Traditional rocking chairs can be challenging to build. They can take days to make - if you don’t have simple instructions to follow.
However, they have a strong stake in our market and history. These chairs are usually credited to Benjamin Franklin, though they predate him. Classic rockers are known for having spindle-like slats for the back of the chair and are made of high-quality wood. The rockers create a smooth, arced motion that is recognizable worldwide.
At first, rockers were used exclusively in gardens. However, over the years, they have become a household staple. Nurseries reap the benefits, and furniture stores have made these chairs more efficient and modern than ever.
Follow along to learn how to make a traditional rocking chair!
Different type of rocking chairs:
How Does A Rocking Chair Work?
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The mechanism and physics behind rocking chairs are more complicated than it looks. There is a strong, symbiotic relationship between the shape of the rockers and the chair's center of gravity. This is what causes the chair to arch properly.
A common question we get is, "What is a center of gravity?" It is the balance point of the object. In terms of rocking chairs, if the center of gravity were near the center of the circle, the ride would be unbalanced. This would cause the occupant to tip way back and then far forward. However, if it's too close to the rocker, you might not rock at all.
The right center of gravity of the rocking chair falls when an occupant is sitting on the chair. It will be roughly an inch in front of the belly button. Though this will change slightly from chair to chair, it acts as a rule of thumb.
There are two main qualities that a premium rocking chair should possess:
- The chairs rock back position should take pressure off of your back
- Your spine should be in a neutral position
- The rocking motion should be simple, comfortable, and rhythmic
- It’ll work off nervous energy and promote better blood flow
Choosing the Wood
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Choosing the wood of your rocking chair is a big job. Many types of wood are better for indoor use, whereas other wood is perfect for the outdoors. Depending on where you place your rocking chair, you'll want to choose an appropriate wood.
Ipe is a popular and well-known tropical hardwood that can be found in South America and Central America. It is known for its hard, dense exterior that resists cracking, decay, and extreme weather elements. Its high oil content repels insects and fungi, it's a frequent flyer for outdoor furniture projects.
Even untreated ipe can last up to 40 years outdoors. Despite its many incredible positives, Ipe is a wonderful dense wood, making it hard to cut through. We recommend that only seasoned woodworkers use Ipe to build their rocking chairs.
Teak, though expensive, is a commonly-loved material for outdoor patio furniture. It features a high oil content, which naturally repels pests and water. It is an agreeable wood that won’t expand or shrink much with harsh conditions, and it’s easy to work with. Therefore, even novice builders can often work with teak.
However, the biggest downside to this wood is that it’s difficult to source. This results in a hefty price tag and a negative effect on the environment.
Western Red Cedar
If you're looking for a widely available and economical wood for outdoor use, then look no further than Western Red Cedar. Known to resist warp, decay, and insects, it features a bright red hue that you won't miss. Its lifespan is about half of that as ipes or teaks, but the price point justifies it.
Because Western Red Cedar is a softer wood, you can expect to see some wear and tear over time.
Did somebody say fir? It’s made its imprint on the wood industry for years due to its availability and durability. Furthermore, this wood is resistant to both decay and insects, offering a lifespan of 10-15 years. This affordable wood won’t warp, so it’ll look just as good as new.
For red lovers, mahogany is a perfect choice. This wood is one of the most popular hardwoods in tropical destinations. Known for its incredible red hue, it'll begin to darken over time from a reddish-brown to a stark blood red.
Mahogany features a medium texture and a heavy density, making it a better option for seasoned woodworkers. When appropriately treated, it will last ages.
Are you in the market for a fairly lightweight, strong wood that is well-known for its rich, brown hue? Look no further than a walnut. It is known for its dimensional stability and excellent strength properties. Its medium in density means even novice woodworkers can use it while building their rocking chairs.
Tough, flexible, and durable. A match made in heaven for your first DIY project. Ash is the perfect addition to screw holding, glue sticking, and working with you during your rocker creation.
Birch has made a name for itself in the wood world. Known for being affordable, hard, and stable, this wood is easily found in the Northern Hemisphere. Known for its medium density, many woodworkers can use birch to build the rocking chair of their dreams.
How to Build the Perfect Rocking Chair
A chair is a tall feat for the average woodworker. In fact, in order to deem a product successful, many things must be achieved:
- Light enough for fluid movement
- Strong enough to withstand strains
- Visually pleasing
- Accommodating different body types
We’ve outlined how to build the perfect rocking chair. The final product, though traditional, didn’t feature the woodworking headache of spindles that would have to be whittled down for the finished product. Featuring gorgeous wood tones and a sturdy rocker that can be trusted, we followed along for a perfect rocker that can be used indoors or outdoors (depending on how you want to finish it).
The dimensions of this rocker are 31 ¾ "tall, 35" long, and 22" long for comfortable seating space. With an estimated cost of 50-100$, this DIY is affordable and easy to follow along.
