Building a Thos. Moser Design New Gloucester Rocking Chair

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Blog series by DustyMark updated 02-22-2013 05:22 AM 23 parts 95590 reads 98 comments total

Part 1: Reproducing a Design

10-10-2012 03:16 AM by DustyMark | 9 comments »

I recently started a major chair-building project and thought it might be fun to document the process as a series of blog entries. So, here we go… My BackgroundI started woodworking in seventh-grade woodshop about 38 years ago. I began pursuing this wonderful hobby in earnest in 1986 and was fortunate to catch the wave of woodworking information put out by magazines such as Woodsmith, Fine Woodworking, and American Woodworker. I collected a significant personal library of books and...

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Part 2: Turning Long, Thin Spindles

10-11-2012 12:07 AM by DustyMark | 10 comments »

Stock PreparationRun one face of the rough ash board across the jointer. Then run the opposite face through the planer. That should take some of the twists out of the wood. Rip ¾” square, 31” long spindle blanks on the table saw. Make several extra blanks beyond the 14 that are needed. Mark the center of the tailstock end of the spindle using a plastic center marking gauge. Make a pilot with an awl. Drill the hole about ¼” deep with a 1/8” diameter brad point bit. This step help...

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Part 3: Modeling a Seat Blank from Pine

10-29-2012 01:46 AM by DustyMark | 7 comments »

Necessity of a Model The seat blank is a critical piece of this rocking chair. All of the spindles and the legs attach directly to the seat. I made six bow-back chairs back in the mid-nineties and didn’t model the first seat blank. Unfortunately, I didn’t nail the design on the first attempt and chair number one is not as comfortable as the other five. I decided to take the time to model a seat blank for this rocking chair. Gluing Up the BlankI selected construction-grade 2×...

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Part 4: Mistakes So Far...

12-24-2012 05:55 AM by DustyMark | 5 comments »

It’s been a while since I posted an update on my rocking chair project. I got busy with life and didn’t work on it for a while. However, I’m back at it full speed. Before I move forward with a full post, I figured that I’d show you a few of the mistakes I’ve made so far! 1. Don’t Use Construction Lumber for a Seat Blank Prototype I thought that it made sense to use construction grade lumber for my seat blank prototype, but that was a bad idea since...

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Part 5: Drilling Spindle Holes

12-24-2012 03:40 PM by DustyMark | 0 comments »

Determining the correct angles for the spindle holes in the seat blank and the top crest is an important step that impacts the aesthetics, comfort, and strength of the rocking chair. I plan to make a total of 14 (a pair for each of my kids and stepkids) of these rocking chairs over the years and production repeatability is another goal. Seat Blank I used a diagram from the Thos. Moser web site to get an idea of the possible angles of the holes in the seat blank. I made a scrap top cre...

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Part 6: Laminating a Curved Leg Brace

12-24-2012 06:01 PM by DustyMark | 3 comments »

Advantages of a Laminated Chair Brace Thos. Moser makes good use of laminated leg braces in his chair designs in lieu of chair rungs between the legs. The final product has much cleaner lines and is quite strong. The beauty of this approach is that the legs are allowed to flex on uneven floors. I have a set of six chairs that I made in 1993 that used laminated braces. Not one leg joint has loosened after almost 20 years of constant use. Here’s a photo of a brace on an East...

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Part 7: Plunging a Mortise in a Turned Leg

12-24-2012 06:33 PM by DustyMark | 3 comments »

To use a laminated brace, there must be a 1/2” wide mortise in the leg. This is a simple process if you have the proper jig. Mortising Jig This is the jig that I used to make mortises for all of my mortise and tenon joints prior to purchasing a mortiser. I simply added some plywood to the base to raise it to the swing of my new lathe. I added a strip of plywood on the bottom to register it between the bed ways of the lathe. It is then secured by a scrap of hardwood that cl...

