How to Build an Adirondack Chair

Table of Contents

How to Build an Adirondack Chair

Table of Contents

Looking for the perfect piece of furniture to elevate the comfort and style of your patio, then the Adirondack chair remains an excellent choice. Offering easy comfort and durability, this iconic chair can be placed anywhere from your front porch to your backyard oasis.

To make your outdoor living space more comfortable and interactive, you can take the project of building an Adirondack chair. While the process may take a lot of time and effort, it will result in an outdoor masterpiece that is truly yours. Following is our step-by-step guide on how to make an Adirondack chair.

What is an Adirondack chair?

what is an adirondack chair
The Adirondack chair defined by tall slatted back, sloping seat, and wide armrests

Adirondack chair history:

The iconic Adirondack chair was originally designed by Thomas Lee in 1903. While vacationing in the heart of Adirondack Mountain, Lee set himself on the mission to build the perfect outdoor chair. His final design known as, the “Westport chair,” featured the iconic sloping seat, tall back, and wide armrests.

The design offered a natural and comfortable sitting position to allow hours of outdoor lounging. Its wide and flat armrests were convenient for balancing and holding books, drinks, and snacks. Offering lounging comfort and convenience, the Westport chair sets the foundation of the modern Adirondack chair.

The original Westport Chair
The original Westport Chair

The Westport chair was first commercially made and sold by a carpenter, Harry Bunnell. During the Tuberculosis epidemic, many patients preferred to lounge in mid of the Adirondack mountains in different prototypes of the chair. The Adirondack chair soon developed a strong connotation with getaways and vacations. Even, today the chair is popularly seen at lakesides, beaches, and camping sites to create the perfect spot to relax.

The modern-day Adirondack chair:

The design of the Adirondack chair was continually tweaked and refined by sellers and designers. To easily mass produce the chair, the inventor, Irving Wolpin built the back with small wooden slats. The slatted design created a good airflow and even allowed to subtly curve and contour the back of the chair. Characterized with a slatted back, a low contoured seat, and a wide armrest, the modern-day Adirondack chair offers a thoughtful, inviting, and comfortable design.

The modern-day Adirondack chair
The modern-day Adirondack chair

Many designers and sellers explored the material of the Adirondack chair. Besides wood, the chair was manufactured in aluminum, wicker and poly lumber. Companies resorted to more durable and weather-friendly materials to increase the life of the chair. Adirondack chairs manufactured in HDPE or HIPS offer great durability against harsh weather and also remain eco-friendly. The popularity of the Adirondack chair can be attributed to its effortless mix of style, comfort, and durability.

The Adirondack chair can offer hours of lounging comfort in fresh open air. Its design allows for equal weight distribution to relieve pressure from your hip and spine. It can be placed on a front porch or back patio, around a fire pit or pool, to make any outdoor spaces more comfortable and interactive.

To bring the lounging comfort to your home, you can invest in an Adirondack chair or follow our precise guide on how to make an Adirondack chair.

How much does it cost to build an Adirondack chair?

The cost of building an Adirondack chair mainly depends on the selection of wood. It is important that the wood used in the chair can easily withstand the harsh weather outdoors. For this reason, cedar wood remains one of the best choices. Its natural resistance to moisture, rot, and insects is sure to lend easy maintenance and longevity to the chair. Also, the natural grain appeal of cedar ensures that your Adirondack chair can easily blend into any outdoor environment.

You can work with both clear grain cedar and tight knot cedar. A challenge with tight knot cedar remains to work with the naturally occurring knots of the wood. While being more expensive, clear grain cedar remains more feasible as it is easier to work with and vouches for a more consistent look. If you are building an Adirondack chair with clear grain cedar wood, the chair may cost you anywhere around $150.

What materials and tools do I need to build an Adirondack chair?

One of the first questions remains that how much wood is needed to build the Adirondack chair. Invest in wooden panels in five different sizes mentioned below to minimize wastage. Clear-grain cedar remains one of the best choices for Adirondack chairs. Make sure you use the softer side of the lumbar facing front on the seat, the armrests, and the back slats.

Other than wood you will require a variety of exterior screws and floor glides. You can also use floor glides to protect both your chair and deck floor. Following is the detailed list of materials and tools required to build an Adirondack chair:

Materials:

  • 1″ x 2″ x 8′ (4) wooden panels
  • 5/4″ x 4″ x 8′ (1) wooden panels
  • 1″ x 4″ x 8′ (3) wooden panels
  • 1″ x 6″ x 8′ (2) wooden panels
  • 2″ x 2″ x 4′ (1) wooden panels
  • 2″ exterior screws
  • 1 1/2″ exterior screws
  • 1 1/4″ exterior screws
  • 3/4″ floor glides
  • 7/8″ floor glides

Tools:

  • Miter saw
  • Circular saw
  • Jig saw
  • Sawhorse
  • Clamps
  • Power sander
  • Power drill
  • 3/32″ Drill bit
  • Exterior driver bit
  • Hammer

How to build an Adirondack chair step by step?

