Introduction: Build Your Own Adirondack Chair Plans
Having taken down the fence around the pond I found myself with a significant quantity of wood for a project. Our garden furniture was getting a bit ropey so I thought I would make my lovely wife Becca a nice Adirondack chair to sit on during the long balmy summers we have here in Cornwall, (in between it pouring with rain). I fancied a bit of woodwork so decided to take a break from launching new products. I got my trusty ear plugs and set to work.
I looked on Instructables for some plans and founds these great ones by PopularMechanics; https://www.instructables.com/id/Adirondack-Chair/. Unfortunately I couldn't read the measurements on the plans so I decided to brave it and take the measurement from the pictures and share the information with you so you can make one (or more) of these delightful chairs for yourself. I decided to use the plans for the general shape and proportions.
The wood I used was all waste and included some old palettes my mate Ben Ridgewell dropped over for me. This means there is inconsistency in colour and some of the pieces were warped. This was a great excuse for me to go for a 'rustic' look. If you use new, well finished timber then yours will probably look better than mine. Show us your pictures! I would say that the difficulty of this project is moderate. This will vary depending on your level of experience with wood. If you are experienced you will find the project easy. I spent about 15 hours on the chair; it was a labour of love! About half of the time was spent on sanding; this could be reduced by using ready planed wood or a bigger sander. It only cost me about £20 in screws and furniture oil. An apology; I have used both inches and centimetres in the measurements in this Instructable. I am sorry if this is irritating; the original plan measurements are in inches whereas I tend to use centimetres. Don't fret! A good tape measure will convert for you as you go along.
Step 1: You Will Need
The original plans used cedar, I used left-over fence wood. If I didn't have a piece of exactly the right size I used the closest that I had, making sure it was strong enough and symettrical on both sides.
Two 1 x 5 1/4 x 33 3/4" side rails
One 1 x 4 1/4 x 23 1/4" top back rail
One 1 x 3 1/2 x 23 1/4" bottom back rail
Nine 3/4 x 2 1/4 x 23 1/4" seat slats
Seven 3/4 x 3 1/4 x 35 1/2" back slats
Two 1 x 4 1/4 x 20 1/2 front legs
Two 1 x 2 1/2 x 29" back legs
Two 1 x 2 3/4 x 6 1/2" arm brackets
Two 1 x 5 1/4 x 28" arms
- Power screwdriver
- Power drill, set of bits and countersink
- Electric sander (or sandpaper and a lot of time, patience and upper body strength)
- Folding work bench and vice
- Bendy ruler (flexible curve)
- Set square
- Metal rule
- Pencil (I've used black Biro so it shows up in the photos)
- Ear plugs and goggles
- 3.5cm and 5cm self-tapping woodscrews. Lag screws are best.
- Large piece of card around 3ft by 4ft for back template.
- Cup of coffee
Step 2: The Seat
We are going to start by making the sides of the base of the seat. You will need two pieces of 1 x 5 1/4 x 33 3/4" for the side rails.
The first picture shows a finished side. The seat is the central part of the chair to which most of the other parts are attached. As I had limited plans to work from I decided to mark out the shape of the piece directly onto the wood using a metal rule and set square. I calculated the proportions by measuring the picture and have added the actual measurements to the second image.
I drew the outline on the wood using a ruler, set square and bendy ruler. Measure an inch in from the long edge half way along the section which needs a gentle curve. (Second and third photo.) Use this to give the depth of the curve. After cutting it out using the jigsaw I used the first as a template for the second.
When you have cut out the pieces, sand them all over until you get the finish you want. I used my electric hand sander and sanded them to remove splinters and rough edges, rather than looking for a perfect finish. I sanded all the corners to a bevel of around 2mm.
Step 3: The Seat - Slats
I spent a long time on the slats. You will need eight or nine 3/4 x 2 1/4 x 23 1/4" seat slats. The number may vary depending on the width of the wood you use. Place them in position on the sides of the seat to check the fit and the number you will ultimately need.
The second picture shows some of the slats before I sanded and drilled them.
The wood I used was quite rough and took a lot of sanding to make it an acceptable surface for the mother-in-law's buttocks. I made 10 slats and used 8, two of them are narrower to give a slightly smoother curve on the leading edge of the seat. As the wood is quite warped I made extra and used the ones which fitted together the best. I drilled the holes at the end to line up with the centre of the sides. I did this by eye by standing the sides of the seat up and placing the slats across them, lining up the ends. You can see this in the third picture. If you are fussy you could measure them out to be half the width of the sides from the end. I then countersunk the holes.
Step 4: The Seat - Assembly
The first picture shows the assembled seat. The second shows the joins close-up. The third shows how I assembled the base on the bench. This is how you can can check the fit of the slats. Put all the slats across the top and centre them, leave the front/vertical slats until the top ones are screwed on. Leave a 2mm gap between each to allow for drainage.
