I love the inspiration I find on 1001pallets.com, So, I made an Adjustable Upholstered Pallet Lounge Chair. My simple design took about four hours and ten dollars. I wanted to make an adjustable lounger but needed it to be a bit more comfortable, so I integrated the idea of upholstering instead of a removable cushion.
Table of Contents
Here’s my Adjustable Upholstered Pallet Lounge Chair – the subframe:
First, I broke apart a single large pallet and used a couple of leftover pieces from another. I set the pallet stringers aside, as they will become the frame, and cleaned up the deck boards. I cut the two long stringers down to the length of the chair I wanted – but you can make it as long or short as you want. The stringers have the arches for the forklift, but I think that adds a crafter-feel to it.
With the remaining portions that I cut off, I turned them into legs by cutting them at slight angles. I mounted them to the insides of the stringers with long deck screws. Next, I cut two more pieces of stringer as braces to the front and back leg set to stabilize the legs and the horizontal frame pieces I dry-fit to check it but did NOT mount the two pieces together yet. Finally, I cut another scrap bit of wood as a lower brace to hold the legs from flexing out too far, checked for fit, and set it aside for now.
The backrest frame pivot and cross-supports:
The backrest doesn’t necessarily need the heavy stringer boards as support, but you do need something strong enough to support yourself safely so that 2×4 boards would work fine too. I cut two pieces long enough to make the seatback to the height I wanted, plus about five inches to create the hinge points and for rounding over at the ends. I sanded and rounded them over at both ends.
Next, I cut two pieces of leftover dowel rods. 1) The upper dowel rod (midway up the backrest) was cut to the external width of the backrest boards (or the inside width of the sub-frame so it’ll lay almost flat) plus about ½” extra on each end to be inserted into the bar adjuster arms. 2) The lower dowel rod needs to be cut wide enough to go through the backrest boards and into the subframe approximately ¾” on each side. Then I laid the pieces out on a table and checked for square, and marked where I needed to drill for the upper and lower holes. Allow enough extra at the lower holes for rounding, so it’s not too thin and then breaks.
Swinging support arm:
I cut a deck board piece in half lengthwise and then trimmed to the length I wanted by finding out how high up I wanted the chair to sit. This is based on where you mount it and how high up you want the chair to sit. I just held up the backrest and used a scrap board to prop it in place to check it, then took my measurements and cut the legs. Add a little bit of length because you’ll have to plan for mounting the board to the upper dowel – so you’ll be drilling holes part-way through the boards AND you’ll be rounding over the end, so it doesn’t bind up.
Drilling the holes:
Backrest boards: Drill both sets of holes all the way through and clean up the holes. You can use a hole saw bit set or a Forstner bit & drill press would make faster and more accurate work of it. The hole needs to be a big enough diameter to allow the dowel to slide easily through and not bind up so you can adjust the seat height with one hand.
Here’s one way to drill a hole – a Forstner Bit. You can use a hole saw, but you’d have to chisel out the excess. This will leave a little centering drill hole, but it won’t show.
Sub-frame boards: Drill a hole approximately ¾” deep on the INSIDE of the subframe, but don’t go all the way through. These holes will accommodate the dowel rod that will go through the backrest boards. It’ll allow the whole backrest to pivot without any hardware.
The swinging support arm (the U-shaped piece): Drill a hole approximately ½ to ¾” deep (depending on the thickness of your board). Don’t drill all the way through. The holes will stabilize the dowel, but will also help capture it to keep it in place.
The backrest frame assembly part 1:
I laid out the backrest and got it square/straight. Next, I slid the dowel rods through the backrest holes. I applied a bit of PVA glue into the inside holes of the swinging arm support (the U-shaped piece) but was sparing with it. Then I pre-drilled and secured the swinging arm support to the dowel rod. Now you can insert the lower dowel rod through the backrest supports and into the sub-frame.
The backrest frame assembly part 2:
Install the cross-braces on the sub-frame and the front and back legs. Add the lower, thinner cross-braces to the legs to keep them from flexing in or out. Double-check that your backrest pivots the way you want. If everything is good, do a final tightening.
Backrest stops and a spring:
To set the backrest stops, hold the backrest up and move the swinging arm support out to try it. Mark it with a pencil and use scrap pieces to create a stop. Screw to the tops of the subframe rails. Repeat this, however, many times you want. You can glue them in place and secure them with fasteners too. I added a metal bracket with a loop attached (like a drawer pull) for a place to hook the spring. The spring was mounted to the sub-frame cross-brace. I did this so that when I move the chair I can turn it on the side and the backrest won’t flop around. This is optional but suggested if you move the chair a lot.
Topping it off:
Now, for the fun and fast part – covering the seat and seatback. I measured and cut my boards to the width I wanted. You could use a jig for your chop saw if you chose. If you have a larger table saw setup, you can set your fence to the width you want. Cut all your pieces and install them after pre-drilling. Secure with fasteners.
I used foam pieces – about 3” thick and trimmed them to the width of the seat and backrests. Next, I also cut a piece to fit in between the backrest and seat This filled the big gap. I trimmed the thick vinyl (or use whatever you want) to cover the foam, plus enough to secure on the backs with a staple gun. You can pre-glue or not. Finally, I covered it all and secured it in place with staples. I added a headrest pillow by applying a second layer of foam and covered it. Now I have a comfy, Adjustable Upholstered Pallet Lounge Chair.
Here’s my chair, not upholstered yet, but fully assembled and in an upright position.
Here is a side view and a better shot of the chair, fully assembled, with the deck boards installed. I have it in the fully upright position, You can see the gap that I will fill later with the upholstery.