The L. & J.G. Stickley No. 220 Prairie Settle is one of the bestselling plans in our store. The most frequently asked question I get is about building it is “how do I attach the arms”, and my answer, “glue them on” is the most frequently questioned answer. Here’s my reasoning:
It’s a long-grain to long-grain joint, and if you have a smooth, straight surface on the top of the panels, and a smooth, straight surface on the bottom of the arms it will be strong enough to outlast you or me. That makes a lot of people nervous, especially those who like to make things as complicated as they possible can. My first suggestion for those who need to reinforce things in order to sleep at night, is to run some screws up through the corbels at the back and sides, and to use some figure-eight fasteners on the cushion side of the upper panel rails. Plug the screw holes and put the cushions in and no one will ever know. If you really want to, you can run some screws down from the top, and plug the holes with dowels.
There are a boatload of other options, none of them necessary and all of them more trouble then they are worth. You can dowel, biscuit or domino. You can run a stopped groove on the underside of the arms to fit the tops of the panels and legs, or you can run a second groove on top of the panels and put in a spline. You could put a steel plate on top of the rails, and a hundred rare earth magnets on the bottom of the arms. Building good furniture is about finding solutions that work for you, your skill set, the tools and the time you have available.
The photos come from Doug in Colorado, and the settle was a family project. Doug’s wife made the cushions, and his son did most of the finishing work. Doug didn’t entirely believe me either, he put pegs in the top of the rail into the bottom of the arm, and he had a good story I could relate to about hauling rough lumber from one side of the country to the other and back again.
For any task in woodworking, there are any number of ways to get the job done. The right way is the one you’re happy with. Doug and his family got to spend some quality time figuring this out, looking for leather on sale, and working together to have something they will treasure for a long, long time. And most important, the cat has a cool new place to perch.