Adirondacks! (or, what I did for a summer diversion)

Vacation is doing something you don’t normally do, and since I tend to be stuck in front of a computer at all times, I decided to engage in some work with my hands and build Adirondack chairs this summer. You can buy these in stores, of course, but they are expensive (up to $1000 for one chair in Norway,) and the store ones aren’t really Adirondacks, which need a curved back, an anatomically becoming seat and armrests wide enough for coffee, wine, and a computer.

I found drawings from Popular Mechanics, and modified the design a bit to cater for taste and European lumber dimensions. Then I made the pieces – having a wife with quilting and sewing expertise helps a lot – and made one chair (which took three days). The chair was tested by family members and modified (back angle, seat shape) according to their feedback and anatomy. Then I went industrial and made four chairs with good help from my equally theoretically inclined colleague Bill Schiano, then five on my own.

Painting turned out to be tricky. On the advice of a neighbor I invested in a compressor and a paint gun, and first coated the chairs with an impregnating wood treatment. Then I used high-quality house paint, which turned out to be difficult because it needed to be thinned to go through the paint gun. Eventually I ended up with window frame paint. At the suggestion of a reader of my Norwegian blog, I might add a top coat of boat paint later, to get a hard and shiny surface that repels water.

Cost of materials came to about $50 per chair, plus paint. I would not have taken the project on if I couldn’t buy cheap Chinese tools (table saw, band saw) as well as a cheap compressor. If I was going to do it again, I would get a table mounted band/circular sander and used a handheld electric saw rather than the band saw, which uses blades rather freely.

Anyway, I now have 10 chairs to distribute around the garden and porch. They are very comfortable – you really don’t need pillows or blankets. As noted elsewhere, doing a project like this allows you to reflect on how you think in your more theoretical work as well, although a wise colleague warned me that theoretically oriented teachers who do a practical project and try to expound on it in general makes asses of themselves, so I will refrain from elaborating. At least I have understood that a good woodworker is one that not only knows how to follow plans but also can come up with solutions to the inevitable blunders. And that an effective sander can fix a lot of mistakes.

As for kindling, we are well supplied for the winter…

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