How I Remember ‘Rake’ and ‘Splay’


These aren’t the real legs for this chair. They are “dummy” legs that I use to check the angles.


First-time chairmakers often confuse the terms “rake” and “splay” – and never mind the other names for the other angles in a chair.

After I took my first chairmaking class 11 years ago, I made up this little explanation for myself so I wouldn’t forget.

Chairs are like saws.


When you look at a saw from the side, you can see the teeth raking forward or backward (depending on the filing). When you look at a chair from the side, you are seeing the rake of the legs. And chair legs can rake forward or back – just like sawteeth.


When you look a saw from the front, you can see the teeth bent out from the sawplate. This is called the set. When you look at a chair from the front, you can see the legs splay out (they never splay inward that I know of). “Set” and “splay” both begin with “s.”

OK, it’s not the most perfect explanation, but it has prevented me from mixing up the terms for many years now.

— Christopher Schwarz

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15 Responses to How I Remember ‘Rake’ and ‘Splay’

  1. Wesley Beal says:

    What if the chair top is a circle?

  2. spokeshave27 says:

    This is how I remember: rake is the angle to the front and splay is the angle to the side – I rake the leaves with the rake in front of me – but legs always splay sideways.

  3. mcdara says:

    Just remember. Port and Left both only have 4 letters (standing at the stern looking toward the bow)

  4. neiswender5 says:

    Thanks! After making about thirty windsor chairs, I still struggled with keeping these straight. I think the saw analogy will stay with me.

  5. Splay your legs and think of England

  6. Jeff Faulk says:

    I can’t get over the weirdness of the new comments line…

    Anyway. I’m happy to see updates on Furniture of Necessity. That’s probably the most useful book I’m actually looking forward to. The Studley one is nice, but really, who is gonna build another Studley cabinet?

    (…I know I probably will give it a try…)
    Suggestions on where to find big chunks of wood for seats, though? Would laminating some 2×12 blocks work?

    • 12/4 poplar is common almost everywhere in the United States.

      We get it here for about $3.25/bf or less.

    • I’m not sure what the etiquette is for posting sources. I hope I’m not out of line. Elia Bizzarri, a Windsor chair maker and teacher, highly recommends a source for one and two piece air-dried white pine seat blanks at his website.

  7. stone58 says:

    Splay that again?!

  8. Throughly enjoyed the posts and their frequency over the last two days

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