pocket screws.
  1. Attach the front legs to the seat pieces. To prevent your wood from splitting while you screw it down, drill all the holes in advance.
  1. Attach the front piece. Cut a 19.5″-long piece and glue and screw it down to the front legs.
  1. Cut the corner pieces. These pieces are attached to the four corners of the seat piece to give it more support. Cut the boards at 45-degree angles and screw them down to the corners.

Cut and Attach the Seat

For the seat, you can use plywood to give the chair a strong and firm seating area. Make the measurements so that they match the seat pieces. Attach it to the seat pieces with wood glue and 16-gauge nails.

Cut the arm framing. For each arm piece, you need one long horizontally attached piece, one shorter piece that you attach vertically to the seat board, and the longer arm piece. If your back support piece has a curve or angle, cut the long arm piece to match the corresponding part on the back support.

Make a 90-degree angle between the long and short arm pieces. Then, glue and screw them together as well as to the seat and back support pieces.

The arm piece’s height, which is the short one’s length, depends on your preferences. But, if you want to use the chair as a dining chair, make sure it’s short enough so you can slide it under the dining table.

How to Upholster the Chair

Now that the armchair frame is ready, it’s time to start the upholstery process. 

When it comes to upholstering an armchair, there’s a proper, standard order. First, you should do the seat, followed by arms, backrest, sides, and the back. Also, you need to attach the welting on the sides and the back before upholstering the sides.

First, add the supporting pieces. They’re used for stapling fabric onto them or tucking foam and batting under them.

For the back of the chair, you need more framing to wrap the foam, batting, and fabric around it. You’ll need two vertical and one horizontal piece. Cut the board 1.18″ (3 cm) wide and glue it to the inside of the back farming, 1″ (2.5 cm) from the bottom. Add the two vertical pieces inside the back frame between the bottom and upper pieces of the back. You should allow for a 1″ (2.5 cm) space between the back piece and the new extra framing.

You’ll need another horizontal support piece inside the arm framing, in the middle of the space between the arm and the seat. Now you can start the upholstery process.

Upholster the Seat

For the inside seat area, you’ll need a 2″ (5 cm) foam. 

  1. Cut it to match the size of the seat piece. Using spray adhesive, glue it to the seat board.
  1. Cut a 0.5″ (1.3 cm) foam for the seat and glue it down using spray adhesive. Cut this piece larger than the seating board and tuck it under the upholstery framing and underneath the seat framing.
  1. Now, cut the batting, the same size as the foam. In the front, it should be larger than the foam to wrap under the seat framing.
  1. Cut the fabric and staple it on the sides and back. Leave the front unstapled for now and do the arms.
  1. Now bring all layers of foam, batting, and fabric on the seat’s front, down under the seat board, and attach it to the bottom.
  1. For the seat’s front, make a slit in the fabric to wrap it under the seat frame. Then staple it down. There will be some fabric on the leg attached to the seat. Fold it under and staple it on edge.

Cover the Arms

For the arms, use high-loft batting and glue it into place, tucking it under the framing.

  1. Cover the arms with 1″ (2.5 cm) foam and tuck in under the framing piece on the arm and the back. After you staple the foam all the way through the arms, trim out any extra foam. 
  1. Now, cover the arms with fabric and staple into place.
  1. There’s a tricky part on the front where the arms and the seat meet. Fold the fabric at the right angle and cover the raw edge of the seat fabric.
  1. Make sure you have cut extra fabric to staple it under the seat framing.

Cover the Backrest

For the back, you’ll need to do jute upholstery webbing. To stretch the webbing tight enough, use a webbing stretcher.

  1. Add horizontal pieces, stapling them with 1-cm spaces between each strip. Then weave in the vertical pieces and staple them to the upper and lower inside frames.
  1. Add another piece of webbing to the inside of the arms.  
  1. For the back of the seat, use 1″ (2.5 cm) foam and glue it into place with spray adhesive. Staple the foam on the edges and trim any excess foam.
  1. Cover the foam with batting, and tuck it under the upholstery framing. Use spray adhesive to attach it. Then, add the fabric and staple it into place.

Do the Back Side

Now you can do the back upholstery: 

  1. To have a support piece of wrapping the fabric around, you need to add one at the bottom of the back. It should be level with the side seat support pieces on the bottom edge.
  1. Here at the back, you need another jute upholstery webbing like the one you made before. Cover the jute webbing with blackout lining and staple it into place.
  1. Cover it with a layer of batting using spray adhesive.
  1. Now, add the fabric by stapling it on the top an inch from the chair’s top. Wrap it around the sides of the chair and staple it down.
  1. On the bottom, wrap it around the chair frame and staple. Now, make sure everything is attached correctly and trim any excess pieces.

Finish Off

For the sides, repeat the steps you did for the back. If your fabric has a pattern, make sure it matches around the chair.

Now, it’s time to give the chair its finishing look by adding the welting. Cover any raw edges and staples with welting, including all the edges. You could buy ready-made ones with matching patterns to your fabric from upholstery shops or make one or your own.

Safety Measures for Woodworking

Woodworking is one of those enjoyable hobbies that require adherence to safety measures, or you could hurt yourself, especially if you’re a beginner. Before you start working, inspect all the working areas to make sure everything is safe. Also, make sure you follow these rules to create a fun and enjoyable experience:

  • Use safety equipment. They include latex gloves for applying finishes, ear protection for working with loud power tools, and safety glass all the time.
  • Wear suitable clothes. Never wear loose-fitting clothing because they might get caught in the sawing or cutting machinery. Wear protective clothing that is suitable for woodworking conditions. If you have long hair, make sure it’s tied back. If you have bracelets, chains, or any dangling jewelry, take them off before doing the woodwork.
  • Avoid alcohol. For working with cutting heads and saw blades, you need to be fully alert. So, stay away from alcohol or medicine that impair your reaction time.
  • Switch off the tools. Before changing your power tools’ blades or components, make sure to switch them off and disconnect the power. Also, before connecting the power supply, make sure the device is off.
  • Use only one extension cord. If you have several extension cords, you’ll get confused about which power tools are connected to which extension cord. Also, if you have many different cords lying around, you might trip and fall.
  • Inspect the lumber. Examine your wood to make sure there is no metal like nails or screws. If you try to cut the wood with metal, it will damage the wood and the tool. Also, the wood might kick back and injure you.
  • Prepare the blades. Make sure the blades are sharp. Sharp blades clearly make your job easier, but dull blades can be dangerous since the device needs to work harder and might kickback. Make sure you carefully examine all the tools and devices before operating them.

Wrapping Up

If you enjoy woodworking, you’ve probably considered putting together a DIY chair from scratch. Building a chair doesn’t have to be complicated if you follow the steps carefully.

  1. Prepare all the tools and materials you need.
  2. Get all the measurements carefully and trace them onto the lumber.
  3. Cut the legs, seat, arms, and resting back using a jigsaw or miter saw.
  4. Attach the legs and then the resting back and arms to the seat using glue and screws.
  5. Use a sanding block to smooth down the rough edges and surfaces.
  6. For the finishing look, depending on the type of chair, you could upholster the chair yourself or use ready-made cushions.

For upholstering an armchair, you need foam, batting, and fabric. If your fabric has a pattern, you might need more of it because you’ll end up wasting a lot of material to get the patterns to match.


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