The Gustav Stickley No. 332 Morris chair is an iconic example of Arts & Crafts period furniture. It isn’t as flashy as the bow arm or bent arm chairs, but it’s a challenging project. In my never-ending hunt for details of original Gus Stickley pieces, I came across this chair at an auction several years ago. I always wonder about the history of these pieces. Was it honored and cared for its entire life, or was it exiled to the basement, barn or attic when Craftsman furniture fell out of fashion and then brought back to life?
In this example, the upholstery is obviously new, and the pegs that hinge and adjust the back looked like replacements. These details were noticeable while I was at the auction, but there was another suspicious element that I didn’t see until I got home and took a close look at the image below. You can click on the image to see a larger version if you don’t see anything wrong.
When I look at these details in the wild, I generally look at the through tenon first. I’m curious to see how well it fits in the mortise in the arm. Then I look to see how the grain matches where the leg was laminated. This is a typical match, I don’t think the original makers worried much about this.
To show quarter-sawn figure on all four sides these legs were glued from two or three pieces, and the side grain was then veneered. The veneer is often cracked in originals, and I think that is a sign that the chair was likely stored in an unpleasant climate-a too hot attic, or a too damp basement at some point in its life. I’ve used this technique several times without mishap, we’ll see in 80 years or so if the veneer cracks.
My guess is that you looked first where I usually look, and that like me you missed the repair on the corner of the arm. I really enjoy finding a neatly made repair on an old piece of furniture. You have to admire the guy that found a piece of similar-grained wood, fit it in to place, and then matched the color. I doubt that the chair left the factory that way, but it is a possibility. And I get curious about who did what to make that fix necessary to save the chair.