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Make a garden lounger

Upcycling, the term for new ways of using old things, is one way to save money on your DIY projects. Clifford Roberts and woodworker Andries Eyegelaar show you how they converted old curtain pelmets into fancy Adirondack-style chairs

Tools & Materials

•    Router

•    Drill/ cordless driver

•    Sander

•    Jigsaw

•    A saw, ideally an electric one

•    Drill

•    Chisel

•    Pencil and square ruler

•    Four g-clamps

•    Thirty 4mm and thirty 60mm chipboard screws

Cutting list

Our chair comprised 32 pieces, including the small blocks that support the armrests:

•    Seven backrest planks.

•    Nine seat planks.

•    The length of the two seat frames, each 940mm long. In our shape, it was 120mm at its widest point and 75mm at its narrowest.

•    Two back leg planks, 75mm wide and with a sloped top edge –670mm at its highest length and 640 at the other. The front legs are 540mm high.

•    The two backrest supports measure 515mm, the same as each seat plank.

•  The armrests measure 760mm in length and 130mm at their widest point in front.

Project guide

Difficulty: Intermediate

Cost: Didn't need to buy wood so cost was minimal

Time: 3-4 days



We recently moved into a new house and revamped the garden, but there has always been one thing
missing – a set of loungers. After scouting the garden furniture stores, we arrived at our preferred style.


The Adirondack chair’s fan-shaped backrest and wide armrests are typical, and it regularly features in
DIY projects. It is named after the eponymous American mountain range where it was first conceived.
Apparently, it was around 1903 that Thomas Lee designed the chair for his holiday home and made
it using only 11 planks. Ideally, you want to make two because, after all, lounging is always better
when you have company.


A few things to consider before you start:

•   The chair should be made with a weather resistant hardwood if possible. We had meranti at our
disposal, which is hardwearing, good looking and, as a result, more pricy too. But it will beworth it.

•   The wood will have to be sealed with an outdoor sealer or painted to protect it from the elements.


•   To extend the life of your chair, maintain the protective coating and put it under a roof in the
rainy season.


•   Make sure the base of the chair is kept dry by using rubber strips/ stoppers/feet.


•   Upcycling takes more time because you may need to remove nails, do additional sanding and cut planks to size. In our case, we had to glue planks together.The benefit is that you’ve made good use of wood lying in the garage.


•   As a general rule, practise your DIY like a good chef – clean as you go. This project can generate a lot of sawdust. When you take a break, sweep the floor and dust off your machinery. It’ll ensure safety, longevity of your equipment and save you time when you pack up.



Step-by-step guide

Step 1: This chair has a very particular shape. It helps if you find one at a store or friend’s house to take measurements. Importantly, measure the angle where the seat meets the backrest and trace a template of the armrests and the two struts that make up the frame for the seat.



Step 2: Draw a rough plan with thevarious lengths and sizes to establishyour cutting list.


Step 3: Mark out the shapes onto your wood and apply the templates. Be mindful of waste; where you have offcuts, keep them for the small armrest support blocks. By tracing the backrest planks head to toe we were able to save some wood.


Step 4: To get the curves for the backrest support planks, we used a thin piece of hardboard and bent it to create the line. Remember that you want to create the impression of a fan, so the curve on the bottom plank is smaller than the top. Our bottom plank curve length was 305mm and the top one was end-to-end. The backrest planks are also narrower at the bottom than the top; ours measured 35mm and 60mm.Their lengths differ too, and you’ll have to determine these as you assemble, cutting them to the length you require.The longest strut in our assemblymeasured 820mm.


Step 5: Once we’d made our cuts, we did a pre-assembly of the basic frame and clamped everything in place. We do this to make sure our construction is on track and it allows us to make small adjustments if necessary. It’s not essential, but saves you having to make big corrections down the line. It’s especially helpful when you needto get an accurate line between the top and bottom backrest support, as well asthe angle at which each backrest plank meets the curve of the support, and pre-assembly will help you to determine spacing between the backrest and seat planks, too.


Step 6: Note that the back legs intersect on the inside of the seat frame, whereas the front legs are on the outside of the frame. In addition, the armrest sits atop the front leg, but is connected to the back leg by cutting a rebate into the horizontal surface the thickness of the upright, and supporting it with a small block on the underside.


Step 7: Use the router and sandpaper to round off all the sharp edges and remove splinters.


Step 8: When fixing the seat planks in place, mark the location of each plank and then slightly plane the curved surface of the side struts to allow the plank to sit squarely and securely. Use one screw on either side to fix them in place. From your box of screws, use the longer ones for the frame and the shorter for the backrest and seat planks. When it comes to assembling the backrest planks, start with the centre plank followed by the two outer planks and then space the remainders accordingly.


Step 9: Once we’d assembled the chair, we added three layers of sealer, allowing each to dry before sanding gently and applying the next one.

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