Feb 12, 20215 min
Updated: Dec 29, 2023
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I built two modern Adirondack chairs for less than $100 with no previous woodworking experience except a shelf in seventh grade shop class. If you already have tools and a small garage workshop, you may just need the lumber which is only about $40 per chair!
Why I Built My Own Chairs
Outdoor furniture is expensive. I had just moved into our new house and wanted comfortable chairs for our firepit in the backyard. With so many projects swirling in my mind, I needed to save money but still wanted the chairs!
I wanted chairs that don't need cushions, because they would be out in the Florida rain most of the time.
I search Pinterest before most of my projects and thankfully stumbled across Ana White and her free plans for 2x4 modern Adirondack chairs. I love Adirondack chairs, but the modern style of this plan really spoke to me. I followed her every word, though I felt as a true beginner, meaning literally borrowed all tools for the project, there were words missing that really could have helped make things easier for my first woodworking project in my garage.
In my article, I'll try to give all newbies a few tips for those that don't know the woodworking lingo like me. You'll find lists for tools and supplies that I used, and a cut list, but to get Ana White's free plans you must go to 2x4 modern Adirondack Chairs plans.
I borrowed all tools for my first project from a friend, but have since purchased the Ryobi tools listed. These are the same tools that I used to complete the modern Adirondack chairs as a beginner.
I only used a circular saw for all the cuts for Adirondack chairs, but highly recommend a miter saw in order to get perfectly straight cuts. I upgraded to the Ryobi Compound Sliding Miter Saw immediately after completion of my first do-it-yourself project.
[list is for 2 chairs - no one needs only 1 chair]
8 - 2x4 @ 8 feet long
1 - 1x10 @ 8 feet long
1 - 1x10 @ 10 feet long
*Can be up to 3" screws
**Can be up to 2" screws
Behr Premium Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Stain & Sealer
(I used chocolate, since it is semi-transparent it is not as dark as you think)
Using just a circular saw, carpenter square and pencil, it took me three hours to make the following cuts. A miter saw would definitely cut down the time needed. It is important to make cuts as straight as possible when using the circular saw.
Legs & Horizontal Supports Seat
10 - 2x4 @ 19-1/2" 4 - 1x10 @ 22-1/2"
4 - 2x4 @ 31-3/4" 6 - 1x10 @ 19-1/2"
Back Supports Difficult cut to explain - see Ana White Video
4 - 2x4 @ 32-3/4" 4 - 2x4 @ 33-14" both ends cut at 20 degrees off square, ends PARALLEL (long point
to short point measurement)
You should know that measuring and cutting takes the majority of the time for the modern Adirondack chairs. With just a circular saw, it took me three hours to make the cuts listed above. The first chair took me approximately an hour and a half, but I had to detach and reattach a couple pieces that I had assembled incorrectly. The second chair took about 45 minutes!
Yes, it takes time, but don't rush the measure & cut phase! Mistakes cost money. The amount of wood in the shopping list is the minimum required and does not allow room for mistakes.
Finding a flat work surface is important, especially if you don't want sore legs and back the next day. I worked off my garage floor.
Learn how to use clamps! That could have saved me time and headaches trying to get the legs and arms attached.
Recommend these clamps for the modern Adirondack chair project. The right angle clamps would have helped the most!
Be sure when assembling the legs and armrests that you get the diagonal board on the inside for each side. This is the part I messed up and had to remove and start over. In the image below on the left, these are accurate, but NOT sitting correctly. They need to swap sides in the image, so that the diagonal board is on the INSIDE of each so that the seat bottom will match up with the legs. The legs are correct in the image on the right.
The Kreg pocket-hole jig is so much fun to use. My friend had the small Kreg jig on the tools list above and that worked just fine for the limited pocket-holes for the modern Adirondack chairs.
If you plan to build more furniture in the future, I highly recommend the Kreg Jig System below.
GREAT NEWS! Wood is forgiving. I had a few splinters in the wood, but wood filler is incredible.
When I completed the build, I used wood filler on the screw holes and any cracks. Let the wood filler sit as long as recommended, then use the orbital sander to smooth out all your wood filler and edges of the chairs.
Finally, I used Behr Premium Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Stain and Sealer, which was recommended by Ana White. I first used cedar color, but it was really light since it is semi-transparent, so I recommend chocolate. Both colors are shown below.
Ana also mentioned that this type of stain you can just add a layer of stain every couple years with no need to sand it down!!
It was such a fun first project.
My friends thought it was too difficult for a beginner, but I proved them wrong and even won a wager!
My husband was concerned about me cutting off a finger and came to check a few times, but still have all my fingers. He was however, happy that I saved money and proud that I was able to build some pretty cool chairs all on my own.
If you are a beginner, check out my post about the must-have Weekend Workshop Woodworking DIY Tools so that you can get your garage workshop all set up. My second project was a work bench with wheels that I'll post about soon.
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