Despite its refined appearance, this is a project that most homeowners can build. I made it out of dimension lumber, which is readily available at home centers. Most often used for carpentry projects such as framing houses or building decks, dimension lumber is often eschewed for creating furniture because the resulting pieces can look clunky or home- made. To keep my lounger from resembling a reclining picnic table, I used both 1x and 2x lumber and ripped some of the stock to create custom widths.
You probably already own all of the necessary tools for this project. Although I had access to a few machines that some homeowners might not have (such as a table saw), in these instances you can use one of the alternative methods or material options I'll describe to achieve the same results.
The legs and base rails connect with half-lap joints, which are easy to make and offer more strength and a more refined appearance than a common butt joint. I used a circular saw to cut several kerfs across the joint area (photo 1), broke out the material between the kerfs with a hammer and then smoothed the joint faces with a chisel.
Mark the area on each piece that will overlap. set the saw blade depth to half the thickness of the stock. Make several passes, starting at the inside edge of the half-lap area.
There are several curve profiles to cut; almost all of them are created using the same profile template (see Base Details drawing in PDF, below). Create a full-size template by enlarging the drawing on a copy machine or by transferring the profile by hand onto a 5-1/2- x 10-in. grid.
Once you have created the profile template, trace it onto the ends of the base rails (photo 2). Flip the template over and end-for-end to draw the back end profile on the base rails. Next, use only the top portion of the template for the back rails. Then place the front legs across the base rails in the position that they will later be fastened and adjust the template on the front legs so that the curve flows into the front curve on the base rails. Finally, draw the only curves that don't follow the template — a 1-1/2-in.-radius half-circle on the bottom of the back leg and an arc on the front arm support. Cut the curve profiles in each piece.
Create a curved profile template. Use the same template to mark the curve profiles on the base rail, back rail and front leg. cut along the profile lines with a jigsaw or band saw.
The adjustable backrest is supported by two arms that connect to a dowel. The dowel fits into notches that are cut into a support rail. The notches are spaced to accommodate four positions, ranging from lying flat to sitting upright. To form the notches, first drill 3/4-in.-dia. holes at each notch position (see Support Rail Detail, PDF) and then cut through the top of the support rail to open up the top of each notch (photo 3). The front cut into each notch is beveled slightly so that the support bar easily slides out of the notch when the backrest is lifted, but the back cut is perpendicular so that the support bar can't slide out when you lean on the backrest.
Drill 3/4-in.-dia. holes at each notch position and then use a handsaw to cut to the edge of each hole. bevel the front cut, and keep the back cut perpendicular to the top.
Assemble the base frame and back frame with exterior-rated glue and screws (photo 4). I concealed the screws that fasten the legs by driving them from the inside of the frame, but not all of the screws are as easily hidden. So instead of trying to hide all of them, I used decorative stainless steel washers to enhance the look of the exposed screws. Next, attach the support rails to the base rails and glue the support arm spacers to the inside of the back rails.
Assemble the base and back frames with exterior glue and screws. Use 1-1/4-in. screws to secure the legs, 3- in. screws to secure the stretchers and 3-in. screws to secure the support rails.
Because making the slats out of stock widths of 1x lumber would have given the piece a clunky appearance, I ripped 1x4s down the middle to create boards that were a little less than 1-3/4 in. wide. (This approach also left very little waste.) I ripped a few extra feet of 1x4 to use for the armrest supports and back-support arms. If you don't have access to a table saw to rip the 1x4s, your best option is to substitute 1x2s and add two slats — the spacing will be just a little less than 1/4 in.
I eased the top long edges of each slat with a router and 1/8-in.-radius roundover bit. Then I attached the slats to the base and back frames with 1-5/8-in. stainless steel screws, leaving slightly more than 1/4 in. between slats. Test the spacing before attaching any slats. I countersunk all of the slat screws slightly below the surface and did not use the finish washers.
Next, I used a string and pencil as a trammel to draw a 24-in. radius across the ends of the base and back slats. Then I cut along the radius line with a jigsaw (photo 5). I cut 1-in.-radius half-circles in the ends of the support arms and drilled 1/4-in.-dia. holes for all of the pivot bolts in the base rails, back rails and support arms and 3/4-in.-dia. holes in the support bar.
Attach the slats to the base and back frames. Then draw 24-in.-radius arcs on the ends of the overhanging slat ends and cut the arcs using a jigsaw.
The final construction step before applying finish is to assemble the armrests. Attach the armrest rails and supports to the base rails with 1-5/8-in. screws and finish washers. I wanted the armrests to be smooth and comfortable, so I fastened them to the armrest rails with exterior glue and 1-5/8-in. screws that are recessed in countersunk holes and covered with wood plugs (photo 6). Cedar plugs are not readily available, so I cut the plugs myself (see Making Wood Plugs).
Attach the armrests to the armrest rails and supports. If you are taller or shorter than average, you can adjust the armrest height by increasing or decreasing the support lengths.
Finish and assembly
Ease any exposed rough edges with a router and 1/8-in.-radius roundover bit or sandpaper. Sand the rest of the lounger smooth with 150-grit sandpaper and then apply the finish. I applied one coat of a penetrating oil finish (see Sources in PDF).
Once the finish has cured, attach the backrest to the base with 1/4-in.-dia. x 3-1/2-in. exterior machine screws, washers and locknuts (photo 7). Then attach the support arms to the back rail with 1/4-in.-dia. x 3-in. exterior machine screws, washers and locknuts. Slide the support bar through the holes in the support arms.
Attach the back assembly to the base assembly with bolts, washers and lock- nuts. then attach the support arms to the back frame.
The deck lounger rolls on a set of 8-in.-dia. lawn mower wheels that are mounted on a 1/2-in.-dia. aluminum rod as an axle. Both the wheels and the aluminum rod are available at most home centers and hardware stores. To partially conceal the wheels, I mounted them inside the back legs. I fit a piece of 1/2-in.-i.d. (inside diameter) PVC pipe over the axle and between the wheels to keep the wheels tight against the legs.
The axle is retained with 1/2-in. push caps (photo 8), which are available at most hardware stores and home centers. Push caps feature metal flanges that are angled to slide onto the rod, but when you try to pull them off, the flange digs into the rod and will not slide off.
Clamp a scrap of wood against the opposite end of the axle to hold it securely in place when pounding the push caps onto the axle.
Once the wheels are in place, the anticipation is over — your deck lounger is ready for extensive use-testing. Try not to sleep through dinner.