One of my favorite pieces of Arts & Crafts furniture is the Morris chair. Strong, comfortable (for reading or relaxing), ample seat area for one-and-a-half people, and generally not all that complicated in design – but for the mortise-and-tenon construction. I’ve built a few for my home, and love them. But a few years ago, when
Fall entered my little part of southwest Ohio, I wanted to spend more time on my deck enjoying the crisp air and the beautiful colors (along with a good cigar and a nice glass of wine). And I wanted to be comfortable – like in my Morris chair. While white oak is actually a pretty sturdy outdoor wood, I wasn’t in the mood to drag (let alone leave) my Morris chair outside. What to do?
Plans for Adirondack chairs were in abundance, but I preferred the Morris, and outdoor plans were sorely missing for them. But hey, I’m a woodworker, so this was a challenge that sounded like fun. I
started with the overall dimensions from one of Gustav Stickley’s slant-arm chairs (that I found particularly comfortable) and tried to figure out how to build one using 1x pine from the home center store. That chair was a great success. Comfortable, easy to make (just a screw gun, miter saw and a jigsaw) and with a simple finish from a few cans of spray paint, it looked great. I’ve built a few variations since then, (each better, I hope).
Why would I, as a woodworker, buy lumber from the home center? Couldn’t I find better quality wood at a better price that only required a little preparation? That “preparation” (kiln dried, face, plane and dimension the lumber) means access to rough lumber, and a jointer, planer and table saw. Not everyone who would like to build furniture has access to those materials or tools. But almost everyone has access to a home center. Even with the added expense, my Morris chair cost less than $75 for lumber. And today I can build one in less than three
hours because I don’t have to prepare the lumber.
As a woodworker (and woodworking editor), I know that not everyone who would like to build a piece of furniture has the same experience, space or tools that I have. Many folks don’t even want to be woodworkers; they just want to build an occasional project for around the house. They’re not worried about mortise-and-tenon joinery and they don’t own a thickness planer.
That’s why I decided to write Arts & Crafts Furniture Anyone Can Make. Each of the projects in the book have been designed to use a minimum of tools. I’ve made some allowances for using a benchtop table saw, though most of the projects can be built with a jigsaw, miter saw, screws and glue. I’ve re-designed some classic furniture pieces (and designed a couple from scratch) to use only joinery that can be mastered in a couple of hours: biscuit joints, dowels, pocket screws and just plain screws.
The wood I’ve used for each project (dimensional lumber in red
oak, birch, poplar or pine) is available at the home center. I’ve also added some plywood to avoid having to glue up solid panels. Stickley would have done
it! With some judicious staining, and painting, I feel that the designs retain much of the charm of the originals, while making a finished piece of furniture accessible to even the most inexperienced woodworker.
– David Thiel
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