Alternative Tool List for the Adirondack Chair Project

OK, they’re done. Total materials cost (2 chairs): $107.

For me, building the Adirondack chairs was a nice 2-month journey through several new skills and a larger knowledge base. I feel ready to tackle some more difficult furniture projects this summer. But as I worked through the plans, it occurred to me that we haven’t offered a tool list for the project that could serve as an alternative to Norm Abrams’ “full-power” list. Here you go!

Hybrid Tool List for the Adirondack Chair Project

For preparing the rough-sawn cedar:

The tool list for building these chairs is short and sweet.

The tool list for building these chairs is short and sweet.

  • Workmate
  • Tape measure and pencils
  • Inexpensive hand saw for rough crosscutting
  • Winding sticks for examining boards
  • Some type of sturdy work surface, with work-holding ability, for face planing
  • Wood-bodied scrub or jack plane for straightening boards
  • 12-inch power thickness planer (“lunchbox” planer) for surfacing
  • Well-tuned metal-bodied handplane (Stanley #4 or similar) for edge jointing
  • Try square
  • Combination square
  • Japanese double-sided pull saw for ripping and accurate crosscutting

For final shaping of boards:

  • Shooting board for squaring ends
  • Good-quality compass for marking curves
  • Power jigsaw for rough-cutting curves
  • Spokeshave for smoothing and finishing the curves
  • A sharp chisel or two, to help in tight or knotty spots
  • Several clamps, large and small, to help with work holding

For assembly:

  • A drill or two, and the appropriate bits (including a good countersink bit)
  • Pneumatic brad nailer (totally optional – I find these handy for squaring my work)
  • Hammer and socket wrench for the carriage bolts
  • Block plane
  • Plug cutter, for making your own screw plugs

One thing I really like about this tool list – and hand tools in general – is that it will be more portable than, say, a power jointer, bandsaw and table saw. When I become a homeowner, I’ll almost certainly invest in those machines, but for now it’s a good idea to keep my tool list smaller and lighter.

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out our “Viking Tool Chest” preview for another example of small and light. Historically, this is how woodworkers worked. Nobody did it better than the Vikings! After watching Don Weber’s preview, you may even want to buy yourself a copy of the project.

Are you building the Adirondack chairs? Tell us your tool list questions in the comments section, and we’ll get right back to you.

Dan Farnbach

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Dan Farnbach

About Dan Farnbach

Dan apprenticed and worked in two professional shops during the years after college. But sweeping shop floors only goes so far toward learning woodworking. These days Dan is online editor for Popular Woodworking, and is learning new skills every day. He divides his time between Boston and Maine.

4 thoughts on “Alternative Tool List for the Adirondack Chair Project

  1. scbillings

    Wow, I did the exact same project this winter! I’ll get a picture later this morning. One interesting thing, once I was done I couldn’t get the chairs out of my basement through the inside stairway and door, because they are so big (oops!). I had to wait until the snow melted and bring them out the hatch. I got the cedar from my local lumberyard (NOT home depot, forget about getting cedar there!). I used 5/4 decking (nicely finished on both sides and corners rounded) as well as 1x rough-sawn planks which I picked through to get pieces with minimal knots. Stainless fastners and all-weather glue, I’m hoping they last a long time.

    1. Dan FarnbachDan Farnbach Post author

      It sounds like we have been on the exact same journey! I had the same experience when I was halfway through the project, and realized I was approaching maximum width for my doorways. Fortunately it warmed up enough to finish the last few steps out on the porch.

  2. rbourque77

    Hi Dan -
    Always nice to see a fellow Mass. woodworker doing some great work. They really look nice! I have built many of Norm’s design Adirondack chairs, but I used pine and painted them and they don’t last like they should. I used epoxy on the bottom of the legs and that helps for a while. I like the cedar idea though, did you get the rough cut cedar locally? If so, do you mind telling me where?
    Regards,
    Bob

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