Adirondack Chair Design Considerations

David Agnew

Member
Messages
285
Morning, all.

This idea may, or may not, even come to fruition, but I'd enjoy having others' insights.

I've had a stack of 2x6 and 2x8 pressure treated pine sitting in my garage for a little over year now.... leftover from a deck building project. I was brainstorming ways to get rid of it and thought of Adirondack chairs. Having never built one before, I began researching. It appears there are two major design types, the classic form with the back supported by the arms and a newer style with vertical stretchers triangulating the back, arm, and base.

Which is strongest?

My problem is that many of the folks in my extended family are large. Quite large. Adirondack chairs are low to the ground... I can easily imagine one of my 350 lb cousins putting one hand on an arm-rest, bending, rotating, then levering into the chair and flopping down the last foot to get into the low seat. And having the back break free from the arms...

These chairs would be outdoors 24/7/365 through midwestern winter and summer. -5*F to 105*. Rain, snow, and scorching sun. So I assume fastener joinery will be required rather than stronger mortise & tenon or half-laps and things due to wood movement.

Any insights, plans, or experiences are appreciated. Thanks.
 

larry merlau

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Delton, Michigan
i would strongly suggest you get ahold of allen levin here on this forum,, he has made many of those kind of chairs and can tell all about there design.. i have two of his and they have held up well with no signs of weakness at all..
 
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7,410
Location
North West Indiana
Larry beat me to it, but my wife sat in Larry's chairs from Allen and he is "THE ADIRONDACK KING" to her. She says his chairs are the most comfortable and eye appealing. So I also suggest begging Allen to discuss this project with you!
 

Roger Tulk

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St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
When I started to build Algonquin/Muskoka/Adirondack/Bear chairs, I took the dimensions from a plastic one we had on the deck. I used 2x4 and 2x6 spruce for the legs and sides, and1x4 pine for the slats. Later I switched to 4/4 cedar for the legs and sides, and nominal 1x3 for the slats. Construction is entirely glue and screw, and the chairs I have built are solid and will stand up to weather. A Muskoka chair is supposed to be a bit rustic; using a mortise would be an insult to the fine tradition of cottage country construction. :p :D

Oh, I made one for a friend of ours who weighs easily 350 pounds. It's still going after several years. That one was spruce.
 

allen levine

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new york city burbs
pm sent, shoot me your email, Ill send the plans.

didn't mention one thing in the pm, if you have 2x6, instead of cutting down to 3/4 inch, for legs, use the 2x's and the chair will be that much stronger, just adjust the length of screws.(youll have to adjust the cuts on things like the front seat slat, but same time and construction either way)
 

David Agnew

Member
Messages
285
Wow, that was fast! Thank you all. Allen, I replied to your pm.

Yeah, I don't have a bandsaw, so resawing 2x6 or 2x8 into 1x is not an option. I plan to build the arms, legs, frame out of 2x, then splurge on 1x decking for the seat and back surfaces. The BORG has 1x6 decking for $0.50/lineal foot, so it's no big expense.

Since you guys were so fast and Allen is even SENDING me plans..... I'm gonna have to build one, aren't I?? Ha ha ha.
 

allen levine

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new york city burbs
Wow, that was fast! Thank you all. Allen, I replied to your pm.

Yeah, I don't have a bandsaw, so resawing 2x6 or 2x8 into 1x is not an option. I plan to build the arms, legs, frame out of 2x, then splurge on 1x decking for the seat and back surfaces. The BORG has 1x6 decking for $0.50/lineal foot, so it's no big expense.

Since you guys were so fast and Allen is even SENDING me plans..... I'm gonna have to build one, aren't I?? Ha ha ha.

YOu know you can resaw on a tablesaw, especially dry decking PT pine. with the kerf of the blade though, you will only get one board at 3/4 inch, the other half will be too thin.
for practice years ago, I took all the scrap 2xs I could get from decking, and recut them on my table saw. then ran them over the jointer and into the planer. Time consuming. but free wood is free wood.

one more thing.
the borg sells 6 inch width and 4 inch width. A lot of the parts are 3.5 inch or smaller, so tally up exactly what you need before you go, you might be able to save a few more bucks buying 1x4s and 1x6s for the wider parts.(the plans call for 18-20 bf, in 8 inch width)

sent you the plans, btw, you need to build 2, not 1
no fun sitting in the chair if youre not hanging with someone.
 
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Al Launier

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1,683
Location
Bedford, NH
I didn't realize until reading this post that Allen was so into Adirondack style chairs. I've always loved them, especially their "ambiance" and comfort. I've wanted to make a set in the past, and the interest has recently rekindled. The drawback has been the weight & storage space required as I don't leave patio furniture outside during the winter. However, I was thinking of a "collapsible/folding" rocker style for ease of storage. It would still heavy, but breaking it down for storage would help though. I was thinking if I go forward with this, I'd make a few changes to the typical design:

  • Use a composite wood material rather than cedar as I think i would like a His & Her color combo rather than a natural weathered look. I think Polywood would be too expensive, but haven't compared material prices yet.
  • Slant the arm rests outboard or backward slightly to drain off rain water.
  • Add a steel band to the bottom of the rockers if not a "suspended" style rocker.
  • Add lightening holes of animal (Moose ?) or tree (Pine ?) shapes to reduce weight.
  • Add small foot pads to the legs to prevent sinking into the lawn.

