How to Assemble an Adirondack Chair

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

The Adirondack chair was designed by Thomas Lee in 1903 while he was on vacation in New York's Adirondack Mountains. The chair was patented in 1905 and manufactured for the next 20 years by Harry Bernell, a friend of Lee's. Thousands have been made since.

Now, this is my version made not by me, but by students at Lake Placid High School in Lake Placid, Florida. When the money ran out for the school shop supplies a few years ago, the students and their faculty advisor John Rausch, came up with the idea of setting up a student-run company to build and sell Adirondack chairs as kits. They called their venture The Green Dragon Chair Company.

All the cutting, shaping and machining is done by the students in the program who learn their skills on the job. The students also manage and run the business. Each chair is assembled by hand, carefully sanded, then taken apart, packed in boxes and shipped as kits to customers across the country.

When my chair arrived, I wasted no time in laying out the parts in preparation for assembly. I began by connecting the lower cross piece to the side members. A good technique is to run the screws through the pre-drilled holes so that the tips protrude just slightly.

The protruding screw tips can then be easily aligned with the holes in the matching pieces. Remember, the chair has already been assembled once by the Green Dragon students. All I have to do is reassemble it.

Next, I attach the first front leg to the side member, using galvanized carriage bolts, washers and nuts. I screw on the nuts firmly but not completely tight. Then I repeat the procedure for the other front leg. Now I attach the front cross piece which has been handsomely carved with the name of the show.

Then I put together the arm rest assembly by installing carriage bolts into the predrilled holes, slipping on washers and nuts and tightening them slightly. I insert screws into the pilot holes in the arms, and drive them partially through so that the screw tips protrude about an eighth of an inch on the underside.

Before placing the arm rest assembly into position, I attach two temporary supports to the chair side rails. These will help hold the arm assembly while it's being screwed into place. The protruding screw tips will help me align the screws in the arm with the pilot holes in the top of the front leg. [DRILLING SOUNDS]

The angled back slats are put into place by first attaching them to the back of the arm rest assembly, and then to the lower cross piece. Next, the seat slats are placed into position and secured with five-penny galvanized finish nails. [NAILING SOUNDS]

To keep the gaps between the slats consistent, a piece of scrap lumber is used as a spacer. Notice that the seat rails to which the slats are attached are slightly curved to give the seating surface a more comfortable profile. After each slat is fastened into place, the spacer is removed and used again for the next one.

That's it. My Adirondack chair is assembled and ready to sit in. All that's needed is a stain and a sealer to protect it from the elements. For that, I'll use this latex product made just for outdoor exposure. Sure, I could have gone out and bought a chair, but there's something quite satisfying about putting one together myself and knowing that I helped keep some Florida high school students' enterprise alive and prospering.