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Mission / Arts and Crafts style Love Seat


The plans for this project were purchased from Wood magazine. They sell downloadable plans from their website. I purchased these plans some time ago: You can contact them if you want actual plans. I do not intend to plagiarize. That is their photo to the right, I'll put my photo's below, when I get them developed. (If that link dies, go to then Shopping then Wood Store then Downloadable Wood Plans then Mission Furniture.)

Their plans include instructions and measurements for making a Sofa. They include a few instructions on how to shorten the long parts in order to make a Chair. I wanted to build a Love Seat, so I had to come up with my own measurements for the stretcher parts. However, for the most part I could just follow along the instructions.

In addition to shortening the sofa to make a Love Seat, I made one rather major modification to the plans. The plans call for spindles to be installed all along the back of the chair, just as they are in the chair arms. I decided to change that and save myself a ton of work. In all likelihood our Love Seat will always be placed with its back to the wall or towards a corner. I couldn't see the need to spend that much effort on the back of the piece. So, I replaced the entire back with a sheet of half-inch plywood. I intend to cover that with the same fabric that we use to upholster the cushions, so it will not be completely rough.

I also am working with Cherry, instead of Oak. I know, Mission style is supposed to feature quarter-sawn Oak. Bottom Line: I like Cherry.

I've never worked from precise plans before. Usually I have a diagram with some rough dimensions, maybe some rough cutting plans. From that, I just go with the flow and adjust things to fit in the shop. This project had so many parts that had to fit together just so that I was constantly reading and re-reading the plans. Then the fact that I made those two major changes meant that I always had to consider if I should be following the plans, or following my own plans.

For instance, since I replaced the back with a sheet of plywood, I then had to think about how I was going to attach the back arm-rest to it. So I fastened a piece of "secondary quality" cherry across the top of the back. This stiffend up the top of the back, and gave a nice large gluing surface for attaching the back arm rest.

Another thought -- when you work from your own plans you control every step of the way, every consideration, ever decision. You understand why you are doing things the way you are. With following plans, the why is left out. I found it frustrating that I didn't always understand why the plans were telling me to do things in a certain way or a certain order.

Okay then, enough whining! It was a big project, and there were lots of things to consider and adjust. It took a long time, and now it's done and I love it.

The six-inch-wide armrests are one of the most visually striking parts of the piece, along with the bottom-front stretcher. I've never cut or assembled such a larger 45-degree corner before, and I was quite fearfull of making a mistake. I was afraid of a gap, and afraid of the tops not quite meeting in alignment. After some thought I took this approach: Before attaching the 45's, I first made 4-5 light passes with a block plane to chamfer the edge of the miter. This would result in a slight groove along the miter, which would give an interruption to the surface, and also give a shadow line. In that way I planned to hide any potential irregularities in the joint. The result was very nice.

For the finish, I applied three coats of Waterlox tung oil (satin). After each coat I gave a very light rubbing with 3M pads (like 0000 steel wool, but synthetic) to knock off the roughness. To finish up I rubbed in and buffed out a coat of furniture wax.

More comments among the photo's below...

Photo Gallery

Here is one of the ends of the loveseat, with the top and bottom rails clamped in place, and the center piece loosely inserted. Behind it, is the sheet of half inch plywood that is the back of the loveseat. It is rather easy to "cut" tenons in plywood..
Here is one of the ends a bit further along. All the spindles are loosely inserted, and I am in the process of glueing in the small 3/4" spacer blocks in between the spindles. The little spacer blocks are key to holding all the spindles in place, as they mostly float in the dado.
Here is the carcass nearing the final stages of assemply. The two ends have been glued together via the back and the front/lower rail. The next step is to pin the tenons with 1/4" dowels. I picked a dark red dowel (Can't remember if it was bloodwood or paduak) which was a real pain in the neck to locate. Exotic wood dowels are few and far between.


In the following shots, the project is complete, with all coats of finish applied. The dowels are in, the corbels are attached, and the big trademark armrests are installed. (I used glue and biscuits to attach them.) The base is also resting inside - it's just a piece of 1/2" plywood resting on cleats. I plan to wrap it in some batting and a piece of heavy cotton, and the cushions will rest on it. All that remains is to add some cushions and tack some fabric on the back.



Here are photo's of the completed sofa, with leather cushions, and a faux-leather (vinyl, actually) back. We considered making our own cushions, but in the end decided to take the loveseat to a local upholstery shop and have them custom fit some cushions and cover them in leather.

Here is one instance where experience would have helped. I followed the plans in how I position the platform that the bottom cushions rest upon. Unfortunately, that forced us to need to have custom 8" thick cushions made -- 6" is the standard maximum thickness off foam. This introduced an extra expense. figuring out the correct size, thickness, and slant angle on the seat-back cushions was also a trick. Leather is quite nice, but also pricey, which is why we had the shop apply a leather-look vinyl to the backside of the unit.


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