How to Build Adirondack Chairs

In use since the early 1900s, the genius of the Adirondack chair lies in the clean lines, stout build quality and economy of design. That design element requires extra care when you build Adirondack chairs, as several parts perform double duty: 2 vertical front legs also support the front end of the arm rests; 2 diagonal back legs double as the seat support; a back brace supports the back slats and the back end of the arm rests. Nonetheless, with careful planning, you can build an Adirondack chair by following these basic steps.


  1. 1
    Settle on a pattern. Consider 3 things:

    • While the Adirondack chair is a distinctive type, variations on the theme abound: straight or curved slats with squared-off or scalloped edges, straight “picket-fence” versus fanned-out backs, vertical or reclined seating positions, exposed braces or a waterfall effect across the seat front. Choose a pattern that shapes the wood to the particular look you like.
    • Some of the parts can have very complex shapes; a pattern will let you cut and shape the wood with greater ease and accuracy than trying to make measurements or scribing out the shape directly on the boards.
    • Some patterns are true templates, full-size and ready to use. Others are printed on small paper and must be enlarged before using; still others use a grid method that you must replicate manually square by square, rather than tracing out the template. Assess your skill level before procuring a pattern matching that level.
  2. 2
    Decide the type of wood to use. Will you use your Adirondack chairs in a covered setting, like under a patio awning or on a porch, or will it be exposed to the elements? What type of woods do you like? Weather-resistant, pressure treated wood or a hard wood that withstands weather like cedar or locust wood wouldn’t require further treatment like paint, stain or polyurethane to protect it.
  3. 3
    Familiarize yourself with the plan and patterns, comparing it to a final chair (if available) or the photo. Once you’ve set the patterns onto the boards, measuring carefully to leave behind the least amount of scrap, and traced them onto the wood, cut and shape the boards into the pieces you need.
  4. 4
    Build the foundation.

    • First, screw the rear legs/seat supports to the front legs.
    • Brace the front legs with a front crosspiece.
    • Finally, attach the main or bottom back brace to the rear of the seat supports with two vertical raisers.
      • You may want to add a crosspiece between the two raisers in the back for additional rigidity, particularly for full-sized or adult Adirondack chairs.
  5. 5
    Fasten the seat.

    • Screw the seat slats across the seat supports, starting at the front legs and working back.
    • Fasten the back slats into the main or bottom back brace, as well as the rear crosspiece if you included one.
    • Attach a second, smaller back brace near the top or head of the back slats for extra support (to keep the top half of the back from fanning out or splitting while you’re seated).
  6. 6
    Fix the arms into the front legs and back brace.
  7. 7
    Finish your assembled Adirondack chair with paint, stain or varnish, tung oil, or leave it unfinished for the wood to weather naturally over time.


  • Copy the pattern onto a sturdy, reusable surface like melamine or even cardboard that you can laminate to make templates (save the pattern for later reference and future projects).

Things You'll Need

  • Wood:
  • 18 board-feet of 1” x 3”
  • 4 board-feet of 2” x 4”
  • 2 board-feet of 1” x 4”
  • 30 board-feet of 1” x 6”
  • 2 board-feet of 1” x 8”
  • 2" treated or galvanized screws
  • Tools: jigsaw, circular saw, drill
    • Note this materials list is approximate; check your particular pattern for exact amounts.

Article Info

Categories: Furniture and Cabinets