The Westport Chair - Before Adirondack

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Project by vipond33 posted 10-30-2011 04:41 AM 25982 views 40 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

It’s no surprise that the Adirondack chair is such a popular project with LJ’s. What else can you build so simply that is also so very comfortable to sit in, sipping a cold one after a long hard day of sore muscles and sawdust.

Scanning the entries on this site I can see the many ways people have delightfully altered the basic design, using different woods, colours and finishes, all the while adding their own personal flourishes. I have built a few myself and sat in many but this project is about the precursor to the Adirondack, that being the Bunnell, or Westport chair, the place where it all started. This particular one was given as a gift to my brother on his 50th birthday.

Now for those that are interested, you can read a brief history of its development here:

A warning though, there is avarice, deceit and a friendship lost over money and trust involved in this tale, common themes for sure in the cut and thrust hardscrabble world of small shop woodworking. Oh sorry, sorry, I was thinking of the 1%, not us.

Built completely out of western red cedar, using plenty o dowel joinery and tasteful brass screws, this is a bit of a departure from the original plan which incorporated just 12 pieces of wood in its basic form and sometimes featured a footrest as well as storage under the seat. You may view the 1905 patent and plan by Bunnell here:

Even though being a design that’s over a hundred years old, this chair looks surprisingly modern in its simplicity of form and looks quite elegant,, even after falling over with you after too many cold ones. With that narrow rear footprint it’s a little tippy if you tipple too much.

For those of you who wish to have a go at this, a full scale plan is available for sale here:

36” x 34” x 30”
About 34hrs.
Build on LJ’s.

Final assembly in my spare bedroom shop.

The birthday boy.

What is not apparent in any of these shots is long grain, thick strips of teak, glued and screwed to the bottom of all ground contact pieces of the chair. Cedar is quite poor for scraping or dropping damage, and sucks up water like a camel to water, but is otherwise fine. i.e. warm and light and soft. A real class act with finer details possible could be achieved in mahogany or ipe.

-- [email protected] : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

16 comments so far

View Karson's profile


35202 posts in 4914 days

#1 posted 10-30-2011 05:08 AM

Gene: a great looking chair. It looks like the birthday boy appreciated it.

Some great research on all of the history on the chair.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

#2 posted 10-30-2011 05:34 AM

View Deltawood's profile


40 posts in 3711 days

#3 posted 10-30-2011 01:29 PM

Beautiful chair and I love the back ground information and the new web site to browse.

Thanks Gene

-- - If it ain't broke, don't lend it!

View Woodbridge's profile


3691 posts in 2932 days

#4 posted 10-30-2011 02:26 PM

Gene, that is a great chair. The various angular shapes make it look very modern. I especially like the back view. Thanks as well for the history of the chair. You’ve given me some interesting ideas to explore for some of my future chair projects.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View mafe's profile


12110 posts in 3603 days

#5 posted 10-30-2011 03:52 PM

It is wonderful to see how happy he is for his new chair, congrat him.
Really interesting to read the story of this legend of a chair, and I also saw the sad end of it made of plastic…
Yours are really beautiful on some of those pictures, got to love that one.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View SASmith               's profile


1850 posts in 3501 days

#6 posted 10-30-2011 07:59 PM

Wonderful chair.
Thanks for sharing.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View KnickKnack's profile


1098 posts in 4080 days

#7 posted 10-30-2011 08:37 PM

How strange are things…
2 days ago my wife and I went 150km to see a famous carpet festival here in Portugal. Browsing through the local shops I was struck by a chair being sold in a “crafty” kind of shop. It seemed an interesting “Adirondack meets red/blue” kind of chair that I’d never seen before so I made some sketches – for subsequent looking into.
And suddenly here it is! With history etc etc :-)

Yours, Mr vipond, is considerably better made and designed. I might just have to have a go at something like this.

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

View thedude50's profile


3610 posts in 2992 days

#8 posted 11-02-2011 09:00 AM

if your brother is a normal sized guy i would have to make it double sized as it looks kinda small with him in it how wide is the seat i make my Adirondack chairs 22 to 26 inches wide depending on the client i like to make large charis as i am 6 4 and 320

-- Please check out my new stores and

View vipond33's profile


1405 posts in 3011 days

#9 posted 11-03-2011 01:40 AM

My brother’s not tiny, probably 6’3” 230, but still fits. This chair can be modified easily, all that is needed is to increase the seat width, the back and bottom cleat. You might add another or stronger brace under the seat board.

-- [email protected] : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

View bfd's profile


502 posts in 4321 days

#10 posted 10-19-2012 10:38 PM

Gene, This chair is killer! I am just seeing this for the first time. When I first saw the post I thought wow what a great “modern” take on a classic. Then when I read on that this chair actually predates the Adirondack chair I thought even better! The lines on this chair are so simple, minimal and strong from any angle that it make the Adirondack chair seem almost ornate. It kind of reminds me of another famous chair Gerrit Rietveld’s Red, Blue & Chair from 1923.

Like you mentioned I can also see making this chair in mahogany, ipe etc.

View houseofnut's profile


4 posts in 2244 days

#11 posted 08-30-2013 10:38 PM

I would like to see about getting ahold of the plans for this very nice chair. I tried the link and found that it was an old link, so I had no success. I would like to try making a couple of these for my son’s upcoming wedding.


View KnickKnack's profile


1098 posts in 4080 days

#12 posted 08-31-2013 07:26 AM

I tried the link and found that it was an old link, so I had no success

Welcome to Lumberjocks.
The link to the plans seems to have moved to here – love to see it when you’ve made it.

-- "Do not speak – unless it improves on silence." --- "Following the rules and protecting the regulations is binding oneself without rope."

View houseofnut's profile


4 posts in 2244 days

#13 posted 09-01-2013 02:23 AM

KnickKnack, Thank you for the link to the plans for this wonderful chair!! Looking forward to it but I am sure it’ll be awhile before we post anything…we are novices! Gulp!

View vipond33's profile


1405 posts in 3011 days

#14 posted 09-02-2013 05:27 PM

Yes thanks KK. I have updated the link.

houseofnut: (and others that may build). It is not necessary to slavishly follow the construction methods detailed in the plan. Keep your dimensions accurate but at the critical seat to back and the seat to back leg joints you could use blind dowels (as I have), through dowels with shallow plugs, or a loose tenon, but preferably not just screws.

Assembly is tricky but you can do it in stages (modules) with custom angled blocks clamped on to aid in the glue up.
I would make sure to add an extra brace under the seat (pic 6) and add the floor strips as mentioned. My chair had the arms screwed on as this unit is very bulky and would not go through a standard doorway, but you could permanently attach them if moving and storage is not an issue. Make sure to post, I’d love to see it too.

-- [email protected] : dovetail free since '53, critiques always welcome.

View houseofnut's profile


4 posts in 2244 days

#15 posted 09-03-2013 01:20 AM

You are all a helpful bunch of people! Thank you, much, Gene.

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