Morris Chair

Marc Spagnuolo

The Bow Arm Morris Chair is a classic woodworking project with a rich history dating back to 1866. The chair features a cushioned seat with a contoured reclining back. Our version of the chair is a play on the Mission style variation popularized by Gustav Stickley in 1904 and will feature bent laminated arms and back slats, tapered legs, and a complementary footstool.

  • 19 lessons
  • 278 min
  • $79.00

Here's what we'll cover:

  1. Get Ready!

    Your adventure into the Morris Chair begins here!

  2. Morris Chair Virtual Tour

    A close look at the details that you’ll need to know in order to build the Morris Chair.

  3. History & Design Justification

    The origin of the Morris Chair and how it relates to our design.

  4. Wood Selection & Rough Milling

    Tips on analyzing the cut list, developing a lumber purchase strategy, and selecting the right boards for your chair parts.

  5. The Legs Pt. 1 – Milling & Glueup

    The beefy legs are made up from two pieces each and need to be glued together before milling to final dimension.

  6. The Legs Pt. 2 – Joinery

    Cutting the mortises and tenons in the legs of the chair and stool.

  7. The Rails & Tenons

    This project has a lot of tenons, and most of them are made on the rails.

  8. Arm Bending Form

    A lot of plywood is required to make these forms, but your diligence will pay off!

  9. Arms – Resawing Laminates

    Each arm is made up of six thin laminates, which are carefully cut at the bandsaw.

  10. Arms – Bent Lamination

    There’s a lot more to bent laminating than just slapping on the glue and applying a few clamps!

  11. Curved Shoulders & Top Rails

    One of the more challenging parts of this project will test your hand tool skills.

  12. Arm Mortises

    Making precise mortise in a complicated workpiece.

  13. Side Rails & Slats

    A clever trick to make mortises in curved edges helps the sides of the chair come together.

  14. Back Stiles & Mortises

    Cutting mortises in curved workpieces with no straight reference edge? No problem!

  15. Back Slats & Tenons

    More bent lamination and how to make tenons on the end of a curved workpiece.

  16. Loose Ends

    Tapers, pins corbels, reclining holes, and pillowing the legs are just a few of the tasks we still need to accomplish.

  17. Finish Prep & Assembly

    The chair comes to life after some surface preparation.

  18. Finishing

    A one-two punch finish that starts with varnish and ends with lacquer. And some natural coloring options for cherry.

  19. Upholstery

    A little fabric, some foam, a few staples, and our chair frame becomes a chair!

What You’ll Receive:

  • All materials delivered digitally, available immediately upon purchase.
  • Detailed cut list and plans including a PDF and a SketchUp file (Metric and Imperial).
  • Hours of detailed video instruction showing every step of the build, from wood selection to finishing.

What You’ll Learn:

  • Mortise & Tenon Joinery
  • Through Mortise & Tenon Joinery
  • Jig & Fixture Construction
  • Bent lamination
  • Tapered Legs
  • Large leg construction
  • Rapid Cherry Aging
  • Lacquer finishing via HVLP
  • Basic Drop-in Cushion Construction

What You’ll Need:

  • Jointer, Planer, Tablesaw, Bandsaw
  • Miter Saw, Drill, Router, Router Table
  • Drum sander makes bent lamination easier but is optional.
  • 15 BF of 8/4 lumber
  • 22 BF of 5/4 lumber
  • Half sheet of 3/4″ plywood
  • As an alternative, purchase a kit for this project.


This was a fun project learning some new techniques.

Guild Member

It was a fun and challenging project. I used Cherry wood and finished with Waterlox. The hardest part, I found, was making an accurate mortise for the through tenon on top of the arms and creating the tenons on the curved back slats. The cushions I got at a local upholstery shop and cost me approx $300. Thanks Marc for the great instruction!!!

Guild Member

This was my first Guild build, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It far exceeded my expectations. The Sketchup models were very helpful to see how each component mated with the others. The videos, as always, were very helpful, too. I changed the design up to personalize it for my own Southwest flavor preferences. The chair is mesquite with a Native American weave pattern for the upholstery. I also modified the legs to be straight so that I could make the best use of a particularly nicely figured piece that I resawed and bookmatch veneered around all four legs. The customer (me) is very pleased with it!

Mick Simon
Guild Member
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About Your Instructor:

Marc is a podcaster, video producer, woodworking enthusiast, and author of Hybrid Woodworking and Essential Joinery. He has contributed articles and video content to, Popular Woodworking Magazine, WOOD Magazine, and Woodcraft Magazine. He is also the host of The Wood Whisperer, an instructional woodworking video series that’s been going strong since 2006. He is also one of the hosts of the Wood Talk podcast. He has taught classes at the William Ng School, Marc Adams School, Weekend with Wood, Fine Woodworking Live, as well as at various Rockler and Woodcraft stores. He also speaks periodically at woodworking events like AWFS and IWF.