A rocking chair can be one of the most challenging pieces to build if you’re a woodworker since it requires a lot of tools and pieces, but you can still make a unique chair on your own. Rocking chairs need to have the right balance and weight when you make them or else they can tip over while you use them. With the right tools and determination, you’ll have a chair that you’ll be able to pass down for generations!
EditShaping and Drilling the Seat
- Draw the shape of your seat onto a piece of wood. Use a piece of wood that’s thick, wide, and long. Use a pencil to draw the shape of the chair’s seat directly onto the wood. Make the seat U-shaped where the flat side is the front and the curve is the back. Be sure the chair is perfectly symmetrical or else it won’t balance well.
- You can find templates for chair seats online or you can design your own.
- Make a cutout of your seat on a sheet of paper so you can trace it onto your wood.
- Cherry is a great type of wood to use due to its color and durability.
- Cut the shape of the seat out using a band saw or jigsaw. Turn on your saw and guide your piece of wood slowly through the blade. Cut just outside of your pencil lines so you can still sand and shape the sides of your chair. Cut off any pieces of wood that aren’t a part of your seat design and throw away the scraps.
- Wear safety glasses whenever you work with power tools to prevent anything from getting in your eyes.
- You may also use a handsaw if you don’t have access to power tools.
- Mark 10 points that are apart around the back of the seat. Measure to the left from the center of your chair along the back edge. Put a dot on the point with a pencil to mark where to drill your hole. Make 4 more dots to the left of your first mark each apart from one another. Then go back to the first mark you made and make 5 dots going along the right side of the seat.
- Don’t put a dot directly in the middle of the chair, since a spindle will go there eventually and would make a person sitting down uncomfortable.
- Drill holes through each of your marks. Use a drill press to make a wide hole at a 12-degree angle toward the back of your chair. Make sure the hole goes all the way through to the other side of the seat. Continue drilling holes on each of your marks so they’re angled toward the back of the seat.
- If you don’t have a drill press, you can clamp your seat on a work surface and use a handheld drill.
- Make 4 holes that are in the seat for the legs. Mark the holes for the 2 front legs so they’re from the front of the seat and from the center. Make the holes on the back legs from the front and from the center of the seat. Use your drill press with a bit to make your holes. Angle the front legs to the sides and front of the chair by 5 degrees each. Angle the back legs 20 degrees toward the back of the seat and 5 degrees to the side.
- For example, when you’re drilling the left legs, make the hole for the front leg angle to the left side and toward the front of the seat. For the back leg, angle the hole toward the back of the seat and to the left side.
- Dig out the recessed area of the seat with a curved draw shave. A curved draw shave is a two-handled blade that’s used to carve out large areas of wood. Dig the blade into the top of your seat and pull it toward you at an angle to dig out the shape of the seat. Work from the back of the seat toward the front to curve the area where you’ll sit. You can dig up to halfway through the thickness of the wood to shape your seat how you want it.
- Leave on the left, back, and right sides of the seat flat since that’s where you’ll be placing the spindles for the back and arms.
- Work slowly while you’re using the curved edge shave so the blade doesn’t slip when you’re pulling it toward you.
- Bevel the edges of the seat with a straight edge shave. A straight edge shave is a two-handled tool with a straight blade used for carving wood. Hold both handles of the blade and pull it toward you at an angle into the wood to remove some of the wood. Work around the edge of your seat to make a bevel or curve so the sides of your chair aren’t sharp.
- Be careful while you pull the straight edge shave toward you so the blade doesn’t slip.
- Sand the seat with 320-grit sandpaper. Once you’ve carved out the majority of your seat and you’re happy with the shape, go over the seat with 320-grit sandpaper to get rid of any rough edges or burrs. Wipe the sawdust off your chair occasionally with a clean shop cloth so you can see any rough areas.
- You can also use an electric sander, but it may leave marks on your chair. Be sure to go over the area again by hand to remove any marks.
EditForming the Spindles and Legs
- Cut the front and back legs to size using your bandsaw. Cut your leg pieces from wood that’s wide by thick. Make your 2 front legs so they’re long and the 2 back legs so they’re .
- Wear safety glasses while you’re working with power tools.
- Keep your wood pressed down while working with a bandsaw, or else you may get an uneven cut.
- Shape the legs into thick cylinders using a lathe. A lathe is a large tool used to spin wood so you can shape it into a cylinder. Push the ends of the wood onto the grips of the lathe to secure it in place. Set the flat edge of a scraping lathe tool on the guard in front of the lathe and press it into your wood. Work across the entire surface of the wood while it spins so it becomes cylindrical. Periodically stop the lathe and check the thickness of your legs with a caliper.
