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Build Adirondack Chairs from Scratch - Outdoor Design Series, Pt 6

There is nothing like having a fire pit in your backyard. Eating s'mores, telling campfire stories, spending the evenings sitting by the flames and making irreplaceable memories. However, your setup (or the lack thereof) can have a direct impact on how enjoyable your fire pit evenings and we want them to be amazing! I can tell you firsthand, having comfortable, sturdy chairs to sit back in is WAY more relaxing than sitting on the ground on a blanket or in a mini campfire chair. For Part 6 of the Outdoor Design Series, I'll be sharing our experience creating Adirondack chairs from 2x4s using Old World Garden Farms Adirondack Chair Plans available on Etsy. We love designing furniture and creating plans to share, but for a classic silhouette like Adirondack chairs, there was no need to recreate the wheel, especially when these plans are straightforward and easy to follow.

The overall cost was approximately $75 for the (7) 2x4x8s, outdoor paint, and 60(ish) 2.5" outdoor screws needed for each chair (prices current as of May 2022). Well worth it in my opinion, considering these are solid wood and you can customize the color, back and arm shape however you please. I made a total of 5 chairs (and a matching dog bed for our pup, Rio I'll be sharing soon). Depending on how many you make at one time (I did a set of two as a test run, then the other three two weeks later), they will take you 2-3 days depending on how quickly you're moving. If you start early, you can cut, sand, and maybe get all the painting done in one day, assembling the next. If you have a little extra time, cut and sand one day, do the paint the next, and assemble/touch up on the third day.


Let's get started! Be sure to grab the plans from Old World Garden Farms Adirondack Chair Plans to have all the detailed instructions.


Tools Needed:

  • Miter saw

  • Orbital sander

  • Drill with bits (it's easier if you have 2 drills, one to make the holes, the other to drive the screws)

  • *Jigsaw (used to round the armrests and chair back)

Materials Used:

  • Sandpaper (80 and 220 grit)

  • 2 1/2" exterior wood screws

  • Paint/stain (I used Behr Exterior Enamel 100mph color in Satin finish for the chairs and Little Black Dress in Semi-gloss for the names)

  • Mini paint roller & small paintbrush

Wood:

  • (7) 2x4x8 per chair

Once you gathered your materials, it's time to get to work.

Raw 2x4 lumber, Behr exterior paint and 2 1/2" exterior wood screws,
2x4s, paint, 2 1/2" outdoor screws and we are ready to get started!

Cut each 2x4x8 into pieces according to the plans. It's easier if you cut them to length first and then do the angled cuts. Since I was making multiple chairs (a set of 2 first, and then the last 3 a bit later), I cut all the pieces and laid them out in my garage to keep things organized.


When you're finished making the cuts, you'll have the following pieces:


- (2) front legs

- (2) bottom angle rails

- (2) back legs

- (2) top side chair supports

- (2) arm rests

- (7) 23" pieces: (1) front rail, (5) chair seat, (1) back support piece

- (5) chair back boards

- (2) back seat supports

My trusty helper, doing what she does best..."helping".

2x4s cut to length and grouped together with a small-medium red and white miniature australian shepherd laying in between them.
Don't worry, Rio, I have something special for you up my sleeve!


Sand the pieces. This will take longer than you want it to. By the time I was done (started with 80 grit and then finished up with 220), my hand was numb, vibrating and I was completely over sanding anything. However, I strongly recommend you don't skip this step - not only does it knock off the rough edges (splinters are the last thing you want on outdoor chairs), it gives you a smoother finish that will make the paint/stain adhere better.

Orbital palm sander being used to smooth the raw lumber.
Ahhh sanding. My least favorite part of every project.

Paint/stain the pieces. I strongly recommend doing this before you assemble the chairs, you have more control over the paint and don't have to worry about trying to get in all the nooks and crannies. You will have to touch up the paint after assembly but it only takes a few minutes. Painting all the pieces for multiple chairs will be easier (and much faster) if you have enough room to lay them out - I used my 3'x6' workbench to paint and then moved the pieces to the garage floor to dry.


Be sure to use appropriate paint! These are (most likely) going to be outside, so make sure to use an outdoor paint that can hold up to rain, sun, and anything else that might end up on your chairs. I chose Behr exterior enamel in 100mph satin finish - that bright orangey-red is literally my favorite color.

