How to | Build the Ultimate Adirondack Chair




About: I have an unhealthy relationship with pallet wood. I make fast paced and entertaining build videos on my YouTube channel that are made for everyone, but with the ultimate goal to get the younger generations ...

The Jackman Works adirondack chair is back! This time something a little different with a walk through video. I love how many people are using my plans to build these for themselves and I get a lot of questions so I figured this build needed a more detailed video. This was my last batch in the shop in Rhode Island, a set of 8 chairs that ended up at a college in Pennsylvania. These are made from clear grain western red cedar, fastened together with stainless steel screws and carriage bolts all from my favorite place Albany County Fasteners. It took me about 7 days in total to complete these including dry time for the finish. To learn more, be sure to check out the full build video and the plans.

Get the plans to build these yourself >>>>

Step 1: Materials & Tools


- 5/4 x 8 western red cedar, 30' per chair

- Spar urethane finish

- 2" #10 stainless steel deck screws

- 2-1/2" long 1/4" galvanized carriage bolt with washer and nut


- Thickness planer

- Circular saw

- Table saw

- Bandsaw

- Disk sander

- Spindle sander

- Router table

- Drill press

- Random orbital sander

- Cordless drill and driver

- Finish spray gun

- Air compressor

Step 2: Milling Down the Lumber

It all starts with the lumber and for this set of 8 chairs there is a huge haul up on the racks. For the chairs I use 5/4 x 8 clear grain western red cedar. I get it all rough-sawn from the lumber yard and mill it down myself. It takes a little under 30' total per chair but with this many chairs I was able to be super efficient and make each chair out of just 25'.

First step is to mill the lumber down to thickness using my thickness planer. I start with 5/4 rough-sawn stock so that I can plane it down to a 1" finished thickness. A jointer isn't used at all and everything is just skip planed because that gets them almost perfectly flat -- and almost flat is good enough for this application because of the way the chairs go together, they are pretty forgiving.

You might be asking yourself why I rolled the planer outside for this? Well the main reason is that I'm starting with 16' long material so I need that much room for both in-feed and out-feed, which I don't have in my shop. Special bonus is all of the free cedar mulch I get for the flower beds!

Step 3: Cutting Pieces Down to Rough Size

I build these pretty frequently so a while ago I turned my plans into some plywood templates to make it easy to knock these out over and over. I use these templates and trace them out on the planks. The way that the chair is designed, many of these pieces can nest together despite the curvy shape, saving a lot of waste. I start with the larger pieces (the arms and the legs) and fit the rest around those.

These templates are all traced out on the planks and then they are cut down to more manageable sizes by cutting between pieces with either my circular saw, or if it's not a straight cut, my jig saw.

One of the special things about the design of this chair is that some of the dimensions are flexible. While the height of the legs and things like that are critical, dimensions like the width of the arm supports and legs are more flexible where if you lose up to a 1/4" or so and have matching sets on each chair, you won't be able to notice the difference. Just another way to maximize materials.

For all of the straight pieces (like the seat slats, back slats, front legs, etc.) it's even easier to get them down to size. That is just a matter of ripping the planks down to get one smooth edge and then rip each of the pieces down to proper width on the table saw before using the miter saw to cut them down to final length.

I find that the bulk of the process to build these chairs is really just a chaotic exorcise of logistics. At least initially, it's just a mater of laying the pieces out efficiently and keeping them organized while you cut all of the giant planks down to rough size.

Step 4: Final Shaping of Materials

With all pieces cut down to size and accounted for, each stack of curved pieces (arm, arm support, etc.) is moved over to the bandsaw to cut them down to final size. I cut them down to 1/16-1/8" outside of the line and then sand down to the line later.

It's starting to look like something now! This is the stack of ~300 pieces to complete the set of 8 chairs.

Step 5: Sanding Down the Edges

With everything cut down to size, I first move them over to the disk sander to sand down and of the outside curves smooth and to the line.

Then the 2nd stage of sanding is all of the inside curves. These are smoothed and sanded down to the line using the belt/spindle sander.

Step 6: Rounding Over the Edges

For final shaping, most of the corners are rounded over using a 3/8 round over bit in the router table. Depending on the piece, one edge or both edge is rounded over but that's all lined out in the plans, or in your head if you're on your game. Things like the arms are rounded over on both faces, but the back slats are only rounded over on the front face so sets of back slats need to be made so you have enough lefts and rights.

Due to the curved shape of some of the pieces, you need to be careful when running the router bit over certain locations because there is likely to be some serious tear-out. Pay attention to the direction of rotation of the router bit and whenever I'm running the grain against the direction of the bit I do a climb cut and then clean it up with a regular cut after. Cutting with the grain can be done just like normal.

Step 7: Pre-drilling

Now that everything is shaped, the final piece of the process before a finish sanding on this lumber is to pre-drill the holes. It's much faster to pre-drill everything now compared to during the assembly process, plus this allows me to get some finish inside the screw holes prior to assembly to help protect any water that sneaks into that tight space. Only thing that isn't pre-drilled prior to assembly is the arm because that location can vary slightly with each assembly.

All of the piece are just marked using the template and then drilled in that location, except for the seat slats. There are so many of these (10 per chairs) that I have this little plywood jig that holds the piece in the exact same spot each time so it's drilled in the right location.

Step 8: Final Sanding and Applying First Coat of Finish

Last, I pull out my random orbital sander and sand all of the surfaces and edges down to 220 grit. It's a long process, but is totally worth it because of the way that the finish pulls out the smoothed down grain and makes it look amazing with no scratches in the surface.

