Glossary Quadralinear Posts/Legs

On Arts and Crafts posts or legs, "Quadralinear" construction means four pieces of quartersawn oak configured so that each of the four sides exhibit the oak's rays and/or flakes.

The term quadralinear, evidently stems from the fact that on each of the four pieces, the grain stretches lengthwise from one end to the other, from top to bottom, "linearily". Quadralinear -- not in Oxford English Dictionary -- is, I think, most strongly associated with the "posts" in the current popularity of the Morris chair, either as an "antique" -- that is, an original from one of the early twentieth century Stickley factories --, as a commissioned piece from a professional woodworker, or, as a project by an amateur woodworker.

From the beginning of the era of Arts and Crafts in America, the term "post" or "posts" was employed to designate the four "legs" in chairs, especially the Morris Chair -- several images below -- or as components in such pieces as the Arts and Crafts sideboard

cross-section for four-sided post

Source: Gustav Stickley, "Home training in cabinet work: new series of practical talks on structural wood working", The Craftsman March 1905, pages 719-735.

While today this usage of "post" may seem odd, in Vic Taylor's "woodworker's dictionary", we find out that such usage has a history. Taylor defines "Posts" as

"Applied loosely to any upright, but often particularised in connection with a door, King, Queen, Princess, sign, corner, bed, etc."

Source: VicTaylor, The Woodworker's Dictionary Hemel, Hempstead, England, Argus Books,1987, page 149

(As shown at the lower part of this page, several techniques are employed to achieve this effect.)

Background on the Morris Chair:--The Morris Chair as Woodworker's Icon

The first Morris chair was marketed in England in 1866, by Morris' own company. As the picture shows, it is quite different than its American cousin.

original morris chair

Gustav Stickley's version appeared in America in 1901. The drawing, below, including the "bill of materials and construction details," appeared in The Craftsman [between 1903 and 1907] Source: Making Authentic Craftsman Furniture: Instructions and Plans for 62 Projects, Dover Press, 1986, p. 52. This link leads to an online version of Craftsman Homes, a 1909 book by Stickley.

Iconic Symbol

As Barbara Mayer notes in her In the Arts and Crafts Style (1993), p. 86,

Owning a Morris chair came as close as many Americans ever got to participating in this aesthetic movement.

About the project, the Morris -- or, sometimes, Stickley -- chair, evidence suggests that this design had, by the very early 1900s, captured the imagination of many of the American middle class.

morris chair pm 1910

Treasured for its straightforward functionality, its name comes from the father of the Arts and Crafts movement, the 19th century philosopher and designer, William Morris.

In 1882, Morris declared

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

See Sources

In 1903, as an indicator of the chair's popularity, the New York Times featured an article (May 17, 1903. pg. SM10) entitled, "Mr Homebody's Morris Chair," with the subtitle, "It was a beautiful Morris chair and a most agreeable birthday surprise to Mr. Homebody."

In other words, at its introduction to America, the chair was judged a masculine chair, and would be much cherished by a man as a gift.

Read More Here

Is This the First Use of the Quadralinear Method?

cross-section for four-sided post
read more here
cross-section for four-sided post

Evidently perfected ca. 1912 by the furniture designer, Peter Heinrich Hansen, an employee of L & JG Stickley, quadralinear describes a method of sawing white oak into four narrow bevel-shaped strips and then gluing them together to make a four-sided "post" or leg for a larger piece of arts and crafts furniture -- such as a morris chair. The desired result is to highlight the flakes and rays of the quartersawn oak. Gustav Stickley achieved a similar effect with oak veneer.

In the Leopold Stickley operation, on arts and crafts pieces such as “posts” for Morris chairs, quarter-sawn white oak prevailed – although the firm's catalogs also mention “Cuban mahogany – and older factory workers claim that "Leopold would personally inspect each shipment of lumber when it arrived and reject those boards which did not meet his standards". The factory also developed a laminating technique to enhance the remarkable tiger-striped grain pattern of the quarter-sawn oak on all four sides of furniture legs, rather than on just two sides as with nonlaminated legs. All pieces were fumed to further highlight the grain pattern, and even those critical of L. & J. G. Stickley 's designs have always acknowledged the superb quality of the finish.

label for source code

It is probable that much of the innovation seen in L. & J. G. Stickley Furniture designs comes from Peter Heinrich Hansen as chief designer in 1909. A German-born cabinetmaker, Hansen emigrated to America around 1900. For a short time, Hansen worked for Gustav Stickley -- around 1904 -- but, after a dispute, moved to Fayetteville, NY, to work with Leopold as shop foreman and chief designer. Hansen was instrumental in designing a substantial amount of L. & J. G. Stickley's furniture.

