18th Century Corner Chair

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Project by Lenny posted 01-21-2018 04:51 PM 2753 views 7 times favorited 41 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is an 18th century corner chair, designed with both Chippendale and Queen Anne aspects. It is the culmination of my 38 years of woodworking, as I used every bit of knowledge and skill I possess…and then some. The “and then some” mostly refers to the carving required to complete the project. I had never carved before and had to learn/practice a bit before starting on the actual legs. It took 50 hours to carve the four ball and claw (b&c) feet! With the feet under my belt, the knee shell, though daunting, wasn’t nearly as difficult to carve.

My first exposure to this chair was when its creator, Mickey Callahan, brought it to a RI Woodworkers Guild meeting around 2011. Mickey had made the chair for an article presented in Fine Woodworking magazine (#215, Nov/Dec 2010). That night, I contemplated challenging myself to make the chair and I made it an item on my “woodworking bucket list”. On May 1, 2017 the task began. 270 hours later, the chair is done! I took a break from the build here and there, including a full month after carving the b&c feet.

The chair is made from African mahogany and it is finished with clear shellac, tinted with Transfast dark walnut dye, followed by a spray application of satin lacquer. I made the wooden slip seat but had it upholstered professionally. I purchased the full size plans alluded to in the Fine Woodworking article. They were quite necessary for making the chair period correct. Lumber-wise, it took a honking piece of mahogany that measured 12 feet long by 10 inches wide by 4 inches thick! (picture #6) While there are other usable cutoffs, all that remains from the original plank is a piece about 16 inches long.

This was indeed a challenge and I feel good (nay, great) having met it. I’d like to give a shout out to a few folks. First, thank you to Mickey Callahan. Mickey works at my local Woodcraft store. I took his one-day ball and claw carving course at the store. I told him I was taking it with the goal of making the “Mickey chair” as I dubbed it. He made himself available to me for questions and assistance and I certainly took advantage of the offer. Secondly, I want to thank Charles Neil. For those who don’t know, Charles has been a spokesman for Woodcraft products. He is also widely known as an expert on finishing. When I struggled with application of the shellac, I reached out to Charles for help. We had a telephone conversation and he offered sage advice that got me to the finish line. Third, I’d like to acknowledge the quality of content found in a series of DVDs on carving the ball and claw foot, put out by Mary May. Again, if you don’t know, Mary is an accomplished carver who has appeared on Roy Underhill’s show and has several videos on YouTube. I purchased the series online and referred to them often throughout the carving process. Lastly, thank you to my good friend Paul Andrus (Harleysofttaildeuce on Lumberjocks). It’s invaluable to have a woodworking buddy off whom you can bounce issues, questions, complaints, etc. Paul put up with me and provided valuable input quite often.

-- On the eighth day God was back in His woodworking shop! Lenny, East Providence, RI

41 comments so far

View Ron Aylor's profile

Ron Aylor

2649 posts in 1891 days

#1 posted 01-21-2018 04:57 PM

WOW. Be proud, Lenny. Awesome craftsmanship and attention to detail. Kudos on the ball and claw feet!

View MrFid's profile


910 posts in 3148 days

#2 posted 01-21-2018 05:00 PM

Superb. A masterpiece. Very nice job!

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View Kelster58's profile


759 posts in 1784 days

#3 posted 01-21-2018 05:04 PM


-- K. Stone “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ― Benjamin Franklin

View splinterpicker's profile


74 posts in 1396 days

#4 posted 01-21-2018 05:07 PM

gorgeous chair! What a challenging project. It’s clear that you were up to the challenge!

View a1Jim's profile


118258 posts in 4821 days

#5 posted 01-21-2018 05:18 PM

Impressive work Lenny, a great build top to bottom and wonderful carving.


View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5126 days

#6 posted 01-21-2018 05:23 PM

I could never


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View gsimon's profile


1327 posts in 3357 days

#7 posted 01-21-2018 05:28 PM

stunning! – congrats!

-- Greg Simon

View ralbuck's profile


6773 posts in 3510 days

#8 posted 01-21-2018 05:37 PM

Awesome job.

-- Wood rescue is good for the environment and me! just rjR

View Richard's profile


11310 posts in 4277 days

#9 posted 01-21-2018 05:37 PM

WOWEE! That’s Way Cool. Beautifully Done Lenny!

-- Richard (Ontario, CANADA)

View Diggerjacks's profile


2330 posts in 4383 days

#10 posted 01-21-2018 05:42 PM

Hello Lenny

Very impressive piece

I love it

The “feets” are so unique and cute
A master piece!!
Thanks for sharing

-- Diggerjack-France ---The only limit is the limit of the mind and the mind has no limit

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4578 days

#11 posted 01-21-2018 05:42 PM

Fantastic work Lenny. Thanks for the heads up so I could see the ball and claw carving. I think most of us who have been woodworking for awhile know how difficult it is to make a chair like this and you really aced this one. Kudos for going the extra yard to get expert advice so you could make sure this was up to the standard you demanded of yourself.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View blackcherry's profile


3349 posts in 5067 days

#12 posted 01-21-2018 05:47 PM

Bravo Lenny quite a accomplishment! Carving and just working mahogany is a nice medium. Your skill set has grown to new levels not surprising for one who really enjoys woodworking. Thanks for sharing this excellent piece of period furniture. Well done!

View Mean_Dean's profile


7057 posts in 4391 days

#13 posted 01-21-2018 07:15 PM

That’s a beautiful corner chair—you should be very proud of it!

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

View Alongiron's profile


654 posts in 3937 days

#14 posted 01-21-2018 07:34 PM

Love it!! Great Project !

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

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4110 days

#15 posted 01-21-2018 07:45 PM

Lenny, this is a beautiful piece and so nicely done. It shows a lot of nice details and fine craftsmanship.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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