And now I can apply the first coat of finish! Wait, but these are assembled yet? Don't worry my child, I apply the first coat of spar urethane finish to every piece by rubbing it on with a rag. This allows for me to hit all 6 sides of each piece so they are all protected prior to assembly. If I were to just finished after everything is together, the locations where 2 pieces butt up against one another wouldn't get any protection. Plus a lot of these, like the ends of the legs, are end grain and more susceptible to water damage.

This took every vertical surface that I had in the shop but that finish really pulls out the color of the cedar! The spar urethane has a slight amber color to it so it really pulls out the depth of the range of grain from the western red cedar.

Step 9: Assembling the Sub-assemblies

It's funny how much work of these chairs is just in preparing the parts, now it's finally assembly time!! I start this off by assembling all of the backs. There is a square back support which is located at the bottom of the back and then a rounded back support which is located at the top. I center all of the back slats on the bottom support and screw them in place with some 2" stainless steel screws. I then center the slats on the top support and screw the center slat in place, followed by flaring them out and screwing the outer most slats at the edge of the support, and then spacing the remaining slats evenly and screwing them in place.

At this point you start saying goodbye to all of the stacks of parts and say hello to all of the towers of sub-assemblies.

Next sub-assembly to put together is the legs. The front legs are made up of the leg piece and the arm support bracket which are just held together with a few screws. This is another one of those pieces that is different on the left and right of the chair, so you need to make sure to have enough left and right sets with the single pre-drilled hole pointing towards the back of the chair.

Then these sub-assemblies are completed by attaching the front leg and the back leg with some 2-1/2" long galvanized carriage bolts. I insert them through the front leg and into the back leg and then put on a washer and finger tighten a nut on the bolt, to be tightened down later.

Step 10: Completing the Assembly

This is probably the hardest maneuver of the whole process and takes approximately 4.5 hands, but it's worth it to see the chair taking shape. You need a right leg and left leg standing at the same time while you lift a back assembly into place and use the 2 pre-drilled holes to screw the back assembly into the leg assemblies. Same thing on both sides.

Then the back leg can be fastened in place with a pair of screws through the back support and into the top of the leg. I make sure to pre-drill this hole since I'm screwing into end grain. The bottom of the back leg is fastened into place with a couple of screws at a slight angle to keep them from poking through the outside. This leg is positioned in 3-1/2" from the back of the main leg and up about an 1/8" off the ground.

There are 10 small seat slats and 1 wide seat slat on the front. The wide slat is fastened to the front with a pair of screws on each side and the furthest back slat is fastened in place tight against the back slats with a screw on either end. The same thing is done with the slat just behind the front legs. Then the 2 short slats between the front legs and the slat in front of that are spaced evenly and screwed into place.

Then the remainder of slats on the seat are spaced out evenly on one side and screwed into place, then I do the same on the opposite side making sure they look as evenly spaced as possible. This is one of those situations where if it looks good, it is good, like a lot of this chair assembly.

Last piece to be installed is the 2 arms! With the variety of color in the red cedar these are a couple of the few pieces that I make sure match because it really looks off if they are too different from one another. So I find pairs of arms and put them in place by pre-drilling and fastening the back of the arm into the back leg with a couple of screws before centering the front of the arm on the front leg, pre-drilling, and then screwing in place with 3 screws.

Step 11: Final Coats of Finish

With the rest of the chairs assemble, I can bring them outside to apply the final coats of finish. I thin down the spar urethane slightly and put it in my spray gun for the final finish coats. I set the chairs up on sawhorses upside down to get the bottom first before flipping them over and spraying a few coats on the top sides.

You can see the surface scratched up a bit here. Between coats, I use a fine sanding disk (~400 grit) to smooth down any dust that was caught in the finish and also help the next coat of finish bond better to the previous one. I do this a couple of times between as many days to allow the finish to dry between coats.

Step 12: Flattening

Then the final step in the process is flattening out the chair and tightening up nuts that I just left finger tight earlier. I use my table saw as a reference surface, because this is the flattest surface in my shop. Each chair is set up on the saw and I figure out which way it wobbles, if any. If it wobbles, I place a stick under the 2 legs that are touching the ground and push down on the other 2 legs while I tighten the nuts fully.

Now it's time to get these out of here and delivered, because... well

Step 13: Glamour Shots

Tested & Approved!! ;)

Thanks for checking out the build and definitely check out the build video for the full experience!

Thirsty for more? You can also find me in other places on the interwebs!

Essentially my entire life - Website:

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    14 Discussions

    Carpenter Guy

    1 year ago

    Those chairs look so great! After all that work, I think you deserve to get money for the plans! Now my couch feels very uncomfortable looking at these.

    Thanks for sharing! I voted!


    1 year ago

    Great Job. I might try this.


    1 year ago

    Great job! nice instructable still. simply curious what quantity you are commerce those for? I see them at Menards and different places, however in no approach do they compare I. skill. Thanks, and it's nice to visualize skill hasn't been fully confiscating.


    1 year ago

    Brilliant instructable, will like to give this a go someday

    1 reply

    1 year ago

    Awesome! Do you have the plans for the shapes available?

    2 replies

    Reply 1 year ago

    Plans are linked from one of the YouTube videos-


    1 year ago

    Great job! Great instructable as well. Just curious how much your selling those for? I see them at Menards and other places, but in no way do they compare I. Craftsmanship. Thanks and it's nice to see Craftsmanship hasn't been completely taken over

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks for the love! Depends a lot on the materials used, but these ones made of clear cedar and finished go for $500 a piece


    1 year ago

    I wouldn't spray polyurethane close to a vehicle, it drifts a long way and overspray is difficult to remove

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Agreed. The only car nearby was mine and that's seen much worth in it's time ;)


    1 year ago

    Very nice, these look splendid. Robust and beautiful!

    1 reply