"In the true spirit of Gustav Stickley's philosophy,Hansen eschewed virtually all decoration save the tiger oak itself".

Source: Donald A. Davidoff, "Sphisticated Design: The Mature Work of L and J G Stickley", Arts and Crafts Quarterly 1 December 1989, page 90.

Organic Architecture


For Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), in the settings he created, each furniture piece was part of a larger whole, or structure; his intent, however, was to make each piece individually retain its individual character. Wright, along with such other contemporaries as Antoni Gaudi, Louis Sullivan, and Gustav Stickley, are known now as "organic architects", because they embraced a philosophy of architecture we now know, thanks to Wright himself, as "organic architecture".

Frank Lloyd Wright introduced the word, "organic", into his philosophy of architecture as early as 1908. It was an extension of the teachings of his mentor Louis Sullivan whose slogan "form follows function" became the mantra of modern architecture. Wright changed this phrase to "form and function are one", using nature as the best example of this integration. Read more here but Teague's 193? Chapter four, "Fitness to Function" -- in his famous Design This Day -- lays out these concepts with clarity.

In tortuous prose, Wright famously said

"So here I stand before you preaching organic architecture: declaring organic architecture to be the modern ideal and the teaching so much needed if we are to see the whole of life, and to now serve the whole of life, holding no traditions essential to the great TRADITION. Nor cherishing any preconceived form fixing upon us either past, present or future, but instead exalting the simple laws of common sense or of super-sense if you prefer determining form by way of the nature of materials..."

Source: Frank Lloyd Wright, The Future of Architecture, 1939

Original source here

Just as Wright sought to remove any barriers in personal residences between the interior and the exterior -- he wanted the natural world part of a home's spaces -- in this sense, his furniture was both intrinsic to the space it occupied and part of the natural world. Because other technological materials were yet to be developed, wood was his chosen material, and he used it with boldness.

Significance of Quarter-Sawn White Oak to Wright's Aesthetic Sensibility

Some of Wright's furniture was made of quarter-sawn white oak. The oak log is first sawn into "quarters" or, smaller, pie-piece shaped sections, and then lengthwise into boards. This is the method of producing the beautiful quarter-sawn, figured grain of white oak.

The diagram from (Masonry Carpentry Joinery, Scranton, 1899) illustrates the ways in which boards can be cut from a log. The quarter-sawn section, in­dicated in the diagram as "a" to "c", provides the most beautiful results, since the annual rings of the wood cross the board at nearly right angles, and the medullary rays, being parallel to this face, exhibit the lines of silver grain.

While Wright was convinced that the best method of creating his designs were machines -- 'the normal tool of civilization' -- the results of the typical furniture factories was discouraging. Click here for more on this topic; For a more positive account, see document 17:-- Judson Mansfield ASME Address, 1950

While plenty of evidence suggests that shop practices at the turn of the century indicates that although machines were increasingly employed to replace handwork, the skills of the cabinetmaker were still needed:

"it is a mistake on the part of many manufacturers to recommend their machines for their supposed advantage in displacing skilled labour."

A competent joiner-machinist turns out better work than the average laborer. By his

"His own observations, during employment in various large shops using machinery, has led him to conclude that not only will a competent joiner-machinist turn out better work than the average labourer, but he will, by his knowledge of the requirements of the specific work in hand, often utilise a machine in a manner, and to an end, never dreamt of by the untechnical operator. It should be remembered that a machine, however well constructed, cannot think."

Source: George Ellis in 1902 (Modern Practical Joinery, 3d edition, London, 1908, page 86.

Woodworking shops of the era probably had the following machines:

circular saw bench;

band saw machine;

overhand planes;

mortise machine;

veneer press; and maybe

a multiple-spindle dovetailer.