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Part 8: Fitting a Laminated Leg Brace

12-26-2012 06:02 AM by DustyMark | 6 comments »

With the mortises plunged in the legs, the braces need to be fitted to the leg and seat. This involves some tight tolerances and compound angles, but is quite acheivable when approached systematically. Trace your laminated brace onto some scrap plywood. Do most of your fitting with these plywood models. It would be a shame to waste a good brace! Square the Mortise The bottom side of the routed mortise must be squared to receive the brace. Ash is quite hard, so I honed my 1/2...

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Part 9: Producing Wedges and Sawing Kerfs

12-26-2012 05:56 PM by DustyMark | 5 comments »

Wedges provide a bit of extra security in a leg joint. If the glue ever fails, the mechanical power of the wedge will hold the chair together longer. Producing Wedges I prefer a wedge with 4 degrees of taper. This shallow taper has a lot of power. However, you must get the thickness at the entry of the wedge close to the right thickness. If it is too thin, the wedge will bottom out in the joint before reaching its proper tightness. Begin the process by surfacing wood to the thick...

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Part 10: Designing and Cutting the Rocker

12-29-2012 03:27 AM by DustyMark | 2 comments »

Designing the Rocker I’m working from a handful of photographs and a sketch from the Thos. Moser website to build this rocking chair. It’s enough to follow, but a true plan would be more precise. Drawing a good rocker is particularly challenging without a detailed plan. I determined some critical intercept points for the rocker’s curve from the profile drawing. With my wife’s help, I drew a fair curve with a strip of scrap Formica. After drawing the bottom c...

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Part 11: Assembling the Lower Half of the Rocking Chair

12-29-2012 05:22 AM by DustyMark | 10 comments »

Watch This Video! Follow this link to a 13-minute, real-time video of the glue-up of one rocker assembly. Note: I made one mistake during the assembly. I clamped the legs after having tapped wedges in place. I should have applied clamp pressure before tapping the wedges in place. The tenons made good contact, so it didn’t matter. Prepare to Assemble I use Gorilla Glue to perform complex chair assemblies. It’s quite messy, but allows more time to align parts before t...

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Part 12: Flushing the Seat Tenon

12-29-2012 04:31 PM by DustyMark | 1 comment »

After assembling the lower half of the rocking chair, there is some clean-up work that needs to be done once the glue has cured. Seat Tenon Before The seat tenons and wedges stick out from above the surface of the seat. Ash is very hard and this is end grain that needs to be surfaced. These tenons come up through a curved area of the seat and eliminate the option of using a saw to flush the tenons. Flushing Tools These are the attachments that work on my angle grinder. ...

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Part 13: Shaping the Rocker/Leg Joint

12-29-2012 05:45 PM by DustyMark | 7 comments »

The joints where each leg meets the rocker need shaping to transition from a rectangular rocker to a round leg. I designed the rocker with built-up areas where each leg enters. This provided a means to make a more graceful transition. Shaping Tools I use two tools to shape this joint by hand. The Nicholson #49 Patternmaker’s rasp and a fishtail gouge worked great for this task. The gouge worked well to remove wood close the leg and also for initial large removal of wood. ...

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Part 14: Evaluating the Prototype Top Crest

01-03-2013 07:48 PM by DustyMark | 2 comments »

Ready to Cut Final Top Crest? I finished turning the 14 back spindles on the first rocking chair over the past three days. As I finished each spindle, I inserted it into the seat. Once I had the middle four spindles completed, I began inserting them into the top crest as well. The prototype top crest is only 1 1/2” tall. The final top crest is 2 5/8” tall and will be cut from some scraps of 12/4 cherry that I had saved since completing my pencil post bed almost 20 years ago...

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Part 15: Rum's Brilliant Solution for Lining Up 14 Spindles for Glue-Up

01-04-2013 04:43 PM by DustyMark | 4 comments »

Vexing Problem In my last blog, I wondered how I could possibly line up 14 spindles under tension and force them down into their corresponding seat holes. I posted the question to the forum and Rum came up with the following solution. Brilliant Solution Build an alignment jig that fits just below the final crest. Drill down from the top of the top crest prototype into another piece of wood. This ensures that the compound angle holes continued in perfect alignment from one piece to...

