Pallet Adirondack Chair




Introduction: Pallet Adirondack Chair

Here's a fun way to reuse wood.  Make this Adirondack chair from shipping pallets or other reclaimed lumber. 

Step 1: The Low-down on Pallets

Pallets come in many shapes and styles.  They're made from lots of different types of wood.  They are readily available for free.

In fact, most companies pay people to take them away.

But there's a catch: pallets aren't easy to take apart.  They're also usually not made of very good lumber. If you use them for projects, you're going to spend A LOT of time dismantling them and you're not going to get much from a single pallet.

If you're expecting perfection, than pallet lumber may not be right for you.  You can try salvaging used material from places like craigslist.  I collected an impressive amount of wood for my other pallet instructable, the Pallet Playhouse.

If you're not interested in turning a pallet into something else or trucking around the nation looking for free stuff, substitute the pallet wood for some nice cedar or pressure treated wood.  I made a PT set in a similar pattern that's held up for 11+ years of direct exposure to the elements.  They're still perfectly sound.  You won't get that kind of performance from pallet wood. 

Step 2: What to Look For

I get my pallets from my employer.  They throw them away, into a dumpster if I don't get to them first.  They pay to have the dumpster emptied, of course, so they're more than happy to give me as many as I want.

Only about one in ten of the pallets I came across were the kind I wanted.   I tried to find ones that were brand-new, roughly 48" x 35", and were constructed of  (3) notched 2'x4's connected by 3/4" inch nominal boards (commonly called "one by" lumber.)  Usually, one side is rough sawn and the other is finished.  All of them were heat treated (marked "HT") and held together by nearly indestructible spiral nails.

After I posted my first pallet project to Instructables, a lot of people commented about the dangers of pesticide-treated pallets.  For the record:  I only use ISPM 15 certified pallets.  That means that the pallets are inspected, and certified to be either heat-treated (marked HT) or fumigated with Methyl Bromide (marked BM).  It also states that the pallet must be marked with either the HT or MB stamps.

I only use new, HT-marked pallets that were used solely to ship paper.  I would not recommend using any pallet that is not plainly marked, but then again, it's a free country.

Step 3: Where to Look for Them

Pallets are everywhere.  As I mentioned, I get mine from my workplace, but thousands of other businesses are constantly looking for someone to take them away.  I've gotten them from supermarkets,  restaurants, and office buildings.  I've had a number of people recommend carpet companies, furniture stores or outlets, and atv/snowmobile dealers. 

I also see them up on craigslist all the time.

Step 4: Be Careful!

Working with power tools is dangerous, doubly so when working with pallets.  There are hidden nails, knots, warped boards, etc.  Use proper safety equipment, especially eye protection.  Don't use a power tool unless you're familiar with it. 

You could very easily get hurt, so proceed at your own risk.

Step 5: Tools You'll Need

Tools/material you need, at minimum:

1) Hammer
2) Crowbar/prybar
3) Drill (cordless is best, but even a hand drill will work)
4) Small bit for pilot holds (size depends on the screws you use)
5) 3/8" Spade or forstner bit for counter sinks
6) A saw of some sort-- I wouldn't try this without a circular saw, but hand saws would work..  A jig saw, band saw, and table saw would all help, too.
7) Some sort of screw driver for your screws.  Power drills work best
8) Wood glue
9) Screws
10) Wood putty
11) 3-4 good pallets

Step 6: How to Break Them Down

I experimented with different methods, but I finally settled on this particular method of disassembling the pallets.

This is how I do it:

I start by cutting off the outside stringers (the 2x4's) with a skill saw. Watch out for nails!

Draw a straight line on each side as a guide to cut off the outside stringers.  A chalk line works well.

You'll want to set your depth at a fraction more than the 3/4 inch board.

After you cut along each outside stringer (not the middle!), flip the pallet over and do the same on the other side.

