T" he greatest stresses in a rocking chair occur where the legs meet the rockers. These joints need to be strong and solid, otherwise the seemingly gentle act of rocking will eventually pull the chair apart. There are several effective methods for attaching legs to rockers. The simplest way is to turn a blind or through tenon in the ends of the legs and fit them into round mortises bored in the rockers (page 134). The tenons can be wedged for extra strength.
Dowels (below) are not as sturdy as mortise-and-tenons, but they allow the legs to be trimmed to fine-tune the balance of the chair. Using bridges (page 139) enhances a rocking chair’s appear-
ance and also permit adjustment of the chair’s balance...
Determining the right shape for a rocking chair’s rockers, also known as runners, is an exercise in experimentation and intuition. When designing a new chair, some chair makers try variations on a basic curve until they arrive at a design that is pleasing to the eye.
To ensure stability, however, the rockers must do more than look good. As a starting point, use a radius of 36 inches to 40 inches to draw the curve of the rocker. This curve is related to the height
A laminated rocker is smoothed on an oscillating spindle sander. Laminated rockers, like the one shown at left, offer several advantages over rockers cut from solid wood. They can be made from narrower stock, which minimizes waste... >
hile the balance of a rocking chair can be fine-tuned at the assembly stage (page 132), a few key principles and dimensions are worth noting before you begin. As shown in the illustration below, these include the height of the seat off the floor, the angle between the seat and the backrest, and the shape and arc of the rockers.
The height of the seat depends on the needs of the chair’s user. Sitting comfortably on the seat, users should be able to rest their feet on the floor and rock
the chair without effort. For most people, a seat height ranging between 12 and 16 inches will work well.
For a graceful-looking chair, design a 5° to 10° angle between the seat and the backrest. This will shift the weight and center of gravity toward the back of the chair... >
Caned and panel backs are two popular and attractive options for frame chairs. To make a caned back (below), all you need is some stock for the rails and mullions and a piece of prewoven cane. You can weave the back from individual strands of cane, following instructions starting on page 83. Cut tenons at the ends of the rails to fit into mortises in the rear legs and at the ends of the mullions to join with the rails. The cane fits into a groove cut into the rails and mullions.
The panel for a panel back is cut on a band saw (page 122), then fitted into
A CANED BACK
Preparing the rails and mullions
Cut the grooves in the rails and mullions on a router table... >
Turned stretchers span the gap between the legs of the rocking chair shown at left. Apart from enhancing the appearance of a chair, stretchers provide structural support and can occasionally be designed to serve as footrests. Stretchers are usually made in the same way as the legs; in the example shown, the legs and stretchers are all turned. It is best to stagger the height of the stretchers; this way, the mortises in the legs will be at different locations and will not weaken the legs.
Turning the stretcher
Cut your stretcher blanks a little longer than their final dimension, mount a blank between centers on your lathe, and position the tool rest as close to the stock as possible without touching it... >
Three different leg styles; (from left to right) a tapered leg, with two adjacent sides sawn on a table saw;
a cabriole leg cut on a band saw and shaped with a spokeshave; and a turned leg fashioned on a lathe.
Designing the leg
For a template, cut a piece of plywood or hardboard to the same length and width as your leg blanks. To draw the leg, start by outlining the post block. Make its length equal to the width of the rail that will be attached to the leg; the width should be adequate to accept the tenon of the rail (one-half to two-thirds the width of the stock is typical). Next, sketch the toe; for a leg of the proportions shown it should be about У* to 1 inch from the bottom of the leg... >
Traditionally, rush for chair seats was made of twisted cattail leaves. Nowadays, it is more common to use a tough-grade, fiber paper twisted into long strands, known as “fiber rush.” It is sold by the pound and comes in three sizes: %i inch for fine work, inch for most chairs, and %: inch for larger pieces and patio furniture. Craft supply dealers are usually good sources of advice for the appropriate size and the amount of rush needed for a particular project. Before applying rush to a seat frame, make sure the glue used to assemble the chair has cured completely. The rush will exert a moderate amount of tension to the joints when it is installed.
Rushing a chair seat is simpler than caning since it involves repeating a single technique all around the seat frame... >
Begin by making a seat blank that is a few inches larger than the seat frame by edge-gluing pieces of 1-to 1 ^-inch-thick solid stock; for a typical chair, a 20-inch – squarc blank should be sufficient. Arrange the boards so that the grain of the scat will run from front to back.
A sculpted seat blank is test-fitted against the rear legs of the frame chair shown at left. The first step in sizing the blank involves positioning it on the seat rails and outlining the notches that must be cut out for the rear legs. For the width of the notches, add Vu. inch of clearance between the blank and the legs to allow for wood movement. For the depth, measure from the front of the leg to about % inch beyond the back seat rail and add the overhang for the front... >