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Part 16: Making the Final Top Crest

01-05-2013 02:34 PM by DustyMark | 2 comments »

With Rum’s assembly jig complete, I was free to make the actual top crest. I realized that this particular piece of 12/4 cherry is from an old friend who had been a P-40 pilot in WWII. He officiated my promotion ceremony to Lt Col before he passed over a decade ago. Layout Holes are drilled and the curve is marked. Cutting Making the cut. I should have cut more to the outside the line on the inside curve. I dipped in with the cut at one point and by the time I cl...

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Part 17: Glue the Upper Assembly

01-05-2013 05:55 PM by DustyMark | 3 comments »

Today we glued the upper assembly. Everything went smooth with the Rum’s alignment jig and liquid hide glue. My wife helped with glue-up and photographed as well. The spindles are lined up at their base. This photo shows the 1 5/8” spread in lengths from the outside to the inside spindles. Applied glue to the seat holes with a syringe. Applied glue to seat tenons with a brush. Insert four center spindles. Fit the alignment jig. Add spin...

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Part 18: Pinning the Top Crest Spindles

01-05-2013 06:06 PM by DustyMark | 2 comments »

After confirming that the top crest was even, I pinned six of the 3/8” spindles with a 3/16” cross dowel. The upper assembly is under a great deal of tension. Pinning the spindles is a sensible precaution. Drill the cross dowel hole with a stop. It would be very bad to drill through the front of this beautiful top crest. Apply glue to the pin and drive it in. Trim the excess. Next, move on to wedging the spindles below the seat…

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Part 19: Wedging Spindles Below the Seat

01-05-2013 07:03 PM by DustyMark | 2 comments »

Watch This Video With the spindles locked in place in the top crest with cross dowels, it’s time to quickly move on to wedging the spindles below the seat. Clink this link to watch a short video of me inserting a wedge. These wedges supply an extra bit of security to the joint in case the glue fails. Plus they look real cool! Preparation Prior to assembly, I cut 4 degree wedges for the 1/2” seat tenons on my tablesaw and sawed kerfs by hand in the tenons. I sawed an ...

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Part 20: Pinning the Seat Tenons

01-05-2013 07:28 PM by DustyMark | 5 comments »

With the seat tenons wedged, it’s time to pin the tenons. I wedged the tenons first so that the cross dowel wouldn’t potentially prevent full travel of the wedge. I chose to pin 8 of the 14 seat tenons. Pin the Seat Tenons Drill the pins in 1 1/4”. This secures the tenon without going too far into the seat. My dowels were closer to 13/64” than 3/16”, so I had to use a metal bit to drill the holes. Chips don’t eject as well from metal bi...

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Part 21: Making the Arm Rests

01-08-2013 01:30 AM by DustyMark | 0 comments »

With the back assembled, I turned my attention to the arm rests. I turned six spindles with 1/2” diameter tenons and the length needed to support arm rests at a height of 9”. Modeling the Arm Rest The arm rest spindles are splayed and slanted back at different angles. The arm rest also terminates close to the outermost back spindles. That posed challenges for drilling the holes correctly so that the rest will insert over the spindles. The overall strategy is to mar...

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Part 22: Assembling the Arm Rests

01-08-2013 02:16 AM by DustyMark | 2 comments »

Watch This Video The assembly of the arm rests is pretty straight forward. Click this link to watch a real-time video of me assembling the second arm rest. Definition Custom-made : 1 a. The freedom to take a perfectly designed piece of furniture, make your own modifications, and mess it up. synonyms see Dusty Mark. While making decisons on my rocking chair build, I thought it was good to spread the arm rests out considerably further than Moser’s design. With the chair ...

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Part 23: Final Thoughts

02-22-2013 05:22 AM by DustyMark | 8 comments »

Video Watch this video to see two completed rocking chairs as I share my final thoughts about this wonderful Thos. Moser design. Arm Modification The arm spread of the first chair was too wide for my wife. The back flexes slightly and ideally the arm is positioned to lightly brush against the side of the back spindle. I had already drilled the holes on the second seat blank, so I plugged those holes and drilled new holes with less splay. Unfortunately, I failed to sp...

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