L and J. G. Stickley had opened their factory in Fayetteville, New York, in 1900, and presumably the Bradleys could have bought the furniture in that year.

There is no difficulty in distinguishing the furniture designed by Wright and made by Ayers and the L. and J. G. Stickley furniture; Wright's furniture is far more sophisticated and relates closely to the architecture and interior woodwork of the house.

Wright Introduces Vertical Slats

cross-section for four-sided post

The new woodworking machines of the day, which created the conditions for furniture to be constructed rapidly and inexpensively, helped form Wright's notions of for an aesthetic of furniture, defintiely radical for the era. Click here for Wright's declaration about the use fo machines

The characteristic use of vertical slats in furniture -- first seen in the Harlan House designed in July 1891 -- served

1) as integral ornament and

2) as an architectural screening device that allowed space to flow through while still an integral part of a chair.

The earliest chairs known to make use of vertical slats were probably those designed for his own dining room.

Slats/Spindles in Morris Chairs:-- Gustav Stickley's 'Flat Bars'

According to David A Hanks,

"The idea of geometrically shaped slats as a decorative motif was probably derived from the Japanese".

Source: David A. Hanks, The Decorative Designs of Frank Lloyd Wright New York: Dover, 1979, pages 37-43

Arthur H. Mackmurdo's fence for the Century Guild stand at the Liverpool International Exhibition of 1886 (The British Architect, November 5, 1886) is an early instance of this idea in the West.

Chairs that made use of vertical geometric slats had also been used by English designers in the 1890s (see the armchair designed by Wickham Jarvis illustrated in "Studio Talk," The International Studio, vol. 5, 1898 and the chairs designed in the Art Nouveau styles by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Edinburgh. ).

original morris chair
original morris chair

Although the exact date of the dining room furniture for Wright's own house is uncertain, it was part of the photograph in House Beautiful in February 1897.

Details were also manifested in the thin oak strips that were nailed and glued onto various parts of the Prairie furniture, sometimes in bands of multiple and often intricate formations. The banding, which caught the light and created shadows, added vitality to the wood surface and emphasized the structural elements of the furniture. It also directed the spatial flow echoing and even continuing the molding of the room thereby helping to unify the furniture with its surroundings.

This was also the period when Gustav Stickley was developing his "flat bars arranged vertically", the "m" parts of the description for Stickley's 1901 patent in the image above. (Later, evidently, he specifically identified the thin "flat bars" and/or the slats as spindles. Logic argues, though, that slats, in shape, in the cross-section, are rectangular, while spindles, in shape, also in the cross-section, are almost always square.)

In 1964, Donald Kalec -- in "The Prairie School Furniture", The Prairie School Review, vol. 1, no. 4, fourth quarter -- theorized about the important role of Wright's fur­niture in setting an interior spatial flow and for creating architectural space. In this sense,

the articulation of the open space of Wright's interiors was often achieved by the movable and built-in furniture as well as by the image to come) had an important function in creating the secondary space of the room. The elongated slatted backs served as screens that defined the eating area, creating a room within the room.

Source: adapted from David A. Hanks, The Decorative Designs of Frank Lloyd Wright New York: Dover, 1979, pages 37-43,

Morris Chair -- Gustav Stickley, 1905 Solid quartersawn white oak Leather upholstery 40" high, 33" wide, ... post construction, a virtually identical reissue of a Gustav Stickley design except that it incorporates the durable quadralinear post construction later perfected by Stickley's brother, Gustav... [am going to look at the context of this quote in the actual book]

Sources: Carla Lind, The Wright Style New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992; Barbara Mayer, In the Arts and Crafts Style San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1993, page 22; David Cathers, Stickley Style: Arts and Crafts Homes in the Craftsman Tradition New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999; Kevin P Rodel and Jonathon Binzen, Arts and Crafts Furniture: From Classic to Contemporary Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 2003, page 17

Check more details about the anatomy of the quadralinear post here

Is "Quadralinear" a Retronym?

Note: Retronym is a term for labels of concepts and other words coined after an event has occurred. In this case, evidently, in 1992 Carla Lind evidently coined the term, quadrilinear, to describe the Stickleys'methods of veneering a chair's "post".

