The two arms are cut from 37″-long pieces. Measure 4-1/2″ in from the front edge of each, then crosscut the pieces at this point at a 2-1/2 degree angle. By flipping over the shorter piece, a 5 degree angle is formed, and the arms can be attached to the legs and top rails. Cut the taper shown in the diagrams on the back of the arms to add a little more grace to the piece, then center the arms on the front legs and attach. I used screws here, because I knew in my heart that I’d be dragging the chairs around by the arms. I was right. The extra strength is a good move.
The seat of the chair is formed by simply adding nailing cleats to the inside of the chair frame. Screw the rear cleat in place with the bottom edge flush to the bottom of the rear seat stretcher. Then lay a straightedge on the rear cleat, stretching across the front stretcher of the chair. This is the angle the seat will take. Mount the front cleat to the front stretcher so that it fits under the straightedge. The two side cleats are mounted following the angle of the straightedge. Mounting the seat slats is simple from here. Cut the slats and use a router to round over at least the front edges of the boards. If you like, go ahead and round over the long edges as well. Then simply lay the two outside slats tight against the sides and back and nail them in place. Put the center slat in place next, then fill in with the four thinner slats, spacing them evenly.
The back is constructed by forming L-shaped sides, screwing a top and bottom rail between them, then nailing the slats evenly spaced across the back. To allow the back to fold both forward and back, the continuous hinge needs to be mounted to the inside of the back chair rail and to the outside of the lower back rail. Mounted this way, the two back stiles will keep the back from reclining. To solve this I cut a bevel on the back stiles using a hand saw. Mount the back and fold it forward for now.
Next, mark the 5/8″ hole locations on the arms and drill the holes using a spade bit. To avoid tear-out, drill through the top of the arm until the tip of the bit pokes through the bottom of the arm, then drill the rest of the hole from the underside of the arm.
To make the chair an adjustable recliner, cut a back support bar as shown in the cutting list and cut a chamfer along one edge. Then mark the bar to match the holes in the arms and drill two 1/2″ holes through the piece. Put a little glue on the two 2″-long sections of dowel and insert them into the holes until they are flush with the top edge of the piece. The glue should hold, but to add a little extra strength I shot a brad nail through the back of the piece into each dowel.
It’s not a decent Morris chair unless it has a foot rest. This one is fairly simple, with the four legs again using the strength formed by an L-shaped glue-up. Four stretchers screwed between give the footstool its shape, and cleats and some evenly spaced slats finish the job. Again, this is designed for a cushion, so if you aren’t using a cushion, adjust your dimensions and mount the slats to the top of the stretchers.
You’re ready to finish. Do a little sanding to knock off the sharp edges and make a nice surface on the arms. The best outdoor finish is one that blocks light and seals the wood. Around my neighborhood that’s paint. I picked a nice kelly green and used about seven cans of spray paint.
You may have noticed the reference to my “best time” at the beginning of this story. Since building the first of these chairs I’ve built a second for myself, and there have been orders pouring in from family and neighbors. So why don’t some of you take these plans and start up a side business. Please, take some pressure off me! PW
David Thiel is a senior editor for Popular Woodworking.