An example of a reasonably simple honey-do project using
traditional joinery & materials.
In the summer of 2005, my loving wife noticed that my
backlog of projects was getting a bit light at only a dozen
or so items, and slid up to me, batted her eyes, and said
“You could make something for me – I’d like an ottoman to
match the wing chair in the living room.” OK, which wing
chair? “You know, the rust colored one I want to get
recovered – I’d like to have an ottoman to match it.”
I, of course,
responded enthusiastically to preserve my state of grace in
the household, and realized that she was deadly serious
about getting that chair (not cheap when she bought it new,
still in excellent condition, but admittedly a bit out of
place in the color department) reupholstered. I could stand
in front of the train, or hop on and enjoy the ride.
Defining the Project
Over the next week or so I sketched up several designs to
show to the ‘customer’ and find out just what she had in
I’ve found that
it’s a good idea to do this before you start cutting up the
wood you thought you bought for a project, only to find out
that the rough sized parts now won’t have a role in the real
design that was desired. That’s just a tip from a Galoot
about to celebrate 35 yrs of marriage. Anyway, the basic
requirements were fairly clear. The companion chair was a
known quantity, with a mahogany frame and measurable seat
height and width. There would be a cushion on the top of the
ottoman. But as you’ll notice farther on, none of the
designs I originally sketched are exactly what was wanted.
Further research confirmed a couple of suspicions: a) review
of Thomas Chippendale’s original “The Gentleman’s &
Cabinet-Maker’s Director” (in reprint form) confirmed that
old TC had not initially presented designs for either a wing
chair like this one, or for an ottoman or stool. Other
references consulted for inspiration confirmed that this
chair represents later American Chippendale with the Chinese
influence, but with modern simplifications to accommodate
machine manufacturing techniques. So, the liberties taken by
American interpretation left plenty of room for my own
interpretation of design elements to both blend with the
existing chair and improve on the appearance.
Key things I determined I needed to have in the design:
Shape and size of the legs should match closely to the
chair, and include the corner beading of the original
Spreader frame should be similar in shape to visually
tie the two pieces together.
Cushion height and thickness should match that of the
seat cushion on the chair for another visual tie.
Material choice had to be mahogany, finished to match
Mortise & tenon leg joints, the minimum number of screws
possible, and no nailed joints.