- Lathes can be purchased online or from hardware stores.
- When you first start shaping the wood, your scraper tool may meet some resistance. Use your nondominant hand to support the top of the tool so you can hold it sturdy.
- Always wear safety glasses while you use a lathe so you don’t get sawdust in your eyes.
- Taper the ends of the legs so they’re on one end. Spin the leg on your lathe and use the scraper tool to shape one end. Work back and forth along the last of the leg until it’s only thick. Keep the rest of the leg the same thickness. Continue working on each leg until each one has a taper.
- The tapered ends will fit into the holes you drilled into your seat.
- Cut the spindles for your back and arm supports. Use wood that’s wide and thick to start each of your spindles. Look for wood that’s sturdy and flexible, such as white ash, to use for your spindles. Cut the blanks to size using your bandsaw. In total, you’ll need 16 spindles varying in different lengths for the supports on your chair.
- Make 10 of your spindles long for the back of the chair.
- Use 2 spindles that are long for the front supports on the arms.
- Cut 2 spindles to long for the center arm supports.
- Make 2 spindles long for the back arm supports.
- Use a block plane to round your spindles into cylinders. A block plane is a hand tool used to smooth out edges and round wood by hand. Grab the top of the hand plane and pull it toward you to shave off the wood. Rotate the spindle every time you use the plane to round the edges evenly. Check the thickness of the cylinders occasionally until they are thick.
- You may need to sand your spindles to get a completely smooth finish.
- Cut slots into the untapered ends of the legs. Use a table saw or your band saw to cut the slots into the thick ends of your legs. Make sure the slots are positioned directly in the middle of the leg. Cut out the slot so it’s wide and deep. Make the slots at the end of each leg.
- The slots will fit onto the rocks so they are held firmly in place.
EditInstalling the Back Spindles
- Spread wood glue around the inside of the holes along the back of the seat. Open a bottle of wood glue and squeeze a generous dab of wood glue into each of the holes. Use your finger or a shop cloth to coat the entire inside of the hole with the glue to get the best adhesion.
- Work on 1 hole at a time since wood glue can dry quickly.
- Fit the end of the spindles into the holes. Look at the direction of the wood grains on your spindles and make sure it’s perpendicular to the wood grain of your seat. Slide the ends of the spindles into the holes with the glue so the ends stick out from the bottom of the seat by about . Continue putting the rest of the back spindles into the holes until you’ve filled them all.
- Keep the spindles for the chair’s arms aside for now since you’ll add them later.
- If you have trouble getting the spindles into the holes, tap the ends of them lightly with a wooden mallet.
- Allow the glue on the spindles to set for 24 hours. Wood glue takes about 1 day to set completely, so leave your chair alone for a full day. Make sure the area stays cool and dry so the glue doesn’t stay wet.
- You can work on other pieces of your chair while the glue is drying.
- Cut and sand the ends of the spindles with a flush cut saw. A flush cut saw has a flexible blade so you can cut along the edge of your seat. Once the glue is completely set, use your saw to cut the spindles sticking through the bottom of your seat. Then, use 220-grit sandpaper to smooth the edges on your cuts.
EditAdding the Arms and Bask Crest
- Cut your arms and back crest to size with your bandsaw. Use a sturdy piece of wood, such as cherry, for your arms and back crest. Draw curved arcs on the wood so the middle of the arc is back from the edges. Cut the back crest so it’s long, tall, and thick. Make the arms so they’re long, wide, and thick.
- The back crest needs to match the curve at the back of your seat so the spindles can fit in it.
- Drill holes in the bottom of the back crest. Space the holes on your back crest apart to line up with your spindles. Use a handheld drill with a bit that’s thick to make the holes deep.
- Clamp the back crest in a vise so it doesn’t move around while you’re drilling.
- Make you drill straight into the wood or else the bit may come out the side.
- Make holes through the backs of your arm pieces. Put the hole about from the back of each arm. Use a handheld drill or a drill press with a bit to make the hole at a 12-degree angle to match the back spindles.
- Slide the arm pieces onto the outermost spindles. Guide the arms down the left- and right-most spindles so they’re snug. Tap the arms lightly with a wooden mallet if you need to until the back of the arm is about up from the seat. Put a clamp underneath the arm so it doesn’t move down any further.
- Be sure to do this before you put the back crest on or else you won’t be able to attach the arms.
- Line the holes in the back crest with wood glue and press it onto the spindles. Put a generous dab of wood glue into each hole in the back crest and spread it around the hole with a finger or shop cloth. Line up the holes with the spindles and press the back crest into place. Tap the back crest lightly with a hammer so the spindles go completely in the holes. Wipe up any excess wood glue that spilled out with a clean cloth.
