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How to Make an Adirondack Chair and Love Seat

This Adirondack chair and matching love seat are designed for outdoor comfort. They're designed for easy assembly, so that a novice can build them. And you can build them from inexpensive, durable wood that, once stained, looks beautiful.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

How to Make an Adirondack Chair and Love Seat

This Adirondack chair and matching love seat are designed for outdoor comfort. They're designed for easy assembly, so that a novice can build them. And you can build them from inexpensive, durable wood that, once stained, looks beautiful.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Overview, tools and materials

This chair and love seat combo is just perfect for outdoor lounging. The seat has a nice curved recess to conform to your body, and wide arms to hold your favorite snack and drink. And because the seat doesn't slope steeply downward like on a traditional Adirondack chair, even your grandfather will be able to help himself out without a boost.

You won't need an arsenal of power tools to build this furniture. In fact, you'll only need a circular saw, a drill and simple hand tools. I've designed this project for simplicity as well: With a bit of patience, even a novice can do a great job.

The wood is pressure-treated pine, chosen for its low cost, high strength and longevity. And don't worry about the drab green look of treated wood. You can brush on an exterior oil or latex stain and give it a beautiful warm glow that makes it look more like mahogany or teak than treated pine.

Select straight, knot-free, pressure-treated pine
Most outdoor wood furniture is made from cedar or expensive teak, but regular treated boards from your home center or lumberyard are perfect for this project. The trick is to select boards that are as straight and free of knots as you can find. A few tight knots are OK, and if you spot a board that looks great except for a huge loose knot, just cut it out and use the knot-free sections. It's a good idea to buy a couple of extra boards, just in case you end up cutting out more sections than you’d planned. Also avoid boards that are still wet from the treatment process (they'll feel cool and damp) because they might warp or crack as they dry.

Don't assume that the treated boards are dimensionally consistent. When I got my lumber home, the boards varied by as much as 3/16 in. in width. These variations can screw up the assembly process, especially for the back slats, which require spacers to get an exact back width. Once you get the boards home and begin to cut the pieces, use the rip guide on your circular saw (or borrow a neighbor's table saw) to trim them to the exact widths in the Cutting List.

Chair and love seat assembly

Figure A: Chair and love seat assembly
Note: You can download Figure A and enlarge it in the additional Information below.

Step 1: Assemble the main frame

Cut the notches in the front legs to accept the front stringer as shown in Photo 1. As you chisel out the waste wood in the notch, shave the bottom carefully and fine-tune it with a rasp to keep the notch from getting too deep. As you assemble the basic frame (Photos 2 - 6), make sure your work surface is flat so each piece aligns with the adjoining pieces at the correct angle. Be sure to use a dab of construction adhesive in every joint and predrill a pilot and countersink hole for each screw. You can buy a bit at your local hardware store that drills a pilot and countersink in one operation for the No. 6 screws.

Step 2: Assemble the back

To achieve the gentle taper of the back assembly, you'll need to taper the outer seat slat and cut it as shown in Photo 7. First, place a mark 1-1/2 in. from the edge on opposite ends as shown. Connect the marks with a line and then saw right down the middle of the line with your circular saw. Sand or plane the cut edge to smooth away any saw marks. Before you assemble the back of the chair or love seat, cut 1/4-in. thick spacers from scrap wood. The spacers (Photo 8) will ensure that the back assembly is the right width. Lay each slat on the floor and make sure the best-looking side of each board is facing down. As you screw the three back braces to the back slats, use a framing square to make sure they're perpendicular. You'll find it easier to get the proper alignment if you match the center point of each brace with the center line drawn down the middle back slat. Drill pilot holes and drive 1-1/4 in. deck screws through the braces into the slats as shown in Figure A and Photo 8.

Step 3: Install the back

Once you've assembled the back, it's time to fasten it to the chair frame. Flip the frame assembly upside down and insert the back assembly into it (Photo 9). This can be a bit challenging, so make it easier by laying two nonskid rugs or mats on the floor under the chair frame and the top of the back assembly. These will help keep everything in place. As you align these assemblies, it's critical to get the back of the seat braces flush with the outer back slats (H3) and then screw through the rear legs into the bottom back brace (J) as shown in Photo 9 and Figure A. Next, glue and screw the horizontal arm supports (E) into the center back brace (K) and then into the side of the outer back slat as well.