Measure across the front and the back of the sides to check that they are parallel. Use the set square to check that the base is square.
Put screws in all the holes in the slats, screw them in. My slats were all a bit warped so I left all the screws loose by about 2mm to start with and tightened them once they were all in. If your slats are straight you can tighten the screws straight off. Once they are tight, hold the front slats in place and screw them on. You might want to lean the base vertically against a wall whilst you position and attach the front slats.
Step 5: The Back - Top Back Rail
The upper rail supports the uprights of the back in a gentle curve. You will need 1 x 4 1/4 x 23 1/4" for the top back rail. Use the set square to draw the ends, choosing a section of wood without knots for strength. Measure halfway between the ends of the rail then draw a line marking the middle of the curve. Use the bendy ruler to draw a gentle curve. Cut out and sand.
The original plans say to bevel the edge using a router. I don't have one so I used my Stanley knife and put a new sanding sheet on my trusty sander then set to work applying a bevel. The curved edge of the rail meets the uprights of the back at an angle of around 20 degrees so this is the sort of angle you are looking for. On mine the angle didn't match perfectly but the fit is fine.
Step 6: The Back - Bottom Back Rail
The first image shows the finished lower rail. You will need one 1 x 3 1/2 x 23 1/4" bottom back rail. The curve is gentler than the upper rail and measures 2.5cm from being straight at the midpoint, as you can see in the second image. Please note that in this case the measurement is not taken from the edge of the piece of wood, although it may be when you do it, depending on the size of the piece you are cutting from. Follow the same procedure as for the upper rail.
Step 7: The Front Legs
Cut two 1 x 4 1/4 x 20 1/2 front legs and sand them to a finish you are happy with.
Step 8: Attaching the Front Legs
Place the base of the seat on it's side and measure 15cm along the bottom edge, as shown in the first photo. Make a pencil mark. Use your protractor to measure a 70 degree angle and make a pencil line, shown in the second photo. This is the angle of the leg.
Place the leg along the line as shown in the second image. Draw a pencil line down the other side of the leg, remove the leg and drill three 3mm holes, as shown, through to the other side. Place the leg back in line with the holes, centred on the middle hole. Measure a 20cm leg overhang top and bottom. Countersink and screw in from the inside with three 5cm screws.
Step 9: Attaching the Lower Back Rail
Align the lower back rail in the same way as the slats on the seat. Leave a 2cm gap from the slats at either end. Drill the holes, lining them up with the centre of the sides of the seat. Countersink the holes and screw the rail on with 5cm screws.
Step 10: The Back Legs
Cut two 1 x 2 1/2 x 29" back legs and sand them to an acceptable finish.
Step 11: Attaching the Back Legs
The back legs screw onto the *inside* of the sides of the seat at the back. Lay the chair on it's side and line up the back leg with the front leg. Check they are parallel by measuring the distance across their tops and their bottoms and check they are the same, see first and second pictures. With the seat still on it's side on the floor drill through the leg into the side of the seat and then out of the other side, as per the third picture. Position the holes so they aren't too close together but aren't too near the edge. Right the chair, countersink the holes and screw the pieces together from the outside, as per the fourth picture.
For the second leg I lay the chair on it's side with the previously attached back leg at the bottom on the floor. I then lined up the second back leg with the attached leg, checking they were parallel. You can see this in the fifth picture. I then drilled the holes, countersunk them and attached legs as previously.
Step 12: The Arms
My skills with the jigsaw are minimal so I simplified the shape of the arms to save time and embarrassment. You will need two 1 x 5 1/4 x 28" arms. I measured them out directly onto the wood using the measurements in the first photo. I sanded the front of the arms a little more than the other parts of the chair.
Step 13: Attaching the Arms
Line up an arm on the front leg and the side of the back leg, as in the first picture. The back of the arm should be flush with the back of the back leg and the arm itself should be parallel with the side of the seat (see second photograph).
Mark the position of the screw holes on the front of the arm so the screws will fit squarely within the top of the front leg. Drill them as per the third picture. Place the second arm under the first, upside-down and drill through to make sure the holes are in the same place on both arms. Countersink the holes and attach them as per the first picture.
The back of the arms will need to be screwed to the uprights of the back legs so mark two points on the inside, in line with the back of the arms, drill and countersink them before screwing them together. Check the arms are parallel when marking the screw holes.
Step 14: The Back - the Template
You will need seven 3/4 x 3 1/4 x 35 1/2" back slats. I wanted to check the fit of the slats before cutting them so decided to make a card template. You could probably get away without doing this by just measuring the back slats and cutting them. I was also wondering about whether to make the back a little higher and thought that trying it out in card was a good idea. Having tried it out I decided to stick with the original height. You could use a template if you want to alter the size or shape of the back, otherwise you can use the measurements here.
