Friday, April 18, 2014

Cedar Adirondack Chair and Patio Set Part 1

I went to the kitchen.  Opened up the cupboard and grabbed a glass.  I walked over to the refrigerator, dispensed some crushed ice and filled it with some iced tea.  Here in Florida we have a limited number of days that you can sit outside during the day and not bake like a roast chicken.  I was determined to enjoy as many of these days as I can.

Walking outside to the backyard I felt the warmth of the midday sun on my face but it wasn't oppressive.  I was going to enjoy sitting down and taking in a little light reading on my kindle fire.  I set up one of our lawn chairs we had purchased years earlier at one of the big box retail stores.  I forget which one.

I found a nice level spot on the ground for my glass of iced tea and slowly lowered myself into the chair.




The chair had broken and I found myself on the ground alongside my glass of spilled tea that was now making a slop of mud.

Yep, its time for some DIY patio chairs.  Cedar Adirondack Chairs to be exact.

The Adirondack chair is the perfect center piece to that summertime do nothing excursion.  The basic design has been around for over a hundred years and originally was for use in the Adirondack mountain region in upstate New York.   It did not have a curved back or a contoured seat.  Those features were added later in 1938.  

Early on in the research for this project I realized that I needed to understand the why’s and how’s of the Adirondack chair.  Often times I don’t use woodworking plans to build a project.  Because I find they prevent me from answering just those questions.  You get into the habit of just looking at a piece of paper to find your next measurement.  Instead of asking the bigger questions, such as, does it matter how long I cut the seat frames and if it does, why?

The answer to the first part of that question by the way is, a little bit.  The shorter you cut the seat frame the further up you want to place the front legs.   If you don’t your chair will be front heavy and have a tendency to tip forward on you when you get in and out of it.

As we go along in this project I will point out some of the measurements I found to be more crucial than others.

The first thing I wanna do is create some templates.  I’m using some scrap ply to rip two 5 and a half inch pieces.  One will be used to shape the armrest.  The other for the seat frame.  Now you don’t have to use templates from scrap wood.  You could cut and shape the armrest and seat frame from the material that you are using and then use that piece to shape the second one.  The process would be exactly the same.

I’m using an old school technique of drawing a one inch grid on the blank then I’ll draw the contours of the pieces.  Doing it this way allows me to see the awfulness before I cut it to something I don’t like. 

One thing about cutting with a jigsaw is that the blades have a tendency to deflect.  A few good ways to avoid that is one; use a good quality blade and the right one for the material your cutting through.  Two use the right setting for what your trying to do.  The different settings on a jigsaw determine how aggressive the cut will be.  The more aggressive, the faster you can cut, but that also means a sloppier cut.  A less aggressive setting means more accuracy but you need to take it slower.  Often times people get impatient and try to push too fast thru the cut and that is when you get blade deflection.  So if your uncertain, cut further off your line and sand down later.

A few things I’d like to point out on the seat frame.  I tried to cut down on some of the bulkiness of the profile by eliminating material where I thought it wouldn’t compromise the strength of the chair.  Here and then by tapering this top portion.  Also, this cut here is what determines the angle the seat will be. 
So now I have both my templates cut and shaped how I want.  I’ll mark and cut those pieces to rough length on the miter saw.  Place the template on top of the piece I just cut and trace the lines.  Remove the template and its back to the jigsaw.  

I’ll stick the template back on top of the workpiece and route to final shape with a flush trim bit.

After repeating the process for all four pieces, two armrests and two seat frames, I’ll move on to the seat slats.  Mine are 19 inches, so I’ll set up a stop block and make my cuts.  I’ll cut 6 pieces of 1x4 material on the miter saw.  Then I’ll rip those in half on the table saw. 

I’ll take those seat slats over to the router and with a round over bit, smooth over the edges.

The cutting and shaping of all the parts is what took the longest.  But I figured if I took my time and did a good job here.  Things were going to go smoother later in the project.

If you have not checked out the Cedar Adirondack Chair and Patio Set Part 1 video yet, you can watch it below.

