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Building a Mission Settle (or Three)

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I've always liked the simple lines and understated elegance of furniture from the Arts and Crafts / Mission period of furniture design (most of it, anyway).   I realized early on, however, that the only way I was ever going to own anything like that (of any appreciable quality) was to build it myself as most of the quality furniture in that style would be considered "boutique" furniture..... complete with a "boutique" price of at least one arm .... possibly a leg ... maybe an eye.....

I did a bit of searching and came up with some plans sold by  Wood Magazine.  Although I felt their design was a good starting point, I definitely wanted a longer and deeper version of the couch (since couches are for naps, too, and I don't fit in a standard-sized couch) and I wanted to add a little of my own style - so I used their plans as a basic starting point and went from there.  I ended up making the couch 1-1/2" deeper and  6" longer (notice these dimensions are multiples of 3/4"), abandoning some of their details, and adding a few of my own.

I won't be covering in-depth dimensions and details because I feel that wouldn't be fair to the folks at Wood Magazine who's plans I used as a foundation (so, buy those plans!), but I will be pointing out what I consider to be the weak areas in their design and the modifications I did to tailor the design more to my personal preferences. As always I'll include a few of the tricks,  trials, and tribulations that go with a project like this.

Originally, I planned on making multiple pieces and selling some of them to pay for materials - buuuuut ...... I never got around to the selling part - lol.  I ended up building two settles (couches), a loveseat, and a chair.  The settles and chair are constructed from Quarter-sawn (QS) Red Oak, and the loveseat is Philippine Mahogany and Australian Lacewood.  I'd also planned on using QS White Oak (the traditional material for these pieces) as I wanted to use the ammonia "fuming" process to create the final color, BUT finding Quarter-sawn White Oak in any appreciable quality/quantity has become a lot harder over the years - so I settled for QS Red Oak.  Red Oak, BTW, does NOT turn a nice dark patina like White Oak does when fumed with ammonia - it turns a sickly green.  Really weird.

Costs:  Building quality furniture isn't exactly cheap - but then costs are relative.  I spent about $4000 on materials alone for this entire project - BUT - I produced four pieces of heirloom quality furniture that will (barring an errant nuke or house fire) be around longer than I will.  I didn't skimp on any of the materials - it's all top-shelf stuff - and unlike most modern furniture, these are completely rebuild-able.  I would imagine that if you wanted to build something a little more budget-conscious, you could build a decent settle for around $650-$800 - but when you consider that these couches sell for upwards of $4000 - $7500 each, $4000 in materials for all of them (not counting labor) isn't all that bad.

Time:  It's a bit difficult for me to estimate the time I spent because these were built over a period of around 8 months on and off.  I started in the Fall and worked part way through Winter, and so I had to wait for decent weather to spray the final finish - so - a big part of that 8 months was spent with my living room filled with couch frames waiting for it to get above 70 Degrees F outside :)  I think a reasonable estimate to build one of these would be roughly 60-80 hours for an intermediate woodworker.
 
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cjbikenut8 months ago
Fabulous work and great instructable. Thank you for sharing
Fastnate1 year ago
This is amazing! Nice instructable overall!
jwilliamsen (author) 1 year ago
Thanks :)

If memory serves, I cut the cheeks on the long pieces by hand with a dozuki saw, and on the shorter pieces I used a stacked dado set on the table saw. Once they were roughed out, I used a rasp to fit them more precisely.
Dickie B1 year ago
I like your router method for cuttung the tenon cheeks.
How did you cut the shoulders? Ie. The width part of the tenon.
Did you turn the boards on edge or what.
I have my lumber and plans and am just getting started and your article is perfect for me. Very, very nice work!
KentM1 year ago
This is perhaps the best posting I have seen on Instructables. It provides a wealth of information and woodworking tips (I'll be downloading it). Great woodworking takes dedication, patience and TIME, which are all very evident in this project. Your level of skill and workmanship is applauded. Fantastic effort!

(What is your background and how long have you been woodworking?)
jwilliamsen (author)  KentM1 year ago
Thank you for the kind words :) I don't consider myself a master woodworker by any stretch of the imagination - I'm always looking to learn more. I don't have any formal woodworking training - most of what I know has come from reading, experimenting, and making my share of mistakes - which often end up being the best teachers. I've been woodworking since the late 80's - starting with building furniture in the livingroom of my apartment using mostly construction scraps, hand tools, and an old circular saw (I was too poor to buy furniture ;).

My background is pretty eclectic: Degrees in Biology and Chemistry, Emergency Medical Technician, Technical Illustrator and Mechanical Designer, Air Force Officer, Producer/Director, Corporate I.T. Director, Disney Artist,  and currently working as a "Freelance Artisan" in a variety of disciplines (computers to gunsmithing).... Like I said - eclectic ;)
MKosterich1 year ago
This piece is absolutely gorgeous. I'd love to have one in my apartment! (Can I commission a piece? :)
jwilliamsen (author)  MKosterich1 year ago
Thank You - I can't take all the credit though - Gustav Stickley designed the original ;)

I don't think you want me to build one for you - lol - it'd be pretty expensive. There are a number of shops out there that are set up to build and ship these, though - you might want to look into them.
ToniRose1 year ago
Too beautiful to push against the wall. After all that meticulous work, I'd place them right in the center of the room.
Outstanding work!
That is an intense and beautiful piece of furniture! And, I have to say, beautifully constructed legs on that thing!
jwilliamsen (author)  Penolopy Bulnick1 year ago
Hmmm - I guess it *is* kind of intense - lol. I'm told that *I'm* intense, so I guess it just reflects my personality :) (although I've never really known what that means, exactly) ;)
jmray1 year ago
Just beautiful, great instructable too. Thank you
jwilliamsen (author)  jmray1 year ago
Thank you for commenting :)
Absolutely beautiful! Excellent 'ible, well documented. It is difficult to find a design more pleasing than Mission. Your execution is exceptional.
jwilliamsen (author)  paganwonder1 year ago
Thank you! I couldn't agree more with your comment on Mission-style - although I still can't help tweaking it a *little*. I've never been one for ornamentation - but subtle elegance will get me every time ;)
csirna1 year ago
great work!!

Suggestion:
for the legs I think it would have helped to use a 45° mitre lock router bit:
http://stusshed.com/2008/09/06/carb-i-tool-mitre-lock-bit/

jwilliamsen (author)  csirna1 year ago
Thank you, and Thanks for the suggestion. I actually have one of the lock-miter bits - but chose not to use it for a couple of reasons - the first being the added complexity and the second being an insignificant increase in the amount of joint strength it would provide in this case.

In this design, the joint is a full-length face-grain to face-grain bond, and given that modern glue joints are often far stronger than the surrounding wood, adding surface area to that joint would be unnecessary (and complex) - especially given the ratio of glue-joint surface area to outer face area (there's actually more glue joint area here than exposed face area).

As you probably know, the lock-miter bit is useful when joining end-grain to end-grain (like one might encounter in drawer sides or case construction) because end-grain to end-grain bonds are inherently weak and can benefit from the added mechanical "lock" as well as the small amount of face-grain to face-grain bond provided by the cut of the lock-miter bit. Face-grain to face-grain bonds rarely need any reinforcement unless you are dealing with particularly oily woods or woods of differing species ("iffy" glue bonding and different expansion characteristics). However, if I was assembling a larger box structure or panel - even with a face-grain to face-grain orientation along the joint - the lock miter would be extremely useful for keeping the joints aligned during glue-up :)
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