We had a new shower screen delivered the other day and the box was ideal. I opened the box up and leant it against the wall of the workshop, as per the first photo. I drew the back upside on the box so the straight edge at the top of the box became the straight edge at the bottom of the back.
Mark the middle of the top of the card (second photo) and draw the outline of the back (see measurements on third photo). Make it symmetrical by measuring down perpendicularly from the middle line and making this the mid-point.
Use a bendy ruler to make a nice gentle curve across the bottom. Mark the mid-point of the curve as in the fourth photo. Flip the bendy ruler over to draw the other half on the curve. This helps to keep the curve symmetrical.
Fit the tempate into the back of the chair to check you are happy with the size and shape before you cut the wood, as per image 5.
Step 15: The Back - the Wood
Having made the template I realised that the wood from the fencing was slightly too short and slightly too narrow. Despite this the template was very helpful when it came to making the most of the wood I was using. I needed to use an even number of planks for the back so I could cut the star out. If I used an odd number of panels I could have cut the star into the centre panel but it would weaken it too much.
I decided to slightly shorten the back; it was quite high to start with so losing a few centimetres shouldn't make much difference. I also decided to cut the top of each plank straight across, rather than having a curve as my jigsaw skills aren't world class and the line along the top of the seat will be highly visible.
I also chose to taper only the lateral two planks from top to bottom to minimise labour; you could taper all of them equally if you wanted.
Lay the wood on the template and decide how to cut it to fit, as per picture 1. This will vary according to the size of the planks you are using. At the bottom, measure in from the edges, checking the template is central and make a mark on the wood where it meets the template, as per the second image. In my case, this was 5cm from each edge.
Draw the lines across the top of the planks, as per the third image. I did it by eye, at a pleasing angle. On the outermost side, this is at 9.5cm down from the top. Use a long, straight edge such as a stout tape measure, or another piece of wood like I did, to draw a line from the outermost edge of your line at the top, to the 5cm line at the bottom, as per the fourth image.
If you are a jigsaw ninja you could cut the edge using your saw. I am not so I used a Stanley knife to cut along both sides deeply. I figured these edges would be very visible so wanted to get them as straight as possible. Photos 5 and 6 show the wood before and after cutting. Photo 7 shows the cut, sanded wood, ready for the star.
Step 16: The Back - the Star
I decided to cut a 10cm five-pointed star out of the centre of the chair back; you could cut another shape, such as a diamond, circle, heart, or leave it blank. Here's how I drew the star; skip the next few lines if you already know how.
Draw a 10cm line on a piece of scrap paper, as per the first photo. To calculate the angles of the points it's 180/5 = 36 degrees. Use a protractor or other angle measuring tool to measure 36 degrees from one end of the line. You can see the pencil mark in the first photo if you look closely.
Draw a second 10cm line through the 36 degree point, joining the end of the first line, as per the second photo. Repeat the process until you have a five-pointed star, as per the third image.
Place the two central back planks 3mm apart and measure down 12cm from the top. Place the star centrally here, as per the fourth and fifth images. Draw round it, as per the sixth image.
Cut out the star using a fine hand saw, or jigsaw if you are skilled. I used my Dremel with a cutting disc to cut round it to preserve the star but this took over an hour. It would have been much quicker to cut it out with a saw by cutting the star into sections; it's up to you.
The seventh picture shows the star after cutting but before removal and the eigth shows the star after removal. I like it because it reminds me of the Mario Invincibility Star.
Step 17: Attaching the Back
The back panels are screwed to the upper and lower back rails. Mark the centre of both rails using a tape measure, as per the first and second pictures. (I did it in pen so you can see it clearly, then sanded them off afterwards). Hold the back panels against the rails, checking for fit. The third picture shows the back with the panels leant against the rails, balanced on the top of the bottom rail. (This is why the holes don't line up with the rails.) Drop each one down a couple of centimetres so that the bottom of the plank is flush with the bottom of the bottom rail, as in the first picture. Mark two screw points over the vertical midpoint of the lower rail with pencil, then mark two over the vertical midpoint of the upper rail. Do this with all the planks then drill, countersink and sand the holes. You can see the positions of the holes in the last photo.
Whilst checking the fit in the third picture I noticed that the ends of the upper rail protruded at either side. This isn't surprising as the back planks are narrower than the original plans. This didn't look right so I rounded them off (thanks for the suggestion Dave Bray!) using the jigsaw, then sanded them. You can see the result from above in the fourth picture.
The fifth picture shows the finished chair, it was an emotional moment!
Although the wood was tanalised I decided to paint it with furniture oil to darken it, as you can see in the final picture. You can obviously use whatever you like but wood preserver is a good idea.
Sit down and have a cup of tea, you deserve it!
Please send me pictures of your chair with any extra tips, I would love to see them!