Adirondack Chair Class #6: Getting started with making slats - a short and easy lesson

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Blog entry by Betsy posted 01-10-2012 05:56 AM 3595 reads 3 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: Making leg support (part G) and making leg assembly Part 6 of Adirondack Chair Class series Part 7: Correction and moving onto the slats and seat assembly »

Well I hope all of you have had a good holiday season and have now have had enough time to rest and recovery.

Now that we have the leg supports (parts I & G) together it’s time to move onto making the slats. This is one area where you can use up some of those pine scraps laying around the shop. I can generally find enough long scraps to at least get 4 or 5 before I have to cut into a full size board.

In all you will need 13 slats per chair. Using a 1×6x8 you can get 16 slats giving you 3 for those just in case times.
The slats are all 1.5” wide by 21” long. Four of the slats will be cut with one or two bevels.

As you get ready to cut your slats, I prefer to cut the 1x material into 21” lengths before cutting the individual slats. I do this so that I can take advantage of using a stop block on the chop saw ensuring they will all be exactly the same length – which will be an important trait later on. A 1×6x8 will give you 16 slats and a small amount 5 or 6 inches of scrap off one end.

Learning PointAs you cross cut the slats to 21” – make sure you are not going to drive a screw through a know at the end of the slat. If you want to keep a knot in the slat as a “character” portion, cut the slat so the knot will be about 2-3” in from the end.

Cautionary Note – If you are going to try to get some of your slats from your shorts bin you must be careful not to use cupped or warped boards. I talked a little about this in an earlier post.

(Before I start putting in pictures – please give this old gal a break – my hands are in a trembling stage and I’m having a hard time getting crisp pictures.)

Okay – this first picture shows you a cupped board with the convex side up.

Granted this cup is not very bad – that’s because I generally don’t buy badly cupped boards (patting myself on the back now).

The next shot shows the same board flipped over

Try to use your imaginations and picture that cup as being a bit larger and clearer. The point here is that you do not want to run a cupped board through the table saw – it’s not the best way to deal with the cup.

Try to picture in your mind the board’s cup up (making a tunnel for the little gerbels in the shop to run through). If you were to push this board through the blade one of several things could happen. First of all – you will need to have your blade up higher than needed for a flat board. Secondly, as you pass the board through the blade the board will start coming in closer contact with the blade and get pinched between the blade and the fence. This can cause you to push harder than you should have to or it may create a kickback issue for you.

Now try to picture the board with the cup down – (convex). The board may be able to run along the fence, but it will also collapse down on the blade causing the same issues as above. But most importantly in my mind is this – how would you push this board safely through blade? It will rock no matter how you push it.

So the long and short of it is don’t try to cut that cupped board on the table saw. Does that mean it’s firewood – no – it does not. This is what you do. Draw a straight guideline down the middle of the board then using the band saw cut the piece in two.

You can see that now you have two pieces that you can use to cut at least one or two slats from. It’s not a perfectly flat board – but acceptable for this project.

Next thing up is setting your fence 1.5” from the inside tooth of your blade.

You can’t see it very well – but if you look closely at your blades you probably have a blade that has one tooth closer to the fence and the next tooth farther away from the blade. When you measure you want to measure from the tooth closest to the fence.

Once that’s set you can run your boards through and get at least 13 slats – but try for those 16 so if you have an issue with one slat you have a back up.

Next thing is to mark one end of a slat as a location point to set up the drill press so you can drill each end of the slats.

Cautionary note Don’t get ahead of yourselves and cut the bevels on the slats until after you have drilled the screw holes.

First to find your drilling point you need to find the center along the width of the board. Since our board is 1.5” the center would be 3/4”. Use a small square and place a mark on the board – then flip the square to the other side of the board to be sure that the line would be placed at the same place on the board – if it is you are centered.

Step one – mark it on one side

Step two – flip over the square and check that the mark would be in the same place.

If the lines match you have center.

I took two pictures with an obvious off-centered mark to show you a little clearer.

Once you know you have the center measure correct, place a line at the end of one slat. Next use your square and make a cross line 3/8” from the end of the slat. This mark will put your screw into the center of the leg support (part G).

Tomorrow night we will start the drilling, cut the bevels and begin putting the seat assembly together.

As always your thoughts and comments are appreciated.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

2 comments so far

View lew's profile


12061 posts in 3755 days

#1 posted 01-11-2012 12:32 AM

Great set of instructions, Betsy!


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3896 days

#2 posted 01-11-2012 05:32 AM

Thanks Lew.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

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