WARNING:  Pallets are usually made of the lumber that got rejected for other uses.  It's hard, often warped, has old broken nails embedded in it, and generally is just a pain to work with.  Be careful. Wear goggles. Repetitive work breeds carelessness.  Trust me, I know.

Some other methods:

--Cut the nails with a sawzall.

--Use a pneumatic chisel

--Use a catspaw to dig the nails out (for certain pallets, this is easy.  For some, it's darn near impossible.)

Step 7: How to Break Them Down, Continued.

Use a hammer to knock the stinger off if it's stubborn.

Step 8: Detach the Board From the Middle Stringer.

You'll be left with a bunch of 1X4's and 1X6's attached to the 2x4 in the center.

By rocking the 1x4's and the 1x6's back and forth, you can get the board off without totally destroying it.

There will still be quite a few ruined boards.  Good for the woodstove.

Pull or remove any nails left in the board and stack it to the side.  You may also want to grade your boards, based on knots, warping, bark, etc.  This will help later when you try to decide what to use for what job.

Step 9: The Payoff

I usually get about (6) good 1x4's and (3) good 1x6's per pallet.  I also get a (3) 4' lengths of 2x4.


Step 10: Measure and Mark the Rear Legs/seat Stringers

Using a 35" 1x6, draw a grid of one inch blocks like the picture below.  Keep in mind that the lumber is only 5.5" wide.  you''ll end up with a course of 1/2" blocks at the top.

Using the blocks, one at a time, draw the pattern. 

You'll need two and you can use the first to trace out the second. 

REMEMBER!  If one side of the board is better than the other, to cut accordingly.  In other words, the stringers should be mirror (opposite) copies.  Pallet wood usually has both a smooth and a rough side.

Step 11: Measure and Mark the Arm Rests

Using a 32" 1x6, draw a grid of one inch blocks like the picture below.  Keep in mind that the lumber is only 5.5" wide.  you''ll end up with a course of 1/2" blocks at the top.

Using the blocks, one at a time, draw the pattern. 

You'll need two and you can use the first to trace out the second. 

REMEMBER!  If one side of the board is better than the other, to cut accordingly.  In other words, the armrests should be mirror (opposite) copies.  Pallet wood usually has both a smooth and a rough side.

Step 12: Measure and Mark Bottom Backrest Rail

Using a 21.5" 1x4, draw a grid of one inch blocks like the picture below.  Keep in mind that the lumber is only 3.5" wide.  you''ll end up with a course of 1/2" blocks at the top.

Using the blocks, one at a time, draw the pattern. 

Step 13: Measure and Mark Top Backrest Rail

Using a 22" 1x4, draw a grid of one inch blocks like the picture below.  Keep in mind that the lumber is only 3.5" wide.  you''ll end up with a course of 1/2" blocks at the top.

Using the blocks, one at a time, draw the pattern. 

Step 14: Measure and Mark Armrest Brackets.

Cut out (2) armrest brackets.  Use the measurements below.

Step 15: Cut Out the Top and Bottom Brackets, Rear Legs/seat Stringers, Armrest Brackets, and the Armrests

Using your jigsaw (or a bandsaw if you have one), cut out each of the pieces.

You'll want to make sure you clamp them down securely. 

For the rear leg/seat stringers and the armrests, you'll need two each.  You can trace the first one after you cut it out to avoid having to draw the one inch grids again.

Step 16: Measure and Cut the Front Legs/front Crosspiece/front Seat Slat

You'll need (4) 20" x 3.5" boards for (2) front legs, (1) front crosspiece, and (1) front seat slat.  You can cut these with a handsaw, a table saw, a circular saw-- whatever you have.

You'll save yourself a lot of heartache if you remember to label these pieces.  Use a pencil to write "front leg" on two of them and "front cross" on the third, etc.  Make it small-- you'll be finishing the chair later and the pencil marks will probably show through.

Step 17: Cut Rear Crosspiece

Cut (1) 18.5" x 3.5"  rear crosspiece.

