How to Build a Reading Chair

A reading chair is also called a lounge chair, club chair, or an armchair. It is plush and inviting, the perfect place to curl up and read a book or two. The seat and back may be upholstered or may have removable cushions. Another comfortable option is the inclusion of an ottoman to stretch your legs. Moreover, an ideal reading location is a sunny corner either indoors or outdoors. 

To build a reading chair, start with woodworking basics and customize with your creativity. Please choose the appropriate chair size, a design that fits with your decor, and the correct plan that matches your project skill level to make it sturdy, beautiful, and comfortable. 

Consequently, to learn how to build your own reading chair, this article will review common materials, tools, project plans, and basic instruction for the structure. Furthermore, finishings are discussed, and options are given. Read on to uncover how to create your own showpiece.

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About the Reading Chair

Dating back to the 1700s, the reading chair was similar to current times. It was made of finished wood and beautiful coverings and served the same purpose. For example, as displayed at the British Met Museum, this chair, built-in 1750, was expertly crafted and covered in leather and included accessories for holding a book and candles. 

The craftsmanship may appear to be difficult for a beginning woodworker. Still, the solid quality and artistry of building your own chair will be appreciated in the years to come. While practicing the skills needed to create a reading chair is satisfying and worthwhile. Additional benefits include:

  • Affordable luxury
  • Options to customize to your specifications and taste
  • Upcycling of materials as a means to save money and conserve the environment
  • Learning valuable woodworking skills that can be used in other areas of your life
  • Satisfaction and enjoyment that comes from completing a challenging project

One of the many skills that are well worth digging into to increase your expertise in constructing a reading chair is the art of joinery. The three most common types of joiners are explained in this table. However, they all maintain the same purpose in binding wood pieces together stably and strongly.

Joiner

Description

Domino joiner

PIeces can be adjusted, are rotation proof, and have a large surface area for gluing, making it a stable and strong choice.

Dowel joiner

Cylinder pins, inserted and glued to join pieces of wood. If glue dissolves, dowels may loosen and turn, causing instability.

Biscuit joiner

Oval shaped plate, inserted and glued to connect pieces of wood.

In this do it yourself video, Nik Kinnaird stained, sealed, and built a chair using a Festool 574432 Domino Joiner DF 500 Q Set.

Festool 574432 Domino Joiner DF 500 Q Set
  • NOTE: The DF 500 only come with the 5MM cutter which is installed.
  • Unique, patented cutting action that rotates and oscillates to create perfect, clean, and repeatable mortises every time.
  • Mortise width adjustment with the turn of a dial allows for easier alignment when joining panels.

Last update on 2022-06-11 at 00:10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The video is one minute long, but the process actually took him three days. 

Materials You Will Need

Consult your design plan, or use your creativity to gather the necessary items to get started. Remember to include safety glasses and locate your work area in a well-ventilated area because you may be using glue and stain to finish the wood.

  • Joiners: These should be kept in mind as you choose a project plan. Be sure to have the tools available to join pieces because this step will make or break your chair.
  • Hardwood: Choose lumber, such as walnut, oak, or another type of wood that is sturdy and has a visible woodgrain.
  • Shims: It can be made or affordably purchased and is used to position pieces before fastening.
  • Lumber: The size varies depending on the project. Use kiln-dried hardwood. 
  • Tools: The tools necessary to complete the job will be listed in your project plan and can be bought, rented, or borrowed. 

Project Plan

Find a free or low-cost project plan on the Internet or hire a designer to customize your masterpiece. Either way, think about height, length, and depth limitations so that the piece will work in your space. Also, decide upon preferred materials. Favored lumber furniture choices are maple, oak, and poplar because they have a beautiful grain and are long-lasting.  

Reading chairs are described according to shape, style, geographic customs, and the cultural period in which they were built. But the pieces are all made structurally with a material that is usually wood, and many times include cushions, but not always. There is an endless variety, blocked only by the limits of your imagination. Here is a list, to name a few:

  • Adirondack: An outdoor wooden chair with arms and no cushions.
  • Armchair: An upholstered chair with comfortable rests for the arms.
  • Ball: A ball or bubble chair, known for its round shape and cushioning.
  • Bungee:  A chair that uses bungee straps across the seat and back instead of cushions.
  • Chaise: A lounge that enables a person to stretch their legs out completely. 
  • Club: An armchair with leather covering.
  • Recliner: A chair is an armchair that has a back that can be moved up and down.
  • Swivel: A swivel or an office chair can rotate completely around in a circle and is usually on casters. 
  • Wing: An armchair, usually upholstered, with wings extending out on the side of the top of the back of the chair.

