Making Adirondack Chairs From Plywood General Woodworking
This project is a result of a collaboration between myself and another woodworker – Keith Brown, and is sort of a challenge to build a chair from a single sheet of plywood. I thought it would be interesting to build the traditional style Adirondack chair from a sheet of 3/4″ exterior grade sheathing plywood, but after drawing it in SketchUp realized that I can get two chairs from the single sheet.
Although I made these chairs from plywood, they can also be made from your choice of solid wood.
I got started by ripping the sheet into three smaller strips to make it more manageable, then started laying out the parts. I went by the layout in the SketchUp model (bottom of this page) and used various things to draw the curves, like this using one of my wooden bar clamps:
Just a thin strip of hardwood bent into a bow.
These curves and the overall shape of the parts don’t have to be perfect – they just need to look good.
After the first armrest was cut out, I used that as a pattern for the other three:
Here’s the upper back support and I used a strip of wood as a compass to lay out the curve and a roll of tape to round over the corners:
After I had all of the parts cut out, I rounded the edges that needed to be rounded on my router table:
All of the parts for two chairs, ready to put together:
Putting the leg sets together is the first step in the assembly, and I’m doing that with the parts clamped to the plywood top of my temporary table saw:
I used construction adhesive and 1-1/4″ wood screws to fasten the parts together.
The back vertical support was fastened next in the same way:
When assembling the leg sets, it’s important that they match in pairs:
I used the first one as a template for the second one while putting it together.
Next I added the front leg brace to each leg set:
This helps to strengthen the front leg and also provides support for the armrest.
The stretchers that join the legs sets were fastened next. Whenever the screws go into edge grain, like here, I’m drilling pilot holes and using 2″ deck screws for good engagement:
The pilot holes will help to prevent the plywood from splitting when the screw is driven.
The back slats are fastened next, using just one 2″ deck screw at each point. I started with the one in the middle:
I didn’t used glue on these, mainly because the slats will flex and break the glue joint.
After screwing on the slats at the bottom, I fanned them out and drove screws into the top support:
Again, it’s very important to drill pilot holes to keep the plywood from splitting, and this would apply for solid wood also.
The seat slats are next, fastened in the same way:
And finally the armrest:
I left my back slats squared at the top, thinking it looks pretty neat and different from the usual rounded ones.
I added a block below the back end of the armrest where it fastens to the back support to reinforce that joint:
Once both chairs were fully assembled, I took them out back and sprayed on two coats of a water based transparent stain:
This makes them an attractive colour and provides protection from the elements. I expect these chairs will be around for many years, even though they are made from plywood.
If you’d like to build your own, the SketchUp model is available for free to download:
You’ll need to have SketchUp (a free CAD program) installed on your computer to use the model. Also please note that this is just a model, not a full plan, but you can use the tools in Sketchup to get all of the dimensions from the parts.
I made a video of the build:
Here’s Keith’s video of his plwood chair: