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.

| September/October 1989

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?

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