How to Build a Cape Cod Chair


This is the 4th version of this particular project.This updated version (take 4) of our previous plans highlights the value of user feedback and contributions. Many of the changes and improvements implemented in this version are as a direct result of user input. One of the features of this version is the three options given on how to shape the individual pieces, and one of these options was contributed by a user. This style of chair is pretty much universal, and the chair goes by various names depending on the region. ‘Adirondack’ chair, ‘Cape Cod’ chair, and the ‘Muskoka’ chair appear to be most common, but there are more. |

DescriptionOur chair is bigger than most similar designs – more substantial and a bit more laidback (by that we mean the angle of the back recline). Furniture these days tends to be a bit more flimsy than that of yesteryear. This chair leans more towards the ‘old’ rather than the ‘new’. It’s a chair you can sit comfortably in, kick back and relax. Measurements

The dimensions given in this project are in both imperial (inches) and metric (mm). Throughout the script, the imperial measurements are given first, followed by the metric measurements in brackets ( ). For example: 2″ x 4″ (100mm x 50mm).

Note that most countries that use the imperial system generally call the smaller numeral first, for example: 2″ x 4″ (2 inches by 4 inches). Most countries that use the metric system generally call the bigger numeral first, for example: 100mm x 50mm (100 millimetres by 50 millimetres). For rounding-off purposes, the imperial sizes in this project are not an exact match to the corresponding metric sizes.

In fact, a structure built using the imperial measurements (inches) will be approximately 1.6% larger than the same structure using the metric (mm) measurements – not really worth worrying about. The imperial measurements are more suited to North America. The metric measurements are more suited to Australasia and other countries.

The size (width and thickness) of the wood used in this project is the ‘actual’ (true) size. That is, the size of the wood after it has been dressed (surfaced, planed and/or seasoned). For example: 1 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ is ex 2″ x 6″, and the metric equivalent 140mm x 45mm is ex 150mm x 50mm. Structure

All the wood used for this project is 3/4″ (19mm) thick, with the exception of the arms which are 1 1/2″ (45mm) thick. That is to give a bit of meat to the arms and something substantial to screw the upper back support to. What you will need

For the seat sides, legs, back slats, upper back support, and the seat slats you will need… 38ft (11.5m) of 3/4″ x 5 1/2″ (140mm x 20mm) wood, allowing for a little bit of wastage. For the front and rear spacers, lower back support, and arm braces you will need… 8ft (2.4m) of 3/4″ x 3 1/2″ (90mm x 20mm) wood, allowing for a little bit of wastage. For the arms you will need…

64″ (1600mm) of 1 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ (140mm x 45mm) wood.Note: When cutting, cut the longer pieces first to minimize wastage. You will also need…- Around 90 exterior-type 1 1/2″ (38mm) long screws.- Four 3/8″ x 2″ (10mm x 50mm) galvanized carriage bolts and washers. – Exterior-type glue|The cutting listID| PART| STOCK SIZE| LENGTH| NO. REG’D|[a]| seat sides| 3/4″ x 5 1/2″ (140mm x 20mm)| 39″ (975mm)| 2| [b]| rear spacer| 3/4″ x 3 1/2″ (90mm x 20mm)| 23 1/4″ (580mm)| 1| [c]| legs| 3/4″ x 5 1/2″ (140mm x 20mm)| 22 3/4″ (570mm)| 2| [d]| lower back support| 3/4″ x 3 1/2″ (90mm x 20mm)| 24 3/4″ (620mm)| 1| [e]| back slats| 3/4″ x 5 1/2″ (140mm x 20mm)| 38″ (950mm)| 4| [f]| arm braces| 3/4″ x 3 1/2″ (90mm x 20mm)| 7″ (175mm)| 2| [g]| seat slats| 3/4″ x 1 3/8″ (35mm x 20mm)

Rip (cut lengthways) from 3/4″ x 5 1/2″ (140mm x 20mm) stock| 24 3/4″ (620mm)| 16| [h]| arms| 1 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ (140mm x 45mm)| 32″ (800mm)| 2| [i]| upper back support | 3/4″ x 5 1/2″ (140mm x 20mm)| 30 3/4″ (770mm)| 1| [j]| front spacer| 3/4″ x 3 1/2″ (90mm x 20mm)| 24 3/4″ (620mm)| 1| Elevation plans

Below are the elevation plans for the Cape Cod (aka Adirondack) chair. Side elevation planClick on the side view image below to see an enlarged version in a new window.

Shaping the wood. Option 1 – By measurements

Shaping the wood. Option 2 – By grid planThe grid plans below show the drawings scaled in a grid where the line spacings represent 1″ (25mm). To create a full size pattern, draw a grid onto cardboard with line spacings 1″ (25mm) true size. Then copy (draw) the shapes below, onto the cardboard using the grid lines as reference points. Cut the patterns out of the cardboard and use them to mark the chair pieces.

Step 1. Cut the pieces to lengthTake note, the two arm pieces are thicker than the other pieces. Altogether there are three different stock sizes required.Cut all the pieces to the lengths given below or refer to the cutting list on page 2. From 3/4″ x 5 1/2″ (140mm x 20mm) stock…Cut two pieces at 39″ (975mm) long, for the seat sides.Cut two pieces at 22 3/4″ (570mm) long, for the legs.Cut four pieces at 38″ (950mm) long, for the back slats.Cut four pieces at 24 3/4″ (620mm) long, for the seat slats, and then rip each piece into four equal strips making 16 slats. Cut one piece at 30 3/4″ (770mm) long, for the upper back support. From 3/4″ x 3 1/2″ (90mm x 20mm) stock…

Cut one piece at 23 1/4″ (580mm) long, for the rear spacer.Cut one piece at 24 3/4″ (620mm) long, for the lower back support. Cut two pieces at 7″ (175mm) long, for the arm braces.Cut one piece at 24 3/4″ (620mm) long, for the front spacer. From 1 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ (140mm x 45mm) stock…Cut two pieces at 32″ (800mm) long, for the arms.|Step 2. Make the patterns and/or mark the wood

Some of the pieces will need to be shaped, therefore the shape must first be drawn on wood. You can either make a pattern and trace the lines onto the wood that needs shaping, or mark directly on the wood by measuring from a plan drawing. In this documentation there are three options on how to do this. Option 1 – Measuring off a plan (see page four).

