Read This: Hand-Built Outdoor Furniture


When the Death Star really starts blazing during the summer, we gardeners in the South and Southwest put down our shovels and trowels, do a little weeding or watering in the early morning hours, and mainly try to stay in the shade or a swimming hole until October. With planting madness on hold, you might find yourself with some extra time on your hands, so why not build a chaise longue, porch table, or planter box to enjoy in the garden?

Not handy, you say? You’re probably selling yourself short. I’m no carpenter and never took shop, but even I have built a few pieces of furniture over the years, including a potting table (still in use) and a coop-style toy cubby (now at my sister’s lake house), from simple plans found in magazines.


But forget tear-outs. A new book, Hand-Built Outdoor Furniture: 20 Step-by-Step Projects Anyone Can Build, will inspire you to break out the miter saw, drill, and sander. With an appealing mix of contemporary and traditional-style projects — you’ll find several types of chairs and tables as well as a trellis, obelisk, torchiere, birdhouse, swing, and planters — the book is clearly aimed at a female reader who may not feel at home in a workshop, and perhaps not even in the lumber aisle at Home Depot.


Connecticut-based woodworker and furniture designer Katie Jackson provides clearly worded instructions and step-by-step photos of each project, making them seem very do-able even if you don’t know a Phillips-head from a flat-head screwdriver.


The 20 projects — each one attractively photographed in a garden setting — are ordered from simplest to most complicated, so you can start small and build your confidence as you go or, if you have some experience, pick a project and jump right in. Helpfully, Jackson makes no assumptions that the reader knows how to operate the tools needed for each project, or even how to buy the materials. She devotes Part One to topics like “shopping confidently” for lumber (she confesses that she was once intimidated about going to a lumberyard alone), choosing boards, measuring for screw holes, and operating the tools.


The four projects pictured here, plus the orange chair on the book cover, are my favorites. Being a table and chair junkie, I don’t currently need any of these, but want is another matter. When I’m ready for something new, I may just dust off my saw and try my hand at one of these. Take a look and see if you aren’t inspired to build something too.

All photos by Ellen Blackmar, courtesy of Timber Press.

Disclosure: Timber Press sent me a copy of Hand-Built Outdoor Furniture for review. I reviewed it at my own discretion and without any compensation. This post, as with everything at Digging, is my own personal opinion.

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