Document 1 "A Reclining [Morris] Chair",

By John F Adams Amateur Work May 1902

This is the first of a number of primary documents relating to the history of amateur woodworking that I will upload. These documents, each in a unique way, illustrate at least one aspect of the evolution of amateur woodworking in America. For a brief background account of Amateur Work, click here.

Keep in mind that -- at the beginning of the 20th century, if any electricity were available to power tools, it would be Direct Current -- and all probability, projects like this would at best include foot-powered table saws and bandsaws, if these sorts of tools were owned by the builder.]


Anyone making the reclining chair here described will find it a very comfortable one and requiring only ordinary skill to make. Care should be taken to lay out the work accurately so that all joints will be true and well fitted. Oak, maple or birch may be used but oak will be the most affective in appearance as well as the most durable. The four corner posts are 21" square and 23 3/4" long. The top ends of each are cut down 1/4" on each side and 1 3/4" from the end to form the joint with the arm pieces, 1/2" of the top being beveled as shown in the illustrations. The front cross piece of seat is 27" long, 6" wide and 7/8" thick; 2 3/4" of each end being cut down for 1" at both top and bottom to form tenon joints with the corner pieces. The ends of the cross piece also have a 4" bevel. The mortises for this cross piece are 4" long and 7/8." wide, the lower end being 7 1/2" from the floor end of the corner pieces. A similar cross piece at the back is 5" wide, the mortises for same being 3" long and 8" from the floor ends.

The arm pieces are 88" long, 1 1/4" thick and 5 1/2" wide except for 6" at the rear ends. which are out in with curved turns to a width of 2 1/2." the inside edge being perfectly straight. The mortises for the corner pieces are 1 3/4" square. Those at the front end are 1/2" from the inside edge and 2 1/2" from the end, those for the rear posts being 20 1/2" from the front ones. When the fitting is completed, drill 1/4" holes from the inside edge of the arms through the tenons of the posts and drive dowel pins, after coating the holes with glue.

The cross pieces are also secured with 1/4" dowel pins glued in. The side cross pieces are 21 1/4" long, 5" wide and 7/8" thick, 5/8" of each end being cut down 1/2" on each edge to form the tenons; the corresponding mortises in the posts being 4" long and 7/8" wide and cut through to the mortises for the front cross pieces. The mortises for the side pieces are centered in those for the front and back pieces, thus bringing them 8" from the floor. In the upper edges four mortises are cut in each piece for the upright side pieces which are 3 3/4 wide, 11" long and 1/2" thick, A piece 5/8" wide and 1/2" long is out from each corner, making the size of the mortises 2 1/2" long, 1/2" wide and 1/2" deep. The space between each upright piece and also the posts is 1", which can best be laid out after cutting out the upright pieces. Each arm piece re-quires to have similar mortises on the under side. Also on the rear upper sides of the arm pieces are cut two sockets for holding the cross piece which retains the back in position. These sockets are 1" wide and deep and 1" long and 1" apart. The outer one is 3/4" from the end.

The seat may be made in two ways; cross pieces of wood may be used or a softer seat with webbing and wire springs. If the former is chosen the cross pieces should be 24" long, 3 1/2" wide and 5/8" thick. Mortises of full size to receive the ends are cut on the inside of the side pieces 2" from the lower edge and placed as shown in Fig. 1. If springs are used four strips of 3" webbing are run both across and front and back, the ends being securely held by cleats 1" square which are screwed to the inside lower edge of the cross pieces. Short spiral wire springs are then sewed where the webbing crosses, 16 being required. The tops of the springs are then secured by additional strips of webbing or by a piece of strong canvas, the latter preferred. Allowance must be made for the depression of the springs and canvas caused by the weight of the person occupying the chair.

The back of the chair is framed as shown in Fig. 2, and attached to the rear cross piece by two strong hinges. There are devises for attaching the back but they are not generally obtainable but are preferable if they can be had as they allow the back to be brought forward over the seat which is handy when moving the chair about the house. With hinges, the back cannot be folded forward in this way. The side pieces of the back are 30" long and 1 1/4" square, the tops being beveled as shown. Five cross pieces are required 3" wide, 1/2" thick and 18 1/2" long except the top one which is 21" long, the ends of the latter being beveled.

The upper edge of the top cross piece is 1" from the end of the side pieces, and the others are 3 1/2" apart, which brings the lowest one flush with the ends of the side pieces. The mortise for the top piece is 2" long and 1/2" wide and cut clear through the side pieces. The others are the same size but are cut only 1/2 " deep and are 4 1/2" apart. A piece of selected wood 1 1/4" square and 22 1/2" long is used to retain the back at the desired angle. The ends of this piece are cut away for 1" on the ends so they will fit the sockets cut in the rear ends of the arm pieces. The staining and finishing should be in harmony with the other furniture of the room in which the chair is to be placed and no description of that part of the work will be given. The cushions for the chair should be purchased unless the maker has had sufficient experience to make them. They are to be had of any large furniture dealer in wide variety and varying cost.