Chair Woodworking Plans

Free chair woodworking plans, how to make a Morris chair with an adjustable reclining back. I have made two versions of this design, one in metric optimised for standard timber sizes, and the other in  inches.

To make the original version in inches I would think involves a lot more equipment than I have in my modest workshop. I'm thinking table saw, jointer and thicknesser, with a drill pressed fitted with a mortising attachment.

Of course it's not impossible to make this woodworking project using only hand tools, now is it? 

List of Materials

I am going to focus on the metric version, because the wood is available as ready to use in standard sizes.

Here is a list of what you may need to build this project: dimensions are nominal, in millimetres.

  • Legs 4 pieces 635 long by 75 wide by 45 thick. 
  • Stretchers 4 pieces 560 long by 140 wide by 19 thick.
  • Armrest 2 pieces 915 long by 140 wide by 19 thick.
  • Backrest uprights 2 pieces 610 long by 65 wide by 19 thick.
  • Backrest stretchers 2 pieces 500 long by 50 wide by 19 thick.
  • Backrest slats 3 pieces 550 long by 38 wide by 12 thick.
  • Seat 9mm thick MDF.

So, in summary, these are the totals given as the standard nominal lengths in meters.

Please note I am not suggesting that you have these cut to length, this is just a simplified shopping list that you can take to your local timber supplier.

  • 4.2m length of 140 by 19
  • 1.2m length of  65 by 19
  • 1.2m length of 50 by 19
  • 1.8m length of 38 by 12
  • 9mm MDF project board, usually 900 by 600.

Woodworking Joint Detail

One of the features of Mission style furniture is the exposed through tenon which is also bevelled.

Dowel joints are popular with modern furniture factories today, but they invariably fail over time.

To make repairs, I have used long woodscrews as shown in the illustration below.

This is how I would make the joint between the stretchers and the legs. The leg is shown translucent to make it a little easier to explain.

Instead of cutting a mortise and tenon joint, I would like to try to make the connection as shown - two dowels and a large woodscrew in the middle, capped off with a bevelled plate to give the impression of a Mission style mortise and tenon joint.

The Story So Far

Here the basic frame is complete and the backrest and armrest  are in place before final assembly. I  have to make sure there is enough between clearance before marking out and fitting the armrests.

I am using recycled timber so you may see the odd hole here and there.

Making The Backrest

Cutting the half lap joint for the backrest using a handsaw.

Dowel joints or mortise and tenon joints?

In the photo above, I have tried to show the experiments pertaining to the joining of the slats to the frame.

 First I tried to make a mortise and tenon joint, that didn't go too well. The rails are 19 mm thick, the slats at 12mm, so I would have to shave off at least 3mm on each side to make a tenon of 6mm thick.

Perhaps this would be easy enough with a table saw, or an overhead cross cut saw, or even a bandsaw. Having none of these machines, I would have to do it by hand.

Then there is the matter of cutting the mortise. Most would use a mortise cutting attachment in a drill press, but I very much doubt there is one as small as 6mm.

Seems to me a lot of tedious work for very little reward.

Why not use dowel joints, but instead of wooden dowels, use small nails? I used panel pins about 40mm long and about 1.5mm in diameter, with the head cut off.

Here is the tip:

Drill pilot holes for the dowel nails. Convention would dictate using a small drill, and to achieve a modicum f holding power, a drill bit smaller than the diameter of the nail.

Here’s the thing: such a small drill bit in a hefty electric drill is like using an elephant to swat a fly. Besides, the drill bit is likely to break, and good luck with removing that.

Instead of a small drill bit, I used a nail, also with the head cut off, in an egg beater hand drill.

One of the advantages of using a nail to drill small holes is that you are still going to get a tight fit, mainly because you are not cutting any wood fibres.

You can use any type of drill, but bear in mind the speed of an electric drill will heat up the nail and make it go soft. This is not a problem if you are going to drill just a few, and let the nail cool down a bit. I discovered this one one day when I was happily drilling a whole batch, after a while, a strange thing started happening – the nail took on the characteristics of spaghetti.

This is how I did it.

Proceed in this manner to achieve the best results, unless you have a better way, we would be grateful if you would like to share your tip. There should be a FAQ at the end of this page.

First, I marked out the position for two dowel pins in the end grain of the slats. Of course, the drill bit is going to wander off a fraction, so I am going to use the dowel nails to locate the position of the holes in the corresponding rail. Much like the dowel centres for wooden dowels.

The depth of the holes should be half the length of the nails, if not a little less.

By the way, in the final assembly, I am not using any glue for the slats – only for the frame.

Download Chair Woodworking Plans

Use the form below to download a set of chair woodworking plans with dimensions and details of the component parts.

Metric Version using standard size timber.

Original Version in inches if you have a fully equipped workshop and you can mill your own timber.

Mission Chair Woodworking Plans Metric

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Mission Chair Woodworking Plans Inches

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More Chair Woodworking Plans

portable beach chair

How to build a portable beach chair. Free chair woodworking plans PDF download by Rob Brown, editor of Canadian Woodworking and Home Improvement. 

Nothing too complicated here, make them in batches for the whole family.

Tools like bandsaw, table saw and planer is suggested, but I think it can be made with portable power tools.

Frequently Asked Questions

Use the FAQ form below to ask any questions, leave comments or share your projects and tips and tricks.

Frequently Asked Questions

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