Building a Muskoka Chair

I don’t have a lot of furniture, and I like it that way. However, I would like to have a nice comfortable chair for my outside patio. I’ve been dragging my two lawn chairs back and forth out there up to this point, but that’s becoming a pain, and one of my lawn chairs died anyways.

So, I got the idea of building a Muskoka chair. They are expensive to buy but, after some investigation, I figured I could build one for around forty bucks. Still not chicken feed, but manageable.

The thing about Muskoka chairs is, they have very wide arms, where you can put stuff, like food, or drinks and such. Also, I could make a sort of table, to fit across those arms, for my computer, or to eat dinner off. So, it seems a very practical idea.

Of course, as always, I went online to see if I could find some suitable plans to build this chair, and I did. These plans I found are not a typical Muskoka chair, but I liked the improvements that this guy made on the standard design, and it seems quite doable with the scant tools that I have. Here’s a link to the plans I’ll be using;

I won’t be using cedar material though, too expensive for my ‘non-essentials’ budget. I’ll use pine instead. I’ll be bringing it inside in the winter anyways, so the added weather resistance of cedar won’t be missed all that much.

So, I made a list of all the material I will need, and I’ll buy it as required, instead of getting it all at once. The building store is not far, so there’s no long trip involved to go there and back.

Since the large main legs are the most complex, and first required pieces, I bought the material for them to start off with and, after a lot of measuring, and cutting by hand, they are now ready.


I don’t have any power tools, but I was able to make most of the straight cuts with my small regular hand saw. I made the more complex, curved cuts with my folding camping saw, and I cut the bottom of that notch out with a chisel, after I had made the two short side cuts with my camping saw. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

The next step is to install one of the seat slats into that notch, in order to join the two main legs together but, when I went to do that, I realized that the screws I have are not long enough, so I’ll have to go down to the store to pick up some longer ones. I’m using drywall screws in this project because I like the thinness of these screws. They are less likely to split the wood, and they are a lot cheaper, although they will rust, so they must be protected from long periods of wetness. I will slightly sink the tops of the screws into the wood, and seal them with some construction adhesive.


Here you can see what I mean by sinking the screws and sealing them with construction adhesive. There is also a layer of construction adhesive between the two screwed together pieces.


The humble beginnings of a simple Muskoka chair.

Next, I had to round the lengthwise sharp corners of the top edges of the seat slats. I did this using a Stanley ShurForm plane, which I already had. Then I just sanded them a bit to finish the job. In the plans, that guy fastened his seat slats with just one screw, in the middle. I decided to fasten mine with two, since I’m using pine, which is a bit more prone to warping.


Here you can see that I’ve installed the two front seat slats. I can’t install the others yet, because I need access to the front of that back seat slat, so that I can screw the bottom of the back slats to it.

The next phase of the job will be the front legs, arm braces, and arm blocks. They are a complete unit, and I assembled them as such.


This is the completed unit of front leg, arm brace and arm block. All these pieces that I’m joining together also have construction adhesive between the joints for extra support, and I’m sealing all the seams with construction adhesive too. This will help keep water from penetrating between the joints and causing rot.

The next step will be a little bit tricky because I have to mount the front legs onto the main legs. I may have to use some C-clamps to hold them in position while I align them properly, and use the adhesive and screws to attach them. By the way, I am pre-drilling the holes through the first layer of wood with my little drill brace. I don’t pre-drill holes through to the piece that it’s attaching to, because this weakens the bond.

Also, when doing this step, I will need to set the angle of the seat, and also the angle of the back of the seat. The higher I lift the main legs, in the front, the farther back the seat will lean. So, I will need to attach the front legs so that this height is suitable. I’m going mostly by the plans I’m using but he uses power tools, and calculates exact angles. This is something that I cannot do, so I will have to estimate by just looking at the finished chair he shows.


I figured out how high the main legs needed to be in the front, and I found something to approximate that height. This way I can keep the whole thing level, while I attach the front legs. You can see that one leg is already attached here.


Now both legs are attached. If you didn’t read the plans, you might be wondering why one leg is further back than the other. The reason for this is that, Muskoka chairs are typically difficult to get out of, because of the low, laid back seating position. With one arm shorter, you can wrap your leg around the front side of the chair and easily get up. I have tried this out and it works great.


As I mentioned already, I’m using construction adhesive between all the joints. This is the type that I’m using. I was going to cover all the ends of the screws with this construction adhesive also, but I changed my mind when I saw the first few screws that I did this to. It looks messy and , to be honest, I do like the look of the black screw heads, with out anything on them. However, I know if I don’t seal them somehow, they will rust, so I will use some kind of clear sealer on them. I’m not sure what yet, maybe something like nail polish.


Here are the two arms, ready to mount. Again, I cut them with my regular saw, and then I used a Stanley SurForm to create the rounded edges.


And there it is, all put together. All it needs now is some kind of weather-proof finish on it. I’m going to use linseed oil, because I’m not fond of any kind of chemicals.


Here’s a side view.


And, finally, the rear view.


