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Norm's Adirondack Chair

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Steve Maskery

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Now I have been woodworking a looooong time. So long, in fact that you would think I would be better at it than I am. My dad was cabinet-maker and my granddad was a pattern-maker. I cannot remember a time when there was no wood or tools around.

When I started woodworking, I spent a long time trying to find plans for things I wanted to make. In my day it was library books and my dad's wartime The Woodworker magazines (the definite article was later dropped). These days, of course, it is the Internet, but the principle is the same.

When I got a bit more experienced and longer in the tooth, I started to create my own designs, and it is easier than ever with packages like Sketchup.

Twenty years ago I made a pair of Adirondack chairs in Iroko, (although in those days I thought it was pronounced a-DIR-on-dack. It's a-di-RON-dack, apparently, but I still find the former easier to say).

adirondack front cover small.jpg


The years have not been kind, have they?

Actually, that photo was taken in June 2000 by Pete Martin, sadly no longer with us. It was a filthy day, Black Over Bill's Mother's, and Pete had his lens open as far as he could to get enough light in. You can see the burn-out on my shirt. But Pete was a genius. It might look like High Summer, but I don't think that anyone would ever guess that is was actually raining when he took that shot.

I made them very well indeed, they are still going strong in a friend's garden and they still look as good today as they did when I made them. But I didn't design them so well. They are a bit wide in the seat, so they don't contain you very securely. They are a bit too deep in the seat, so you feel it a bit at the back of the knee. And they are a bit too laid back – great if you are sunbathing, but not so good if you want to sit and do a crossword or read a book.

I don't want my old chairs back, they belong to a previous life, so it's time to make some new ones, and this time I'm going back to basics and using an off-the-shelf design. These plans are available, for free, on the Popular Woodworking site:

https://www.popularwoodworking.com/arti ... ack-chair/

You get a magazine article showing how to build it, but, crucially, you also get a cutting list and a set of templates on a 1” grid.

adirondack cutlist blurred.png


adirondack templates blurred.png


I've blurred the dimensions to protect PopWood's copyright. But you can see what you get, and all for free.

It's a bit of a pain if you are used to working only in millimetres, but I am amphibious, so this is going to be an Inches project.

There is a slight discrepancy between the width of the side member as listed on the cutting list (5 1/2") compared to the dimension given on the drawing (5 1/4"), so I used the drawing as it was clear to see what it should be from the grid.

The design belongs to Norm Abram of New Yankee Workshop fame and this is his MkII version.

norm.png


I like the sound of that, because it means that he has built the chair, lived with it for a while, discovered what worked well and what could be better, and then made those improvements. So I have every confidence that this is going to be a very successful chair build.

Norm used Cypress for his build, but I've never seen it for sale over here. I suppose Western Red Cedar would be a good substitute if you wanted to leave it natural, but I plan to paint these, so I'm using a good grade of Redwood, Unsorted.

This is a really good project for a beginner, because it is a proper piece of furniture, not some noddy bit of tat, you do not need to have had lots of previous experience, it's all very straightforward, and you don't need lots of fancy machinery. If you buy your wood ready planed (PAR- Planed All Round) then you can do the whole job with hand tools only.

And I am going to prove it.

No, I'm not going to forsake the rather wonderful workshop that I have spent 40-odd years building up, but I am going to make the most complex template, the side member, entirely with hand tools. I'm not even going to use my wonderful new bench, I am going to do it on my workmate. Now I have staged these photographs after completing them, but I assure you that I did make that one with just a coping saw, spokeshave and sandpaper (and I have the video to prove it). And if I can do one like that, it is perfectly feasible to do them all like that. You will just need a coarser blade than the 12 TPI one I had in my coping saw. But I have a bandsaw and router table, and, as I'd like to sit in the chair for a while before I pop my clogs, I'm going to use them.

The first job is to make the templates. I'm using 9mm MRMDF, because that will give me a good edge against which to run the bearing of my router cutter when I flush trim.

flush router bit.JPG


It's also thick enough (just) to use against a notched single-point fence on my bandsaw for roughing out.

With a ruler, try-square and pencil gauge, I made a 1” grid grid on the MDF and simply copied the intersection points from the plan to the MDF. Then I used my trusty old school French curves to fair the curves.

layout tools.JPG


I had it marked out, sawn, shaved and sanded in less than an hour, but even so, by then my back was killing me, I'm glad I don't have to work on a Workmate all the time. I much prefer the FabBench(TM).

coping saw.JPG


spokeshave.JPG


The other templates I did with the bandsaw, but I still faired them with a spokeshave and sandpaper.

I've made the arm bracket a bit deeper than in the plans, because it looked a bit weedy to me, and I'm going to shape the tops of the back slats differently, but otherwise this is going to be a straight copy of Norm's.

templates.JPG


I've now got to prep a lot of boards before I can cut out the actual components.
 