Just some thoughts fermenting; still have a ways to go to finalize.

So, with Allen's experience, I'm now wondering if he has made Adirondack Rockers or has thoughts on what my thoughts above are.
 

Dave Richards

Member
Messages
2,896
Location
SE Minnesota
FWIW, my brother and his bride have purchased some very comfortable Adirondack chairs made of some sort of composite material for their porch. They don't want to have to worry about refinishing the chairs which stay outside year round. They initially looked at cheap resin type chairs--like those upright patio chairs you can get at the big box stores for almost nothing--but because it can be very windy where they live, they found the resin chairs too lightweight. Screwed together with stainless deck screws, the composite chairs have proven to be very durable and they are a pleasant place to sit. I've wondered about buying some of that composite stuff and making my own chairs.

Has anyone seen the article in the current Fine Woodworking about Michael Fortune's take on the Adirondack chair? The plans for that one should be available soon--I delivered the final version earlier this week. It looks like it would be easier to get into and out of than the traditional chair.

Another alternative that I don't see often is the Westport Chair.
7282589878_5fb9756879_z.jpg

The one on the left is based off the plans I found. The one on the right is a modification I came up with for a larger person. A bit wider but with allowance for cushions.
 

allen levine

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11,614
Location
new york city burbs
I didn't realize until reading this post that Allen was so into Adirondack style chairs. I've always loved them, especially their "ambiance" and comfort. I've wanted to make a set in the past, and the interest has recently rekindled. The drawback has been the weight & storage space required as I don't leave patio furniture outside during the winter. However, I was thinking of a "collapsible/folding" rocker style for ease of storage. It would still heavy, but breaking it down for storage would help though. I was thinking if I go forward with this, I'd make a few changes to the typical design:

  • Use a composite wood material rather than cedar as I think i would like a His & Her color combo rather than a natural weathered look. I think Polywood would be too expensive, but haven't compared material prices yet.
  • Slant the arm rests outboard or backward slightly to drain off rain water.
  • Add a steel band to the bottom of the rockers if not a "suspended" style rocker.
  • Add lightening holes of animal (Moose ?) or tree (Pine ?) shapes to reduce weight.
  • Add small foot pads to the legs to prevent sinking into the lawn.

Just some thoughts fermenting; still have a ways to go to finalize.

So, with Allen's experience, I'm now wondering if he has made Adirondack Rockers or has thoughts on what my thoughts above are.


I made one set of rockers, no plans, have no clue where they are today. Maybe an ex employee.
I had a set of Adirondack folding rockers from the amish in PA, I purchased back in 92, or 93?
I didn't find it taking up much less room in my shed since folding up next to each other it wasn't much less space than 2 chairs piled on top of each other.
If you add metal to bases, youll probably make it heavier.
Rain isn't your worse enemy to properly treated chairs, its the sun. That causes the greying.
I don't think slanted arms will do much, being only 5 inches wide and 28 inches long, rain doesn't accumulate on them.
I don't have rocker plans, but a good set of folding plans will probably be perfect for you if you want rockers.
Ive never had a problem with chairs sinking into lawn.
Its easy to pile my chair type on top of each other and buy a cheap 15 dollar cover for chairs and then they will be fine outdoors during harsher months.

dave , I like that style, its an artsy type of chair, but the curved seat and curved back is what I believe make the wood chairs that much more comfy when you don't use cushions.(I don't use them, feel they aren't needed)
 
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Dave Richards

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Location
SE Minnesota
Alan, I don't know who designed the Westport Chair but it actually isn't uncomfortable without a cushion. Of course maybe I carry enough of a cushion of my own. :D
 

David Agnew

Member
Messages
285
Wow - this thread has taken on a mind of its own! :)

My first step will be what Dave has already done. Build a Sketchup! The plans Allen graciously provided call for 3/4 throughout. I'll be using 2x dimensional for most and 5/4 decking for the slats. Provisions must be made for that. Also, I made the mistake of Googling "Adirondack Chair pictures" while SWMBO was around and she wants THIS ONE:
Teak-Adirondack-Chair-2.jpg


Dunno if I can make that happen for her, but I will have to explore it.

Alan, I don't know who designed the Westport Chair but it actually isn't uncomfortable without a cushion. Of course maybe I carry enough of a cushion of my own. :D

According to Wikipedia, the Westport Chair and Adirondack Chair are the same thing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adirondack_chair

Wikipedia also has a "List of Chairs" page which is....... comprehensive. A furniture maker could spend years working through that page.
 

Dave Richards

Member
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2,896
Location
SE Minnesota
David, yes, the Westport Chair is an "Adirondack' chair although obviously not the same as those with the lateral seat slats.

I think your idea of making a SketchUp model is a good one especially if you'll need to modify Allen's plan to suit the dimensions of the lumber you have. It'll let you get a good idea of how things work together, too. I like drawing Adirondack chairs. They offer some interesting challenges. In case you're interested, here's a couple of others.
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