If you’re looking for a woodworking project that has the potential for becoming a family heirloom, you might want to consider building a rocking chair. Rocking chairs are some of the most beautiful of wood chairs and are certainly among the most popular for sitting in and relaxing. We’ve got a few tips to get started on how to build a rocking chair.
Styles Of Rocking Chairs
If there is one word that can sum-up the world of rocking chairs it might be: diverse. Rocking chair styles are all over the map, from sculptural contemporary to the many forms of traditional, and everything in-between. The first thing you’ll need to do is determine which style you’re going to build. A few common styles are:
The Windsor Style Rocking Chair
This style is widely known for the bent bow back rail and the vertical, stair rail like spindles that make-up the back. This is a challenge to make from scratch for even an experienced woodworker, but great kits are available.
The Mission Style Rocking Chair
These chairs are beautiful with flat slats in the back and more squared-off legs, called “posts” on rockers, and arms. The mission style model is a classic look that doesn’t involve quite as many curves. This makes it much easier for someone to build with more common tools.
The Adirondack Style Rocking Chair
Really just a rocker version of a traditional Adirondack Chair, these chairs look great on a beautiful lawn or pool deck. Often painted in bright and tropical colors, Adirondack style rocking chairs are great for more novice woodworkers, though they still require a fair amount of skill.
Rounding-Up The Tools You’ll Need
Rocking chair construction can get very intricate and sometimes requires specialized tools. The Windsor style chair, for example, involves many curves. Some of these are cut on a large band saw, and still others are actually bent using a steam bender or other bending techniques. The shop full of tools required for some styles cost much more than a truckload of rocking chairs!
For that reason, we’ll focus on the simplest of the styles above, the Adirondack Rocking Chair.
Made mostly of flat stock, the few curves you’ll need for an Adirondack style rocker can be cut with a small electric jig-saw. Here’s what you’ll need:
• A niter saw or circular saw for cutting stock to length
• A small table saw for longer rip-cuts
• A driver/drill and a counter-sink bit
• A good power sander, a handheld orbital sander is good
• A small router for rounding the edges
• A good supply of wood glue
• Good quality exterior grade screws
• A pattern or set of plans – otherwise a chair to copy
Cutting The Parts And Building The Chair
The beauty of the Adirondack style is the lack of complicated joinery. All joints on a simple Adirondack Chair are held together with screws and glue. Extra brackets and braces give added strength to the arms and back and these chairs are exceptionally durable when complete.
An Adirondack Rocker has the following parts:
• 2- rocker bases
• 2 – front legs
• 2 – back legs (these are the long angled parts)
• 2 – arms (usually wide enough for a plate and a drink)
• 5 – back slats
• 5 – seat slats
• 3 – back braces, lower, middle, and top
• 2 – arm support braces
The assembly is a simple matter of cutting all of these components to size according to your plan or model. They are then sanded, the edges rounded, and glued and held fast with screws.
Once the chair has been allowed to set, so that the glue can dry overnight, it can be painted or clear finished to create a wonderful addition to your home.
Once you learn how to build a rocking chair, you’ll probably just keep right on going and build a few. It’s been known to happen!