Advice for selling Adirondack furniture.

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Forum topic by Nicholas Dillon posted 12-20-2010 04:43 PM 15483 views 1 time favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Nicholas Dillon

33 posts in 3376 days

12-20-2010 04:43 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I am looking for some advise from anyone who has or is currently in the business of selling Adirondack chairs, rockers, etc. I fully understand that this is a competitive market and most people will not want to pay a premium price if they can get a crappy one from the big box store for $50 bucks.

I am looking to sell these pieces on the side through word of mouth and maybe the occasional craft show. I am not setup for mass production shop wise or time wise. I work a full time job and have a 2-monoth old child. What I am looking to do is make some money on the side to go towards future shop purchases/expansion.

I am looking for answers on the following questions:

  1. What plans do you use?
  2. How many options do you offer? Rocker, Love Seat, Folding, Tables?
  3. What is the most popular item?
  4. Wood choices? Pine, Cedar, etc.
  5. Do you sell yours natural, stained, painted?
  6. Do you offer a warranty?
  7. What are your selling prices? How do you go about charging for extras? (Paint, etc)
  8. What tools are must have.
  9. What tools make your life easier.
  10. How do you advertise? Do you offer discounts?

Please keep in mind that my shop is a simple 8×8 shed with not much room. As far as tools go I have the following:

  • 10” Band Saw
  • 10” Bench Top Drill Press
  • 10” Compound Miter Saw (Not Sliding)
  • 1/4” Shank Router (Not Plunging)
  • Router Table (Home Made, Bench Top)
  • Orbital Sander
  • Old School Skil Saw
  • 18v Drill
  • Dremel
  • Various other items.

I do not have the following tools:

  • Table Saw
  • Planer / Jointer
  • Lather
  • No Air tools (Compressor, Nail Guns, Etc.)

I know this is a lot of questions and requested information. Thank you for any tips, advise, time you give to this.

-- My workshop is a 8 x 8 shed! No Joke!

14 replies so far

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3219 days

#1 posted 12-20-2010 05:09 PM

I’m not in the business of selling woodcrafts but I used to own a retail store and I have built adirondack chairs.

My advice is to do something that really distinguishes your work from what they are selling in big box stores. I’ve built some adirondack furniture out of Ipe. It is a very hard, solid wood and it makes for a very heavy and solid feeling chair. It is quite similar to teak, but at about half the cost. It makes a chair that is in a whole different class from pine or cedar.

In the up scale market, a teak adirondack chair can sell for over $400. My chairs are similar to teak and I think I could sell them for $300 and make a handsome profit.

Another wood to consider is Iroko. It is also a reasonably priced very hard and impressive wood (sometimes referred to as “African Teak”).

Warning, these woods are hard on your tools. Be prepared to sharpen your drill bits often.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2995 days

#2 posted 12-20-2010 09:25 PM

I’m going to ask you some questions.

1. Are Adirondack pieces selling? If so, to whom?

2. Have you made a chart of those that are available, what materials, what iterations, and final cost with shipping?

3. Rich makes a great point about distinguishing yours. Assuming you do that, how do you make that clear in a value proposition to your prospective customer?

I greatly respect your idea and your energy and your goal. They are all worthy.

My real question is, is the Adirondack chair worthy of your effort? Here are some reasons it might not be:

1. They are not impossible or difficult to make for the average woodworker. Ubiquity.

2. They are danged uncomfortable. That center back splat lands right on your spine.

3. They are hard to get out of.

The sum of 2 and 3 is, they are used for decor mostly. How’s the decor market in your area?

Not trying to be negative for negativity’s sake, just trying to help you get a good view of the scenery.

-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3219 days

#3 posted 12-21-2010 02:19 AM

Lee makes some good points about researching your potential market. Let only add that there is quite a variety in Adirondack chair designs. I personally prefer a more upright design and, for me, the most important feature is a flat, level arm with plenty of room for a glass of wine.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Nicholas Dillon's profile

Nicholas Dillon

33 posts in 3376 days

#4 posted 12-21-2010 04:30 AM

Thanks for the advise so far. To answer a few of your questions. I have not tested the waters yet, so I don’t know how they will or will not sell. I want to try a modern type adirondack chair focused on comfort with some unique colors and such. I want to stand out. I agree that you can get a traditional style from a hundred different people for a hundred different prices.

I live in South Carolina in close proximity to a large lake with many wealthy buyers. I am thinking of incorporating the traditional palmetto tree and moon design, which should be a hit. I will definitely try to cater to my base.

I think the time and effort will be worth it, if they sell. I am looking around for a good design plan that I can either carbon copy or get a good start from.

-- My workshop is a 8 x 8 shed! No Joke!

View Dan Hux's profile

Dan Hux

577 posts in 3518 days

#5 posted 12-21-2010 11:36 AM

I make a few every year, by a few I mean 100 or so, sell them mostly in the Raleigh, Durham and chapel Hill area here in North Carolina. In your tool list a small table saw would make a big difference. Alot of the chair designs call for seat slats that are 2” to 2.5” wide, which means ripping wider boards. I find ripping 1×6 material down to size is the better value for the buck. One of the other important tools is a digital camera, great pictures sell these chairs. Take pictures of some of your work, keep a blog some place like Blogger or Wordpress. Use as a selling tool, make links from craigslist to your blog. I find the tables and chairs sell the most. I’ve only sold a few of the ottomans. I’ve found most people don’t want to pay the upper price for more expensive woods like posted above. I like the teaks and others, but just buying the wood in some cases cost upwards of 350 bucks ( I just priced some for guy here in Raleigh). The would woud have to be shipped from the midwest to get a decent price. Now the chair these people wanted just cost them over 400 bucks. To be honest, in this economy, lots of people are going to walk away from a 400 dollar chair. You will find the few ( one or two) that will buy it, but YOU will starve to death looking and waiting for that one or two. Dont nickel and dime folks to death with the price, build in the price of your paint, primer, screws and nails. People don’t care if it cost you 2 cents for screws. They look for one price, thats the total. All the math is your job not theirs. These chairs are seasonal sales, so if you are going to try this for a living, you gotta have something else going on to make money.

