how narrow is too narrow for chair legs?

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Forum topic by derosa posted 03-11-2017 10:24 PM 485 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View derosa's profile


1577 posts in 3036 days

03-11-2017 10:24 PM

I’m starting on a new set of dining room chairs, the plan I have calls for 1.5” legs front and back but the lumber I’m using, quartersawn sycamore, doesn’t come that thick, what I’m getting seems to be just over 1 1/8” thick rough cut, being quartersawn it does finish down to 1” easily and often slightly more. I have glued up some pieces but because of the nature of the wood and the two to three tones that the wood has it doesn’t look that good glued up, really obvious even with a perfect glue line. Thought was to shoot for 1” thick at the thinnest and 1 1/16 preferred while keeping the side profile of 1.5” the same as the plan. Was also thinking to go slightly thinner on the backs to still have a good curve, really I wouldn’t make any effort to mill the backs down other then the width and cut the curves out from there. Everything will be mortise and tenon.
Anyone seen/done chairs with legs like these and will it look off?
Additional question, any particular spokeshave I should be looking at for the curves in the back?

-- --Rev. Russ in NY-- A posse ad esse

4 replies so far

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3569 days

#1 posted 03-11-2017 10:39 PM

Going too thin on the legs does make the chairs fragile. It can be done, but you must make sure the grain is continuous from end to end. Any end to the grain or knots will be a breaking point for sure. I would find some wood of the right thickness.

View sras's profile


4943 posts in 3330 days

#2 posted 03-11-2017 10:50 PM

Another approach would be the “If you can’t hide it, flaunt it” method. Create a three layer blank – sycamore on the outsides and complimentary wood in the middle. The middle piece could be a thin strip – acting like a pinstripe. Of course, the leg design would have to be compatible with this type of plan.

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3848 days

#3 posted 03-11-2017 10:56 PM

depends on the design. For a saber leg side
chair it’s fine to use 1” stock.

View bondogaposis's profile


5090 posts in 2552 days

#4 posted 03-11-2017 10:59 PM

Chairs take a lot of abuse. One problem with making the legs narrower is that your tenons will have to be shorter as well. That weakens the whole chair. It is ok to taper the legs to one inch but they should be beefier in the seat area where all of the mortise and tenon joints are. I think that using 1/4 sawn sycamore for the legs is kind of a waste because the 1/4 grain is only visible on two opposing sides. I think a better use for the sycamore would be in the seat and crest rail. Legs look best if they are rift sawn, something like ash would go well with a sycamore seat and crest rail.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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