Step 4: Add the seat and arms and then apply a finish

With the completion of this phase, you'll start to see a chair emerging. Flip the chair onto its legs and cut and predrill the seat slats. Glue and screw them to the seat braces with 1-5/8 in. deck screws (Photo 10). Don’t overdrive the screws—the heads should be just flush with the seat slats. The last step of the assembly is to fasten the arms to the arm supports and the legs as shown in Photos 11 and 12. The notches you cut near the back of the arms hold the back assembly firmly in place and reduce the stress on the screws at other joints. These compound notches slice through the arm at an angle. Cut the depth carefully with a handsaw and then chisel out the notch.

Once the chair is assembled, ease all the edges with 100-grit sandpaper, paying particular attention to the seat and arms. If the wood feels damp or cold to the touch, you may need to let the chair dry in a shaded area for a few days before you sand or stain it.

We used an Olympic oil-based cedar natural tone stain that lets the grain show through. Several options are available, including custom semitransparent stains that a paint supplier can mix for you. A quart will easily do a pair of chairs or a chair and love seat. This finish will last at least several years and can be cleaned and recoated as it shows signs of wear.

Step 5: Add a personal touch

You can build our step-back version of the chair and love seat or experiment with other shapes to suit your sense of style. Feel free to try the gable or round back shown below or draw a different shape on paper, tape it to the chair and step back to see how you like it.

Step back design

Gable back design

Round back design

Chair back design options

These three are the most common chair back styles, but you may see, and be inspired by, another!

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Tape measure
    • Circular saw
    • Caulk gun
    • Drill/driver, cordless
    • Countersink drill bit
    • Combination square
    • Drill bit set
    • File
    • Framing square
    • Glue
    • Handsaw
    • Jigsaw
    • One-handed bar clamps
    • Rasp
    • Wood chisel

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Lumber (see Cutting Lists)
    • Construction adhesive
    • Deck screws, 1-1/4-in. and 1-5/8-in.
    • Sandpaper, 100 grit
    • Exterior stain

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 20 of 24 comments
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September 01, 8:25 PM [GMT -5]

I found that if you use 47deg angles on both ends of the rear legs all other measurements will fall into place. Tried 43deg and would have had to adjust seat support lengths to make it work.

Nice project made mine out of Select Pine for an indoor application, also pocketed all exposed screws as suggested, bought plug cutter so I could use same stock it was constructed with. Did not want Ladies with fine fabrics getting snags from the bench seat , more work but functionality and appearance is well worth it.

June 17, 11:06 AM [GMT -5]

Alg,

It is from the May 2004 issue.

Alg

June 15, 7:55 PM [GMT -5]

Which back issue of your magazine was this Adirondack chair in?

May 19, 7:18 PM [GMT -5]

I am working on the project. I have laid out the front leg, rear leg and the horizontal arm support on a table and it appears the rear leg is about an inch too short. I cut the 43 and 47 angles on a mite saw, but the pieces don't line up square. I have altered the pattern making the seat 2 inches longer, but did not change the front and rear legs. I will remeasure everything to make sure I am right on this. Most likely will make the rear leg long enough to square this chair up. I would like to hear if anyone had similar experiences.

January 03, 1:36 PM [GMT -5]

I built the chair and have plans for the love seat next
I used wood from a pallets
my only cost was the screws

September 03, 9:45 AM [GMT -5]

Riderhealy, was making a rocker version difficult? How did you make the rails? I've been looking at my Adirondack chairs trying to figure out how to convert them to rockers.

June 09, 3:51 PM [GMT -5]

WOW, I think you are either a very brave man or an experienced woodworker to buy $200.00 worth of materials to build one chair. Of the four I have built so far, three are pine from an old crate and one was P/T wood. I painted one of the pine chairs, (which by the way I made "bar stool" height), and sealed the other two with several coats of clear poly. Mine are under a covered porch, so longevity is extended. I have no problem with splinters in the P/T wood chair. I love the finished look of Mahogany with a clear finish, I'm sure it's a beautiful chair. I would agree with you, $100 for labor is fair. Not sure what you mean by replacement $200.00

May 28, 1:36 PM [GMT -5]

I've had fun and had some zen like therapy in the garage building this chair. This is my first project.

For the seat brace template, I drew a grid on the wood itself and then I used the seat brace pattern on the piece of wood. Then i cut it out and used it to trace the pattern on the other pieces of wood. I am keeping one for future chairs that I will build
Calculating the amount of wood was probably the most stressful for me. I wanted to be efficient and not waste wood. There is a great metric woodcut calculator that i used:
http://kgolding.co.uk/woodcutcalc
I then had to convert it to standard units and figure out the best way to transport the wood home. I ended up folding the rear seats down and the front passenger and stuck the wood through. I wish I had a truck.