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Inspector

Nyuck, Nyuck, Nyuck!
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You can broaden the available plans by searching for Muskoka chairs. The Canadian version of the Andirondack chair. Basically the same things. This one has different sizes for kids, leprechauns and goblins. https://cottagelife.com/design-diy/how- ... -any-size/

When I was a kid my father made a set that stacked which would be nice for winter storage. Which I had pictures to see how he did it.

Pete
 

MikeG.

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Steve Maskery":3bfajzec said:
.........When you start woodworking, you spend a long time trying to find plans for things you'd like to make........
I'm not so sure about that, Steve. I've never used anyone else's plans for anything I've ever made, nor indeed have I ever even seen any drawings for any woodworking project other than a few boats.
 

sunnybob

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I have a set of templates for Norm's chair Steve, I could have posted them to you. :shock: :shock: :lol: :lol:
I have to apologise to either coley or cordy because I cant remember which one of them sent me the plans.
I've made 4 chairs, a foot stool and a love seat, which I improvised by using two sets of slats and a larger cross frame.

Very comfortable, although I have to admit I have now sold them all (money talks)
my missus wanted them blue, and to be honest, so did the people who bought them.

love seat.jpg
 

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AndyT

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Good choice Steve, I shall be following with interest. I've made two Adirondack chairs now. A bit different in that they have a separate leg rest and fold flat for winter storage. I had bought a commercial chair which wasn't lasting well, so I copied it to make one in oak and then used the same paper patterns to make one in sweet chestnut.

I too used hand tools for the enjoyable shaping but in a clear case of role reversal I cut the boards to size on a table saw!

Let me know if you get stuck. ;)
 

Steve Maskery

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AndyT":1yikzk88 said:
A bit different in that they have a separate leg rest and fold flat for winter storage.
That sounds neat, Andy. Where did you find plans for a folding version, or did you design it yourself? Or was the commercial one you bought a folder?

AndyT":1yikzk88 said:
Let me know if you get stuck. ;)
Cheeky beggar :)
 

Steve Maskery

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I'd not thought about painting them any colour other than white, TBH, but seeing those Canadian red ones and SB's blue ones, I might have to rethink that. They look rather nice.
 

AndyT

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Steve Maskery":3skjffdj said:
AndyT":3skjffdj said:
A bit different in that they have a separate leg rest and fold flat for winter storage.
That sounds neat, Andy. Where did you find plans for a folding version, or did you design it yourself? Or was the commercial one you bought a folder?

AndyT":3skjffdj said:
Let me know if you get stuck. ;)
Cheeky beggar :)
The commercial one was a folder, so I just traced round it. Build projects here for the oak
garden-chair-in-oak-t43584.html

and here for the chestnut

adirondack-style-chair-in-sweet-chestnut-t113356.html
 

Cordy

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Bob wrote
I have to apologise to either coley or cordy because I cant remember which one of them sent me the plans.

Me :)
 

Cordy

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So far I have made ten of those Adirondack chairs to Norm's design
The only change I made was to use pocket-hole joinery; out of sight and more weather proof -- still used ten coach-bolts though :)
One in Sapele


One Canadian Red Cedar, yet to be photographed
The other eight in Redwood
 

Noggsy

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Hmmm, they all look really good. Best not let the Mrs see, or I’ll be making chairs for the rest of the summer :lol:
 

Fidget

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I made a couple of Norm's chairs back in 2006 in Western red cedar, unfinished. They're still in use today.

I transferred the templates to some thick card. Drew round them, cut with a bandsaw and sanded down.

You've just reminded me that a friend has asked for a couple of chairs!

Good luck
 

AJB Temple

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Sorry Gentlemen

Truly ugly design.

Clearly simple to knock up but of its time I fear. I will don tin hat now.

Adrian
 

MikeG.

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I'm glad someone else said that first. I never "got" these chairs, and I don't get them now. They look as though they are a cleaned up version of something a hill billy might have nailed together back in the 1950s.
 

marcros

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I thought that too but I was in somewhere that had a display model which I tried. They are very comfortable indeed.
 

sunnybob

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They WERE 1950's hillybilly(and a lot earlier too) :shock: Thats why theyre named after the mountain range they came from :roll: =D>

I like the rounded front of the last picture, but I think the rear centre prop is just too ugly for words. Maybe put a rounded front on Norms design?

And as side note for any one who hasnt sat in one, they are supremely comfortable.
A friend heard about the ones I had made and came round to see them, Visually, he was not that impressed. I persuaded him to sit in one. Within a couple of minutes he had ordered two for himself. :lol: :lol:
 

AndyT

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As above. Easy to get into, harder to leave.

I was only convinced by a commercial version on display in a garden centre. I guess home builders do need trustable designs for this sort of thing. It's hard to know in advance if you are going to get something comfortable enough to warrant the effort and expense of building it.
 

Harbo

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A photo of Norms Steamer Lounger that I made has popped up above.
That is extremely comfortable
If anybody fancies making one if got a Set of the brass fittings I imported from the states.



Rod
 

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It has been a long time since I watched a bit of Norm....even my wife periodically asks how he is doing...
 
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