Step 18: Measure and Cut the Rear Back Support

You'll need (2) rear back supports.

Get a 1x4 and measure 26" on one side, 23" on the other.  Draw a line between the two and cut.

Step 19: Cut (9) 1.75" Seat Slats

Rip a 3.5" inch board down the middle to get (2) 1.75" seat slats.  Cut the length to 20".

Drill pilot holes and countersink on each end of the slat.  The pilot hole should be with 3/4" of the slat's end. In practice, you can simply "eye it" so that you get as close to the edge as possible without allowing the countersink hole to ruin the board.

You'll need (9) slats.

Step 20: Measure and Cut the Chair Back Slats

You'll need (7) chair back slats.  These are tapered cuts.  I made a simple (yet dangerous) taper jig out a sheet of masonite and a few smaller pieces of wood.

You can simply mark the board from the measurements below and use a circular saw to rip the taper.

I marked the length approximately; this is a good place to use some of your less than perfect boards.  Anywhere from 34"-36" should do fine.  As you'll see later, we're going to trim the tops to make the fan shape at the top of the chair.

Step 21: Cut the Fan Tail

To cut the fan tail, lay the back slats together like in the picture shown.  Use a board to line up the bottom edge.

Step 22: Cut the Fantail, Continued.

Tie a pencil to a couple of feet of string (or use a ring at the end of the string like I did.)

Use your thumb to hold one end of the string in the middle of the center board at the bottom.  Use the pencil to etch an arc into the top edge of the boards.  Obviously, if your boards are different lengths, use the shorter ones at the edge and the bigger ones in the center.

After you draw the arc, number the boards with a pencil so you know what order they go into later.

Step 23: Cut the Fantail, Continued.

Use your jigsaw to trim off the end of the boards.

Step 24: The End Result

You should end up with something like this. 

Step 25: Let's Assemble This Thing Already!

The moment you've been waiting for.  Let's put it together.

Step 26: Connect Front Leg, Rear Back Support, and Seat Stringer

On a flat surface, arrange the front leg, rear back support, and seat stringer as shown.

Remember,  if your boards are smooth on one side and rough on the other, male sure the "good" side is facing out.  In this picture, you're looking at the rough side, ie, the "inside".

PLEASE NOTE: The front leg is UNDER the seat stringer.  The back support is OVER the seat stringer.

Use a board or the table edge to line up the pieces on the bottom.  Measure the distance between the front leg and the rear back support on top and the bottom to make sure it's reasonably straight.  Mark the leg and support locations with a pencil.

Part of the fun of using pallet wood is all the little adjustments you have to make to account for warped wood, etc.  Enjoy!  :-)

Step 27: Drill Pilot Holes, Countersink, Then Attach the Front Leg.

Drill two staggered pilot holes through the top piece and halfway through the lower board.  Use the 3/8" bit to countersink the holes.  Spread a generous amount of glue between the two pieces and attach with 1" wood screws.

Tip:  Sometimes pallet wood is especially soft.  Set the drill's torque as low as possible to avoid stripping out the pilot hole.

Step 28: Drill Pilot Holes, Countersink, Then Attach the Rear Back Support.

Don't forget the glue.  Make sure that the back support is evenly spaced (about 21") from both the top of the front leg and the bottom.

I've seen similar designs that incorporate a carriage bolt, washer, and a nut here, instead of two screws.  Definitely a stronger way to go!

Step 29: Assemble the Opposite Seat Stringer/frontleg/backrest Support

Place your finished seat stringer/frontleg/backrest support flat on your workspace.  Use it to line up the opposite assembly.  Remember, these should be a mirror image (opposite).

Mark board locations, drill, countersink, glue and screw.

Step 30: Connect Rear Crosspiece.

Take your (1) 18.5" x 3.5" rear crosspiece and attach it to the seat stringer/rear back support as shown in the photo.

