The making of a Sunset classic.
Adirondack chairs, long synonymous with comfortable outdoor furniture, had fallen into obscurity by 1980. It was the chair that anyone could describe but no one seemed able to find, let alone build. That's when we started searching for a set of plans, finally tracking down a crude version of the lawn chair of lore in a 1949 high school woodshop textbook. After extensive modification of those plans, our revised design was published in the July 1981 Sunset. By the end of the year, entrepreneurs were advertising kits for the chair in the back of the magazine!
Today the chairs are everywhere (we recently stumbled upon a wallpaper border featuring the chair, with its fan back and paddle arms), and the demand isn't letting up. Rarely does a day go by when readers don't call or write for the plans. If the chair is mentioned in an article (like the chair-building party published last September), the requests soar.
So here's the plan again. The chair is still easy to build, as comfortable a piece of outdoor furniture as you'll ever possess, and the handsomest version of the design. Just sit in one, and you'll see why this chair is so popular.
How to build it
Follow the lumber and materials list on the opposite page. To ensure that joints are as strong as possible, glue all connecting surfaces with waterproof glue and set two screws at each joint.
Enlarge the drawings (each square equals 2 inches), carefully transferring the curves to the 1-by-6 arm pieces and seat legs. Cut the pieces in pairs; clamp them securely when cutting so they don't shift. From the arm scraps, cut 10 1/2-inch-long arm supports and the square support blocks. Round the front corners and rear outside corners of the arms and the back foot of the seat legs on an arc of about 1 1/4-inch radius.
Start at the front. Cut a 3/4-inch-deep notch into the front of each front leg, from 10 1/2 to 14 inches up from the bottom. Attach the curved arm supports so they are flush to the top and front edges of the legs, then attach the support block flush to the top behind the arm supports. Attach the front stretcher in the notch between front legs.
Attach the seat legs. They should butt against the back of the stretcher and be flush with its top edge; be sure the front H shape is vertical when the backs of the seat legs touch the ground.
Assemble the back. To make the tapering outside back splats, cut the 32-inch 1-by-3 from 2 inches wide at one end to 1/2 inch at the other; the two pieces created by this cut should be identical. Sand the edges.
Attach the center back splat centered on top of a wide side of the 1-by-3 bottom cross-brace; place the splat so its bottom edge is flush with the bottom of the cross-brace. Next, attach the inside full splats, one on each side of the center splat and each spaced 5/8 inch from it. Attach outside full splats 3/8 inch from the previous pair. Finally, use one screw to attach the 1/2-inch ends of the tapering back splats to the support, their milled edges facing inward and spaced 1/4 inch from the adjacent pair.
Center the uppermost cross-brace with its bottom edge 27 1/2 inches up from the bottom of the back splats. Attach screws from the back; make sure spacing between splats remains even.
For the middle cross-brace, which also supports the arms, you must rip a 30|degrees~ bevel along its top edge. Center the cross-brace across the back, with its bottom edge 16 inches up from the bottom of the splats and with its beveled edge up and facing toward the front of the chair.
Tack a string 14 inches down the center splat. Using the string as a compass, scribe an arc across the top of the back. Cut the arc with a saber saw.
Attach the back to the seat legs. Attach the 1-by-2 back brace on top of the seat legs, positioned as shown in the drawing. Tuck the top edge of the seat back's bottom cross-brace under this 1-by-2 and have someone hold the back steady while you set one screw on each side through the seat leg and into the cross-brace. These will act as pivot points while you adjust the position of the arms and back.
Before you put the second screw into each side, attach the arms. First, put two screws through the back edges of each arm into the beveled face of the middle cross-brace. At the front, adjust the arms so they overhang 3 inches in front of the arm supports and 1/2 inch over the inside edges of the front legs. Then, screw up into the arms through the support blocks. Now put the second pair of screws into the bottom cross-brace. The legs, back, and arms are now combined to hold the chair together.
Finally, attach the six 1-by-3 seat slats, so the leading edge of the first one is flush with the front of the stretcher; leave a 1/2-inch space between each. Then sit down and relax!
The following parts list is given in order of chair assembly. Before buying lumber, plot what pieces will be cut from each board, adding 2 to 3 inches per board for scrap. We bought one 6-foot 1-by-2, five 6-foot 1-by-3s, one 6-foot 1-by-4, and one 6-foot and one 8-foot 1-by-6; glue; and about 90 1 1/4-inch #8 flathead wood screws (galvanized, brass, or stainless steel). You'll need a saber saw, a circular saw, and an electric drill with a 1 1/4-inch #8 screw pilot. A cordless screwdriver will make your life easier. To make one chair, figure on spending a long weekend. One clear, all-heart redwood chair set us back $45 for the lumber and about $15 for the stainless steel screws (we splurged). Use pine if you're painting your chair; it's cheaper.
* 2 front legs: 1-by-4, 21 inches * 2 arms, supports, and support blocks: 1-by-6, 28 1/2 inches * 1 front stretcher: 1-by-4, 23 inches * 2 seat-legs: 1-by-6, 31 1/2 inches * 2 tapering back splats: ripped from 1-by-3, 32 inches * 1 center back splat: 1-by-6, 35 inches * 1 bottom cross-brace: 1-by-3, 20 inches * 2 inside full splats: 1-by-3, 35 inches * 2 outside full splats: 1-by-3, 34 inches * 1 upper cross-brace: 1-by-2, 21 inches * 1 middle cross-brace: 1-by-2, 24 inches * 1 back brace: 1-by-2, 21 1/2 inches * 6 seat slats: 1-by-3, 21 1/2 inches