Chippendale arm chairs for dining


New member
Does anyone know of any measured drawings for Chippendale arm chairs?  With Covid risks, I'm not eager to try to find one in the collection of a historical society and measure it myself.  I can be reached at
I'm planning on revising the plans that I have for the chair built by Adam Cherubini in Nov 2008 PW and taught in a workshop during 2011 by Fred Walker to make an arm chair version.  I know that the width of arm chairs was roughly 2" wider than the side chairs.  What I don't know is how the mortise and tenon joint between the arm support and the arm is arranged.  If a circular tenon (a dowel in today's versions) was used, that would simplify the construction, but I don't know how an 18th century chairmaker would cut a circular tenon.  Can anyone help me?
Bob Elser

I have made many chairs for customers when I had my business.  I have seen a square m&t with a wedge thru the back leg into the tenon. It is easy the cut/make a round tenon on the back end of the arm. First outline where the round tenon meets the back leg. Cut away the excess with a dovetail saw. Then use a rasp/file to round the tenon. If your tenon is say 1" dia. then drill a 1" hole in a scrap piece of wood. Place it over the tenon and rotate it until it fits. Remember, "it's easy to take a little off than to add a little on". Make the arm blank extra large so you can adjust the surface that meets the back leg. I would practice this first on a scrap piece of wood. On some of my chairs I drilled a hole thru the back leg and used long #14 screw to hold the arm to the leg. Then plugged the hole with a wood plug.
Hope this helps. Let us know how you come out.
Dennis Bork
Thanks, Dennis.  My original idea was to use a long screw to hold the arm and then plug the hole in the back of the leg.  However, I think that your suggestion of using a round tenon on the arm with a wedge to secure it is probably more like what the 18th century chairmakers would have done.  I think  that I will use a round tenon to join the arm and the arm support, as well.  I saw a video of an appraiser looking at an 18th century arm chair and the camera scanned over the joint between the arm and the support and, lo and behold, there was a pin in the joint.  I'm sure that they realized that glue wouldn't be effective to keep that joint stable with the normal use and abuse that the arm of a dining room chair takes.
Ive never seen a period chair that had a round original dowel where the horizontal part of the arm joined the stile or back post.  The horizontal part of the arm usually touches the stile on the front face and side of the post/stile.  Typically there is a notch in the back post that the arm sits into slightly.  A screw was put in from the back of the post into the horizontal arm, then plugged.   
@Jack Plane-  Agree, never seen it on English chairs but I have dealt with more American period pieces.  Any formal chairs I have seen are how as I described it in my prior post.  I have never seen a tenon joining the horizontal arm to the post on a formal chair either.  I guess one may exist here and there.  But, I have seen arms tenoned into the back post, and I have done it that way, but only on lolling chairs that have a wide frame and the arm lands on the face of the frame, not on the side. 
Thanks, CBWW and Jack Plane.  Orienting a carved dowel on the end of an arm piece to a bored mortise on the rear leg seemed virtually impossible to me to achieve.  Using today's technology, I would simply bore a hole through the rear leg into the arm, fasten the arm with a screw and plug the hole.  It is not terribly important to me to produce a chair that reproduces the technology of the 18th century, but if I could, all the better. 
I'm just in the process of measuring the dimensions of a "Centennial" arm chair that I've owned for about 45 years to get an idea for the design of the arm and support.  As per your advice, I'll be able to "wrap" the rear end of the arm partly around the outside surface of the rear leg, seat the arm in a flattened socket of exactly the correct dimension and location and then fasten the arm using a long screw.
One can use a dowel in lieu of a screw, rather than a screw-and-plug, if there's an aversion to using metal fasteners. Offer the arm to the leg, mark appropriately, drill and insert the dowel. A fox-wedged 'trenail' would work as well. Leave enough length in any scenario to trim it flush with the arm. Riving the dowel and leaving it as a bit of a round-cornered rectangle improves its hold, strength, and the look (IMO) as well.
So your saying to dowel it and leave the end grain of the dowel visible? I would not do that. Just use a screw and plug the hole with matching wood so you dont even see it. Plus, I like how the screw has the ability to pull the horizontal arm part against the stile.