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Making a rocking chair - Part 1

Rocking chairs are a fun thing to make! Lots of different techniques.

I use Hal Taylor's designs and plans as a basis for my rocking chairs. His book is excellent and he is a really friendly guy. Love to meet him! I won't go into too many details in this blog, if you want to know more I suggest buying his book from his website -

Making the chair starts at the wood yard. If you don't start with a nice bit of wood then you are not giving yourself a chance to make a beautiful chair. My chairs have all been made either from ash or oak. Mainly because I only will use local hardwoods and they are the easiest to get hold of. But there are other options - cherry, chestnut, sycamore, beech and walnut.

When you go to select some wood, if the yard is good to you, they will present you with a pile of wood and plenty of space to sort though it. You need 2" thick wood to make a rocking chair from, so take a friend as these planks are very heavy and the plank you want will almost certainly be down at the bottom of the stack.

You are looking for a single board of wood (or two boards from the same tree) which is from the outside of the tree (plain sawn). Plain sawn means that the wood looks interesting on all faces. However, if using oak it is good to find a board with some quarter sawn which you can use for the seat, back slats and head rest.

You need to calculate the area of the wood that you are buying in square feet and it should be between 17 and 20 square feet. Look for clean boards with very few knots and also look for boards over 12" wide. Really the wider the better, and don't be afraid to by too much as it is better this way than the other!

Here is a board of ash that I am using for the chair I am building at the moment. It is about 15ft long and 15 inches wide. It wasn't quite enough for the job, so I also bought the next board in the boule (towards the outside of the tree). Combining these

two gave me plenty of wood.

The next step is to think carefully about where you want the various pieces of the chair to come from. Lay it out with a sharpie and mark it onto the wood. Try to keep the pieces symmetrical so that the grain patterns in the legs are similar.

Once you are sure about the positioning of the pieces, start cutting them out.

Back legs and rocker wood. The template for the legs is provided with Hal's book.

Seat. I am making the seat from 4 pieces of wood with 3 joins. At this point the seat always looks huge! But you cut lots off it during the shaping stage, so don't worry.

And various other pieces. Just cut roughly to size and squared up on my planer/thicknesser at this point. I carefully label each piece to ensure that I don't use it for something else by mistake!

The next job is to glue up the seat.

Next job is to make the laminates for the rockers and the back braces. More on that tomorrow!

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