How to Build a Wood Chair With an Adjustable Back

Making your own wood chair is an exciting way to add a personal touch to your room.

Design the Adjustable Back

An adjustable back can add to the comfort of an wooden chair.An adjustable back can add to the comfort of an wooden chair.
But however ergonomic the design may be a wood chair tends to be rigid and uncomfortable. A custom-made wood chair consists of five pieces: base, support, two arms and a back. One way to make the chair more comfortable is to add an adjustable back to it. It is simple to set up and works well with any design using the five-piece system.

Evaluate your design. The back of the chair will connect to the base and arms of the chair. For an adjustable back chair, the arms will need to be free standing, connecting only to the base. The back will need to connect at one point on each side.

Reconfigure the design of the chair so that there is only one point of contact per side at the base of the back to the arms. The connection here would be a dowel that will be secured to the back and fit loosely into a drilled hole in the arm of the chair. A larger dower can provide more sturdiness to the back here. If your design has only two contact points per side, just remove the upper connection. If you have multiple connections, redesign both arms and back to get the desired result.

Add a sturdy strip of wood to the top-back edge of the arms to rest the back on and to be used for adjusting. It has to be strong enough to support the weight of the body. A good design option would be a triangular wedge of wood that can be bolted to the arm. You should adhere to the basic design elements of the chair. Fix it at a position that would allow for as much adjustment as desired without sacrificing the strength of the chair. Two to four inch pieces of wood should be ample for a good angle to recline the back without causing the chair to tip.

Purchase a lock or slide to add to each side of the back. This will be used to lock the back into place after the adjustment is done. Check out the various options available at your local hardware store. Choose an option to match the design style of your chair but make sure that it remains highly functional. This lock will attach to either the back of the chair to be relatively hidden or at the front of the chair for easy access. When choosing a lock, keep the location in mind.

Secure the lock to the chair either on the face of the back or the rear-side of the back using wood screws. To identify the location of the holes, construct the chair and hold the back in the various positions that it will be in when reclined. Moving the back from front to rear, mark the spots in the wedge where the holes are to be drilled. Drill holes into the wedge accordingly and in keeping with the shape and size of the lock.

Build your chair according to the design specifications. When connecting the back to the arms using the dowel connection, lubricate the holes drilled into the arms with graphite or another noncombustible dry lubricant.

Things You Will Need

  • Chair design
  • Drill
  • Lock mechanism
  • Wood screws


  • This is a basic setup for creating a secure but simple adjustable back on a wooden chair. Other options, such as, complex locks and sliding recliner options using add-on mechanical elements exist and are readily available at local hardware stores.