It’s easy to talk yourself out of doing something that’s out of the ordinary. Woodworkers tend to worry and analyze things so much that they often settle for less, when doing things right isn’t that much of a stretch. A case in point is the curved rails on the back of a Morris chair. How do you make the tenons on the ends of the curved parts neatly meet the straight uprights? How do you get all those shoulder cuts to line up? Before you begin to worry about how to cut them, you can likely paralyze yourself by worrying about how to lay them out. Maybe straight rails in the back will be comfy enough, if you get a thick enough cushion.
It’s not that bad. It all depends on how you think about it. The shoulders of the tenons need to be parallel to each other, and the same distance apart on all five rails. The tenons need to be at a right angle to the uprights. This means that they leave the curved rail at an angle, and worrying about the angle is a good place to get stuck. Here’s my solution, an incredibly useful device called a stick.
I took a piece of scrap and marked off the finished distance between the two uprights and made cuts to define the shoulders. Then I marked off and cut a 3/8″ wide tenon on each end. Now I have a deluxe stick that is a physical representation of how the finished tenons in the curved pieces need to be. To mark off the tenons I simply put the stick on top of the curved rails with the front edge of shoulder on the stick even with the front edge of the rail. Then I marked the locations of the tenons on the curves by tracing from the stick. I carried the lines down with my adjustable square, and across the opposite edge with a sliding bevel. The process was ridiculously quick and simple, and all the layout lines matched exactly, leaving me most of the afternoon to worry about how to make the cuts. Maybe I should market this as the “Stickmaster 3000”?