Build a Folding Adirondack Bench

This project was a huge hit! DIYers love building this unique, easy-to-store Adirondack bench.

When it comes to comfortable outdoor seating, it's hard to beat an Adirondack chair. Unfortunately, many of us get to enjoy these relaxing chairs only seasonally, and finding room indoors for them during the winter can be a challenge.

Keeping storage in mind, we developed a design that folds to 8 in. thick without sacrificing any of the classic Adirondack style, stability and comfort. If you prefer to relax alone or just want a more portable version, you can easily modify the dimensions of the two-seat chair (see "Seating for One," in the PDF below).

Building this chair is not difficult, and you don't need a shop full of tools. In fact, you could get by with only a jigsaw, router and drill/driver, although a table saw, band saw and finish sander will produce more refined results.

Because the chair will likely spend the summer outdoors, use exterior- grade wood. The parts are designed to be made with stock-size lumber. I splurged and opted for Honduras mahogany. It cost more and required some additional preparation, but it machined well and gave the chair a more formal finished appearance. The stainless steel hardware came pack- aged as a set from Lee Valley Tools (see SOURCES in PDF). The set contains more hardware than you'll need, but the price is less than it would cost to buy the necessary pieces individually.

Cutting the parts
Cut the parts to the dimensions shown in the cutting list (in PDF below); then use the scale drawings to lay out the profiles and pivot-hole locations on the legs, pivot blocks and backrest supports.

Cut along the profile outlines with a jigsaw or band saw. Then drill 7/8-in.-dia. counterbore holes and 5/16-in.-dia. pilot holes at each pivot- hole position. Pay close attention to the depths of the counterbore holes (see drawings). The locknut counterbores are drilled to a depth of 5/8 in., and the bolt head counterbores are drilled to a depth of 1/4 in.

When the chair is in the upright position, the backrest supports fit between two braces that connect the back legs. The braces are secured in dadoes to provide the strength necessary to withstand the force of the backrest. Use a router to cut these dadoes (photo 1).


Cut 1-1/2-in.-wide x 1/4-in.-deep dadoes in the back legs using a router equipped with a straight bit and a straightedge guide.

The width of the chair requires an additional support centered under the seat. Use one of the back legs as a template to lay out the center seat support (photo 2).


To lay out the center seat support, lay the stock on top of one of the back legs. Hold the back edge of the stock flush with the leg's forward dado and its top edge. Then trace the profile onto the stock.

To draw the two arcs that give shape to the backrest, make a 16-in.-radius compass from a scrap or use a piece of string. Clamp the back slats together on a work surface and draw two radii, one on each half of the backrest (photo 3). Cut along the radius line with a jigsaw, leaving the center slat uncut.


Center the pivot point of the compass 18-1/4 in. from the bottom edges of the fourth slats on the left and right of the backrest. Only the center 2-in. slat remains uncut.

Drill screw countersinks and 1/8-in.-dia. pilot holes in all of the slats. The screwheads are countersunk 1/4 in. below the surface to enhance comfort when you sit in the chair — otherwise, you might burn yourself on a sun-heated screw. You could also cover the screw holes with plugs cut from the same wood used to make the chair.

Before assembling the chair, ease the edges with a router and 1/4-in.-dia. roundover bit and then sand all sur- faces smooth.

Assembling the chair
To fold up, the chair pivots on bolts that connect four main assemblies: the seat frame, the backrest frame, the arms and the front legs. First assemble the back- rest frame and seat frame (photo 4). Then attach the pivot blocks to the arms.


Assemble the seat and backrest frames with polyurethane glue and 3-in. stainless steel screws. Use a damp rag to moisten the wood before gluing.

Before bolting the assemblies together, apply an exterior finish to all parts. Finish is not required on exterior-grade lumber, but it will help preserve the wood color and extend the life of the chair. Without the finish, mahogany will age to a silver color within a year; with the finish, the color change takes longer. Apply an exterior stain every few years if you prefer to preserve the warm mahogany color.

After the finish has cured, connect each pivot point with a 5/16 x 2-3/4-in. bolt, two washers and one locknut contained in the hardware set. Connect the front legs to the seat frame first; then connect the arm assemblies to the front legs and backrest frame (photo 5). Tighten the bolts so there is some friction but the parts can still pivot.


Tighten the bolts, washers and locknuts enough to create slight friction at each pivot point.

The final step is to attach the seat and back slats. First attach the seat slats, working from front to back. Use 1/4-in.-thick scraps as spacers between seat slats. Then attach the back slats (photo 6).


Attach the end and center slats first. Next, fill in the five slats on each side, spacing them about 1/4 in. apart.

Setting up and folding up the chair are easier if you have a helper. To set up the chair, first position one person on each side. Place one hand on the middle of the backrest and one hand on the side of the armrest. Lift and tilt the backrest and lift the armrest until the back sup- ports line up over the opening in the braces. Slide the backrest down between the braces until the stop blocks make contact with the back legs. Reverse the process to collapse the chair.


This was one of the most-viewed Handy articles in 2014. Click here to check out the six other articles that earned the "Best of 2014" title.


Bonus Video: