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on a magazine has some elements of science fiction, particularly in
relation to the space/time continuum. Even though it’s late November,
I’ve been working on a project for the April 2011 issue of Popular
Woodworking Magazine
. Here is a “sausage factory tour” of how we select,
design and build projects that appear in the magazine. Every year we
have a planning meeting to select projects for the coming year. You
might imagine a large group of people sitting around a conference table
with stacks of data from reader surveys and focus groups. Instead of
that, Glen and I grab a couple seats in Chris’s cube. He asks “what do
you want to make next year?” and we tell him. If it lasts 10 minutes it’s a long meeting. It only goes that long if two of us want to build the same project and we have to leg wrestle. One of my picks for the
coming year is a Gustav Stickley No. 369 Morris Chair.

took the photo of an original chair at an auction a couple years
ago. I wasn’t able to measure the original, but this (and several other
photos) will aid in creating a working plan. One of the things I like
most about this chair is that it visually invites you to sit down and
relax. Several aspects of the design make this happen, and the downward
slant and bend off horizontal in the arm is one of those. There are
others, some overt and some more subtle. Stare at the photo for a minute and see if you can find a subtle visual cue.

shot is from the SketchUp model. I imported the photos and scaled them
to dimensions I knew to develop an accurate model. I’ve been doing this
sort of thing for years; many of the drawings for my books on Craftsman
were developed this way in AutoCAD. The process is a
combination of art, science, research and experience. We have a project
in the works to teach using this process using SketchUp, but first this
chair needs built.

in the shop I drew a full-size layout of the side assembly. Even though
I have an accurate SketchUp model to work from, I consider this an
essential step. The side assembly looks simple when it’s finished, but
there are a lot of parts that need to come together precisely. The time I
spend on the layout pays off throughout the project. When it is
finished, I use it to mark the locations of all the joints by laying the
parts directly on it. If you’ve been looking closely you will see that
the lower rail in the side slopes down from front to back. That’s a cool
detail but it raises the degree of difficulty. The five vertical slats
have an angled tenon on the bottom end, and are all different lengths.
Don’t ask me what the angle is, or what the length of each slat is. I
don’t know; I just marked them from the full-size drawing.

the first side in a rough assembly. The angled tenons didn’t take that
much more time to cut, but they did need to be laid out individually.
You can also see a sample of the bent arm joint in the foreground. This
is a fun project to make, and the best part is that the end result will
be my reward. I’m planning on a significant improvement to my after-dinner naps in the coming year. This project is scheduled for our April 2011 issue, and if you’re not a subscriber, there’s time to sign up to receive that issue as part of a new subscription.

— Robert W. Lang


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Showing 11 comments
  • Gene Reynolds

    Looking forward to the April issue.

    Who do we have to bribe to have a matching ottoman and side table included?


  • Bob Lang

    The last Morris Chair project we published was in July 2003. Perhaps you have us confused with another magazine. I believe this will be worth the read.

  • Chris C

    But Popular Woodworking has ALREADY published a plan and article
    on a Morris chair in the past. Why do we need another one when
    there are so many other forms to explore that have NOT been published?


  • megan

    You need "Pillows, Cushions & Tuffets" from one of our sister sites:

    (really, I just wanted to use the word "tuffets")

  • Bob Lang

    Greg-originals were steam bent, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t use a lamination. When I get to the back rails of this one I will laminate the curves.

    Tom-You’ll have to wait for a really thorough and detailed explanation of making an electronic drawing or model from a photo. We should have exactly that sometime next year. For now, you can import an image in SketchUp from the file menu. Those are jpegs that I scaled to full size and rotated to orient them. There’s a lot more to it than that, much depends on the quality of the photo and finding places in the photo to measure with some degree of accuracy.

    My wife and I are in negotiations regarding the cushions. If she gets the right new sewing machine for Christmas we will probably do some online stuff about the cushions. Don’t know at this point if we’ll have much room in the printed issue.

  • Tom Erbaugh

    I have been wanting to do just this operation with SketchUp! I know you do something similiar in your SketchUp video and it is probably the same operation just a different file extension. Will you have an explaination of how you imported the picture into the model in the project article?


  • Greg M

    I’ve been contemplating just such a project, and the bow arm is more appealing to me. Did the Stickleys use a laminated construction for the curved arms?

  • Bob Lang

    The Gus Stickley bow arm is simpler in construction, two horizontal rails connect the legs front to back example

    L.& J.G. Stickley made a bow arm that was similar to this example

  • Blaine

    Luckily, I can now cross "tuffets" off my woodworking bingo card. 😉
    A Morris Chair is the next major project I want to tackle, but mine will be of the bow arm variety. Other than the obvious curves, are the guts of the chair you’re making and the bow arm pretty similar?
    I’m looking forward to the article.

  • Chuck Nickerson

    Does this mean we can look forward to companion articles on upholstery/cushion-making?

  • Hoody

    This is such an interesting project, that it has been made all over the world. Even here in South Africa.

    I have vivid memories of my FIL regularly dozing off in a similar chair after Sunday lunch! He was a woodshop teacher, and he made his out of Stinkwood.

    Interesting changes in the design! It looks even more comfortable now!

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