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Build It | Adirondack-Style Outdoor Chair with Jimmy DiResta

Ask This Old House host Kevin O’Connor returns to upstate New York to build an Adirondack-style outdoor chair with maker Jimmy DiResta


  1. Start by measuring and cutting the steel tubing for the frame of the chair. A speed square and a piece of chalk will help to mark the steel. The cuts can be made using an angle grinder, a miter saw with a metal cutting blade, or a bandsaw.
  2. Notch the front legs to allow for a lap joint when assembling the frame.
  3. To get the correct angle for the backrest, eyeball a comfortable angle and then mark the angle using the chalk. It doesn’t need to be a drastic angle to be a comfortable chair. Jimmy’s chair only had a five-degree pitch.
  4. Cut the angle for the backrest.
  5. Weld the frame of the chair together. To keep everything in place, it helps to tack the steel in place using small beads of weld and then go back after with a full weld.
  6. Smooth over the welds with the angle grinder.
  7. Cut the arms for the chair using 2x4” steel tubing.
  8. Weld the arms to the frame of the chair. Hold the legs level to the ground and not parallel to the frame. This will make the arm rest more comfortable.
  9. Cut the oak boards to fit in the back and seat of the chair using the miter saw and give them a good sanding.
  10. Cut the ¼” stock to fit inside the frame of the chair.
  11. Drill a few holes in the ¼” stock to accept screws between the stock and the oak boards.
  12. Weld the ¼” stock to the inside of the frame. It will act as a slot to hold the oak boards in place.
  13. Apply an outdoor boat varnish to the oak using a paintbrush.
  14. Clean up the metal frame using acetone and a rag. Then, apply a layer of high-gloss black paint to the frame using a paintbrush.
  15. Fasten the oak boards to the frame through the steel slots using stainless steel screws.
  16. Using the leftover oak boards, cut two blocks that are slightly smaller than 2x4” to act as plugs in the armrests for the chair. Finish them with the boat varnish.
  17. Add a bead of all-purpose glue to the inside of the 2x4” steel tubing to keep the block from sliding in the arm rest.
  18. Gently hammer the blocks into the arms using a rubber mallet.

For the frame of the chair, Jimmy used 2x2” steel tubing, which can be found at home centers. The tubing can be cut with a bandsaw, a chop saw with a metal cutting blade on it, or an angle grinder, which is what Jimmy used. To finish the steel frame, Jimmy cleaned it up using acetone, which is manufactured by Klean Strip and can be found at home centers. The paint was a high-gloss black paint.

To weld the frame together, Jimmy used a MIG welder, which is manufactured by Lincoln Electric. The light generated from welding is harmful, so be sure to wear protective clothing and a welding mask. Never look directly at the light from welding.

For the back of the chair, Jimmy used rough cut white oak, which he got from a local saw mill. A quick Google search should help you identify a nearby saw mill in your area. The finish Jimmy applied to the oak is Gleam 2.0 Marine Spar Varnish in a satin finish, which is manufactured by TotalBoat.

All the other materials Kevin and Jimmy used to build the chair, including the sander, drill, and paintbrushes, can all be found at home centers.

Expert assistance with this project was provided by Jimmy DiResta.