YOU CAN BUILD an Adirondack Chair
One of my most pleasant childhood memories takes me back to the summer of '56 and watching my great-grandfather Wiberg whittling wood sticks, sitting in an old wooden chair, at the cabin up on Opal Lake. He seemed to love that chair as much as he loved carving those sticks, into twig whistles for a swarm of eager kids.
I was the eldest of said passel of pipers, which comprised a brother, two sisters and a dozen cousins- yep, that's a lot of whistles! I wouldn't mention it except to say, depending on your position in line, it could take some time to get your very own twig whistle. I didn't think about it then, but that old wooden chair must have been pretty comfortable for Grandfather to sit in all day whittlin' twigs. Now I wasn't particularly concerned with comfort back in '56, I was concerned with whistles. But today I am of an age where a comfortable outdoor chair has become of increasing importance!
The most comfortable and useful outdoor chair ever invented...
Anyway, I asked some of the relatives if they could remember what Grandfather's chair looked like. Each told me what they could remember about that fabled chair, while I listened attentively, trying to form a picture, of it, in my mind. Then it occurred to me-they were describing an old adirondack chair. The discovery made sense because the adirondack chair is known for being, hands down, the most comfortable and useful outdoor chair ever invented. The back of the chair is elongated, and gently contoured, and meets the seat at just the right angle to be soothing to your back. You can sit for hours and remain comfortable. The arms function as an armrest but are wide enough to conveniently place a beverage. And they're sturdy. The Adirondack chair, truly, is the great outdoor chair. For these reasons, and a bunch more, they have been popular for a long time and will, probably, remain so, for a long time to come. As to the chairs' origin, there are two versions. If your interested, go to Wikipedia or to the New York Times and read both. Anyway, after gathering some information, I decided to build my own Adirondack chair.
I've always had an affinity for carpentry, but never gave it enough time to develop the expertise to build anything without a plan. So I embarked upon the internet to see what was available in the "Building Adirondack Chairs" department.
Which Adirondack Chair plan should I choose?
I looked at several free plans and photographs and decided, design wise, I did not like any of them completely, but they all had one or two things that I liked a lot. So, I used one of the plans for the basic dimensions of each of the chairs different pieces, but I incorporated design variations that appealed to my personal tastes. In other words, I used the templates but I "improved" them with my own ideas. I elongated this piece, widened that one and notched yet another. I ended up making eight variations, six of which were awesome and the remaining two being the favorites of other folks, but not me.
How Long Does it Take to Make an Adirondack Chair?
It took me one day, from start to finish, to cut the pieces and assemble the first chair. It took me about four hours to cut and assemble chair number eight.
What type of finish should I use?
After a thorough sanding, (don't be anxious and cheat on the sanding part!) I applied a Minwax Helmsman "satin" spar urethane to my chairs. (You can use any sheen you prefer. I like the "hand rubbed look", so I chose satin) The finishing process was approximately one hour per coat, including light sanding in between. The type of finish you apply will depend upon the species of wood you use for your chairs and the final look you want to achieve. I had a lot of pine around, so I used pine and finished it with three coats of the spar urethane. With cedar you may want to use an exterior stain, with teak you may want to use oils like a linseed or tung. For information about choosing the right finish, there is a great article I found called Understanding Wood Finishes. It is very informative and I highly recommend it. No matter which finish you decide on, ALWAYS test the product, on a sample piece of IDENTICAL wood, BEFORE applying it to your new adirondack chair. Different woods take stains and finishes differently and rarely do any of them look like the tiny sample at the paint store. The finish that I used, for example, although "clear" is slightly amber, when applied.
Building adirondack chairs is both fun and rewarding. I was pleased with the results of my efforts and I trust you will be pleased with yours. In this site, I list several web sites that I found helpful in gathering the information, dimensions and ideas I needed to build my chairs.
What level of skill do I need?
I want to encourage you. I am not a carpenter. I simply like carpentry and was willing to try something new that had a chance of coming out well- and it did! Try for yourself and see!
Forget it! Let's go fishing...
For anyone who is still saying : "Building my own chairs is not my idea of a good time, we'll just buy some, let's go fishing!", I put a link, under "Adirondack Chairs for Sale", that offers "Rustic & Rugged Adirondak Chair" version which, I think you'll agree, are pretty slick. I have also included a link where you can purchase adirondack chair kits, which simply require assembly of precut pieces. I'll post more sites when I find some I really like. Please feel free to look at the various web sites and/or write back with any questions, comments or suggestions. If they are helpful to others, I'll post them here on "How To Build Your Own Adirondack Chair".
The foremost reason I love Adirondack chairs...
By the way, that old adirondack chair was still up on Opal Lake long after Grandfather left us. It remained outdoors and the wind and snow and years took their toll on its rugged old frame. Nevertheless, "getting rid" of that chair never was talked about. Every time you looked at it, you could almost see Grandfather sitting there carving our whistles. I guess the twig whistles were something of Grandfather himself, something he gave us with a kind smile and an approving nod. He never talked with us- he didn't speak English and we didn't speak Danish. But we knew he loved all of us. He's the best reason I can give someone who asks me for the "foremost reason" I love these chairs.