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Thread: Is Red oak OK for an outdoor adirondack chair?

  1. #1
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    Question Is Red oak OK for an outdoor adirondack chair?

    I plan to build a couple of Adirondack chairs, I'd like to use red oak with a clear preservative, will this be OK?
    Thanks
    Dennis

  2. I guess if its sealed well it will be OK. Red oak has a lot of tanin in it, so it tends to turn black where water or dirt touch it (I guess its actually iron that turns it black; there's enough of it in soil to do the job). On a chair, the legs might get black tips where they touch the ground. If its sealed well enough, and the coating is reapplied periodically, you can probably avoid this.

    Red oak also has hollow structures ... I forget what they are called ... that act like "straws" and can wick up moisture. You can take a short piece of red oak and blow through it. So if it isn't kept sealed, water can wick up into the end grain and rot.

  3. #3
    I really think I would go with cypress if you are going to keep them outside. If you can find some real nice clear heart redwood that would really make great looking chairs.

    To keep the water off the legs I use 2 of these on each leg.
    http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?p...&filter=glides

    Redwood with brass screws.
    http://www.pbase.com/wlhuber/image/103628430

    Cypress with deck screws.
    http://www.pbase.com/wlhuber/image/104147459

  4. #4
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    Given that you're in New Jersey, I would suggest white atlantic cedar. NJ is about the epicenter of WAC's range, and you should be able to find some at a reasonable price. WAC is the absolute ultimate in outdoor woods - it will take direct saltwater contact and remain intact for years.

    Cypress, if you can get it reasonably, would be a good second choice. Further down the list would be white oak or south american mahogany - All will be very slow to rot.

    Red oak, however, is not what I would use. It decays very rapidly in outdoor environments, and it is inevitable that the finish will get quickly worn off of the end-grain at the bottom of the legs. Once that happens, the open pore structure of red oak will wick water into the chair, and the feet will quickly rot.

    Red oak is also very attractive to certain destructive insects. Among them are carpenter ants and wood bees.

  5. #5
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    Dennis,
    I would not use Red Oak outdoors even if it was stained, sealed, painted, epoxied, etc. This is not from personal experience but from a lot of reading and listening to advice. If you want the chairs to last, Bill Huber's advice and what Frank wrote are very good information in my opinion. I love Red Oak (unlike a lot of folks) but for items sheltered from the weather.
    I did not know that Red Oak has a lot of tannin in it but I did know that it can be used as a straw for wicking water.
    Having lived in California I have some experience with Red Wood and I do like it for some things like decks, out door furniture, and fences. Heart Red Wood makes a beautiful deck. It also will stain concrete when it gets wet for the first year or so. I had around 300 feet of privacy fence around my property in California and the fence base was resting on concrete. The concrete had a lot of black stain on it the first year but the weather washed it off.
    David B

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by dennis thompson View Post
    I plan to build a couple of Adirondack chairs, I'd like to use red oak with a clear preservative, will this be OK?
    Thanks
    Dennis
    Will it be OK? Sure. It may not last long, it won't hold a finish, and it will fade like all get out as it begins to rot, bit it will be ok for a couple of years. You could put a very expensive marine finish on it that will cost far more than the lumber, and then it will last as long as the finish does(search CPES and Epifanes). Stainless or brass hardware is requisite, as anything else will turn the wood black quick. It would not be my first choice for exterior furniture. I guess if you had gotten some cheap and wanted to build something that was not a major investment in time, and or you were prepared to bring it inside in inclement weather, it might be ok. Given the time it takes to make ANYTHING from wood, I would personally choose a wood with a greater life expectancy to prolong your enjoyment of the results.

  7. #7
    white oak is better out of doors than red.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by dennis thompson View Post
    I plan to build a couple of Adirondack chairs, I'd like to use red oak with a clear preservative, will this be OK?
    Thanks
    Dennis
    I don't think you can rightly call it an Adirondack chair if it isn't cedar....

  9. #9
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    I was visiting the local Woodcraft last week and they have a hickory version of an Adirondack chair sitting out as a means of advertising their class on building one. I think the class was in the $400-500 range, including materials. The students in the class will be building it out of red oak. I asked him why RO, since that is not typically considered an 'outdoor' wood. He said they 'seal' the RO. I asked him why not cypress, which is readily available locally. He said that cypress is soft and doesn't hold up well.

    To be honest, what he said didn't make a lot of sense to me. Is cypress too 'soft' to use for Adirondacks?

    Bill, your chairs are gorgeous. Would you mind letting me know where you got the plans? I'd love to get my hands on them.

    John

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by John Loftis View Post
    I was visiting the local Woodcraft last week and they have a hickory version of an Adirondack chair sitting out as a means of advertising their class on building one. I think the class was in the $400-500 range, including materials. The students in the class will be building it out of red oak. I asked him why RO, since that is not typically considered an 'outdoor' wood. He said they 'seal' the RO. I asked him why not cypress, which is readily available locally. He said that cypress is soft and doesn't hold up well.

    To be honest, what he said didn't make a lot of sense to me. Is cypress too 'soft' to use for Adirondacks?

    Bill, your chairs are gorgeous. Would you mind letting me know where you got the plans? I'd love to get my hands on them.

    John
    I designed them myself....

    They are Lee Valley plans, the plans are really go, I have made 6 chairs and have to make 2 more this fall.
    What I did when I got the plans was to make a copy of them at Fedex Office and then spray glued them to 1/2 MDF. Cut the MDF as templates, and used a guide pin on the band saw to ruff cut the parts then finished them up on the router table with a flush trim bit.

    If you don't have one a tapering jig is really handy for making the backs. I did add 2 inches to the width of the chairs which was very easy to do with their plans.

    http://www.pbase.com/wlhuber/taper


    http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.a...158,46162&ap=2

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Hagan View Post
    Red oak also has hollow structures ... I forget what they are called ... that act like "straws" and can wick up moisture.
    The hollow structures you're talking about are the pores, I think, and red oak doesn't have the tyloses that plug up the pores; white oak has those tyloses, which is the reason white oak works for wet barrels (wine, etc.) and red oak doesn't.

    Mahogany, cypress, cedar, maybe redwood, those would be my choices. White oak is kind of heavy for a chair you might want to be lugging across the lawn with some frequency.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by David G Baker View Post
    Dennis,
    I would not use Red Oak outdoors even if it was stained, sealed, painted, epoxied, etc.
    +1 Red oak is a very poor choice.

  13. #13
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    As stated.. red oak is not what you want outside as already stated... it has low rot resistance. Cypress.. cedar.. white oak... just not red oak.

    Good luck...
    Sarge..

    Woodworkers' Guild of Georgia
    Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Beers View Post
    I don't think you can rightly call it an Adirondack chair if it isn't cedar....
    I always thought the traditional Adirondack was made of White Oak and painted white...until I did some internet reading today.

    It seems that the original chairs were made from Alder and painted either brown or green. The carpenter who applied for the patent (not the inventor) put his name on all of the ones he sold and supposedly a signed original is pretty valuable today.

    Whatever the wood used, it's a timeless design that has graced a lot of patios all over the USA and even abroad. Didn't SMC used to have a member in the UK who made his living building Adirondack chairs?

    BTW, I have one of Cedar and one of Cypress out by our pool. Although the Texas sun has long ago baked off the varnish I put on them, they are still sound. Either of those woods would be a good choice.
    Cody


    Logmaster LM-1 sawmill, 30 hp Kioti tractor w/ FEL, Stihl 290 chainsaw, 300 bf cap. Solar Kiln

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Loftis View Post
    I was visiting the local Woodcraft last week and they have a hickory version of an Adirondack chair sitting out as a means of advertising their class on building one. I think the class was in the $400-500 range, including materials. The students in the class will be building it out of red oak. I asked him why RO, since that is not typically considered an 'outdoor' wood. He said they 'seal' the RO. I asked him why not cypress, which is readily available locally. He said that cypress is soft and doesn't hold up well.

    To be honest, what he said didn't make a lot of sense to me. Is cypress too 'soft' to use for Adirondacks?

    Bill, your chairs are gorgeous. Would you mind letting me know where you got the plans? I'd love to get my hands on them.

    John
    They seal the RO? They claim cypress is too soft? I think something is soft in that guys head! Cedar is about as soft as it gets, and it works fine. Mahogany is far softer than RO but it works far better. Come to think of it, TEAK is a rather soft wood relative to many other choices, but it seems to hold up well out doors! A cool test would be to "seal" a piece of RO with whatever they are using and leave it out doors for four seasons to see how it lasts in your local environment. I'd guess not well from my experience, but I'd love to be proven wrong.

    Live oak might be a better choice! I just heard a bunch is being sent from the Galveston area that fell in the last Hurricane to help rebuild one of the last great whaling ships at a museum here in CT. Works for boats, should work for chairs no? And its a local species to you! Definetly not soft either, so it will pass the woodcraft guys muster as well.

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