If my notes are right, I used 6ft boards:
Quantity
4 5 1/2
6 3 1/2
2 1 1/2
4 2 1/2

May 08, 2:08 PM [GMT -5]

I built 1 Adirondack chair out of mahogany wood. ( the 1st two I built were out of pine)
they come out great. I would not use p/t wood for splinters. The pine chairs are nice but, won't last as long or as sturdy as the Mahogany chairs.
The wood and screws cost almost $200.00 for the mahogany chairs but, well worth the cost.
My question is if I sell them I would sell for-
$200 for the wood
200 for replacement
100 for labor
-------------
$500.00 ea. Sure is a lot of money, what do you think...

April 27, 5:52 PM [GMT -5]

OOPS, it's been a while since I built a chair and I made a mistake in my comment about the seat brace. To make a sheet of graph with one inch squares I drew out my own on a large sheet of paper and made it 19" long.

April 27, 5:01 PM [GMT -5]

I wish I had seen your question about making a full size pattern for the seat brace. If you notice the pattern is laid out on one inch square graph paper. You can use regular graph paper which is laid out with 1/4" squares. The pattern can be made with one sheet by using one end of the paper as the starting point. If it is easier for you, you can make an outline on the graph paper in one inch squares. The seat brace is made from 5-1/2" material. If you look carefully, you will notice where the curve begins and by watching the squares and measuring you can closely duplicate the pattern to full size. Don't stress out about it too much, as long as you get it close the chair will be comfortable. And as for the bottom side of the brace, it's largely cosmetic. I hope this helps

March 10, 5:35 AM [GMT -5]


PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE add the CUT LIST to this article.

Thanks
Loyal subscriber

February 14, 2:19 PM [GMT -5]

OK - this is probably a silly question, but how do you get that seat brace pattern template into realtime size? Or, are you just supposed to free-hand it on real size paper?

December 25, 6:32 AM [GMT -5]

Hello New17,
If you haven't found it yet, the Cutting list can be found by clicking on the "Step by Step" tab and scrolling to the bottom. Good luck with your project.

November 29, 7:55 PM [GMT -5]

Hey, at Home Depot they had 3/4" * 5.5" * 72" dog-ear pressure-treated fence pickets for about $1.50 each...so I basically made this chair for about $12.00 in wood...of course screws and stain about doubled that--but it looks awesome!

November 22, 1:42 PM [GMT -5]

I saw some areas where I would use Kreg Jig Pocket holes to make the screws are less visible.and not able to snag clothing. Any holes I were to predrill pilot holes I would countersink for a clean appearance.

November 08, 10:35 AM [GMT -5]

Does anyone know where the cut list is?

August 07, 8:32 PM [GMT -5]

I just completed my first Adirondack Chair and I am very pleased with the results. A few of my thoughts. I liked the idea of using 5/4 so I made the arms, seat slats and back pieces out of 5/4. For the seat pieces I ripped a 5/4 X 6 down the middle and eased the edges with my block plane. I screwed mine with no space in between and it looks fine. On the back I used the called for 1/4 inch space. I got a bid distracted by the "leg angle" controversy. I know the plans called for a 90 degree arm/front leg positioning. The plans said cut the top of the leg 43 degrees and the bottom 47, which equals 90. Okay I understand that. I was tempted to cut mine 45 degrees at top and bottom but didn't want to risk it so this was my solution. I sat the front leg on the work bench and leveled it, then with the back leg attached I plumbed up from the bottom of the front leg and marked my cut. Kinda like a plumb cut of a rafter tail. If anyone has any input on the leg situation, I will be checking back and looking forward to seeing what others did. Bottom line: great plans and the chair is fantastic. It must be a modified version of the standard Adirondack Chair because it sits a bit higher and is quite easy tom get up and out of. I remember them as a bit of a low sitting chair, this one is not. I am already planning to make another next weekend. Much thanks to the Family Handyman for this wonderful project!

July 01, 9:18 PM [GMT -5]

I made the Loveseat with wood I recycled from past projects in my shop and it has turned out beautifully. However, I ran into a problem with the rear legs. The angles given for the top and bottom should be the same. I used 43 degrees. Refer to this website: http://www.mathnstuff.com/math/spoken/here/2class/260/trans.htm

Thank you for sharing these plans, I look forward to making another soon.

June 21, 11:14 PM [GMT -5]

I have made and even sold many of these chairs and benches. I've modified the chair plans to make rockers and the bench plans to make swings as well. A few adjustments and 5/4 deck boards make very nice looking chairs. I've even made a few out of cypress that I get from a local saw mill.

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