All-weather Morris Chair
A Morris chair is a great place to settle in and do lots of things, including reading a book, enjoying a drink, chatting with friends and watching a good rain storm. During at least half of the year in the Midwest these things are nice to do outside, as well as inside, but dragging a white oak mortise-and-tenoned Morris chair onto your deck isn’t the easiest thing. Not one to be put out of a comfortable position, I decided painted pine could work for a Morris chair as well, and so I headed for the home center store.
The chair is made entirely from 1 x 4 and 1 x 6 pine, about $40 worth. The hardest joint on this chair is a butt joint, and if you’ve got a jigsaw, drill and a hammer you can knock one out in a day. With the help of a couple extra tools, my personal best time is under four hours. Your hardest work will be picking through the lumber racks to find the straightest and most knot-free lumber from the store.
The chair is designed to have a cushion, but you don’t have to add one. If you don’t use a cushion, the chair may feel a little deep when you sit in it. Because of this, I’d suggest taking 2″ off the lengths for the side rails, arms, seat slats and side cleats. Readjust the spacing of the side slats to fit the shorter seat. My cushions came from a home center store and were modified with a little sewing. You also can check out Summer Living Direct and buy their “Winston cushions” (items # W1917 and W1907).
Start your building by cutting out the pieces to form the front and rear legs. Traditional Morris chairs typically have very stout legs, and I didn’t want to lose that look or stability, so I edge-glued and nailed two pieces together to form a “T.” Face-on or from the side, the sturdy leg is still visible. With the legs formed, the rear (shorter) legs need to have the top end cut at a 5-degree angle from front to back. Remember that the back on these legs is the top of the “T.” A miter box made quick work of this step.
The next step is to get your box of 1-1/4″ deck screws (available at McFeely’s) out and attach the lower stretchers to the inside of the legs with the top edge 8″ off the floor. With those attached, slip the top stretchers into place, flush with the front leg, and mark and cut the bevel on the rail to allow the arms of the chair to slope back. Then screw these stretchers in place, also on the inside of the legs and then screw the front and rear stretchers in place, above the lower side stretchers. With the side frames complete, cut the pieces for the side slats using the sides themselves to determine the angle to cut on the top of the slats. I spaced them evenly and used a pneumatic brad nailer to attach the slats as they’re more decorative than structural.