Weekend Project
Justin Newcombe's tips on outdoor DIY projects

Weekend Project: Garden furniture with a presidential background

By Justin Newcombe


With summer upon us, Justin Newcombe shows how to create a Cape Cod chair - just the thing for lazing about in on those hot afternoons, or for cocktails on a warm evening.

Backyard furniture is perfect for lounging about in the warmer summer season approaching. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Backyard furniture is perfect for lounging about in the warmer summer season approaching. Photo / Steven McNicholl

The Cape Cod chair is a garden classic, impossible to resist sitting in even when you're just passing, and equally hard to remove yourself from.

Cape Cod is the holiday playground of the American aristocracy or "Wasps" (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant). Think JFK and Jackie on holiday, smiling, swimming and sailing, or relaxing in a Cape Cod chair with a Pimms.

Despite this association with convention, the Cape Cod chair can be a real monster when it comes to eccentric, innovative furniture. Firstly, the broad panels lend themselves to strong colour and I've seen them constructed out of everything from old road signs to skate boards. In the end this influenced my decision to use plywood. I decided to treat my material as a dressmaker would treat fabric and painted the ply before I cut out the pieces.

The paint job worked out great but if you don't have a plan, figuring out the pieces you need is a bit of a sod. I used a friend's chair as a reference which helped.

Once you get the side panels organised, the rest can be figured out pretty easily. The best way is to get some kind of plan and modify it. I've provided a pattern to get you started and you can change it around to suit.

The ply is not as thick as regular timber so weighs less, making the chair easier to move around. Because I used ply I also had to drill, screw and glue all the pieces together. Being an outside chair I sealed it with two-pot fibreglass resin.

Step 1

Cut out the pieces from your sheet of ply. If you use a circular saw, tape the cut first with masking tape. This will stop edges chipping. I found using a good hand saw and a jigsaw much tidier and easier to control.

Step 2

Set up the profile of the chair. To do this, attach the upright leg to the seat panel. This is the longest panel and also acts as the rear leg. The front leg goes on the outside of the seat panel. This will give you the pitch of the seat and looks like a wonky cross. Attach the rear arm brace to the inside of the seat panel and repeat for the other side.

Step 3

Attach the front seat slat to the chair and the rear brace. The chair should be able to stand upright.

Step 4

Attach the chair arms to the front legs and the rear support. These should be level. Attach a triangle support under each arm at the leg.

Step 5

Attach a brace to the front legs under the seat.

Step 6

Construct the backing independently of the chair. Attach the batons to the base plate which should be curved. For support I taped the batons together with insulation tape and removed once in place. The back flares out at the top.

Step 7

Clamp the upper back support to the arms of the chair. Position the back on to the seat and make any necessary adjustments. The base plate should sit flush on to the seat of the chair. Once in place attach the back batons to the upper support, then attach the rear base plate behind the seat.

Step 8

Attach the seating slats. Seal with varnish or fibreglass resin.

- NZ Herald

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