- You may have to slightly bend the spindles to line up with the back crest, but they will not break or weaken.
- Drill holes with a drill through the seat and arms. Now that you have the back crest in place, you can drill the holes for the arm spindles. Choose where you want to position the spindles and mark the spots with a pencil. Use a drill bit to bore through the arms and seat completely so they line up with one another.
- Work slowly and carefully so the spindles and back crest don’t move around.
- Apply wood glue to the holes and slide the arm spindles into place. Put a dab of wood glue into each of the holes and spread it around the entire surface. Slide the spindles through the top of each arm and through the seat so they extend an equal amount from each side. Let the glue dry for a full day before working on your chair again.
- Trim off any excess spindle on the arms after 24 hours using a flush cut saw. Once the glue is set, use your flush cut saw to trim any spindles on the arms of your chair. Try to get as close to the wood as you can so it’s a smooth cut. If you need to, use 220-grit sandpaper to smooth any edges that are rough after you make your cut.
- You do not need to trim anything off of the back crest.
EditPutting in the Legs
- Line the holes for the legs with wood glue. Place a dab of glue in each of the holes for your chair’s legs and spread it around the inside of the hole with your finger or a shop cloth. Make sure it coats the entire surface evenly to get the best adhesion.
- Pound the tapered ends of your legs into the seat with a mallet. Position the sides of your legs that are on the bottom of your seat. Hold the seat sturdy with your nondominant hand and tap on the ends of the legs with your mallet to work them into the holes. They will be a tight fit so keep hitting the legs until they fit inside. Wipe any excess glue that comes out with a shop cloth.
- Make sure you put the longer legs in the back 2 holes on the seat and the shorter legs in the front.
- Remove any wood sticking out from the seat after 24 hours with a flush cut saw. Start working on your chair again the next day so the glue can completely set. Hold the blade of your flush cut saw sideways against your seat use it to trim any wood sticking out from your leg. Cut the wood completely until it’s smooth with the seat.
- You may need to use 220-grit sandpaper to get the edges completely smooth.
EditFinishing with the Rockers
- Cut the shape of the rockers out from your planks of wood. Trace the shape of your rockers on your piece of wood. The rockers should be long, tall at their tallest point, and thick. Use a bandsaw to cut the curved shape of the rockers out of the wood you’re using.
- Use the same wood you used as your seat so your rocking chair looks uniform.
- You can find templates and shapes for the rockers online.
- Make sure the backs of the rockers are longer than the front to prevent the chair from tipping over.
- Clamp the pieces together to plane them evenly. Put the rockers together upside down so they’re lined up. Use your block plane to smooth the curved bottoms of the rockers at the same time. That way, the rockers won’t wobble or feel uneven when you’re sitting in the chair. Keep smoothing out the bottom curves of the rockers until you’re satisfied with the shape.
- The bottom curve of the rocker should be no more than 45 degrees since that could make the rocking motion feel choppy while you’re sitting down.
- Glue and clamp the rockers into the slots on the legs. Coat the insides of the slots on the chair legs with wood glue and spread it around with your finger. Slide the rockers into the slots on the bottom of the chair legs. If you need to, tap the bottom of the rocker with a wooden mallet so they fit tightly in place.
- The rockers will have a snug fit since they are slightly smaller than the thickness of the slots.
- Drill holes through the legs and rockers. Once the rockers are glued in place, use a drill with a bit to make a hole through the leg and rocker. Make sure the hole goes completely through both sides of the leg. Keep drilling holes in each leg this way so you can insert dowels.
- Insert wooden dowels through the holes to hold the legs in place. Place a dowel into each of the holes and slide them completely through. Once the dowels are in place, let the glue dry for 24 hours and your chair is finished and ready to use!
- The dowels add extra support to the rockers rather than just relying on the wood glue.
- You can buy a rocking chair kit from many stores or online if you don’t want to make your rocking chair from scratch.
- Always wear safety glasses while you’re working with power tools.
EditThings You’ll Need
- piece of wood
- 2 wooden strips that are
- 8 wooden strips that are
- 3 pieces of wood that are
- 2 pieces of wood that are
- Bandsaw or jigsaw
- Drill press
- Curved draw shave
- Straight draw shave
- 320-grit sandpaper
- Hand scraper tool
- Block plane
- Table saw
- Wood glue
- Flush cut saw
- 220-grit sandpaper
<ref> tags exist, but no
<references/> tag was found
How to of the Day