How to build an Adirondack Chair by Les Kenny
Nice and light, easy to build, inexpensive, and looks nice!
This is the most lightweight Adirondack chair that I have built and is also probably the easiest to build. The back-rest is not curved like most of the traditional Adirondack chairs but that does not noticeably take any of the comfort aspect away however it does make for an ‘easier to build’ chair.
Identifying the parts
[a] side (two pieces)
[b] front leg (two pieces)
[c] rear leg (two pieces)
[d] backrest bottom rail (one piece)
[e] backrest top rail (one piece)
[f] arm (two pieces)
[g] arm brace (two pieces)
[h] seat slats (twelve pieces)
[j] backrest boards (six pieces)
Wood you will need
6 pieces of 3/4″ x 5-1/2″ (19 x 140 mm) wood that are 6ft (1800mm) long is all the wood you will need to make the chair.
There is a drawing showing you how to cut all the pieces out of the six boards.
The wood is a common stock size so you should not have too much trouble obtaining it.
You will also need
I used a nail gun and thin finishing nails 1-3/4″ (44mm) as I relied heavily on glue and more or less used the nails to hold things until the glue set.
I did use 3/8″ (10mm) carriage bolts to hold the legs to the sides. 1 at each meeting.
If you want to use glue and screws, you will need the following:
- 50 of 1-3/4″ (45mm) exterior wood screws.
- 12 of 1-1/4″ (33mm) exterior wood screws.
- 4 of 3/8″ (10mm) x 2″ 50mm long galvanized carriage (coach) bolts.
- Exterior type wood glue
Use the shorter screws where two flat pieces of wood meet, and the longer screws for the rest.
Pre-drill the screw holes through all the face pieces of wood.
About the measurements given in this project
All measurements in this project are given in both inches (standard) and metric (mm).
The standard (inch) measurements are given first followed by the metric equivalent in brackets.
For example: 3/4″ x 5-1/2″ (19 x 140 mm)
How to cut extract the pieces from six boards
Step 1. Cut the pieces
All the pieces can be cut from 3/4″ x 5-1/2″ (19 x 140 mm) stock.
There is a plan drawing showing how all the pieces can be cut out of six boards that are 6ft (1800mm) long.
Cut all the pieces. Most will have to be ripped (cut lengthwise). That can be done with a bench saw or
Cut the pieces according to the individual piece plan drawings.
The side pieces need a bit of special attention, so there is a plan drawing of a side piece below. Cut and mark as per drawing.
Explaining the red lines A, C, and B, in the plan drawing above
- Red line A: Marks the placement of the front of the rear leg.
- Red line B: Marks the placement of the front of the front leg.
- Red line C: The top marks the placement of the front of piece (d).
See drawing below.
Step 2. Prepare the side pieces (a)
Okay! So now all the pieces are cut – let’s prepare the side pieces (a).
You can mark the curve as shown in the picture below. The radius is 4-1/2″ (116mm).
But before you cut the front curves on the side pieces (a), we need to do a bit more marking. We need to mark some ‘straight’ lines around the curve as shown below.
Using the end of a seat-slat (h) as a straight edge, mark a sequence of straight lines around the curve. Then cut it out.
Step 3. Fix the seat-slats (n)
Place the sides (a) on a flat surface, spread apart the length of a seat-slat (h). Ensure the sides are parallel and square. Fix a temporary spreader at the back and commence fixing the seat-slats (h) from the front. See fig 1.
Continue fixing the seat-slats (h) from the front. Apply a bead of glue along the top of the seat-slats (h) first.
Place each seat-slat against the previous one around the curve – that will determine the gap between the slats along the straight.
I used a nail gun with thin finishing nails 1-3/4″ (44mm) long. If you want to use screws, so be it. Use 1-3/4″ (45mm) long exterior wood screws and pre drill the screw holes through the slats first. You will only need one screw at each meeting.
When placing the slats, adhere to the drawing below.
Step 4. Add the legs, arms, and arm braces
Refer to the plans (the red lines) for leg placement. Apply glue. Clamp them in position and fix secure with screws from the inside of the chair 1-1/4″ (33mm) exterior wood screws. Likewise fix the back-rest top rail, arms, and arm braces. Refer to the plans for placement.
Step 5. Make up the back
Lay the bottoms of the backrest boards (j) along the backrest bottom rail (d) with a spread of 17-1/4″ (440mm) and centralized.
See the drawing below. Glue and screw them with just one
1-3/4″ (45mm) screw in each board to allow them to ‘fan’.
Fan out the tops of the backrest boards (j) so that at a height of 15-3/8″ (390mm) from the bottom, they have a spread of 20″ (510mm).
Somewhere above that height, fix (with thin nails or screws) a temporary holding batten (fig 1.) parallel to the bottom rail (d).
Check across the diagonals (fig 2.) above. If both diagonals are the same, then the configuration is square. If not, then skew it until both diagonals measure the same.
Step 6. Shape the back
Now’s a good time to shape the top of the back – while the back is laying down.
This is open to your imagination. Do any shape you want. Mark it, then cut it with a jig-saw.
Fig 1. above shows an example of using a plate to mark the pattern.
Step 7. Fix the back in place
Once the back is shaped, simply fit it in place – glue and fix.
The front of the backrest bottom rail (d) will align with the top of the red line. Remember?
If your using screws, use 1-3/4″ (45mm) exterior wood screws to fix the backrest boards (j) to the backrest top rail (e).
Use 1-3/4″ (45mm) exterior wood screws to fix the backrest bottom rail (d) to the sides (a).
On both accounts, only use one screw at each meeting because we are also using glue. And pre drill the screw holes through the face piece of wood.
Step 8. The final fixings
And finally, we’ll flip the unit upside down to add the last of the fixings.
Drill a 3/8″ (10mm) hole through each leg and side (in the middle of where they meet), and insert a 3/8″ (10mm) galvanized carriage (coach) bolt, washer, and nut.
Also add 1-1/4″ (33mm) exterior wood screws where the backrest bottom rail (d) and the back of the arms (f) meet.
Add 4 to each meeting.