Measure one inch from the top of the seat stringer so you'll know where to attach it on the other side.  Don't forget to drill, countersink, and glue.  You may want to mark and trace where you want your screw holes (see picture 2 & 3)

Step 31: Connect Rear Crosspiece, Continued.

Mark and measure your other front leg, seat stringer, and back support to attach the rear crosspiece.

Try to connect it in precisely the same spot as you did on the other side. 

Did I mention not to forget the glue?

Step 32: Connect Front Crosspiece

Connecting the front crosspiece is easier thean the rear one.  Mark and measure the center of each front leg beneath the seat stringer.  Hold the crosspiece up so it touches the seat stringer and attach to the front leg with glue and screws.

Step 33: Connect the Bottom Backrest Rail

You cut two backrest rails earlier.  One is square the other is rounded. The bottom backrest rail is squarish.

Take the bottom backrest rail and lay it into the two grooves cut into the seat stringers.  Drill pilot holes, countersink, then glue into position.  Use (4) 1-inch wood screws.

Step 34: Connect the Top Backrest Rail

Take the rounded, top back rest rail and mark it 2.5" from either side. The distance from each of your sides should be 18.5".  Drill and countersink two holes on each side at you marks.

Position the backrest rail over the rear back supports and attach with glue and screws. 

You may have to squeeze the rear back supports gently together to get them plumb.

Step 35: Attach Armrest Brackets

Measure and mark the center line of the top of the front leg.  Drill pilot holes, countersink, and attack the armrest brackets.   Make sure the top edge of the bracket is level with the top edge of the front leg. Repeat on the other side.

Step 36: Attach the 20" Front Seat Slat

Glue and screw on the front seat slat.  Drill pilot holes and countersink.

Step 37: Attach Center Backrest Slat

Find and mark the center of the top and bottom back rail.

Drill and countersink a hole on the bottom of the slat, then attach to the bottom back rail.  Line up the top slat/rail, drill, countersink, and attach.

I would not use glue on the backslats-- you may want to move/adjust them later.

Step 38: Attach the Edge Back Slats

Attach the first and seventh back slats to the bottom back rail.  You'll want to dry-fit the two armrests before you attach the back slats so you know you're leaving enough room to attach them.

After you connect the bottom of each slat, attach the top.

Step 39: Attach the Remaining Back Slats

Attach the remaining slats in the same manner, spacing as evenly as possible.

Step 40: Attach the (9) Seat Slats.

You'll want to dry fit all the slats first so you have an idea of how to space them.

This is a time consuming part.  You'll want to be really careful drilling the pilot holes into the seat stringer.  Be patient!  You don't want to blow it now.

Step 41: Route the Edges of the Armrests

The end is in sight!

If you've got the means, I definitely recommend routing the edges of the armrests.

If not, you can skip to the next step.

Step 42: Attach the Armrests

Measure and mark 20" from the bottom of the rear back support.

Step 43: Attach the Armrests, Continued

Move the armrest into position.  The 20" mark should line up with the bottom edge of the armrest.

Use a screw to tack the armrest in place, or prop it up, or clamp it, whatever.  Just keep it in place.

Step 44: Attach the Armrests, Continued

Drill three pilot holes through the armrest and into the front leg and armrest bracket.  See the second picture for the pattern.  Countersink the pilot holes and fasten with screws.

Step 45: Attach the Armrest, Continued

To attach the rear part of the armrest, drill two pilot holes and countersink.   Attach with two 1.25" screws.

I've seen similar designs that incorporate a carriage bolt, washer, and nut here, instead of two screws.  Definitely a stronger way to go!

Step 46: Time to Finish

Grab your wood putty and get to work.  Fill all the holes you can.

I like to wipe off the residual putty with a wet cloth while it's fresh.  Sanding it off can be a real pain and also ruin the way your stain or paint looks.

Then get to work sanding it down.  At the minimum, you'll need to lightly sand off the shiny glaze to allow stain penetration or paint adhesion.

