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For more than a century, the Adirondack chair has been synonymous with casual but 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 original’s low-slung comfort. I also left ample room on the armrests for beverages and snacks.
The most efficient way to build this chair is to mill all the parts first before completing the joinery and then to assemble the piece. This avoids having to switch back and forth between your table saw’s ripping blade and the stacked dado set, which you’ll use to cut the half-lap joints. Don’t have a dado set? Don’t worry—you can complete the joinery without one. Use a handsaw, miter saw, or table saw to make the shoulder and relief cuts at the correct depth, then remove the waste with a sharp, flat chisel.
These Tools Will Help
The Plans and Materials
I used 2 x 10 planks of vertical-grain western red cedar for this chair, as it’s naturally weather-resistant. Any lumber will do, but apply a preservative to woods that don’t fare well outdoors, such as pine and Douglas fir. Avoid wasting material by first figuring out how you’ll cut up the lumber. Then crosscut the planks into more manageable pieces.
Back and seat slats: Crosscut two pieces 37 inches long and one piece 17 inches long, and rip them into 1½-inch strips. Using a miter saw, cut blanks for eight back slats and seven seat slats that measure ¾ inch longer than their finished lengths. Each piece should have a freshly cut square end. To bevel the other end on the table saw, tilt the blade 20 degrees and attach a stopblock to the miter gauge at 36 inches for the back slats and 16 inches for the seat slats .
Rear legs: Crosscut two 30-inch pieces. Ensure both legs are exactly the same by making a plywood template according to the plans. Lay out each leg so the long side is against the edge of the blank . Cut out with a jigsaw or circular saw. If needed, clamp a straightedge to the workpiece to guide the saw .
Supports: Crosscut a 30-inch piece. Make the rear support by tilting the table-saw blade to 27 degrees and ripping a piece 2½ inches wide . Trim this to 28½ inches long. From the remainder of the 30-inch piece, rip two 1½-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: Crosscut a 25-inch piece. Rip it into two 3-inch pieces and trim both to 24 inches long.
Arms: Crosscut a 25-inch piece. Rip it into two 4½-inch pieces and trim both to 23 inches to create blanks. Just as you did for the rear legs, make a plywood template and transfer the shape onto the blanks. Cut out with a jigsaw, using a straightedge as a guide.
💡 Sand all the parts, starting with 120-grit paper and working toward 220-grit. A palm sander will save time; if you don’t have one, use a sanding block to make sure your work is even.
Cut half-lap joints for arms and rear support: Tilt the table-saw blade 20 degrees and, using the sliding miter gauge, make a cut in the underside of each arm 2½ inches from the end and ¾ inch deep. 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 . Cut a corresponding joint 3 inches wide and ¾ inch deep in each end of the rear support.
Cut half-lap joints for slats: Using the sliding miter gauge and the dado set, positioned to a height of ¾ inch, cut 1½-inch-wide half-lap joints in the square ends of the slats . These joints will house the cross supports.
Drill holes in slats: The back and seat are held together with a dowel that passes through a hole in each slat. Using an awl, mark the hole’s location on the side of each piece so that it’s centered along the width and positioned ¾ inch from the beveled end. Bore 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 supports: You can mark the locations of these half-lap joints one of two ways: Use a tape measure and mark every 1½ inches to establish each side of the joint, or dry assemble the seat and back and then hold the cross supports in position. Either way, mark an X on the waste areas to avoid confusion when cutting them out. Cut the joints ¾ inch deep and 1½ inches wide with the dado set .
Glue arms to rear support: 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. Plug the holes with 3⁄8-inch dowel glued into place and trimmed flush .
💡 Avoid messy finishes with a dry run: PVA wood glue sets fast–often in less than 20 minutes–so prepare yourself for any challenges by first performing a dry run. Work through all the steps as if you were assembling the piece–but without the glue. Note which clamps and fasteners you used and whether you need to trim any joinery, and resolve any problems you encountered.
Glue seat and back assembly: Organize back and seat slats, and spread glue everywhere they meet and in each hole. Slide a 24-inch dowel through each hole to tie the slats together . If you encounter some resistance, tap the dowel into place with a mallet.
Rip a 20-degree bevel into a 24-inch piece of scrap, and apply masking tape to the angled side. Clamp this to your workbench and use it to set the seat and back assembly at the correct angle. Glue and clamp each cross support to the slat assembly using cauls made from scrap lumber to ensure each joint is tight. Let the assembly cure for a couple of hours .
Attach legs: Hold each rear leg in place and countersink two evenly spaced holes through the seat slat and into the top of the leg. Spread glue on the joint and fasten with 2-inch screws.
Make a reference mark on each front leg 17 inches from the bottom. 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 rear support: Set the chair upright, and position the back support–arm assembly so it wraps around the back and sits level on the front legs. Attach it to the front legs by countersinking two evenly spaced holes and driving 2-inch screws down into the leg. To attach the rear support to the seat back, drill through the support and into each slat and fasten with 2-inch screws. Plug holes with dowel stock and trim flush .
Now you’re ready to be the envy of the neighborhood.
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