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Whether it’s made from redwood or painted pine, this Adirondack furniture is the perfect summer project. Straightforward joinery and a comfortable design are bound to make this furniture a favorite. It was years ago when I built my first Adirondack chair. The friend I gave it to mentions the chair once in a while, and reminds me of its weak points. (At least the friendship is holding up well.) This time I’ve made some improvements.
My first chair was designed for someone to sit on. When I started this new chair, I wanted it to be comfortable for someone to sit in. The chair is designed with a contoured seat and slightly angled back. The angle we used lets you rest naturally in the chair. But once you do get comfortable, it’s not difficult to get back out.
My earlier chair was made of construction-grade pine and painted white. This time I started with clear pine. But when I saw how nice the chair looked, I decided to make an entire outdoor grouping using clear all-heart redwood. To let the beauty of the redwood show, I used a clear finish. And to strengthen the leg joints I added corner blocks. I also used glue (actually waterproof construction adhesive) on all the joints.
This is the kind of project that you may want to duplicate in the future. So it might be worthwhile to spend a few extra minutes to make permanent templates out of 1/4"-thick Masonite for the contoured pieces (the back legs and arms). I started work on the Adirondack chair by making the base. The base consists of the front and back legs connected by a front stretcher and a lower back brace. The front and back legs can be cut from one 8-foot-long 1x8. To do this, first cut two front legs (B) to a finished size of 31/2" x 22". Then cut two blanks for the back legs (A) to a rough length of 37". To shape the back legs, first draw an outline of the leg onto a leg blank. With the outline laid out on the blank, cut off the angled ends at the pencil lines. With the first leg complete, trace its outline onto the second leg blank and cut and sand it to match the first leg.
Once the sides are complete, the next step is to make the front stretcher that connects the two sides. To do this, first cut the piece to length legs, the radius on the back corner, and the wedge on the bottom corner. Now sand to these lines. The last piece needed for the base is the lower back brace. At this time I also cut the other two braces that support the back slats.
LOWER BACK BRACE
After all three of the back brace pieces are rounded over, the lower back brace can be installed between the back legs on the assembled base. To do this, first apply a bead of construction adhesive to the ends of the lower back brace. Then position the brace so the countersunk holes are facing toward the front of the chair. Now clamp the piece in position between the pencil marks on the insides of the back legs. The front edge of the lower back brace should meet the top edge of each back leg. Use No. 8 x 2" brass Fh woodscrews to screw the piece in place through the holes already drilled in the back legs.
I made corner blocks to help strengthen the chair base. Cut the four corner blocks from a 2x4 block. First, rip the 2x4 to a width of 3". Then make a series of 45-degree cuts across the piece. Next, drill two countersunk 3/16" shank holes for screws in each block.Then glue and screw the blocks to the inside corners of the base. (Since the lower back brace is angled, the back corner blocks will also be angled.)
Now it’s time to make the back slats. First, cut the eight back slats (H) 23/8" wide and 357/8" long. Then soften all four edges using a 1/8" round-over bit in the router. Install the two outside slats first. To complete this step of the wood project , first apply adhesive to the back side of the lower back brace. Then align the slats to the reference marks on this brace, and flush with the bottom edge. After the slats are in position, screw them in place from the front. Next, draw two lines. Now, glue and screw the upper back brace to the back of the two outside slats, aligning it with the reference lines. Then glue and screw the rest of the back slats to both braces, aligning them with the reference marks on the braces.
The front brace is screwed to the back slats, driving the screws from the front of the chair. To locate the position of these screw holes, first transfer the reference lines from the back of the two outside slats around to the front with a square. Then make a second reference mark 3/16" down from the lines you just transferred. Now connect these second reference marks with a pencil line. From the front of the Adirondack chair, drill a series of countersunk shank holes on this line, centering the holes on the width of each slat. Finally, attach the back/arm brace behind the slats, screwing from the front.
Now it’s time for the seat slats. First, rip six slats 2-3/8" wide, and one slat 2-1/2" wide. (Rip this last slat to fit later.) To determine the length of the slats, add 1-1/2" to the width of the base, for a 3/4" overhang at each end. Rout a 1/8" round-over on the edges. (A 1/2" round-over on the front edge of the first slat.)
Now drill countersunk shank holes centered on the width of each slat, and 1-1/8" from the ends. Also drill countersunk shank holes along the front edge of the first slat where it attaches to the front stretcher. Cut the first slat to fit between the front legs. Then cut a notch in the second slat where it meets the front leg. Now install the slats, separating them with 1/4" spacers. Bevel rip the last slat so it fits flush against the lower edge of the back slats.
The last step is to add the arms and arm supports. First cut the two arm supports to final length (8") and width (2-7/8"). Then lay out and cut the angle on the supports. Now round over only the outside and bottom edges of the supports. Next, center the arm supports on the outside of the front legs and drill countersink shank holes from the inside. Then glue and screw the supports in place. Cut the two arms to shape. Next drill countersunk shank holes for the screws that attach the arms to the legs. Then round over all the edges of both arms. To attach the arms, first spread adhesive on the top of the front leg, arm support, and back/arm brace. Then screw the arm to the front leg and arm support. Now adjust the “tilt” of the back slats so the back end of the arm is flush with the rear edge of the back/arm brace. Clamp the arm in place, then drill and screw it to the back/arm support from underneath.