Prairie Settle-FAQ and FQA
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.
Large Format plans for the L & JG Stickley Prairie Settle (and the matching L & JG Stickley No. 416 Prairie Chair) are available in our store.
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Almost done with building two prairie settles. Now I need to get some cushions. Any hints? Do I need to take my settle to the upholster? Is there a source that has made them already and I can just get from them?
Also how were the cushions held up? I see two ledgers in the plans but it does not show anything else.
Lot’s of good questions. I wrote about the options in the introduction to “More Shop Drawings for Craftsman Furniture” and that text is included in the new compilation “Great Book of Shop Drawings for Craftsman Furniture” which will be available in the summer of 2012.
I’ll be doing a blog post about upholstery options soon, but in the meantime here is the quick answer. I left the details “fuzzy” in the books and on the large format plans because there are several options, and I felt that readers would be making there own choices based on their budgets and need for comfort. I recommend finding a good local professional upholsterer, either to do the work, or to sell you supplies. The cheap and easy way out is to lay wood slats (or build a simple frame) to rest on the ledgers to support a simple cushion. Futon shops can often order cushions in custom sizes. This is the route many antique dealers take. If you want to do it yourself, I would advise taking a class or reading a few books and start with something small.
I have just about completed the joinery on the settle, I just have the grooves for the corbels left to make. One tip…make the panels to fit. Especially on the back of the settle, measure the gaps between the stiles and make 5 of them and then measure the fianl gap before making the 6th panel. n mine it came in at about 1/8″ smaller thant the other 5 which will not be noticeable.
Thanks for the advice on the arms, that was a question I had been pondering.
I still have one question about the panels…should they be treated like a frame and panel door in that the panels should be a little smaller than the total opening for them and left unglued? I am concerned about expansion/contraction.
I would leave the panels loose. The solid frame is what gives the structural support.
Thanks Bob, that is the way I was leaning.
I really liked the illistration used to market Craftsman plan # 220 but can get no help with an upolestry plan for this settle.Every example I see of finished work looks as if a desperate compromise has been struck. Any help?