I like to use a dark, semi-transparent exterior stain on this sort of thing.  It hides a lot of imperfections in the wood.  Of course, if you buy a nice cedar, you could get much better results.

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1 year ago on Step 46

I made this, ( x2) Really Really great instructions, start to finish. This was my first pallet project and now I'm hooked. I made a couple adjustments while constructing - I Only used 6 boards for the fantail - 7 seemed to go too wide. So... laid 1st 2 mildly spaced from center line, and worked out from there. Also, don't waste your time cutting the curve on the fantail before attaching the boards. I tried this on first chair and was unhappy with how they ended up not even enough for me. Instead, I recommend leave them rough cut, then after they are fastened on the frame and (perfectly) spaced, draw your desired curve line by attaching a string and loop with pencil, I temporarily fastened a screw - very near center on one board and about 6 to 8 inches up ( adjust to taste - higher gets you a more pronounced curve ) THEN cut with your jig saw and sand the edges. Also on the seat slats - I used one more than called for, since by ripping the 20" pieces you end up with an even number anyway.


Question 2 years ago on Step 20

Didnt get the tapered back slats part - how does this work ?
Are all the back slats tapered the same way, what size is each end ??
Assistance required !
Ignore this comment - figured out a way to taper using fine blade
on a rip saw - many thanks for the guidance and precision of your plans.


2 years ago

4hrs to build with a couple minor modifications.
Should I white wash, stain(dark brown) or let it weather as is?


Reply 2 years ago

looks good! Stain is up to you =)


Reply 2 years ago

I went with dark brown and going to put polyurethane after the stain dries.


4 years ago

I have never tried to build an of Adirondack chair out of pallet wood but I did build a couple from "1 by" fir shiplap sheathing that came off of my old house during a renovation and some fir "2 by" that I had left over. I didn't use plans except the design in my head (i got into a bit of a bother making the second chair for my wife but fixed it). It was a lot of fun and challenging trying to measure anything anatomically. Some curves I drew by hand and others with a string compass. My next one will be mostly of pallet wood thanks for you insanely detailed Instructable as it got me to read it and it inspired me to give it a try.


5 years ago

I don't know if anyone made this comment. I couldn't find it if so: please, don't use pressure treated wood to make furniture! It doesn't root because it has toxic chemicals added to it, including arsenic, which doesn't break down, it just accumulated in the soil. Treated lumber has its place, but that place is not next to your skin or anywhere near your children, who are especially susceptible to exposure to arsenic and other heavy metals.


6 years ago

What a great idea! Very good Instructable.


6 years ago

I thought the same thing, missing a beer holder!


6 years ago

Really like your design ! Thanks for the instructables


7 years ago

this is a fab project and very well explained....well done and thank you...


7 years ago

If one got adept at making these, they seem like they could be a very good craft faire product (as expensive as Adirondack Chairs are in stores).

Alex andra
Alex andra

7 years ago

Thank you ! Great & clearly explaination. I like it. I'll try. ;)


7 years ago

It wasn't perfect but I liked it was not so hard to be built.Emad Libya

15, 12:48 PM.jpg

7 years ago

How much wood would I need if I would buy the wood


Reply 7 years ago

Probably the same amount the woodchuck needs. ;)


9 years ago on Step 4

Is all of this clicking through needed? Could warnings not come all on one page, and the "where you get them thin, did that need to be spread out over a couple? I just Want to get to the directions! Start with the warnings on one page, then the where to get the next then start into the task


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Please stop whining.Just be happy he made the instructable!


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

Directly under the title you will find 4 buttons. Download, View All Steps, Go To Step and Next. The view all steps will show you the full instruction all on one page. The download is also great if you would like to save the instructions for offline viewing. (These options may only be available if you are logged in.)


9 years ago on Introduction

I take the pallets apart by cutting between the 2X4 and the board with a sawzall and a blade that will cut through nails. Then I use a punch from the back side to push the nails out. This saves splitting the wood and results in the most usable lumber in the fastest time.