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Enjoy the lazy days of summer

By Kate Langan

Originally published in Saltscapes 2000 May / June Issue 

Adirondack chairs; their comfort speaks of long summer evenings with equally long lemonade close to hand. They are, in essence, the outdoor version of the La-Z-Boy, and could be prescribed by doctors the world over as the perfect antidote to stress.

Even better, they are simple to make, although care must be taken in many aspects of construction for your chair to last many years.

First, the lumber should be chosen with weatherability in mind. Cedar, spruce or redwood is the best. Chairs of these naturally-resistant woods will look fabulous for years with only an annual light coat of oil. Hardwoods such as oak or birch are my next choice, but the finish—marine grade varnish or exterior polyurethane—will need to be scraped off and reapplied after a few seasons. White pine can also be used if you envision brightly painted chairs and intend to refresh the paint every year.

Shopping List


(your choice but I would use Eastern White Cedar)

  • 1 pc.    5⁄4 by 6 by 6’ cedar.
  • 1 pc.    5⁄4 by 6 by 4’ cedar
  • 1 pc.    5⁄4 by 4 by 10’ cedar
  • 1 pc.    1 by 6 by 10’ cedar
  • 1 pc.    1 by 4 by 12’ cedar
  • 1 pc.    1 by 4 by 8’ cedar
  • 1 pc.    1 by 3 by 4’ cedar

Hardware and Supplies

  • 1 box   #6 11⁄4” brass screws
  • 1 box   #6 15⁄8” brass screws
  • 1 box   #6 2” brass screws
  • Waterproof glue


  • Tung oil, or paint (your choice, dependent on the wood you choose and the finish you want. If building with Eastern white cedar, you may decide to let it weather to its natural grey).

Tool List

  • Band saw  
  • Saber Saw (if no band saw)
  • Block Plane  
  • Sander
  • Clamps   
  • Sandpaper
  • Saw for Crosscutting (if no saber saw)
  • Countersink bit
  • Saw for ripping (if no saber saw)
  • Pilot hole bit  
  • Sawhorses
  • Framing Square  
  • Screwdriver
  • Paintbrush
  • Drill   
  • Tack cloth
  • Router   
  • Tape Measure
  • 1/4” rounding over bit

Step 1.

Illustration F

On paper, or something stiffer if you plan to make a set of chairs, carefully enlarge the patterns given here. Cut out the patterns and transfer the shapes to your stock. If you have a bandsaw, the next step is easy. If you don’t, a saber saw, or even a hand saw, will suffice. Cut the stock to the line and sand smooth. Round off the edges with a router or a block with 80-grit sandpaper. Alternatively, chamfer the edges using a plane.

Note: Adirondack chairs come in many shapes and sizes. This design is one variation. Pencil the name onto each piece. During assembly remember to clamp each piece, mark its position, then drill pilot holes and countersink your screws. Screws can be made to disappear with plugs if you counterbore (Illustration C, see right).

Illustration F

Illustration C

Step 2.

Illustration B, side view

Now the fun begins. Assemble the front legs and rails with glue and 15⁄8” screws. Be careful to make a left and right assembly. Line up a rail 1” back from the front edge of a leg. The inside edge of the rail should be 8” from the foot of the leg. Screw through the rail into the leg. Repeat for the other side.

Illustration B

Step 3.

Illustration A, front view

Attach the apron to the front end of the rails using glue and 2” screws. The apron will be ¼” shy of the front of the legs.

Illustration A


Step 4.

Illustration B, side view

Plane a 35° bevel along the front edge of the cleat. Fasten cleat across the rails, 12” from the back end.

Step 5. 

Illustration B, side view

Align the arm braces dead centre of the legs and flush with their tops. Apply glue to the edges that will lie along the legs, reposition and screw through the legs into the arm braces using 2” screws.


Step 6.

Illustration E

Plane a 35° bevel along the front edge of the back support. Align the arm pieces so that their curved ends are flush with the ends of the back support and their fronts are 20 1⁄2” apart. Use your workbench and a framing square to align them correctly. Screw into place using 15⁄8” screws. Check alignment and adjust. Prepare your holes and drive the second screws into the joint. Screw through arms into back support. Trim the ends of the back support to the curve of the arms.


Illustration E

Step 7. 

Illustration A, front view

Position the centre back slat with the centre of the back cleat. Apply glue and screw into place using 11⁄4” screws.

Step 8.

You are now going to attach the back support/arm assembly to the centre back slat and legs. Snug the centre of the back slat against the beveled edge of the back support and clamp in place. The arms should be resting on the legs and be level. Once you’re satisfied all is aligned, prepare your holes, two through the back slat into the back support and three into the leg/arm brace assembly. Apply the glue and screw everything together using 15⁄8” screws through the back slat and 2” screws through the arms.

Step 9.

Align the two rear legs so they are vertically beneath the back support. Screw into rails and down through back support using 15⁄8” screws. Trim the bottoms of the legs flush with the rails using a hand saw.


Step 10.

Illustration D

The remaining back slats are aligned with the centre back slat approximately 5⁄16” apart and attached in the same manner to the back cleat and back support. Cut spacers from some scrap wood to assist in this step. Attach the batten across the back slats using glue and 11⁄4” screws.


Illustration D

Step 11.

Space the four seat slats equally and clamp in place. Prepare your holes. Apply glue and reposition one slat at a time then screw down tight.

Voila! Your chair is built and ready for the finish. Shellac any knots to prevent bleed through if you are painting your chair.

You are now faced with the greatest difficulty of building and owning an Adirondack chair: staying awake while relaxing in it. Go ahead. See how well you do.

Cutting List

Piece Number Thickness Width Length
Chair rails 2 11/16" 5 1/2" 31 1/2" 5/4 by 6'
Chair legs (front) 2 11/16" 3 1/2" 21 1/2” 5/4 by 4’
Chair legs (back) 2 11/16" 3 1/2" 20 7/16” 1 by 6’
Apron 1 3/4"  5 1/2" 21 1/2” 5/4 by 4’
Back cleat 1 11/16" 3 1/2" 21 1/2” 5/4 by 4’
Back support 1 11/16" 3 1/2" 28 1/2” 1 by 6’
Arms 2 1/4" 5 1/2" 29” 1 by 6’
Centre back slat 1 3/4" 5 1/2" 35 1/2” 1 by 4’
Long back slats 2 3/4" 3 1/2" 33” 1 by 4’
Short back slats 2 3/4" 3 1/2" 29 1/2” 1 by 4’
Arm braces 4 11/16" 3" 10” 5/4 by 4’
Batten 1 3/4" 2 1/2" 20” 1 by 3’
Seat slats 4 3/4" 3 1/2" 21 1/2” 1 by 4’



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