The DIY Adirondack chair
Photo Credit: https://diy.dunnlumber.com/projects/

If you are still confused as to how hard it is to build an Adirondack chair, then it does involve a few complex steps. The difficult part may be the curved cuts and the assembly of the slatted back.

Another, major concern remains that how long it takes to build an Adirondack chair. The time may vary according to your level of expertise. If you are experienced and have all the necessary tools ready, it may take you up to 4 to 8 hours. However, if you are new to woodworking, the time may extend up to a full day or even beyond.

To make the process easier, following is our guide on how to build an Adirondack chair step by step. You can watch the YouTube video linked below to easily follow the instructions.

Step 1: Make the initial cuts

Start by making straight-edge cuts using a mitter or circular saw. This way you can be more organized and set up for the complex curved cuts. Follow the detailed diagram and instructions below to cut the piece accordingly:

Diagram for making the intial cuts
Diagram for making the intial cuts
  • First, take the four (1″ x 2″ x 8′) wooden panels and cut them into four pieces with a length of 21 1/4″, two pieces with a length of 23″, and one piece with 18″ length.
  • Next, cut the three (1″ x 4″ x 8′) wooden panels into five pieces each with a length of 37″.
  • For the (5/4″ x 4″ x 8′) wooden panel cut two 21″ long pieces.
  • The two (1″ x 6” x 10”) wooden panels should be divided into two pieces with 37″ length, and two pieces with 25″ length.
  • Lastly, the (2″ x 2″ x 4′) wood panel should be cut into one 20″ long piece and one 23 1/2″ long piece.

Step 2: Make the complex curved cuts

To make complex curved cuts you will need a sawhorse, a jig saw, and a couple of clamps. Follow the diagram and instructions for the complex curves:

Diagram for complex curves
Diagram for complex curves
  • Start by cutting the diagonal armrest. Use the (1″ x 6″ x 25”) piece you had cut before. Measure 3 1/2″ on one side and 4″ on the other and draw a line in between. Clamp the pieces onto a sawhorse and cut using a circular saw. Make sure you cut the armrest with a left and right-hand side in mind.
  • Next, you need to cut the curved back support pieces of the chair. Use the diagram above to mark and draw a smooth curve on both sides. Clamp the boards onto a saw horse. To cut an arc, it is a good idea to cut along the line from either side and meet in the middle. Since these are small pieces, you may need to readjust the pieces on the sawhorse.
  • Now is the time to cut the curved back slats of the Adirondack chair. You can print and trace the following patterns (https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/dunndiy.com/project-previews/Chair-CutGuides.pdf) to cut out these complex curves. Use the five (1″ x 4″ x 37″) panels you had cut earlier. Once you have traced the curves onto three panels marked 1, 2, and 3, clamp down the boards and cut with a jig saw. When one side is done, use that as a reference point to cut the other side for a smooth curve.
Trace the curved back slats
Photo Credit: https://diy.dunnlumber.com/projects/how-to-build-an-adirondack-chair#
  • Lastly, one of the most complex remains the cutting of the classic diagonal legs of the Adirondack chair. Precisely, tape the pieces of the paper pattern onto the two wooden panels measuring (1″ x 6″ x 37″). Trace the pattern with a pencil and cut using a jig saw. To ensure safety keep the saw close to the edges and keep adjusting.

Step 3: Do a quick dry fit

Once you are done cutting all the pieces, it is important to dry fit the pieces and make the necessary adjustments.

  • The bottom back support measuring (2″ x 2″ x 20″) should easily fit in between the legs.
  • Dry fit and check if the seat slats measuring (1″ x 2″ x 21 1/4″) easily span across the legs. Make sure that the slats do not hang from the sides. Adjust and make necessary cuts accordingly.

Step 4: Sand all the pieces

Before assembling the chair it is important to properly sand all the pieces.

Sanding of the diagonal legs
Photo Credit: https://diy.dunnlumber.com/projects/how-to-build-an-adirondack-chair#
  • An electric sander remains a convenient tool for sanding the wooden pieces. You can use 100 grit sandpaper on the rough side and 150 grit sandpaper on the smooth side to achieve the best result.
  • It is important to round off the corners and edges of each piece to make your Adirondack chair more comfortable and appealing.

