Rocker Build

author-gravatar MarksWoodworking Jan 17, 2017

1-year-long build of a rocker for my daughter.  It was supposed to be done in time to actually use while she was little, but it's tough to find time when you have an infant.  Made from air-dried wild cherry with danish cord. 

Rocker made with air-dried wild cherry.  Bought the lumber off craigslist; a guy had this stuff sitting in his garage for 15 years - air-dried cherry from a tree from his front yard.  Finish is mostly thinned behlen's rockhard tabletop varnish.

Took a full Saturday afternoon to figure out the weaving process that would look best here.  Felt like I was doing a logic game.  Not sure what the call the joint.  Double lap joint?

Love the Danish cord against the cherry.

I wasn't sure whether weaving a curve like this would work out - I'd never seen anybody do it - but I got lucky.  The curve provides good lower back support so the chair sits well.

January 2016 - design.  I have a thick folder with rocker images, drawings, etc.  Plan is to build a prototype out of 2x4's.  It's going to cost me a lot of time but there is really no other way that I can design and build my own rocker.  Just too many variables to account for - balance, height, width, how does it sit, is there lumbar support, etc.

Jan-Feb 2016: First prototype.  Absolute garbage.  

Feb-March: Second prototype.  Ok this'll work.  

April-May: Project begins in earnest.  Start by cutting the component pieces.  Rough cuts with the jigsaw.

Then use a pattern and router with flush trim bit to get the pieces just right.  I also wanted to be able to reproduce this down the road if the mood ever strikes again.

June: Broke down and got myself a band saw for father's day.  I don't have a shop - everything goes in a utility closet and I bring it out onto the porch or work with hand tools in the kitchen - so the band saw became a game changer for how I work. 

"Spindle sander" to clean up my curves

Time to tackle that three-way joint.  God bless blue tape.

Marking the waste.

Knife walls for a clean joint.

After cutting the "shoulders," I hog out the waste with a combination of band saw and chisel, then come in at the end with a router plane and this crappy "jig."

Marking the waste on the back piece.

Learning from your mistakes: came up with a better jig for the router plane on this one.

Sides all glued up.  I later added in some reinforcement in the three-way joint because of the orientation of the grain.  I put a 2" furniture screw right into the back of the joint for cross-grain stability and then plugged the hole with a dowel.  It's the only metal in the piece.  Next time, if there is a next time, I'll redesign this joint.  

Here's where the full-sized prototype earns its stripes - layout for the M&T cross-pieces is a snap.

Cross-pieces cut.  Gentle curve for better sitting.

Coaxing the joints together.

September: Glue-up.  

September-October: Time for the runners.  My first time with bent lamination and it turned into a tougher task than I was expecting.  Creating a smooth curve was the hardest part.  Here I cut strips on the band saw then ran them over the benchtop jointer.  

First shot at the runners - I used this mold with a bunch of clamps.  It didn't work for me - the curve wound up imperfect and it rocked wobbly.

Second shot did it.  Wood Whisperer method.  A little more work but uniform clamping pressure made for a smoother curve.

Now to glue up the pieces that will connect the runners to the legs.

Connector pieces glued up and cut, then cut out the mortises.  The bottom half of the clamping form was perfect to set me up for handwork on the runners.

November: Once it's all glued up, time to weave.  Props to /u/Dylan_ail_Don for the inspiration - check out his walnut danish cord rocker if you haven't.  Little helper here being helpful.

Weaving wrecks your hands.  Next time I'm picking up some golf gloves, I hear those are good for weaving.

Almost there...

January: Done.  A bunch of coats of rockhard varnish, especially on the arms, followed by a shop-made varnish/oil/beeswax mix that gives it a nice feel.  

Client forgives the delay.

3 comments

Absolutely stunning work! The chair looks amazing. I really like the joinery and the air dried cherry looks great. Thanks for sharing.

Thanks Sean!  And I really appreciate all the helpful content on your site, here and on YouTube.  Has definitely been a good resource for this novice woodworker. 

@Sean  said:

Absolutely stunning work! The chair looks amazing. I really like the joinery and the air dried cherry looks great. Thanks for sharing.

Awesome to hear! Can't wait to see more of your projects. It's going to be tough following this awesome project!

@MarksWoodworking  said:

Thanks Sean!  And I really appreciate all the helpful content on your site, here and on YouTube.  Has definitely been a good resource for this novice woodworker. 

@Sean  said:

Absolutely stunning work! The chair looks amazing. I really like the joinery and the air dried cherry looks great. Thanks for sharing.

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