This chair is virtually identical reissue of a Gustav Stickley design, except that it incorporates the durable quadralinear post construction, later perfected by the Stickleys.

The professional woodworker, Mark Taylor, uses quadralinear in a 1994 issue of Home Furniture, page 11.

However, it is puzzling that the term quadralinear is not used by the scholar, Donald A Davidoff, who in the 1980s published studies on the output of the Stickleys, especially L and JG Stickley, and edited the compilation of catalogs and drawings of Early L. & J. G. Stickley Furniture New York: Dover, 1992.

(I found two very interesting shorter pieces associated with quadralinear in the defunct periodical, Home Furniture. While I don't have a full set, in looking through my issues, I discovered a "how-to" article on "quartersawn look in a and c legs, Fall 1995 -- includes both text and drawings -- where the gist is that cutting quadralinear posts with plain bevels is ok. The second article, Winter 1994 -- by an Arts and Crafts woodworker named Mark Taylor-- does three things:

1) uses "quadralinear",

2) shows the "interlocking miters" method, ie, the one recommended by Robert Lang -- see Sources --, and

3) discussess the "veneered construction" method employed by Gustav Stickley.

While Leopold Stickley is said to have developed the "quadralinear" method in 1912, a 1915 article by an industrial arts instructor describes a technique used by Gustav Stickley for veneering the post of a Morris chair, but without using "quadralinear":

As an argument in favor of using veneer on such pieces as the buffet and morris chair shown in Figure 1, it may be said that the veneered post is far superior to the solid one, in that the knots and cracks so common in pieces of this size are done away with, and any desired uniformity or diversity in figuring may be obtained thru selection and matching of veneer. An example of matching veneer is shown in the back of the dining ohair (Figure 1). By using similar pieces of succession slabs thru the flitch, it was possible to secure slate which are practically uniform in figure.

Source: D K Hiett, "The Use of Veneer in the Manual Training Shop" Industrial Arts and Vocational Education 3-4 - 1915, page 160.

In the early 1900s -- Leopold Stickley's Stickley's designer, Peter Hansen? -- developed a method that used rabbeted miters to form what is later called a quadralinear post:--four quartersawn white oak pieces mitered and then glued. This design allows the oak's ray flake to "wrap around the leg".

Source: David Thiel, [on Frank Lloyd Wright], Popular Woodworking, December, 2000, pages 72-76 [design for a wrightesque hall tree]. "Quadralinear posts. ...

Also, page 7 of

Authentic Arts and Crafts Furniture Projects

... mortise and tenon, quadrilinear post construction, wedged and keyed through- tenons. ... in the case of the Shop of the Crafters Morris chair on page 22, ...

L. & J.G. Stickley

At the beginning of the 20th century, brothers Leopold and John George Stickley bought a furniture factory in Fayetteville, New York, and incorporated it as L. & J.G. Stickley. Their first furniture line, handcrafted Mission Oak, presented a new aesthetic: function and unadorned beauty over the ornate extravagance of the Victorian era. L. & J.G. Stickley and Craftsman Workshops, owned by older brother Gustav, forged a new era in furniture craftsmanship and design.

Leopold Stickley found enduring success by listening to his consumers....

Source: The Stickley Museum

L. & J.G. Stickley's Arts and Crafts Period

Early Period: 1900-1903

Onondago Shops: 1903-1906

Handcraft: 1906-?

Pivotal 1910 Catalog: Quarter Sawn White

M. H. Baille-Scott; Peter Hansen

American Prairie Style

English Arts and Crafts Masters: Voysey, Mackmurdo, Gimson

Donald A Davidoff, 1989. See Sources



Creating "Quadralinear" Legs in Home Workshop

First Method of Cutting Beveled Sides for Parts of Four-Sided Post/Leg

cross-section for four-sided post

"Quadralinear" construction ...

[f]our pieces of solid quarter-sawn wood are joined with a rabbeted miter. This method eliminates the two problems mentioned previously. The leg is all solid construction, the core can be filled with another piece of wood if there has to be an exposed tenon, and with the machinery available then, as well as today, it is relatively simple to produce.

