The Settle Chair – The Commode

by | Oct 22, 2014 | 17 comments

With their elegant lines, angles and smooth curves some chairs look wonderful in a room simply as a piece a sculpture.
This isn’t one of those chairs.
This one is square and very plain, but then that’s what attracted me to it. When I first caught sight of it in a photo it appeared so wrong that I thought it had to have something right.

settle chairThe design stems from a knowledge of building settles and all of the joints are nice and familiar mortice and tenons, cut in square sections and connected at 90 degrees.

This is what makes the design so tempting to try out, and I love the simplicity of the back which is merely nailed on. For my first prototype I’ve kept closely to the proportions of the first example I saw, because I thought it looked odd which I liked.

morticeWith a lack of sophistication or beauty this chair needs to do well when it comes to function and so far I’d say it’s looking positive.
When I first sat down on it I have to point out that the initial thought that struck me was that it felt that I was sat on a commode. So naturally that meant it was very comfortable, and more importantly it was a dry fit and was holding me well, so it’s impressively strong.

chair jointsIt feels secure and comfortable to sit in, and it may be a nice to add some simple upholstery to make up for that very flat seat – a loose cushion would be ample. For the finish Helen has some plans to get it painted. The overall feel of the piece is one of utility and very hard wearing and I’d say it would be well placed in a boot room or similar. Predictably it was a very fast, fun build.

fitting jointI’m going make a few more examples after giving this one a good test out for strength. I know I’d like to play around with the proportions a bit as it doesn’t look quite right to me yet, and I’ll have a think about any other improvements it could benefit from.


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About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. Ken Haygarth

    Nice,good job bud. I would love make that Richard. Will wait to see what else you come up with. 😉

  2. Siavosh

    This looks great! Thanks for sharing the journey, I’m just beginning on trying my hand at chair making, so very curious how you iterate on this.

  3. Rob & Joanna Szrama

    My father in-law who is a few inches over 6′ and a few years shy of 90 could use a sturdy chair such as that. Would put the seat a good 3-4″ higher so he, and his artificial knees, had an easier time arising.

  4. Polly Becton

    No rake to the seat, no rake to the back, back painfully low. I’ve sat on Parson’s benches that were square like that and didn’t find them at all comfortable. Even the Shakers, obsessed with the plain and simple, raked the seats and backs of their chairs and benches.

    But then if it fits your arse, who am I to question it.

    For my effort, I want a chair I can find comfortable and beautiful at the same time, but I’ve got to have at least one of those features.

  5. Dan Noall

    I love it.

  6. Frank Joseph

    I love its complex shape looks like someting from the shakers. Very happy to see you back! Will you finish the cuberd I
    Finished my copy best ges. Will send photo asp

  7. mike murray

    Seeing the picture of you sitting in it allowed me to better grasp the overall size and also the seat height. To me it looks pretty nice. Not sure how the arms fit you but otherwise it all looks good. Paint it up, add some cushions and there ’tis. Nice job.

    • Fred

      Don’t see a picture of the chair with anyone sitting in it. Have I missed something?
      Also, with no dimensions I can’t imagine what adding a few inches to the seat height would do.
      Sorry if I’m writing out of ignorance.

  8. Kevin

    Hi Richard, nice looking chair, very practical and kind of medieval. I do have a question about your mortises. It looks like you are using bench chisels to knock them out. Is this correct, or do I need to visit the ophthalmologist?

  9. DenverGeorge

    That chair is so ugly it’s beautiful. Keep us posted on how it is to sit in.

  10. Gary

    You’ve heard it before, but thank you for the simple easy to build projects that beginners like me feel they can tackle. I don’t have to feel its’ got to be perfect, but if I keep building, my skills will keep getting better. Thanks again

  11. Robert R. Lindh

    Rich,Any chance for a few dimensions so I could build a couple???Ballpark sizes…Bob Lindh,Western Pa.,USA.

    • Richard

      No problem, we’ll sort out some dimensions and provide them in another post.

  12. Gareth Martin

    Itinerant noblemen and royalty always carried a second mobile “throne” from which to proclaim and intimidate the common folk. This has the look of one of those.
    Personally, I really like its simplity and solidity. Are there plans? Dims?

  13. Pete Maddock

    nice little chair, I to would like some dims on this please,any chance?

  14. Rob in New Mexico


    I love the look of this chair and look forward to more information. The term “building settles” is unfamiliar to me (out here in the wilds of New Mexico). Can you fill us in? Many thanks for your posts.


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