Build a Fold-Over Library Chair

Make a comfortable, classic wooden chair that converts to a stepladder with these instructions, including a materials list and diagram.

  • 119-078-01.jpg
    The library chair solves the problem of having two pieces of furniture where there's really only room for one. Folded over itself, it's a sturdy step stool; otherwise, it's a comfortable straight-backed chair that is not all that costly or difficult to build. The chair converts to a stool by unhooking a latch and folding the back forward.
  • Library Chair Diagram
    Most of the chair parts have duplicate right and left pieces; the supporting pieces on the inside are cut to match each other and the face boards they attach to.

  • 119-078-01.jpg
  • Library Chair Diagram

In the family cottage at North Carolina's High Hampton Inn, there's a piece of furniture that's unobtrusive, yet at the same time curious. It's an upright wooden chair that folds over itself to become a stepping stool—aptly called a library chair because of its practicality in a room where standing and reaching for books can occupy as much time as sitting and reading the volumes.

Even if you don't have a study, you can find plenty of use for a chair such as this in the kitchen, dining room or any other place where there are shelves beyond normal reach. The original piece—made over a century ago for former governor Wade Hampton of South Carolina—is somewhat narrower and a bit taller than the one you see here, but our modern version is a lot easier to build and uses a store-bought, workable clear pine rather than the stubborn, hand-milled oak of an earlier time.

Simple as this project is, you'll still welcome the help of a few power tools. A fine-bladed jigsaw and an orbital palm sander would each go a long way toward quickly shaping a number of parts, and a 3/8" variable-speed drill with a 1/4" Forstner bit could be used to sink the dowel-pin holes that connect components. In lieu of a standing table saw, a carefully wielded circular saw or ripsaw can be used to make the necessary straight cuts.

Be mindful of selecting clear or knot-free lumber for the project. Any good structural species will do, yet a No. 1 or select softwood—pine, hemlock or western fir, for example—combines the benefits of availability, low cost and a sound, straight grain. The best 1 × 12 shelving stock is a good choice since you can plan around any imperfections. Count on using two 8' boards—and double that if you buy 1 × 6s and plan to glue-join the few parts wider than 5 1/2".

To start, cut all the pieces to their unfinished dimension as indicated in the materials list. Note that the size of the seat asks that you edge-glue two boards together to get the required 13 1/2" depth. That done, begin shaping the individual parts. If you make your cuts accurately, the joints will be structurally sound; small gaps can be filled and smoothed later.

Take a look at how the chair is designed—facers adjoin carriers, which support the crosspieces. Since nearly every component of the chair has a duplicate, it's best to clamp and cut each pair together so they're symmetrical. In the case of the carriers, they can be traced from the trimmed face pieces, then match-cut with their mates.

9/11/2013 7:28:55 PM

I cannot seem to find any diagram at all. Where can I find one?

7/21/2011 10:09:53 PM

I agree the assembly diagram is too small to be able to read. Can we get another copy of this?

7/14/2011 12:00:10 AM

Where is the materials list?

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters