Arts & Mysteries: Three-Legged Turned Chair


Panel seat requires beefy tenons for support.
By Peter Follansbee
Pages: 22-23

From the October 2010 issue # 185
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Seventeenth-century chairs come in many styles: plain turned chairs with woven seats, carved joined chairs in leather or wool, and one particular type of chair that is a little unusual these days – the turned chair with a board (really a panel) for a seat.

These chairs come in both four-legged and three-legged versions, from fairly austere to extremely complex and decorative. They can be made of ash, beech, fruitwoods and yew. Typically they are made with large-scale components, resulting in a massive appearance. The four-legged variety was made in New England during the 17th century, and, although there are many examples of three-legged ones surviving in England, there is no evidence of one being made in New England. I usually use ash for the turned parts, and any hardwood board for the seat panel. Oak is my first choice; I’ve also used elm or cherry.

I often make the three-legged version; it is challenging and fun to make, and it always gets a lot of attention. The geometry involved is a little more sever than with the four-legged chairs, but not all that different. The distinctive element in these chairs is the joinery at the seat-rail height.

The joinery in three-legged chairs with board seats differs from four-legged chairs with woven seats. On a fiber-seat chair, the seat rails are at staggered heights; thus the tenons do not interfere inside the posts.

Web site: See more of Peter’s work and read his blog.
Web site: Discover more about Plimoth Plantation.
Blog: Read Adam Cherubini’s Arts & Mysteries blog.
In our store: We feature a three-legged Chinese stool in the Winter 2009 issue of Woodworking Magazine.


From the October 2010 issue # 185
Buy this issue now