This past fall I was camping with my friends, Ervin & Willie Ellis (“The Ellis Bros Builders”…see them here) at their new beautiful property in Southwest Virginia. Ervin let me sit in a surprisingly comfortable wooden camp chair, and he told me that it is called a Viking Camp Chair (I’m almost certain it isn’t of Viking origin).
We immediately took measurements, because I wanted to make one too. The chair only requires one 2×12 board from the hardware store, it doesn’t require squaring the board up, it only has one mortise & tenon joint, it’s collapsible & easy to take anywhere, and it doesn’t require too much precision.
For all these reasons I thought it would also make a perfect project for all my viewers. Above you can watch the video tutorial, and below you can find the plans and a list of tools used in the video:
Viking Camp Chair Plans & Tools Used:
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Here are links to the Tools used in this tutorial:
(DISCLAIMER: Some of the links below can help me receive a small commission, if you make any purchase on that company’s website. This really helps me out, and costs you nothing extra!)
Alright, let’s get started building the Viking Camp Chair!
I start by measuring out where I want to cut the two parts out of my 8-foot board. I’m using 2×12 pressure treated lumber, so the chair will last longer outdoors. But you can an untreated board if you plan on keeping this out of the rain.
If you use treated lumber, make sure to wipe your tools down with oil afterward to prevent rust. I’m laying these two pieces out in a way that I can leave out the major knots. But it’s not a big deal if you have knots. Because this isn’t nicely squared up lumber, I can get by with using a framing square to lay most everything out.
You can use a crosscut hand saw, but I had my sliding miter saw out, so I used it to make these cuts. Again, these cuts don’t need to be perfect, so just get your cut pretty close to square across the board.
And make sure you let your blade come to a full stop before you move anything around. I recently saw someone on Instagram who had badly cut her hand because she was being rushed in this situation.
Now that my two pieces are cut, I’ll lay out the tenon board. You can use whichever measurements you want for a custom reclining angle, but I’ve included all the measurements in my free plans, so I won’t mention them here. I measure down for the seat length. You may want a different size seat depending on the length of your legs.
Then I draw a square line across the board, and then measure in for the tenon from each side. This isn’t a critical measurement, as long as you come in the same amount from both sides.
Then I set a combination square at the mark that I set. I then run the square and pencil along the board to extend the layout lines for the tenon. This is an important step if you’ll be using a handsaw to rip down the line. If you’re using a bandsaw, then you only really need to make the marks at the end of the board.
And I always keep a habit of marking my waste, even though it would be pretty hard to mess this cut up. I’ve darkened my lines with a marker so you can see how the seat is supposed to look:
If you’ve got a band saw, this ripping step only takes a few seconds. If you’ll be using a rip saw, then you’ll get much better exercise than me! Once the first cut is made, all I have to do is flip the board over, and the fence will give me the exact same measurement in from the edge.
For the crosscuts on the seat, I find it faster to use a cross cut handsaw rather than trying to use power tools.
Now I layout the mortise on the seat back. I make a small tick mark where I want the mortise to start.
Then I lay the tenon on the board to get the width of the mortise. I make another tick mark.
Then I square the framing square up against the edge of the board, and carry both of these lines across the face of the board.
Now I take the combination square measurement that I used for marking the tenon, and I use it to mark the ends of the mortise.
I set the tenon over the mortise and draw the lines. Now I’ve got my mortise laid out.
I use a square to continue the mortise layout lines over the edges of the board.
And then I extend them on the other face of the board.
I then use a straight edge to connect the layout lines.
If your board is relatively square, then the layout lines should meet. But like I said before, this joint doesn’t need to fit really tightly, so don’t stress out if the lines don’t line up perfectly.
And I again use the combination square to mark the edges of the mortise.
Now it’s time to establish cut lines around the mortise. First I use a holdfast to hold the board down to my workbench. Then I use a large chisel to outline the mortise. I’m not hitting the chisel hard yet, because I’m just trying to keep a clean mortise. And notice that I’m putting the bevel-edge of the chisel toward the waste?
This ensures that the walls of my mortise will be straight & clean because of the flat face of the chisel. I always chop across the grain first, and extend a hair past the edge of the mortise. This helps to prevent splitting when I establish the edges of the mortise, which run with the grain. I flip the board over and repeat. Here’s a closeup view:
To remove the majority of the mortise waste, you can either use an auger bit and brace, or a drill press with a Forstner bit.
Forstner bits on a drill press are my favorite way to clean out large mortises, especially when I’m building workbenches that have a ton of these mortises. I use as large a bit as I can, without getting too close to my layout lines. The chisel marks that I made on the layout lines help to prevent the wood from chipping out.
I try to get the holes to overlap a bit, to make waste removal easier. And notice how I drew a center line to aid in getting the bit centered in the mortise.
I strop my chisel before going back to chop the mortise. I try to strop every couple minutes of use so I don’t have to go back to my honing stones. This is a great time saver, and it keeps me working with a razor sharp chisel!
Then I remove waste from the mortise. But I don’t get too close to the line yet, and I don’t chop all the way to the bottom. I don’t want to risk blowing out beyond the mortise lines on the other side.
And I usually have to work the chisel at an angle to get the waste out of the corners:
Once I’ve gotten really close to all the layout lines, then I can finally drop my chisel in the knife lines.
This method will ensure that my mortise walls stay crisp, and don’t get pushed backward. Once the first side is complete, I flip the board over and repeat the process again, meeting in the center of the board. Without using my joiner’s mallet, I use my chisel to pare away any remaining gunk.
I like to use a cabinet-maker’s rasp to bevel the edges of the tenon. This will help the tenon slide into the mortise easier, and will also keep it from splitting when it’s set on the ground.
Now I check the fit of the tenon in the mortise. It appears to fit, but more snugly than I want for this chair.
If yours fits too tight, you can either use the rasp to expand the mortise a bit, or widen the mortise a little more with a chisel.
This is a nice, fairly loose fit that I’m going for:
And this is what the chair will look like when you’re finished:
As a final optional step, I like to use the rasp to ease the edges anywhere it might be uncomfortable when sitting:
That’s it! Wasn’t that pretty simple? This is a super easy project to work on while you’re quarantined during this coronavirus pandemic. And hopefully it’ll help you get outside, and enjoy the sun…away from people.
My sweet wife was kind enough to offer a demonstration of how easy this Viking Camp Chair is to setup.
Of course, you should watch the video to see the whole setup.
Joshua loves mixing his passion for woodworking with his ability to teach in a simple manner. He lives on a small farm in Earlysville, Virginia with his wife and four children, and builds furniture and teaches woodworking classes in his workshop.