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Brad's "Forever" Adirondack and Table, Shou Sugi Ban style

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Project by Live4Brew posted 10-30-2017 08:34 PM 603 views 1 time favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This project was a long time coming. I’ve made many Adirondack chairs over the years, but none have ever been quite ‘right’. Some, the angles weren’t right. Some fell apart after a few years. Others just became cracked and ugly far sooner than I had anticipated. So I set out to make some that I hope will last a few decades or more (get back to me in 20 years and I’ll tell ya how well they held up!).

All the chairs I’ve made in the past were of treated pine. I don’t know if it’s the new treatment or what..but they get ugly fast. Cracks. Rot in places. Just plain terrible. I wanted something better. So I thought, at first, I wanted to build them out of Ipe. I figure that would be the best wood for long-term outdoor use. The price of Ipe, however, made me think otherwise. I went instead with quartersawn white oak (shout out to Scott @ www.quartersawnoak.com – he’s great. If you live in NC I highly recommend going by his shop and buying from him). White oak is very good for outdoor projects because of the tyloses (as opposed to red oak which has none). I also just love QSWO. It’s very stable, beautiful, and fairly easy to work with.

As far as treatment, I’ve been very curious to try Shou Sugi Ban. I’ve read it makes wood much less susceptible to bug and UV damage. The process was laborious, but I think the outcome was beautiful (and I hope it really does make them last longer!). Once I burned each individual piece with a propane torch, they were ready for assembly. I used pure tung oil for the top coat. Tung oil is the best. It doesn’t grow mildew like other oils/treatments. It’s easy to apply. It’s also easy to touch up every few years. The cure time is very slow, but I’m ok with that.

The chairs are modeled after Norm’s Chair, but I modified many things. The angle of the seat to the back was just a little upright for my flavor. I believe Norm’s was about 30 degrees. Mine are 33. I also made the side member slightly different to make the lower back support easier to make. On Norm’s chair, the lower back support is 6 degrees slanted on the curved cut. This cut is tough already-no need to add difficulty. 90 degrees made more sense. I also shortened the leg and lengthened the arms (to account for the greater angle).

I also despise hardware showing so I made pocket holes for every seat slat and brace where possible. Where not possible, I plugged the holes. This all proved tricky because it meant I had to re-burn those areas after cutting/sanding the plugs. I hope the heat from the burning didn’t destroy the epoxy holding them in…

The joint between the leg and the arm is the weak point of this design. Of the chairs I’ve built in the past, it’s the first joint to go…which leads to failure at the joint between the side member and leg. Once that happens, the chair becomes very loose and susceptible to splay..changing all the angles to one that isn’t as comfortable to sit in. Part of the reason the joint between arm and leg fail is that most people screw from the top, through the arm, into the end-grain of the leg. End grain isn’t great for holding screws… My solution was pocket hole screws (4) from the bottom in conjunction with white oak dowels (3) and Loctite PL construction adhesive (that stuff is amazing, btw). I notice many people also forget to add corner braces under the lower rear back support and the side member – it’s important with this design. I used the Loctite PL at every joint. I used all SS fasteners. I don’t think these chairs are going to fall apart…

The table was an after-thought when I realized I had plenty of wood. I wanted to make it attractive, while still being strong (as I knew someone down the road would use it as a seat/step stool/trampoline etc). The joints use both white oak dowels, epoxy, and SS pocket screws.

Of note – the burning process produces a very sooty wood that no one would want to sit in (duh). I brushed most of the loose soot off and sealed with the tung oil. Once the oil cured, the soot was not an issue. I imagine, however, in a few years when the oil wears off the soot will be an issue again. I’ll then put more oil on. I guess that issue is a blessing in disguise though – I’ll know when I need to oil them again!





5 comments so far

View dalepage's profile

dalepage

317 posts in 680 days


#1 posted 10-30-2017 10:33 PM

Great job. Your awareness of how to make Norm’s design better is very impressive. Did you use a plan, or just wing it since you had made the chairs previously?

I have a dead white cedar tree that’s big enough to yield a LOT of wood. My plan was to use it for some Adirondack chairs. Do you think its relative softness will allow it to come apart too easily, especially at the weak point you pointed out?

Did the three degree increase in the seat back angle really help?

Thanks for posting this. It’s going to be very helpful.

-- Dale

View Live4Brew's profile

Live4Brew

37 posts in 2872 days


#2 posted 10-30-2017 10:48 PM

I made several plywood mockups to get it right. The angle made a huge difference to me. (Though who knows how exact the angles I’ve quoted are…I just made it to where I thought it felt right and went with it).

I’d definitely make some chairs from that Cedar! how cool would it be to have some chairs made from a tree on your property?? Make sure the boards are dry first. Only use the heartwood. Use 5/4 boards (1” finished thickness). If you make the joints as I’ve described, I think it will be just fine! You can always add the “ugly support” (as I like to call it – it’s a vertical board running from the side member up to the upper back support on both sides) if you are really worried about the strength. I REALLY don’t like that look though.


Great job. Your awareness of how to make Norm s design better is very impressive. Did you use a plan, or just wing it since you had made the chairs previously?

I have a dead white cedar tree that s big enough to yield a LOT of wood. My plan was to use it for some Adirondack chairs. Do you think its relative softness will allow it to come apart too easily, especially at the weak point you pointed out?

Did the three degree increase in the seat back angle really help?

Thanks for posting this. It s going to be very helpful.

- dalepage


View Jeremymcon's profile

Jeremymcon

186 posts in 519 days


#3 posted 10-31-2017 06:25 PM

I made this chair from Sassafras lumber not too long ago. I had the same problem with the design – the front leg/armrest seems weak. I just screwed it from the top like norm did though. I figure if it loosens itself I’ll dowel it later.

The charred finish is intriguing to me. I considered using it on this and a couple other projects, but I wonder if it’s really as good at preventing decay as then internet claims it is. Also, my chair is on a covered porch, so it should be OK for a while with just the marine pile finish I put on it.

Love the table!

View helluvawreck's profile

helluvawreck

29208 posts in 2706 days


#4 posted 10-31-2017 06:30 PM

This is a beautiful pair of Adirondack tables and that table looks just right. The whole set makes a nice comfortable accent for the yard.

helluvawreck aka Charles
http://woodworkingexpo.wordpress.com

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View Mean_Dean's profile

Mean_Dean

5668 posts in 2987 days


#5 posted 11-29-2017 10:50 PM

Very nice looking Adirondack set—I’m sure you’ll get a lot of good use and enjoyment from them this summer!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

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