I’m already thinking about building another one, for a matched set, only the next one will have the short arm on the opposite side.

Some things I found out, after the fact….in the plans he uses cedar decking material, which is a bit thicker than, what would be called, 1 x 5 1/2 in your local building store. This means that the 1 3/4 long screws he suggests are too long for the material I used. I did get 1 5/8 screws, but in 8 places, even these were too long, so I will eventually have to replace those 8 screws with 1 1/2 screws. No big deal. They are in out of the way places anyways.

I decided against coating the screw heads with anything but the linseed oil that I used to do the whole chair with. It didn’t really make much sense to buy cheaper screws, and then pay more to coat the heads. My chair will be under cover all of the time, so it won’t see all that much weather. I would recommend rust resistant screws if the chair is going to be on an uncovered deck or out on the lawn etc.

I’m considering the possibility of adding a pull-out foot rest, that just slides in underneath the chair, to compliment the already comfortable chair. It wouldn’t take too much wood to do this. I will add to this post if I, in fact, do this.


Update Aug. 14/2013



I have now completed the, integrated, pull-out foot/leg rest on the Muskoka chair. There were no actual plans for this part of the project, I just winged my way through it, but I will post some pictures that will give a good idea of what I did.


Here is the pull-out foot/leg rest I designed for this chair, in the fully extended position. It just slides in, on a set of wooden rails that I secured to the inside of the main legs and also to the inside of the front legs.


This is what the chair looks like when the foot/leg rest is fully retracted. I tried to camouflage the add on unit as much as possible, but you can still see the extra set of legs sticking down. However, no part of this unit interferes with the use of the chair, as it was before the addition.


Here’s a side view of the modified chair, with the foot/leg rest fully retracted. You can certainly see some extra parts there now. That piece right down near the bottom right, sticking out at the back, just on top of the lower main legs acts as a stop, so that the foot/leg rest unit doesn’t pull right out of the front.


In this underside view, you can see all the parts of the sliding rails system. I made the whole assembly to be a fairly snug fit, with very little play. I’m expecting that, when I treat it with linseed oil, this will lubricate it nicely, although it does slide very smoothly right now.


This closeup of one side of the rail system gives some better detail. Both sides are identical, even though the front legs are offset. There is some slight difference in the location of the screws because of this though.

So, that’s the completed build for this Muskoka chair. It turned out not bad, for a first try. I may decide to build another, but not right away. Possibly during the winter months, when I’m inside a bit more. However, I now have a very comfortable chair to leave out on my back porch, just waiting for me to come home from a long hike. πŸ™‚


13 responses to this post.

  1. Nice looking


  2. Posted by Avril Frame on August 10, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Love it!! I wouldn’t mind a couple of those ………….. great job.


  3. Looks like you have a whole cottage industry setup here.

    by the way, you might want to patent this idea, then sell it to people who make these kind of chairs.
    just an idea


    • LOL, Hey Wild_E, I don’t think the apartment management would be cool with me starting a manufacturing business in my one bedroom apartment. Anyway, there’s something about building things for sale, rather than just building them as a personal project. When something turns into a job, suddenly it becomes more like work than enjoyment. πŸ™‚ Maybe I should take it onto Dragon’s Den LOL


      • No, take it to the people who were on the Dragons Den, they asked for money to ramp up production on Muskoka chairs. They are the ones to sell the patent too, then more retirement money?

      • Well, Wild_E, you certainly are a forward thinker. I’m too stuck enjoying this moment to even think about tomorrow, never mind months or years from now. Besides, I wouldn’t be a very happy rich man, worrying about who’s out to take all that money away from me πŸ™‚ Best I stay a contented poor man, who’s only worry is when my next paddle in the kayak will be. πŸ™‚

      • It is because I am not in a good place financially right now, with too many health setback that I see this as perhaps residual income. Tis all..
        I wish I could paddle along with you in honesty, love the kayaks and canoes, so peaceful and so restive!

      • To be honest, Wild_E, I’ve gone through most of this life on the precipice of financial disaster, but I always seemed to get a last minute reprieve. I wish you well in both your health and financial recovery. There’s always someone worse off out there to draw strength from. When I’m really down, I always happen to see someone who’s been dealt a much worse hand than me, and I feel very grateful to have as much as I do. From what I’ve seen on your blog, you too have much to be grateful for. πŸ˜‰

  4. Posted by gord on June 23, 2014 at 10:27 am

    hello NP. wild-e sent me here to look at your chair..its a work of art.

    I am presently looking at this same design with small logs and flat boards for the seat and back.
    beautiful chair


    • Hey Gord, thanks for dropping by. I was always interested in log building, both for furniture, and for structures. Sounds like a very unique way to build this chair. To be honest, I just did what I always do, when I want something, I searched on the internet, and found a design that I liked, and I felt that I could build with a minimum of tools. Simple, and effective. So, that’s how this chair came about. It’s serving me well to this day, and it’s quite comfortable. I can’t say that I would do anything differently in the way that I built it. Good luck on your build.


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