Option 2 – Making a pattern using a grid (see page five).Option 3 – Printing out a full size plan (see page six).

Step 3. Cut the shapesOnce all the shapes have been marked onto their respective pieces of wood, either by tracing around a pattern or by measuring from a plan drawing, cut them out using a tool such as a jig-saw to cut any curved lines.

Step 4. Fix the lower back support to the seat sides

Place the two seat sides (a) on an even work surface (saw-horses, etc.) and fix the lower back support in place with glue and wood screws. Note: For every joining, ensure that there is ample glue and pre-drill all screw holes in the covering piece of wood. Step 5. Fix the rear spacer

Fix the first seat slat (g) in place (just to keep the seat sides parallel) and then turn the unit on its side and fix the rear spacer (b) in place. Pre-drill the screw holes in the seat-slat (one each end) and also through the seat-sides (two each side, where the rear spacer lines up) and allow ample glue. |

Step 6. Fix some of the seat slats Step 7. Join together a leg, brace and arm

Join together the legs (c), braces (f) and arms (h) in the following order. 1.) Glue and screw the braces to the arms. Refer to the ‘side elevation plan’ on page 3 for placement. Screw through the arm (pre-drill first) into the brace. 2.) Lay the arms upside down and centralize the leg and brace combinations (also upside down) on the arms, 2″ (50mm) in from the front. Step 8. Toe-nail the legs to the arms

Once the legs and braces are positioned correctly on the arms (currently in upside-down mode, see step 7.), they can then be secured. Do this by gluing and toe-nailing (skew, angle nailing) through the sides of the braces and legs into the arms. Pre-drill the nail holes in the braces and legs to avoid splitting.

Step 9. Align the two arms with one-anotherLay the two leg, brace and arm combinations upside-down on a flat surface. Space them apart, parallel. The distance between the legs (currently in upright position) should be 24 3/4″ (620mm), which is the length of the front spacer (j). Lay and fix (temporarily) a couple of strips of wood across the arms to hold them (the arms) parallel in position, just until the upper back support (i) and the front spacer (j) have been added. |

Step 10. Add the upper back support and the front spacerAdd the upper back support (i) and the front spacer (j).Refer to the ‘side elevation plan’ on page 3 for positioning. You will probably need a hand to hold them in place while fixing. Step 11. Prepare the seat

Now is probably a good time to give the seat slats a good sanding to make sure the seat profile is nice and rounded. Not all the seat slats are fixed in place at this stage.This is to allow room for the back slats to be fixed without too much problem. Step 12. Join the arm assembly to the seat assembly

Turn the unit upright.The first seat slat (g) is already fixed in place.Add another 10 seat slats, one next to the other, in the same manner i.e., pre-drill, glue and screw. Note: Do not fix the rest (the last 5) just yet, we will do that at a later stage.

Place the arm/leg assembly on even surface and prop it up so that the arms are parallel with the even surface. Then slip the seat assembly in between the legs, so that it sits on the front spacer (j). Position the seat assembly in relation to the arm/leg assembly as shown in the ‘side elevation plan’ on page 3. Then firmly clamp the legs to the seat sides.

Step 13. Tilt the chair in preparation for the back slats

At this point everything should be in its rightful position, i.e., the arms should be parallel with the surface and the leg should be 29″ (725mm) from the very back of the seat sides as shown in the ‘side elevation plan’ on page 3 Now tilt the chair back and prop it slightly off the ground in order to place and fix the back slats with ease. Step 14. Fix the back slats

Put glue along the shaped edges of both the upper back support (i) and the lower back support (d). Lay the two middle back slats (e) in place. The positioning will be obvious. Make the bottom of the back slats flush with the bottom of the lower back support. Pre-drill the screw holes and screw the back slats to the back supports. Then place the two side back slats one each side of the middle back slats, and screw them in place. Step 15. Secure the legs/seat sides

Now you can permanently fix the legs to the seat sides.Drill two 3/8″ (10mm) diameter bolt holes through each leg and seat side. Refer to the ‘side elevation plan’ on page 3 for positioning. Insert 3/8″ x 2″ (10mm x 50mm) galvanized carriage bolts with washers into the holes and tighten them. Step 16. The remaining seat slats

You can now add the rest of the seat slats.Don’t forget to use ample glue first, and pre-drill the screw holes in the seat slats. The edge of the last seat slat may need a bit of shaping to fit it neatly against the back slats. Each seat slat only requires one screw at each end. That along with the glue is sufficient. |

Step 17. Final touch-up

Just the final touch-up now.A bit of a sand here and there.Paint?Whatever you like. Limited only by your imagination. A white chair would pretty much fit anywhere, whereas a specialist color might be just the trick to suit a particular surrounding. Step 18. Done!

Well, that’s about it: A big, strong, and comfortable, ‘Cape Cod’, aka ‘Adirondack’, aka ‘Muskoka’ chair. Happy relaxing!