Morris Chair #1: Morris Chair Design and Cut out parts

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Blog entry by PPK posted 02-28-2017 04:26 PM 1832 reads 5 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Morris Chair series Part 2: Dye and Assembly »

Here I’m going to outline the method I am taking to build myself a Morris Chair. I’ve been wanting to have one of these because I really like the look and the comfort, but also because I want to learn some new techniques, especially upholstery. I know there are a number of other blogs on building a Morris Chair, but they are all different, and everyone has their own unique ways of building. So here’s mine!

I am not using a plan, per se. I have been looking at lots of pictures, and I have the basic dimensions for height, depth, etc. to follow. I don’t work too well from plans. I do want it to look something like this, however:

The chair will be built with Walnut and Hickory – one of my favorite wood combinations.

I started out by building the legs. I opted to go with hollow legs, joined together with a lock miter.

They look like this once fit together. Lock miters are kind of tricky to get adjusted just right on the router table, but once you get it the first time, keep some scrap to help to align the bit the next time you set up.

Next I cut out the rails for the sides, front and back. I also mortised them.


I smoothed all of the parts after cutting them out in hopes that I won’t have to do much, if any, sanding.

I cut tenons mostly on the table saw, but did use my handsaws to cut some of them down a little. I also used a simple shoulder plane to trim the tenons to fit my mortises.

I have procured some leather, dacron, foam cushion, thread, zipper, etc. for making the cushions. I also purchased a pretty cheap “heavy duty” sewing machine that should be able to handle sewing leather. (Singer model 4411)

I am moving on to steam bending the chair arms. Making the bending form:

Here’s my steam box, set up and ready to go.

I’ve steamed and clamped the arms.

Now I’m steaming the stretchers for the chair back.

After bending the chair arms, I used them to trace the arc onto the chair sides. I then cut the arc with the bandsaw. I had the sides partially assembled (dry fit only) so that the arc would be consistent.

Now I’ve got one chair side completely dry-fit.

I’ll chamfer the ends of the through mortises so they look nicer. They’ll also get pegged.

Ask questions if you like, I know I’m not terribly detailed, and my photography is awful.

This is all I’ve got done right now. Next post (It’ll take a while – don’t get too excited) will be dyeing the walnut, and making the chair back. I suppose the last post will be the upholstery and finish.

Live a life of virtue, give thanks to God for all His blessings, and always keep in mind where you are going…

-- Pete

8 comments so far

View Northwest29's profile


1712 posts in 3736 days

#1 posted 02-28-2017 04:44 PM

Pete, looks mighty darn good so far. A Morris chair has been on my bucket list for years although I would like to try a rocker version. I too planned on the locked miter approach. Would you do it the same way if you built another one? What dye are you planning for the walnut? Looking forward to your next post -

-- Ron, "Curiosity is a terrible thing to waste."

View PPK's profile


1872 posts in 2055 days

#2 posted 02-28-2017 04:53 PM


Too early to tell if I’d do things differently. So far I’m happy with the way its turning out. I’ve had a lot of time to plan it all in my mind and perhaps plan it in my supper conversations too (my wife may be getting tired of me talking woodworking). I am using Behlen alcohol based dye, a dark brown. The reason for that is that I have two different varieties of Walnut, and they really don’t match. I’m going to even out the color. One is air dried, the other is kiln dried, and I’m pretty sure one is “American” walnut, and I know the other is Black walnut. I’m using what I’ve got, and adapting!

-- Pete

View AandCstyle's profile


3306 posts in 3503 days

#3 posted 02-28-2017 10:53 PM

Pete, you have made a great start on this project. The lock miter legs are spot on, nice job!

-- Art

View horky's profile


328 posts in 4177 days

#4 posted 03-01-2017 12:32 PM

Pete, great looking chair so far. Question: Which walnut did you steam bend (air or kiln dried) and what was its moisture content before bending? I have had issues bending walnut with moisture content below 7% and am curious. Thanks.

View PPK's profile


1872 posts in 2055 days

#5 posted 03-01-2017 02:11 PM


I steamed the air dried stuff. It bent like a stick of butter. And maintained its radius pretty well. Of course there was a little spring back, but i guessed it right, and they ended up the radius I wanted. I have no idea about the MC. My shop doesn’t get too dry typically, so I can only guess they were around 9 to 12%....

I have had fine luck also with bending kiln dried (hickory), although I’ve never tried any really tight bends.

-- Pete

View NormG's profile


6511 posts in 4250 days

#6 posted 03-01-2017 10:02 PM

Wonderful chair for a project and looks like you have moved right along, great idea on the legs

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View pintodeluxe's profile


6489 posts in 4059 days

#7 posted 03-01-2017 10:23 PM

Yes! This is a great blog. Nice progress. This is a project that every woodworker should build.
There’s just something about a Morris chair.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View PPK's profile


1872 posts in 2055 days

#8 posted 03-01-2017 10:57 PM

Thanks guys. It has been really fun so far. Something about learning new things is quite exhilarating to me.

-- Pete

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