Modern Adirondack Chairs Are Great Woodworking Projects

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For more than a century, the Adirondack chair has been synonymous with comfortable yet elegant outdoor lounging. I’ve updated this American classic with a modern slat design that recalls George Nelson’s 1940s platform bench but retains the low-slung comfort of the original. I also left plenty of room on the arms for drinks and snacks.

The most efficient way to build this chair is to first assemble all the parts and then assemble the piece before completing the joinery. This avoids going back and forth between your table saw’s ripping blade and the stacked dado set, which you’ll use to cut half-lap joints.

Dido not set? Don’t worry—you can complete the joinery without one. Use a handsaw, miter saw, or table saw to make shoulder and relief cuts at the correct depth, then remove the waste with a sharp, flat chisel.

Modern Adirondack Chairs Are Great Woodworking Projects

Plans and materials

I used 2 x 10 planks of vertical grain western red cedar for this chair, as it is naturally weather resistant. Any wood will work, but apply preservatives to woods that don’t do well outdoors, such as pine and Douglas fir. Avoid wasting material by first figuring out how you will cut the wood. Then cut the planks into more manageable pieces.

Back and seat slats: Cut two pieces 37 inches long and one piece 17 inches long crosswise, and tear them into 1½-inch strips. Using a miter saw, cut blanks for eight back slats and seven-seat slats that are ¾ inch longer than their finished length. Each piece should have a freshly cut square end. To bevel, the other end of the table saw, tilt the blade 20 degrees and attach a stop block to the miter gauge at 36 inches for the back seat and 16 inches for the set slat [1].

Back Legs: Cross-cut two 30-inch pieces. Make sure the two legs are the same by making a plywood template according to the plans. Place each leg out so that the long side is against the edge of the blank [2]. Cut with a jigsaw or circular saw. If necessary, clamp the straight edge of the workpiece to guide the saw [3].

Supports: Cross-cut 30-inch piece. Make the back support by angling the table saw blade at 27 degrees and ripping a 2½-inch-wide piece [4]. Trim it to 28½ inches long. From the remaining 30-inch piece, tear two 1/2-inch strips. Trim one to 22½ inches for the back cross support and the other to 19½ inches for the seat cross support.

Front Legs: Cross-cut a 25-inch piece. Cut it into two 3-inch pieces and cut both to 24 inches long.

Arm: Cross-cut a 25-inch piece. Cut it into two 4½-inch pieces and cut both to 23 inches to make space. As you did for the back legs, make a plywood template and transfer the shape to the blanks. Cut with a jigsaw, using the straight edge as a guide.

Joinery

Cut half-lap joints for arms and back support: Tilt the table saw blade 20 degrees and, using a sliding miter gauge, cut 2½ inches and ¾ inch deep from the bottom end of each arm. Reset the saw to 0 degrees and install the dado set. Set it to a height of ¾ inch, and complete the half-lap joint by removing the waste [5]. Cut a joint 3 inches wide and ¾ inch deep in each end of the rear support.

Cut half-lap joints for slats: Using a sliding miter gauge and dado set, cut 1½-inch-wide half-lap joints in the square ends of the slats, placed at a height of ¾ inch [6]. These joints shall consist of cross supports.

Drill holes in the slats: The back and seat are held together with a dowel that goes through a hole in each slat. Using an awl, mark the location of the hole on the side of each piece so that it is centered along the width and ¾ inch from the beveled end. Drill a 3⁄8-inch hole in each slat with a drill press or a drill with a guide attachment.

Cut half-lap joints for cross support: You can mark the locations of these half-lap joints in one of two ways: Use a tape measure to establish each side of the joint. Mark every 1/2 inch, or dry seat and back. Then position the cross support. Either way, mark the waste areas with an X to avoid confusion when cutting them out. Cut joints ¾ inch deep and 1½ inches wide with a dado set [7].

Assembly

Glue the arms to support the back: Spread a thin layer of glue on each joint and clamp. Drill two evenly spaced holes through the joint with a 3⁄8-inch countersink bit, and fasten with 1-inch screws. Glue the holes in place with a 3⁄8-inch dowel and trim flush [8].

Glue Seat and Back Assembly: Organize the back and seat slats, and spread glue everywhere and in every hole. Slide a 24-inch dowel through each hole to fasten the slats together [9]. If you encounter some resistance, tap the dowel in place with a mallet.

Cut a 20-degree bevel into a 24-inch piece of scrap, and apply masking tape to the angle. Clamp it to your workbench and use it to set the seat and back assembly to the correct angle. Glue and clamp each cross support to the slat assembly using collars made from scrap lumber to ensure each joint is tight. Allow the assembly to cure for a few hours [10].2-inch

Attach the legs: Place each rear leg in place and countersink the two equally spaced holes through the seat slat and into the top of the leg. Spread glue over the joint and fasten with 2-inch screws.

Make a reference mark 17 inches down each front leg. This is where the leg aligns with the top of the seat. Glue and clamp each leg flush with the front edge of its corresponding back leg. Countersink two evenly spaced holes through the back leg and into the front leg. Drill another hole through the front leg and into the seat assembly. Fasten with 2-inch screws.

Attach the back support: Set the chair upright, and position the back support–arm assembly so that it wraps around the back and sits flat on the front legs. Attach it to the front legs by countersinking two equally spaced holes and driving 2-inch screws down into the leg. To attach the back support to the seat back, drill through the support and into each slat and fasten with 2-inch screws. Drill holes with dowel stock and trim flush [11].

Glue Seat and Back Assembly: Organize the back and seat slats, and spread glue everywhere and in every hole. Slide a 24-inch dowel through each hole to fasten the slats together [9]. If you encounter some resistance, tap the dowel in place with a mallet.

Cut a 20-degree bevel into a 24-inch piece of scrap, and apply masking tape to the angle. Clamp it to your workbench and use it to set the seat and back assembly to the correct angle. Glue and clamp each cross support to the slat assembly using collars made from scrap lumber to ensure each joint is tight. Allow the assembly to cure for a few hours [10].

Attach the legs: Place each rear leg in place and countersink the two equally spaced holes through the seat slat and into the top of the leg. Spread glue over the joint and fasten with 2-inch screws.

Read More: How to Picking The Right Decking Material

Make a reference mark 17 inches down each front leg. This is where the leg aligns with the top of the seat. Glue and clamp each leg flush with the front edge of its corresponding back leg. Countersink two evenly spaced holes through the back leg and into the front leg. Drill another hole through the front leg and into the seat assembly. Fasten with 2-inch screws.

Attach the back support: Set the chair upright, and position the back support–arm assembly so that it wraps around the back and sits flat on the front legs. Attach it to the front legs by countersinking two equally spaced holes and driving 2-inch screws down into the leg. To attach the back support to the seat back, drill through the support and into each slat and fasten with 2-inch screws. Drill holes with dowel stock and trim flush [11].

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