Tools you’ll need:
- Tape measure
- Circular table
- Miter saw
- Nail gun
The lumber that The Design Confidential recommends:
- 2 - 1x2 at 8’
- 3 - 1x3 at 8’
- 2 - 1x4 at 8’
- 1 - 1x6 at 8’
Cut list required:
- For the backrest top frame: 1 – 1×2 at 16”
- For the backrest side frames: 2 – 1×2 at 18 - 1/2”
- For the armrest slats: 2 – 1×3 at 2 - 1/2”
- For the sides of the backrest: 2 – 1×3 at 21”
- For the slats of the backrest: 5 – 1×4 at 19”
- Seat sides: 2 – 1×3 at 23”
- For the seat front and back: 2 – 1×2 at 17 - 1/2”
- For the slats of the seat 5 – 1×4 at 19”
- For the armrests: 2 – 1×3 at 22”
- For the side frame tops: 2 – 1×3 at 12 - 1/4”
- For the sides of the frame: 4 – 1×3 at 24 - 1/2”
- For the bottom of the frame: 2 – 1×2 at 19 - 1/2”
- For the rockers: 2 – 1×6 at 35” – Rocker
Materials you’ll need:
- 1-¼ “ pocket hole screws
- Pocket hole plugs
- Safety gear
- Wood glue
- Sanding supplies
- ¼ “ spade bit
- 1- ¼ “ wood screws
- 20 - 1 - ¼ “ 2” long bolts and ¼ “ nuts
- Paste wax
- Finishing supplies
Step 1: Cut Pieces for the Backrest Top Frame and Backrest Side Frames
Using the Kreg jig set for ¾” material, drill holes at each end of the backrest top frame. The backrest top frame will be sitting at 16” and the 1x2 backrest side frames will both be at 18 ½ “
To connect these three pieces, use 1 ¼ “ pocket screws and wood glue. Allow drying.
Step 2: Cut Armrest Supports, Backrest Sides, and Backrest Slats
The 1x4 armrest support should be cut from a 20-degree angle.
Sound out the bottoms of the backrest sides. They can be attached to the backrest side frame with glue and 1 ¼” wood screws
The armrest supports will also be attached to the backrest sides with glue and 1 ¼” wood screws.
Finish by attaching the backrest slats to the backrest top frame and backrest slides with glue and 1 ¼” wood screws
Step 3: Cut pieces for the Seat Sides, Seat Front, and Seat Back
Using the Kreg jig, drill holes in all ends of the seat front and seat back. This can be properly assembled using wood glue and 1 ¼” pocket screws.
Following this, cut the pieces for the seat slacks. You’ll want to begin to assemble the seat slats to the seat sides, seat backs, and seat front. This will be completed with 1 ¼” wood screws and wood glue.
The seat front and seat side should sit flush while the back edge of the back slat is flush with the back edge of the seat back.
Step 4: Cut pieces for Armrests, Side Frame Tops, Side Frame Bottoms, and Side Frame Sides
The 1x3 armrest will be cut at a 10-degree angle, and the side frame bottom will also be rounded out at a 10-degree angle.
Using the Kreg jig with 2/4” material, holes can be drilled into the Side Frame Tops and Side Frame Bottoms. Pocket holes must be drilled to later secure the pieces together.
Assemble all pieces with wood glue and pocket screws. Repeat for the other side.
Step 5: Now for the rockers
You officially have built a beautiful base! Now it’s time to move onto your rockers. The areas in which you’ve rounded out allow for a seamless connection of the arched pieces.
The rocker will overhang the rocking chair front by 4” and the back by more than that. This will allow for ample movement.
Draw the correct shape out and cut with your jigsaw. Make sure there is a gentle and smooth curve. According to The Design Confidential, a radius of 62-½” is perfect for rockers.
To attach rockers, clamp them to the Side Frame Sides. Use a ¼” spade bit to drill holes through the clamped pieces. Using glue and bolts and nuts, you’ll secure the rockers successfully.
If there is any excess wood that you don’t need, you can sand it away with your sander or jigsaw.
Step 6: Attach the Backrest
To begin step 6, you’ll want to set the rocking chair in a standup position. Attach the clamps to secure the Backrest to the Side Frame assemblies.
The corner of the armrest will sit flush to the back edge of the backrest side. This should be set on Armrest Support. Following this, you’ll drill through with your spade bit. This will attach the side frame sides to the backrest side.
For additional security, use wood glue and ¼” bolts and nuts.
Repeat the process on the other side.
Step 7: Stain, Paint, or Varnish
Quick look at 2 classic rocking chairs and 1 end table
Is everything even? Is the rocker rocking the way it should be? Once you’ve answered these simple questions, then you’re ready for the finishing touches.
Of course, depending on what your ideal finish is, you may want to paint, stain, or add varnish to your rocker to fully finish it off.
Step 8: Decorate
Add some throw pillows, a throw blanket, or some custom cushions to make your chair even more comfortable.
Consider putting a wicker basket next to your rocker to store additional pillows and blankets when you’re not using them. You can also add a nightstand next to your rocker to hold your cup of coffee or your favorite book. Get creative and make the space yours!
Step 9: Enjoy the Rocker
When this is complete, then voila, your rocking chair is ready to enjoy! You’re ready to pick up your favorite book and enjoy your new DIY project.
There’s nothing quite like a do-it-yourself project and knowing that you’ve completely made it yourself. You should be proud of your accomplishment. Congratulations!
Way to go on your DIY rocking chair creation! Though these 9 steps might seem easy, they can be a lot of work. If you get frustrated at any time, you can always shop for a large selection of rocking chairs to find the perfect one for you.
Before you go, take a quick look at our: