How to Build an Adirondack Chair

Simple construction—maximum comfort

Choosing the right wood

Plop down in one of these solid wood chairs and you'll appreciate the comfort of this traditional design. You don't have to be an expert to build it either. All the parts of this solid, great-looking Adirondack chair can be cut with a circular saw and jigsaw, then assembled with a drill, a few clamps and glue. Even if you're a novice, you'll be able to follow our plan drawing and clear step-by-step photos. We've also included a Shopping List and Cutting List (see Additional Information, below) so you can spend less time head-scratching and more time building.

We made our chair from yellow poplar. Poplar is lightweight, strong, inexpensive and easy to work with, plus it takes paint beautifully. If you have trouble finding it, almost any other wood will do: Alder, aspen, maple and white oak are excellent hardwood choices, and cedar, cypress, fir and pine are good softwood choices. Keep in mind that hardwood will be more durable, but softwood is certainly strong enough for this project. However, if the chair will be outdoors most of the time, coat it with a paintable wood preservative before painting.

Traditional Adirondack chairs are painted, but you can choose a clear outdoor deck finish if you prefer.

Tip: When you're building more than one chair, set up an assembly line and cut the building time per chair by 40 percent.

Figure A: Adirondack Chair

Follow these plans to build a classic Adirondack chair. See Additional Information for a printable, enlarged version of Figure A, and for a complete Cutting List and Shopping List

Figure A: Adirondack chair
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Transfer the grid patterns for accurate curves for the arms and legs

Enlarge the grids directly onto the board, or make a full-size paper pattern and then transfer the
shape to the board.

Once the shape is drawn, follow the lines with a jigsaw (Photo 1). Write “pattern” on the first leg and arm pieces and use them to make the others. If you're making more than one chair, now's the time to trace all the arm and leg pieces for each chair. Note: The left arms and legs are mirror images of the right. Also, trim the small cutout piece of each arm (C) to make the arm support (K) for each side.

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Cut the tapered back pieces with a circular saw

The two tapered back pieces are tricky to cut, and the safest way to do it is to cut them from a wider board. Draw the tapers shown in Fig. A onto a 1x6 cut to length. Nail each end of the board to the tops of a sawhorse, placing the nails where they'll be out of the saw's path. Use a No. 4 finish nail on each end and hammer it in flush with the surface. Set the depth of your circular saw 1/8 in. deeper than the thickness of the board, and cut the taper from the wide end to the narrow end. Next, draw a straight line on the remaining part to define the second piece and cut it. Note: Before you begin assembly, sand all the pieces and ease the edges with 100-grit sandpaper, followed
by 150-grit.

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Assemble the back first

Lay the back pieces face down on your workbench (Photo 2). Line up the bottoms and insert 1/4-in. spacers between the slats. Cut your 1/4-in. spacers from scrap boards or scrap 1/4-in. plywood. Screw each of the horizontal back supports G, L and N to the slats with 1-1/4 in. exterior deck screws. Predrill and countersink each screw hole.

You'll need to cut a bevel on the topside of the center horizontal back support (L). A table saw works best, but you could use the same circular saw method you used earlier to cut the tapered side back slats (H). Just set the bevel on your circular saw to 33 degrees, nail the 1x6 board to the sawhorses, mark the width and make the cut.

Check the back slats and horizontal supports with a framing square to make sure they're positioned 90 degrees to each other as you glue and screw the assembly (Photo 2).

Once the back is fastened, turn the back assembly over, mark the top radius and trim it with a jigsaw (Photo 3).

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Screw the chair frame together on a flat, level surface

Using your jigsaw, cut the notches on parts E as shown in Fig. A. Glue and screw the front seat support (D) to the front legs (Photo 4). Next set the front assembly vertically on your workbench and glue and screw the back legs B to the front legs (Photo 5). Again, drill pilot and countersink holes for each screw. Next glue and screw the arm supports to the outer sides of the front legs (E).

Position the arms on the tops of the front legs and the arm supports (K). Make sure the arms hang 3 in. over the front leg and 1/4 in. over the inside edge of each leg. Before you fasten the arms, make sure they're
parallel (Photo 6).

Screw the back leg support (M) to each leg (see Fig. A) and then set the back assembly into the frame and clamp it in place (Photo 7). Make sure the back of each arm projects 3/4 in. past the center back support (L). Glue and predrill each joint, screw the assembly together and then remove the clamps.

To finish the assembly, predrill and countersink holes in the ends of the seat slats. Position them approximately 1/4 in. apart and screw them to the back legs as shown. You may need a hand screwdriver in tight places.

Painting Tips

We used an exterior, oil-based primer and an enamel topcoat, but you could use water-based products instead.

Painting tools You'll need three paint brushes: a 2-in. wide, natural-bristle sash brush; a 1-in. wide sash brush; and a 1/2-in. wide hobby paint brush.

You'll also need one 3-in. wide paint roller, two disposable roller heads and one disposable paint tray.

Applying the primer Start with the chair upside down on your workbench. Use the 1-in. wide paint brush for the edges of the seat slats, making long brush strokes to spread the primer. Do the remainder of these edges from the topside later. Now use the roller to apply the primer to the flat surfaces. Use the 2-in. wide brush to “feather out” the rolled-on paint.

Continue priming the back of the seat back, then the front, and finally the top of the arms and the seat. When the chair is upright, use the small hobby brush to apply the primer to the large, flat surfaces way down in between the slats. Let the primer dry overnight.

Applying the topcoat Use a paint scraper to remove any runs, then lightly sand the dry primer with 120-grit sandpaper. Apply the topcoat in a shaded area, using the same sequence as you did with the primer.
Note: The paint gets sticky fast. Pour only small amounts of paint into the paint tray.

Let the paint dry for at least three days before using the chair.

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