Step 5: Start by assembling the base of the seat

To build the Adirondack chair start by assembling the base of the seat first:

Attach the bottom back support with diagonal legs
  • Attach the arched back support measuring (2″ x 2″ x 20″) to the diagonal legs. The edged corner of the legs is considered the back point. Measure 17 3/4″ from the back point and draw a line with a pencil. Position the back support in front of this line to attach the two legs. It is important to predrill 2″ holes in the middle of the (2″ x 2″) surface of the back support. Once properly aligned secure it with 2″ exterior nails. Repeat the process for both legs to create a firm support for your seat.

Step 6: Add the slats to the seat

Attach the slats onto the seat

Once you have the base ready, it is time to put the slats measuring (1″ x 2″ x 21 1/4″) onto the seat.

  • From the back support measure 1″ and draw a line with a pencil. Place your first slat in front of the line. Predrill and fasten the 2″ exterior screws to secure each slat.
  • The remaining ten slats will each be placed with a spacing of 3/8″. It is a good idea to precut a spacer that is 3/8″ wide. Hold it against each slat and mark next to it on both sides of the leg. This would make the placement much easier as you move onto the curved part of the seat. Carefully, fasten all the eleven slats to finish your seat.

Step 7: Attach the front legs

Once you have the back legs and seat assembled, it is time to attach the front legs.

Adjust the position of the seat to attach the front legs
  • To attach the front legs you must adjust the position of the seat. Use lumbar scrap, books, and magazines to create support for the seat. Place it in a way that the back legs lay diagonally onto the floor. Make sure you do this on an even surface.
  • The front legs measure (5/4″ x 4″ x 21″). Place it firmly onto the ground and align it with the sixth slat of the seat (counting from the back). Once the leg is in place, clamp and predrill four holes. Secure the front legs with four 1 1/2″ exterior screws.

Step 8: Attach the arm supports

After the legs, you need to secure the armrest support.

Attach the armrest
Photo Credit: https://diy.dunnlumber.com/projects/how-to-build-an-adirondack-chair#
  • The arm support will measure (1″ x 2″ x 23″). It should be attached to the outer surface of the front legs. Align the arm support with the top edge of the legs while keeping 1″ overhanging. Clamp in place, predrill, and secure the arm support with 1 1/2″ exterior screws.

Step 9: Assemble the middle back support

Once the armrest support is secured, fix the middle back support in place.

Secure the armrest support
Photo Credit: https://diy.dunnlumber.com/projects/how-to-build-an-adirondack-chair#
  • The arched back support measures (2″ x 2″ x 23 1/2″). Mark 3/8″ from each end of the arm support. Place the back support in front of the mark. Predrill and secure it in place with 2″ exterior screws. This way you can easily pivot the back support to adjust the back slats.

Step 10: Attach the armrest

You can now fix each armrest onto the supports.

Secure the armrest
Photo Credit: https://diy.dunnlumber.com/projects/how-to-build-an-adirondack-chair#
  • The angled armrest measuring (1″ x 6″ x 25″) will be attached on top of the armrest supports. Taking the end of the middle back support as the starting point, measure 2 1/2″ and draw a line. Align the armrest with this line, leaving about 1 3/4″ overhanging from the supports.

Step 11: Assemble the back of the chair

It is now time to arrange the back slats of your Adirondack chair.

Assemble the back of the chair
Photo Credit:https://diy.dunnlumber.com/projects/how-to-build-an-adirondack-chair#
  • Start by securing the outer slats first. Measure and mark 1″ from the bottom of the back support. Align your outer slat along this mark on the bottom support. As you reach the middle support make sure that each outer slat is neatly tucked with the armrest. Clamp in place and secure with two 2″ exterior screws both on the bottom and the middle support.
  • Next, you need to place the central slat. Measure and mark the center of both the middle and bottom back support. From this central point, make a marking of 1 3/4″ on either side on both the middle and back support. Align the central slat with the marking and secure with two 1 1/2″ exterior screws.
  • Complete the back by securing the middle slats. From the central slat measure 1″ on both the bottom and middle support. Align each slat with the marking. Again predrill and secure with two 1 1/2″ exterior screws.

Step 12: Insert floor glides

Your Adirondack chair is almost ready; all you need to do is insert floor glides for additional protection.

Attach floor glides
  • Start by hammering 3/4″ floor glides onto each of the back legs. For the front legs carefully insert 7/8″ floor glides. The glides are a great way to protect both your floor and chair from daily wear and tear.

Building an Adirondack chair independently may present a certain level of challenge. It is advisable to plan ahead and keep all the materials and tools ready. Once you have invested the time and effort to build the chair, you are sure to experience a great sense of accomplishment. However, if it’s too much of a commitment, then you always have the option of buying an affordable and high-quality Adirondack chair directly.

Wishing you success for the project! If you achieve the goal, please share the links and images with us to showcase your Adirondack chair!

References:

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