-- Dan Hux,,,,Raleigh, NC

View Nicholas Dillon's profile

Nicholas Dillon

33 posts in 3376 days

#6 posted 12-21-2010 01:31 PM


I already have a domain name / business name ready to go. I plan on having some product shots done by my sister and coming up with a flyer to hand out to prospective clients.

My goals right now are to nail down a design with matching pieces that I fel comfortable making and selling. I plan to offer the furniture in a few different woods and finishes.

Like I have said before, I don’t plan on this being a full time job replacement.

-- My workshop is a 8 x 8 shed! No Joke!

View Sawdust2's profile


1466 posts in 4232 days

#7 posted 12-21-2010 02:18 PM

Nick, you might get more advice. You won’t get better advice.
I saw a car just this weekend with 2 adirondack chairs tied to the bike rack on the car.
There is still a market out there
Take your enthusiasm and run with it.
Get a table saw or a friend with a table saw.
My $.03.


-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View WoodLe's profile


155 posts in 2941 days

#8 posted 12-21-2010 05:06 PM

I agree with Sawdust2 about getting a table saw. I don’t think a ww will last too long without a few decent tools, especially a table saw. Not sure how you can build chairs in a 8×8 shed, but with enough determination it probably can be done! Good luck!

-- Wooster, Ohio

View Mike Gager's profile

Mike Gager

665 posts in 3411 days

#9 posted 12-25-2010 01:42 AM

i think you should get a design down first and make a few samples before diving to far into the business side of this. make a few chairs and test the waters before jumping in with a website and advertising and all that sort of stuff. you may find its not all that you thought it would be once you start building the chairs, especially when they dont sell.

View DrDirt's profile


4464 posts in 3886 days

#10 posted 12-25-2010 04:53 AM

Nick -
based on your location Cypress might be a good choice for you as well, if there is a marketable aspect of using “Local” woods that are also quite weather resistant… similar to cedar.

I would do a driveby of some of the areas around the lake and see if these are on peoples porches. Kind of good and bad. If there out there then they are popular, but downside is they already have one or two.
I like Rich’s idea to look at some of the different designs out there compared to what is in the big box stores…then you can market both the materials, and comfort as selling points.

You might contact some of the local landscape designers and find out what they are supplying in their designs. Perhaps they would act as middleman and include some photos of your work with pricing. As they too would market local woods, and Locally crafted rather than imported.

Good luck

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View Colin 's profile


93 posts in 2955 days

#11 posted 12-28-2010 10:23 AM

I looked in to doing adirondack chairs but decided the market was too saturated so I am focusing on doors. My area has short summers though so I think your location will make a big difference for you.

You will have a lot higher profit margin if you invest in a shaper with a spiral cutter and rub collar/bearing so you can cut most of your parts from a template. You should be able to pick up a nice used (powermatic or similar) 3 h.p. for under $500 and you can get the cutter from grizzly.

You could buy and disassemble a chair you think is comfortable and use those parts to develop your templates, tweaking them a little to incorporate some “improvements”.

Don’t try to sell to everyone, if you are going high end, think about using woods like teak and honduran mahogany. Plantation teak is about half the price as burmese.

Finishing is a tough one… then you get people calling you when the finish fails. Paint holds up much better than anything, epoxy, 2k polyurethane, spar varnish and sikkens cetol or door and window are the finishes that hold up well under the elements. Sikkens products are designed to be much easier to refinish. Make sure people understand they will need to refinish at least every few years no matter what product they chose. Paint could go a little longer.

I would recommend pricing yourself high but with the craftsmanship, woods, and service that justify a higher cost. This will attract a clientele that appreciate craftsmanship and that have the money to pay somebody to maintain the furniture once they purchase it. That somebody could be you if you want that type of work. This is more of a slow and steady approach that gives you solid growth but takes a while to really develop substantial sales.

Above all, remember to run your financials (Cash flow, balance sheet, profit and loss) regularly, this is a business even if it is part-time. It is easy to fool yourself into thinking you are making money. You should be making enough to cover all your costs (not just materials) plus pay yourself a decent hourly wage, plus cover costs of rejects and damaged merchandise, plus maintain your tools, plus purchase more tools, plus another 10 % on top of everything which is what we call profit.


View Dave Carlisle's profile

Dave Carlisle

69 posts in 2299 days

#12 posted 07-02-2012 03:24 AM

So Nick,I am seeing these posts and year and a half after the original. How did it go??

-- Woodworking Principal

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 3335 days

#13 posted 07-02-2012 05:22 AM

I agree that before you build the chairs you need to have a table saw. My chair take exactly 4 8’ boards to build.
A third of the wood is for ripping slats and the back rest. No waste hardly at all. Everyone loves the chairs and they are an easy sell.

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View Dusty2004's profile


22 posts in 2320 days

#14 posted 07-02-2012 05:37 PM

So I have a question related to this. How do you determine if there is a market for a product (in this case Adirondack chairs)? What if was Custom Beds? Cutting boards? etc? How do you determine if there is a market or not?



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