Design & DIY

A simple modification guaranteed to make your Muskoka chair more comfortable

a muskoka chair modified to add lumbar support Photo by Bradley Reinhardt

What could be more comfortable than lounging in a Muskoka chair? Answer: an upgraded Muskoka chair. The lumbar spine—your lower back—is often tested by the cottage lounger. By adding lumbar support to the flat backrest, you can bring your spine into its proper alignment. Better ergonomics can improve your breathing and circulation, as well as reduce spinal pressure and muscle stress. This all adds up to greater relaxation!

Curved strips fastened on top of the existing back slats will provide support for the spine. Any dry 2x lumber will work to create the supports—one support per slat. Make a pattern by drawing an arc on cardboard, using a compass set to a radius of 10″. Cut off a slice (a chord, technically) with an 8″ base. Trim 1/8″ from each end of the pattern; those sharply tapered ends will just chip off unevenly when you’re sawing and sanding.

To make supports that sit cleanly against the chair slats, you’ll need to saw or plane off the radiused corners on the lumber to leave sharp, square corners. Then cut the curve with a jigsaw (or a scrollsaw or bandsaw).

Using one of the offcuts as a curved sanding block, sand off any saw marks with 80-grit sandpaper, followed by 100-grit. And while you’re at it, lightly round over the long, curved edges. For the finish, I like Sansin ENS for outdoor furniture; it’s highly durable, quick-drying, and enviro-friendly. For longevity, finish the backs of the supports before attaching. If your upgrade is to a new Muskoka chair, you’ll want to finish the slat fronts too. 

Test-fit the supports before securing them permanently. Tape the supports in place, with the bottom edge 3″–5″ above the seat. Have different users sit to test the support position for comfort. Once the supports feel right, attach each from behind with two small stainless-steel screws. Then remove the tape and relax. Did someone say, “Cottage Kolsch time?”

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