On my first two pieces - King's Adirondack chairs


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Established Member
26 Oct 2019
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Lexington, KY
I'm just starting off on my first two commissioned pieces, two of Mr. King's very fine Adirondack chairs. I visited this particular local lumber yard this past weekend as I thought they had some Eastern Red Cedar that would've worked well, but since it was only 4/4 I ended up going with their 6/4 Red Oak as that's what the owner suggested. I haven't seen anyone make one of these chairs out of Oak yet so I hope I haven't shot myself in the foot here. These things are gonna be SO heavy, but I guess that's why they have wheels.

Since I've never worked with anything this dense before I thought I'd write to ask about the ins and outs of working with this heftier wood. I've got some good machines to help get it done... table saw, router table w/ lift, thickness planer, jointer, band saw, belt sander, part templates, etc. So no excuse I can't make this happen! I've read some instances where these chairs can rack so I'm concerned using a heavier wood will make them more prone. These are both to be painted solid white (filling all screw holes with dowels) and I'm wondering if the liberal use of glue in all the joints would help any with it's rigidity. I haven't seen the idea mentioned one way or the other. I'd be glad to go through the extra effort of using glue but I'm actually thinking that it might not do a joint any good where the two surfaces weren't previously machined to meet each other exactly flat.

Also, I'm wondering about the finish coats. The clients are requesting white, and because they're well traveled they're imagining the Adirondack chairs they've seen at high end country clubs and they're wanting something that resembles those... and all I know to do is ask the pimple face kid at the HD paint desk for something exterior grade. Should I just do a color coat or do some kind of clear as well? I just don't know how this is best done for exterior furniture. I'd actually like to get some kind of paint gun and give that a go since I've got a big enough compressor to push one now.

Here's what I'm looking to make... All advice appreciated.

chair 99.jpg
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Just some rambling thoughts - I am not usually so pessimistic
If the weather in Lexington is a mixture of wet and dry the (oak) wood (and joints) will suffer the same so it will shrink and expand and unless it gets a chance to properly dry then rot and discoloration will set in.
However the wood is painted, e.g. external solvent or oil based or acrylic it surely will crack at every joint admitting water which will seep under the paint.
But hopefully not

Perhaps there is a Sikkens or similar product that would protect the wood but leaving it a natural colour.
Good luck with your project
I visited this particular local lumber yard this past weekend as I thought they had some Eastern Red Cedar that would've worked well, I ended up going with their 6/4 Red Oak as that's what the owner suggested.
I'm a bit surprised the owner of the lumber yard suggested red oak, and sent you off with it, because it's classed as non-durable in ground contact. In other words, it's not a great material for exterior use. It wouldn't be my choice, anyway and if I was going to use oak I'd have selected a white oak, which is durable.

As to construction, just use good quality joinery if you can along with waterproof adhesive, but Adirondack chairs are pretty basic really generally needing no more than a few mortice and tenons and bits screwed together - they're never what you might think of as sophisticatedly put together. The 'heaviness' and the 'hardness' of red oak is not an issue as far as I'm concerned.

As to paint, which will almost certainly be your best option, I'm not sure what brands are available in the US now having moved away from there twenty years ago, but a high end brand of oil (solvent) based paint will offer good protection, probably better than any other finish. Whatever gets applied will need regular maintenance (sanding + repainting) every two or three years if the chairs remain outdoors all year round in tough conditions, i.e., lots of hot sun, rain, harsh icy and snowy winters, and the like, and I know you get all that in Kentucky. Slainte.


Go Eastern Red Cedar every time
much better for Adirondacks
The above are Pine, but my preferred choice now is Red Cedar -- much lighter in weight too !
I commit the sacrilege of treating with 2 pot Sikkens
I will post photo if I can find it later
good luck