The same visual effect could be achieved if the pieces were simply mitered, but with Leopold's ingenious system, the joints can be clamped together without the tendency to slide apart that simple miters would have. Also, all four pieces are machined identically — there are no rights or lefts or fronts or backs to keep track of, so the set up work for milling needs to be done only one time for any number of legs.

My guess is that these legs were originally milled in the factory in one pass on a shaper or molder, a machine that was in use in factories of the period, but is unfor­tunately not affordable for the average woodworker of today. This joint can easily be cut on a tablesaw, and there are several alternative ways to make a joint that is just as easily assembled, with the same finished appearance. The key to success in any of these methods lies in careful stock prepa­ration, and being absolutely sure that the position of the stock does not change as the wood moves past the cutter. D4 to the nature of this joint, any error will result in a gap twice as large as the deviation. For example, if you try to make a long miter cut on a board with a bow of 1/32" over its length, the end result will be a 1/16" gap in the finished joint. Similarly, if the board should raise up slightly while moving past the sawblade, a gap of twice that distance will result. Careful set-up, featherboards, hold-downs, or a power feeder will go a long way toward ensuring the successful milling of this joint.

Source: Robert W. Lang, More Shop Drawings for Craftsman Furniture: 30 Stickley Designs for Every Room in the Home. Bethel, CT: Cambium Press, 2002

Second Method for Cutting Beveled Sides for Parts of Four-Sided Post:--Table-top Sled For Sawing Beveled Sides

gustav stickley's method of creating four-sided QS posts/legs

Third Method for Cutting Beveled Sides for Parts of Four-Sided Post:--Table-top Sled For Sawing Beveled Sides

cross-section for four-sided post

End View of Final Saw Pass for Beveled Sides

home workshop sled on sliding table

Lay-Out Configuration for Glue-Up of Four Beveled Parts

cross-section for four-sided post

End View of Glue Application on Four Beveled Sides

cross-section for four-sided post

Glue Applied, Masking Tape Laid Out, Four-Sided Leg Ready for Completion

layout for glue-up

Finished Four-sided Leg

cross-section for four-sided post

This Last Image Shows Method of "Faking" Quarter Sawn Look on Lower Stretcher

To prove to myself that a QS look can be achieved by "veneering" exposed side and top edge of douglas fir plywood stretcher, I created two sets of these stretchers for each of the four arts and crafts side tables.

cross-section of lower stretcher

In 1964, Donald Kalec, in "The Prairie School Furniture" (The Prairie School Review, vol. 1, no. 4, fourth quarter), theorizes about the important role of Wright's fur­niture in setting an interior spatial flow and for creating architectural space. In this sense,

The articulation of the open space of Wright's interiors was often achieved by the movable and built-in furniture as well as by the image to come) had an important function in creating the secondary space of the room. The elongated slatted backs served as screens that defined the eating area, creating a room within the room.

Source: adapted from David A. Hanks, The Decorative Designs of Frank Lloyd Wright New York: Dover, 1979, pages 37-43

Source: David Thiel, [on Frank Lloyd Wright], Popular Woodworking, December, 2000, pages 72-76

Sources: David M. Cathers, Furniture of the Arts and Crafts Movement, Stickley and Roycroft Mission Oak New York: New American Library, 1981; Donald A Davidoff, ed., Early L. & J. G. Stickley Furniture New York: Dover, 1992 , pages xii-xiii.

Sources: Sources: VicTaylor, The woodworker's dictionary Hemel, Hempstead, England, Argus Books,1987, page 149; Carla Lind, The Wright Style New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992; Barbara Mayer, In the Arts and Crafts Style San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1993, page 22; David Cathers, Stickley Style: Arts and Crafts Homes in the Craftsman Tradition New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999; Robert W. Lang, More Shop Drawings for Craftsman Furniture: 30 Stickley Designs for Every Room in the Home Bethel, CT: Cambium Press, 2002, pages 10-12; Kevin P Rodel and Jonathon Binzen, Arts and Crafts Furniture: From Classic to Contemporary Newtown, CT: Taunton Press, 2003, page 17

Check more details about the anatomy of the quadralinear post here