As always if you have any questions feel free to ask.

Happy DIY'ing


Finishing the Cedar Adirondack Chair and Patio Set

This past week was a busy one. Editing the massive amount of video from the Adirondack chair project.  There was a ton of video footage to sort through.  It was a challenge to organize it in a concise way and so the ultimate decision was to break it up into multiple video segments for better presentation. I successfully got Part 1 published, only to have to take it down again due to a technical error. Thankfully, part 1 of the Cedar Adirondack Chair and Patio Set build made it back onto Youtube without too much time elapsing and part 2 was able to be published in time for the weekend.

Part 3 of the Cedar Adirondack Chair and Patio Set build was posted Thursday evening and it felt good to finally finish that aspect of the project.

I have always found the easy part of a woodworking project to be the actual building.  It is the culmination of planning and preparation.   The more planning and preparation you do, the smoother the building stage goes.  You can step back from all your hard work and admire the planks of wood that used to be but are no more.  You have created something.  However, now is not the time to let your guard down.  Now you have to decide what you want the future of this project to be.

Yes cedar is very resistant to rot and mildew.  That along with its abundance and relatively reasonable price is why it is one of the first species of wood used for outdoor projects.  However, just because it is resistant does not mean it is impervious.

A few other reasons you may want to consider protecting a cedar project might include:

1.  It turns a weathered grey color.  That deep rich amber red color that makes a project look so desirable at first will soon turn to a dull grey.  Which is fine if you like greenish grey.  However, if why you choose cedar in the first place is the rich color.  You will want to protect it.

2.  Cedar tends to splinter easily.  The wood grain is not a tightly compacted grain pattern like you might see with a hardwood species such as oak.  Its fibers are easily split.  Add to that the expansion and contraction that any species of wood will undergo, especially when left outside, and you might be picking a few splinters.

3.  Because of the aforementioned expansion and contraction and the use of screws in a project such as an Adirondack chair; the wood around the screws will loosen over time and could potentially weaken the overall strength of the chair.  This could happen despite the wood being completely rot free.

I have decided on a spar urethane satin finish.  Some may argue or otherwise disagree with this decision.  One might say that despite the manufacturer's recommendation that it is for the protection of outdoor wood projects it just doesn't hold up.  I would disagree.

I recently had an opportunity to meet with and talk to a local maker of Adirondack furniture.  He had a display that had been left out in the driving rain and harsh sun for going on three years.  I commented to him how it looked like he had just built it.  I was surprised to learn how old they were and that he hadn't done anything to them beyond the initial application.  What did he use?  Spar urethane.

 As is the case a lot of times with finishes, it is not just about the product or brand that is used.  The application process is often times very critical.  That is not to say that all finishing products are the same.  They are not!!  However, I think you'll find that you can get very good results from a lot of different techniques and products that are on the market.  Spar urethane to polyurethane, brushing versus spraying.  A lot of people will swear by a technique or brand based on what they feel to be most important to them.  I say find out for yourself.

I sprayed three coats of Spar urethane.  It was a hot and sunny day with mild humidity and I was able to apply the three coats in about 6 or 7 hours.

I do not sand between each coat.  I know, sacrilege.  One, this is an outdoor project.  Two, who has forever to devote to sanding?  After the second coat is dry to the touch, I run a 220 grit sandpaper across to take off any roughness and raised grain.  If you go to early or to heavy with the sandpaper you are going to sand that raised grain right back into the finish.

Keep in mind I sprayed the finish on.  The coats are very thin.  If I were brushing on the finish I would do things a little differently.  However, that is a subject for another post.

 I hope you enjoyed this series on the Cedar Adirondack Chair and Patio Set build as much as I enjoyed presenting it.  I can't wait to start my next project.  

Thanks for your support and as always if you have any questions, feel free.

Happy DIY'ing.


Will the real radish plant please step forward!

I have come to enjoy the simple pleasure of gardening.  Seeing what a plant can be if left untouched is sometimes an eye opening experience.