Furniture Details: Philly Explained - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Furniture Details: Philly Explained

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs

PhillyA couple of weeks ago I posted why Philly chairs were just better (read it by clicking here). In the comments pmac mentioned including a SketchUp drawing in future posts to illustrate the joinery I discussed in the body of the post. Even though pmac understood the joinery I mentioned, I thought it would be a good idea to post a follow-up with the SketchUp drawing for those who still had trouble envisioning how the two chairs were constructed.

The chair on the left in the illustration is based on the Newport chair in the original post – the one on the right is the Philly chair. The vertical tenons on the Newport chair are only 3/4″ long (and only 2″ wide) while the Philadelphia tenons are a full 1-1/2″ long. The biggest difference is the Newport rails are joined into the small curved block at the top of the cabriole legs while the Philly side rails are joined to a massive front rail. The legs on the Philly chair are then joined to the bottom of that “frame”. It’s just stronger.

To help the visual, I’ve included the pics from the last post below.

Newport, RI side chair made by John Goddard

Photo courtesy Chipstone Foundation

Photo courtesy Yale University Art Gallery

Photo courtesy Yale University Art Gallery










Photo courtesy Chipstone Foundation

Photo courtesy Chipstone Foundation

Photo courtesy Yale University Art Gallery

Photo courtesy Yale University Art Gallery



















—Chuck Bender


Newport Philly compare detail

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Showing 5 comments
  • pmac

    Thanks Amigo. Now I have two more questions: I enlarged the picture of the Philly chair (without the seat) and I’m curious as to the joinery at the back leg, specifically how the side rail and the back rail tenons coexist in the rear legs; and, what is the “ledge” ( for lack of a better term) that is on the back rail sits lower than the seat frame?

    • Chuck Bender
      Chuck Bender

      I’ve added a detail shot from the SketchUp model showing how the mortise and tenon joints on the rear of the chair work. If it’s still not clear, let me know and I’ll try it from a different angle. Essentially, the side rails are through-tenoned while the back rail has a tenon just long enough to butt into the side-rail tenons.

      The strip, or ledge, on the back rail is most likely for a chamber pot and may, or may not, be original.

      • pmac

        Perfect, thanks.

  • Bryan Robinson

    Thanks for more details.

  • Sawdust

    Chuck – I’ve enjoyed your discussion of Philly furniture. My introduction to “High-Style” Philadelphia furniture was through the “Hairy Paw & Claw” chair leg. Given its unique role in the decoration of “High-Style” Philadelphia furniture I hope you might mention it the future if you pursue your discussion of Philly furniture beyond construction techniques.

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