Few outdoor-furniture designs can rival the comfort, utility and ambience of the Adirondack chair.
Adirondack chairs are excellent do-it-yourself projects, and the construction is so simple even beginning woodworkers can turn out handsome chairs. Power tools speed up the work -- especially a table saw or radial-arm saw -- but the chairs can be built with only hand tools.
The first Adirondack chairs are said to have been built around 1900, and they became famous as fixtures at resorts in the Adirondack Mountains in New York.
One of the best features of an Adirondack chair is the wide arms, which can hold drinks, snacks, magazines or other objects.
Patterns for a basic Adirondack chair, plus several streamlined versions, are available from Craft Patterns, l3545 Stern Ave., St. Charles, Ill. 60174 ( 747-1429). The basic chair pattern (No. 767) is $5.95 postpaid. The chair has bolt-together sections and can be quickly disassembled for storage. A pattern for a matching double chair or love seat (No. 768) is also $5.95 postpaid.
The Craft Patterns catalog, with all the Adirondack designs plus patterns for several additional types of lawn furniture and hundreds of other indoor and outdoor woodworking projects, is $3.
Excellent Adirondack chair designs also appear in the May-June 1985 issue of Fine Woodworking magazine and the May-June 1988 issue of Workbench magazine, available at some libraries.
Adirondack chairs can be built from many types of wood, including pine shelving. Pine chairs, and those made from other woods that are not weather-resistant, are generally primed and painted with exterior paint to protect them against rotting.
Painted chairs often require periodic repainting, and I've avoided it in the Adirondack chairs I've built by using weather-resistant woods. Cedar, redwood and pressure-treated wood are good choices, with pressure-treated the least expensive.
These woods should be treated with a clear, water-repellent sealer after construction and again every year or so to help prevent splitting and warping.
If chairs treated with a water-repellent sealer become dirty or mildewed, they can be cleaned with any of the many deck cleaners sold at home centers. After cleaning, give the wood a fresh coat of sealer.
Some do-it-yourselfers attempt to varnish outdoor furniture to get a shiny finish, but I advise against it. Few varnishes will hold up for long in the sunlight and moisture of the outdoors. However, spar varnish or marine varnish is the best choice. At least three coats should be applied.
Sand the pieces before assembling them. Round off all sharp edges and corners with sandpaper to help reduce splinters.
Nails should be aluminum, stainless steel or have a hot-dipped galvanized coating. Ordinary steel nails will quickly rust and stain the wood or finish as well as weaken the construction. If screws are used, they should be weather-resistant deck screws, sold at most home centers. Bolts and other hardware should also be rust-resistant.
Those who'd like to have Adirondack chairs to loll in this summer but who don't want to build them can buy ready-made chairs. More and more outdoor-furniture dealers offer finished Adirondack chairs, and they are also available at some craft shows. A mail-order source of finished chairs is L. L. Bean Inc. of Freeport, Maine. Call (800) 221-4221.