Home Garden

How to Build an Adjustable Deck Chair

An adjustable deck chair practically screams "summer." You can set the back upright when you're keeping an eye on the kids splashing in the pool, and to full recline to relax and soak up some rays. When you make the back and seat from canvas, you not only increase the comfort quotient, but reduce its weight -- making it more convenient to bring along with the rest of your outdoor gear. Constructing the canvas-back deck chair yourself lets you customize its color to coordinate with your other outdoor furnishings. Anyone with basic woodworking skills can build an adjustable deck chair.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • 2-by-2 lumber
  • 1-by-2 lumber
  • 3/4-inch dowel
  • Saw
  • Sandpaper
  • Drill
  • 1/18-inch drill bit
  • 3/4-inch drill bit
  • Bar clamp
  • Screwdriver
  • 2 3/4-inch wood screws
  • 3-inch bolts with capped nuts
  • Flat washers to fit bolts
  • Canvas fabric
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine
Show More


    • 1

      Cut two 48-inch pieces of 1-by-2 boards, two 24-inch pieces of 2-by-2, and one 26-inch length of 2-by-3 wood with your saw. These pieces comprise the upright back of the deck chair. Sand the pieces, including the cut ends, with fine-grit sandpaper until they're smooth.

    • 2

      Lay out the two 48-inch pieces on their 1-inch edges so they're parallel and about 24 inches apart at the inside edge. Lay the 26-inch 2-by-3 across the two 48-inch pieces, so its ends are supported by the edges of the 1-by-2s, about 2 inches from the bottom of the pieces. Adjust the distance between the 48-inch pieces so the ends of the 26-inch pieces are flush with the edges of the 1-by-2s, as the actual measurements of dimensional lumber are rounded up, for instance a 1-by-2 is actually 13/16-by-1 1/2 inches, according to "Popular Mechanics" magazine.

    • 3

      Drill two holes, just smaller than the screws, through the face of each end of the 2-by-3 and into the edge of the 1-by-2 support. Apply wood glue at each point of contact and drive wood screws through the pre-drilled holes with the screwdriver.

    • 4

      Put two pieces of 2-by-2 between the two 48-inch pieces at the upper end of the two 48-inch supports. The first 2-by-2 should be flush with the ends of the 48-inch pieces, with a 1/2-inch gap between the 2-by-2s. Drill one hole through the 2-inch outer face of the 1-by-2 into the center of each end of each 2-by-2. Apply glue and wood screws as in Step 3. This completes the upright back and front legs of the sling chair frame.

    • 5

      Cut two 44-inch pieces of 1-by-2. Cut two pieces of 2-by-2 to 23 inches long and one piece of 2-by-2 to 25 inches long.

    • 6

      Clamp the two 1-by-2s together at their bottom ends along their 1-inch edge with the bar clamp. Install the 3/4-inch drill bit on your drill. Measure and mark points along the seam between the 1-by-2s every 2 inches, from 8 to 14 inches from the bottom end of the clamped pieces. Drill a 3/4-inch hole centered on each of the four marks. Unclamp the 1-by-2s. You should have four semi-circle grooves in the edge of each 1-by-2, perfectly aligned at the ends.

    • 7

      Lay the grooved 1-by-2s out, grooved ends up, so they're about 23 inches apart at their inside edges. Install the 25-inch 2-by-2 and the two 23-inch 2-by-2s and in the same manner as you did the 24-inch 2-by-2s in Steps 2, 3 and 4, making any width adjustments necessary. This completes the seat and back legs frame.

    • 8

      Lay the two frames one on top of the other with the seat-back frame face down and the front edge of the seat-bottom frame lined up with the bottom edge of the seat-back frame. The seat-bottom frame should nest inside the seat-back frame. Drill a 1/4-inch hole through both, 16 inches up from the lined-up edges on both sides. Insert the 2-inch bolt through the outer frame. Put a washer on from the other side, put the bolt through the inner frame and secure with a rounded, covered nut.

    • 9

      Cut two 1-by-2s 18 inches long. Cut a piece of 3/4-inch dowel 28 1/2 inches long. Drill a 1/4-inch hole 16 inches down from the top edge of the seat-back frame on both sides, and at one end of each 18-inch 1-by-2. Drill a 1/18-inch pilot hole all the way through the outside face of each of the 18-inch-long 1-by-2s, at the other end from where the 1/4-inch hole is drilled. Put the dowel between the two pieces so the cut ends of the dowel line up with the pilot holes. Apply glue and screw the drive a wood screw through the pilot holes on the face of the 1-by-2s and into the ends of the dowel to form a "U." This is the prop for the back of the slingback chair. Slide the open end of the U-shaped prop assembly over the frame for the seat back so the 1/4-inch holes at the top outside face of the "U" uprights line up with the 1/4-inch holes in the seat-back frame. Insert bolts with washers between the wood slats as in Step 8.

    Sewing the Canvas Back

    • 10

      Cut a piece of canvas that's 52 inches long and 25 inches wide with scissors.

    • 11

      Fold the long edges of the fabric over twice, 1/2-inch toward the wrong side of the fabric -- the side that doesn't show -- and sew down along the folded fabric with the sewing machine so no raw edges are exposed.

    • 12

      Fold the short ends of the fabric over 1/2-inch toward the wrong side of the fabric and sew. Fold the short ends back 1-inch toward the wrong side of the fabric and sew again. This creates the channel for the 3/4-inch dowels.

    Assembling the Chair

    • 13

      Open the frame. Bend back the prop assembly and slide the dowel into one of the half-circle grooves.

    • 14

      Cut two 23 1/2-inch pieces of 3/4-inch dowel with a saw. Sand the ends smooth with fine-grit sandpaper.

    • 15

      Slide the rod-pocket ends of the canvas through the 1/2-inch slots created by the two 2-by-2s at the top of the seat back frame and at the front edge of the seat frame. Slide the 3/4-inch dowels through the rod pockets. The 2-by-2s hold the canvas in place as the dowel can't pass through the gap.