I must confess … I’m something of a plan pack rat. Great looking woodworking plans have a way of getting tucked into various storage areas, never again to see the light of day. As we were examining possible projects for our 25th anniversary, a light slowly dawned that I had a few “favorites” stashed away from the Journal’s early years and this little Adirondack settee was on the top of my pile. I mentioned it to editor Rob Johnstone over lunch one day, and he said I wasn’t the only one who liked that plan. It’s one of the most popular projects in the entire Woodworker’s Journal archive!
Rob gave me the go-ahead to reprise the project for the 25th anniversary issue but, like most woodworkers who build projects from plans, I could not resist adding a few touches of my own. The result is a Spanish cedar chair/settee designed to be left outdoors. Whenever you want to switch from individual chairs to a settee with a center table, it’s a simple matter of unscrewing a few countersunk brass bolts from their threaded inserts. Then you use the same bolts to reassemble the set in its new configuration.
This is truly a project for all skill levels. Choose a weather resistant species such as redwood, western red cedar, Honduras mahogany, or the Spanish cedar that I used.
Cutting the Parts to Size
All of the parts in this project are 3/4″ thick, so there’s no need for a planer. You can quickly rip all the parts (pieces 1 through 13) to width. Check the Material List for these dimensions. Note that the list includes enough material to build two chairs, plus the extra parts needed to convert them into a settee, complete with table. Next, cross cut all the parts to the lengths listed. As there are no angled, mitered or even bevel cuts required, this is simply a matter of using the miter gauge on your table saw to make a series of 90° cuts. Mark each part with the number it was given in the Material List.
Laying Out Some Curves
There are a few shaped parts in this project — the front stretchers (pieces 5 and 6), back slats (pieces 9), arm rests (pieces 10) and brackets (pieces 11). A quick glance at the Exploded View and Elevation Drawings will orient these parts for you.
Cut out each pattern with a pair of scissors and stick them to the boards with a few dabs of glue — just enough to keep them flat.
Then band saw them to shape and clean up the cuts with a drum sander mounted in the drill press.
Assembling the Seats and Backs
With the parts all cut, you’re ready to move on to the assembly, most of which is done with brass screws (pieces 16). As you proceed, be sure to keep the following approach in mind. To avoid splitting your wood, you need to predrill for every screw. Clamp the pieces together and drill through the first piece of wood with a 1/8″ bit. Switch to a 1/16″ bit and, using the first hole as a guide, drill almost all the way through the second piece. Countersink for the screws, and then drive them home. Brass screws are relatively soft, so take your time and make sure the driver is properly seated in the slot.
Start by screwing the seat stretchers (pieces 7) to the seat supports (pieces 2). Screw the back slats (pieces 9) to the stretchers, spacing them 1/2″ apart as shown. Then mount the seat slats (pieces 8), spacing them 7/16″ apart.
Attaching the Seats to the Legs
The first step here is to mount the legs (pieces 1) to the seat supports. To get everything lined up properly, you can use an old chairbuilder’s trick: cut a piece of scrap plywood to fit between the legs (12″ x 11-1/4″), set it on a flat surface and clamp the legs to it.
Screw each of the seat/back subassemblies to the legs next. Locating these correctly is a snap: make a mark 3-7/8″ up the inside of the back legs, then line up the seat so the bottom corner of each seat support is flush with one of your marks. Now tilt the seat/back subassembly so it angles at 15°, as shown in the Drawings. When everything is lined up, clamp it in place, drive the countersunk screws home and remove your clamps. Use screws and a dab of weatherproof glue to attach the four brackets (pieces 11) to the legs, leaving them flush on top.
Chairs or Settee?
It is a good idea to complete both chairs, then work on transforming them into a settee. All the remaining parts — except the table slats — are installed with brass bolts (pieces 15), which are driven into threaded brass inserts (pieces 14). This is done so the parts can easily be changed. You could use screws, but after a few conversions the holes will become enlarged and their holding power will diminish.
Locating the inserts is a matter of clamping the parts in place, then drilling a 1/8″ pilot hole through both parts. The front, or more visible part, is then redrilled for the bolt. This is a 1/4″ hole, countersunk to fit the head of the bolt. The inner, or hidden part, is redrilled to receive a threaded insert. The ones I used require a 3/8″ hole, and the insert is installed with a large flat screwdriver.
Mount the chairs’ arm rests (pieces 10) and stretchers (pieces 4 and 6) in this manner. I found it easiest to attach the back stretcher to the arms, then install these subassemblies to the chairs.
For the settee, add the long stretchers (pieces 3 and 5) to the bottom face of the short ones (pieces 4 and 6). To gain extra gluing strength when attaching the two table ends (pieces 12) to the slats (pieces 13), I used my biscuit joiner. Then use the arm rests as a pattern to line up holes for the brass bolts. Finish up by rounding off the front corners of the table to match the arc on the arm rests.
Some Final Notes
As mentioned, my settee was constructed with clear Spanish cedar. This wood is a little hard to sand. Like butternut and some of the less dense softwoods, it tends to get a little “hairy.” The solution is to apply a thinned coat of finish first (I used Spar varnish). Let it dry, then sand off the nubs before brushing on three full-strength coats.