Stickley Prairie Chair

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Project by RussJohnson posted 04-27-2015 06:53 PM 3974 views 10 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Made a Stickley inspired Prairie Chair. This is my second project in my Arts & Crafts progression as I try to tackle increasingly more complex projects. I intended this to be constructed with loose tenons instead of pocket screws and glue, but I ran into some difficulties with my router jig with cutting mortises into the ends of my boards and decided to put off the fancy stuff until my next project. I’m having trouble keeping everything lined up when I drive the screws due to the different thicknesses of the posts and rails, a problem that mortis and tenon construction would not have.

Still, I was really impressed with how solid this is. I got the design from a book by popular woodworking. I love that book and my wife likes picking out projects that she wants done.

For the seat we used a pneumatic staple gun (first time with air tools :) to secure some nylon webbing in a checkerboard pattern to provide some springiness. Then my wife made a cushion from some fabric that my daughter (it’s her chair) picked out. The plan is to add a back cushion and 2 side cushions when she gets some free time.

One thing that really worked well in this project is the finishing. I used Danish oil (which is damn near idiot proof) to colorize the wood, waited 4 days for it dry, then sprayed oil poly over top. The Danish oil is great because it doesn’t blotch and the application is so much easier than stain.

One thing I would have done differently is the dowels that hold the slats in place. Drilling the dowel holes in the rails is easy, but a pain in the slats. Then, getting 11 dowels to line up at the same time during the glue up gets pretty complicated.

Still, had fun and learned a lot. Next project is going to be a Morris chair with tenon construction and leather cushions.

12 comments so far

View AandCstyle's profile


3306 posts in 3549 days

#1 posted 04-27-2015 10:52 PM

Russ, the chair looks good. What was the issue with the router mortising?

-- Art

View RussJohnson's profile


57 posts in 3114 days

#2 posted 04-27-2015 11:05 PM

Art, I tried to cut corners and not build a proper router mortising jig. I need to do something like this, but I’ve just been clamping boards to the side of my table. My fall back plan is to win the lottery and buy a domino XL.

View Mean_Dean's profile


7057 posts in 4439 days

#3 posted 04-27-2015 11:52 PM

This chair turned out great! I’m sure your daughter will treasure it for years to come!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View schroeder's profile


702 posts in 5417 days

#4 posted 04-28-2015 12:54 AM

I love it! – Really encourage you to try some M & T joinery, but this is a stellar piece! – Nice work!


-- The Gnarly Wood Shoppe

View thornwoodlou's profile


26 posts in 2442 days

#5 posted 04-28-2015 03:40 AM

good looking chair, this is the type of thing that inspires me

View Alongiron's profile


654 posts in 3985 days

#6 posted 04-28-2015 02:17 PM

Great looking Chair! I am going give on a ty one of these days.

I see on one of pictures on the inside top rails that you used pocket screws. Did you plug them or leave them open?

Again very nice!


-- Measure twice and cut once.....sneak up on it! Steve Lien

View RussJohnson's profile


57 posts in 3114 days

#7 posted 04-28-2015 05:13 PM

Steve, I left them open. The plan is once all the cushions are put together the pocket holes will be covered up by the cushions.

View Nicoli's profile


31 posts in 2415 days

#8 posted 04-30-2015 09:51 AM

Good chair. I like it.

View DBrown52's profile


65 posts in 3022 days

#9 posted 05-01-2015 03:28 PM

Very nice. In terms of making the mortise/tenon joint, are you open to using fixed tenons instead of floating? Tenons are easy enough to cut at the table saw and you don’t have to worry about awkwardly plunging a mortise into end-grain. I find an edge guide on the router is all that’s required to accurately cut mortises on the long edges. To each is own though.

Either way it’s very nice. I like your decision to make the armrests meet the back at 90s instead of miters. It gives it a unique look.

View RussJohnson's profile


57 posts in 3114 days

#10 posted 05-01-2015 04:47 PM

DBrown 52, I think you may have sold me on traditional M&T joints.

View DBrown52's profile


65 posts in 3022 days

#11 posted 05-01-2015 05:07 PM

DBrown 52, I think you may have sold me on traditional M&T joints.

- RussJohnson

The only downside is you wind up with a square tenon and a rounded mortise. I either just leave them as-is or square of the mortise with a chisel for a perfect fit if I think the joint will see strong and repeated racking.

I don’t think there’s a right or best way to do most things in this hobby as long as it’s safe. Treat it like mattress shopping: try a bunch and go with what’s comfortable!!!


View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12445 posts in 4720 days

#12 posted 05-01-2015 05:43 PM

For the side and back slats, you might consider cutting channels in the upper and lower rails to fit stub tenons on the ends of the slats. Then fill between the slats with short lengths of oak.
Faster, looks good and not as picky of a job.

HOWEVER….That is a beautiful chair just as it is.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

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