The Slipper Chair on Ana White’s website is an intermediate project and absolutely wonderful to place in the corner with a reading lamp. A detailed project plan is included for free on the website.

Budgeting

As with any project, write down your total budget and work backward from there. How much can you afford to spend? Pay attention to:

  • Cost of supplies
  • Renting or buying tools
  • Additional gas for unexpected trips to the store.
  • Delivery or shipping charges
  • Material waste

Use a phone app or a simple spreadsheet to track your receipts, not inadvertently, to go over the budget. Save money by borrowing tools, trading skills, and materials with friends, or if you can’t buy on sale, re-use what you have on hand. Be sure not to measure incorrectly to avoid waste. 

Build a Reading Chair Step-by-Step

  1. Decide upon a specific design project plan.
  2. Please read it in its entirety several times before making the first cut.
  3. After gathering all supplies, cut the lumber into the sizes listed on the plan.
  4. Work in a well lit, well-ventilated area that is safe from distractions.
  5. Diligently use all recommended safety equipment. 

Step 1: The Seat

  1. Pre-drill pinholes in the wood as instructed by the plan. 
  2. Pre-fill holes with glue. 
  3. Tap the dowels in the holes. Join the wood pieces, matching dowels to the frame to create seat slats. 
  4. Use wood glue to secure the slats and the frame.

Step 2: The Back

  1. Build the frame for the back by pre-drilling, pre-gluing holes, inserting dowels, and fitting pieces together. 
  2. Join the seat.

Step 3: The Arms and Legs

  1. Next, attach the pre-cut legs and arms onto the seat frame by following the joining techniques.

An example of a Mid-Century Modern Lounge chair being built is demonstrated in this 8-minute video by professional furniture maker Shaun Boyd using Festool Domino Joiners. The results are beautiful, clean lines.

For comparison, watch this 10-minute video of a similar chair build but with wooden dowels to join the piece. A professional wood maker, called Woodelight, creates an ottoman to match.

Finishing

A natural wood finish is as simple as sanding the wood until smooth and adding a topcoat. The Watco 242219 Danish Oil Wood Finish protects the wood, doesn’t emit strong Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) vapors, and dries in six hours. Alternatively, stain your smoothly sanded wood first and then add the topcoat for a brilliant brown wood finish.

Watco 242219 Danish Oil Wood Finish, Low VOC, Pint, Natural
  • Ideal for use on a variety of indoor wood surfaces including bare, stripped or sanded; not recommended for floors
  • Low VOC, oil-based formula of blended oil & varnish penetrates deeply into wood pores for ultimate protection
  • Dries to the touch in as little as 6 hours and covers up to 85 sq ft

Last update on 2022-06-11 at 00:10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

An Adirondack lounge chair does not traditionally require cushions. Simultaneously, an armchair is known to be upholstered with a substantial fabric that is tightly woven and durable. Alternatively, the casual outdoor lounge chair ordinarily has water-resistant and heavy-duty cotton canvas cushions attached. 

The color and wood finish and the fabric, beautify the decor, and provide a comfortable and cozy reading chair, perfect for any home. To learn how to stain and finish wood properly, check out the book Understanding Wood Finishes as guidance because if correctly finished, your chair will look gorgeous and age well. 

Conclusion

The definition of a reading chair took many forms and was first created hundreds of years ago. The process of building a cozy, sturdy, and aesthetically pleasing chair is a personal journey in creativity and art in perfecting your craft. The possibilities for design plans and finishes are endless, limited only by your budget and your imagination. 

Construction starts by deciding on a specific design, obtaining project plans, gathering materials, and filling in any gaps you may have in your wood making skill set. Internet help is just a few clicks away. However, it may take years to refine your craft, although the excitement is in the journey. The outcome will be a decorative yet practical reading chair, customized to your taste and abilities. 

Sources

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