How to Make Willow Furniture

Willow furniture gives a rustic look to garden or cabin d├ęcor. It is classified as green furniture because it is constructed with a renewable resource-scavenged and overgrown willow branches. Add a few simple tools, a day's worth of work and you can make willow chairs, benches, tables and trellises. Using a general guideline for the construction of a willow chair, this article will show you how to make willow furniture.


  1. 1
    Gather willow in the spring. The time to cut and gather willow is when the leaf tips start to appear and the buds grow larger. Willow grows near water, so look along stream beds, lakes and ponds.
    • Ask for permission if you find good willow to trim on private property or state land. Some states classify willow as a weed and allow free harvesting.
  2. 2
    Use pruning shears or a saw to trim off pieces of willow. You will need thicker pieces for your frame and smaller branches to fill in the frame. After a willow is pruned, it will sprout new branches.
    • The following amounts of willow are for a medium sized chair. For a bench, gather twice as much, and focus on finding longer, thicker branches. To create a table, triple the amount and look for very long branches or fallen trees. For a trellis, gather 4 long thick pieces and many bendable switches.
    • For your frame. Prune about 50 feet (15.24 m) of branches that are 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) in diameter. The heaviest material will go on the legs of your furniture for good support.
    • For your chair arms. Prune 15 switches (small thin branches) that are 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 m) long and 0.75 inches (1.9 cm) in diameter.
    • For your headrest, prune 10 switches that are 0.75 inches (1.9 cm) in diameter and 8 to 9 feet (2.4 to 2.7 m) long. With switches this long, they will taper at the end.
  3. 3
    Calculate your desired proportions. For a chair, the rear legs are twice the length of the front legs. The rungs, braces and crosspieces will be halfway between the 2 lengths.
    • For example: A medium chair's proportions would have 14 inch (35.6 cm) front legs, 28 inch (71.1 cm) back legs and 21 inch (53.3 cm) crosspieces.
  4. 4
    Measure your pieces and set them in piles according to the part of the chair for which they will be used. Cut all your pieces to the appropriate length with your saw.
  5. 5
    Trim the ends of all your wood inward around the edges with a carving knife. This is often called shirring wood. This will prevent your wood from splitting at the ends.
  6. 6
    Make your rungs. Rungs are the horizontal pieces that connect the frame's sides. The lower of the rungs should be 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) from the top of the front leg.
  7. 7
    Construct your chair in 2 separate halves. Place 1 front and 1 back leg down so that they are nearly parallel. Lay 2 rungs across your legs at right angles. Nail the rungs to the legs.
    • Choose nails that are long enough to just reach through the 2 willow branches you are joining. It is extremely hard to clinch a nail that is too long without damaging the wood.
  8. 8
    Make your second, complimentary half of the chair. When both sides are finished, stand them side by side with the rungs on the outside, about 18 inches apart.
  9. 9
    Connect the 2 sides with a cross-member branch at the spot just above the highest rungs on the sides of the chair. You may need someone to assist you. Nail crosspieces going horizontally on the front and back of your chair. Nail the crossmember branches to the legs, and never to the rungs, even though you are choosing to connect them just above the rungs. Nail 3 parallel crosspieces at the front of the chair and 3 at the back.
  10. 10
    Nail a 28 inch (71.1 cm) branch from the seat midway up the backrest. Then place another 28-inch (71.1 cm) piece across the top of the 2 rear leg branches. These will connect with the arm and headrest branches.
    • The frame should be a bit wobbly. Move it around until the 4 legs are flat on the ground. Keeping this structure, lay the chair on its side. Working on the inside of the chair's frame, nail thick branches as braces between the front and back leg on 1 side. Lay the chair on the other side, and nail a brace between the front and the back leg. Add nails until it does not wobble.
  11. 11
    Find a 28-inch (71.1 cm) rod that is flexible but sturdy to use as the back of the chair's frame. With assistance, curve it to create the outer edge that connects to the left and right rear legs. Nail it in to place. Take 21-inch (53.3 cm) switches and nail them to the seat frame and the chair back's frame, working from the outside in and alternating nailing on the right and left. This back and forth action will create a sturdier back that adheres to your frame.
  12. 12
    Nail 3 members horizontally across the seat to make the seat frame. Then take your longest switches and stretch them from the front of the seat, and curving up to the top of your oval headrest you have just created.
    • Use your imagination with these last willow switches. You can curve them, or shape them into curlicues.
  13. 13
    Coat with marine spar varnish to protect from rain and sun. Repeat once each year in the spring.


  • Keep the furniture under cover when not in use. Bring it inside during the winter or it may decay.

Things You'll Need

  • Nails of different lengths
  • Tape measure
  • Carving knife
  • Pruning saw
  • Pruning shears
  • Knee pads (optional)
  • Claw hammer
  • Willow branches
  • Marine spar varnish

Article Info

Categories: Furniture and Cabinets