Assemble the chair(s). If you're making multiple chairs, I would recommend doing each step for all the chairs (as opposed to making one chair in its entirety at a time). You'll start with the chair bottoms, then make the chair backs, then attach the two together to complete the chair. While you CAN drive the screws straight into the wood, it's a good idea to pre-drill the wood so it doesn't split, especially when the attachment point is close to the end of the piece.


Start with the chair bottoms, assemble the right chair rail, then the left chair rail, then attach the two together.

Add the angled bottom rails at the front and back - this is what makes the chair extra stable!

Now it's time to add the front seat rail (1 of the 23" pieces) and the seat slats (4 of the 23" pieces). I used a scrap piece of 1/2" plywood to keep the spacing between the seat slats consistent.

The chair bottom is complete! Now let's assemble the chair back.


I diverged a little from the plan instructions for the back in order to keep the screws on the back and make sure the top pieces lined up nicely, so make sure you read through both and make your own decision on how to proceed.


I took one of the five chair back pieces and the two chair back supports and marked the center of each. I also marked 9" down from the top of the chair back piece. Line one of the chair supports flush with the bottom of the chair back piece making the centerlines match. Line the other chair support piece 9" down from the chair back, again making the centerlines match (see images below). Attach the pieces with screws that go through the the shorter chair support pieces (which will be at the back of the chair) into the longer chair back piece.

Now that the center piece is connected, this will be the reference point for the rest of the chair back pieces. Lay the reference piece down so the longer chair back piece is on the bottom and the chair support pieces are on top. Take the other four chair back pieces and place two on either side of the reference piece. The chair back bottoms will fan out slightly at the top, so lay them out so the bottoms are almost touching (you'll attach them to the bottom support piece first). Make sure the top of the chair back pieces are level in regard to one another and attach with two screws per board. Once the back pieces are secured to the bottom support piece, take a scrap piece of 3/4" wood and fan the tops of the back pieces out evenly - the two outside pieces will overhang the top chair support by a bit. Secure each board with two screws.

The chair back is complete - now it's time to connect the two pieces together.


This part would be easier with two people but it can be done with just one person and something to brace the chair back up against (I put mine together without any help). I used my workbench as a brace, placed the chair bottom in position and then stacked a few boards to make sure the chair back was at the right height before adjusting the chair back to my liking. Once I had the angle I wanted, attached each side of the chair base to the back (you might need clamps to make sure it's nice and tight).

Now, take the last 23" piece, the back support piece, and slide it in where the back legs come into contact with the chair back (it should be a snug fit). Attach with screws.

Finally, take the 2 armrest pieces and one on each side, so that they are flush with the back of the chair sides and attach with 4 screws, 2 in the front and 2 in the back.

Adirondack chair with armrests in place, ready to be secured.
Add the armrests so they are flush with the back of chair pieces and overhang slightly at the front.

Round the armrests (and chair top if desired). I marked the center of the armrest and 1" back on from the front on either side and connected the points with a curved line. Use a jigsaw to cut along the line and then sand the edges to smooth the curve. If you wish, use the same technique to curve the top of the chair back (I left mine straight).

Touch up paint. Your chair is officially done! Now it's just the cosmetic touches - take a small brush and touch up the paint where the arms were rounded, where the screws were and any other blemishes. If you want to personalize your chairs, now is the time! I added names to the left arm of each chair in a dark charcoal color - block font for the male names and script for the female names. You can absolutely skip this step but I liked the custom touch for myself, Mr. Harbin and our best friends.

Ta da! In just 2 or 3 days you can be the proud owner of real wood Adirondack chairs that you made from scratch.


Five bright orange-red solid-wood adirondack chairs around a firepit with Jaci Harbin standing in the middle.
All five completed chairs! Just add s'mores!

Orange-red adirondack chairs with custom names on the arm around a firepit.
The names are the perfect small detail that makes these chairs even more special.

We strongly recommend purchasing the Old World Garden Farms Adirondack Chair Plans so you have easy-to-follow, detailed instructions that you can cross-reference with this post. These chairs may look intimidating, but they're actually quite simple to make and will be the perfect addition to your backyard! If you make your own, I'd love to see it! Tag us at @reddesignedinteriors and #reddesignedtutorials. Be sure to tag @oldworldgarden if you use their plans, I'm sure they would love to see them as well! Happy fabricating!


Want to make your own but don't have time right now? Save this post for later!


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