Rocking Chair Build - Due Oct 5 #2: Preparing the Seat

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Blog entry by Marshall posted 04-21-2015 12:57 AM 1810 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Selecting Lumber, Laying out Parts, and Cutting Blanks Part 2 of Rocking Chair Build - Due Oct 5 series Part 3: Finishing the Seat »

Part 2 of my chair build—based on Hal Taylor’s plans.

With the seat glued up, it was time to flatten it, trim it to size, and cut the notches for the back legs. In terms of flattening, I just wanted it flat enough to get square edges when I cut it on the table saw. I didnt need a perfect surface since it was going to be carved out and shaped later.

To cut the 3”x3” back leg notches, I clamped the seat to my miter gauge that had a tall sacrificial board attached.

Next, to cut the notches for the front legs, I made a jig for my router with template guide to ride along. Once those notches were cut, I cut a rabbet on both sides of the seat around all four notches. This got a bit tricky and nerve racking. I practiced first on a seat I made out of 2×12 construction lumber. All four joints on the practice seat were ruined in some way—but got progressively better as I went. When I got to the walnut seat, I clamped stop blocks on both sides of the joints to prevent run out. Hal doesn’t need to do that in his video, but this saved my seat :)

Now it was time to cut the mortises for the back rests, cut the curves on the front of the seat, and draw the shape of the seat cut out. Hal provides reference dimensions for the carved out portion in his plans, but the overall shape is mostly left up to the reader. I used a french curve set to draw the shape for half of the seat on a piece of fiberboard. I used the fiberboard template to trace the shape onto the seat, then flip it over to get a symmetrical shape on the other side.

Now all that was left to do was carve out the seat. This was the part that made me the most nervous so far in this build. I practiced on my pine seat and it came out ok. I fired up my angle grinder with a coarse Kutzall grinding disk and went to work. It was actually pretty straight forward. The Kutzall is pretty user friendly and doesnt allow you to gouge out too much wood due to its radius. Once the main shape was formed, I switched to a 36 grit sanding disc. That wasnt as user friendly. Its very easy to leave gouge marks in the wood with the disc.

Ultimately, I got the shape formed and moved to my ROS to smooth everything out. The seat is now sanded to 80 grit. I sanded the profile along the edge by hand. I have a lot more sanding to do (down to 1000 abralon according to Hal), but I have to let the blisters on my fingers heal first. Also, I might try to adjust the radius on the pommel to make it more pronounced…

I also made a video of the seat carving. Once the whole thing is sanded and shiny, I’ll post a time-lapse of it.

Thanks for looking.

-- Marshall -

2 comments so far

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3464 days

#1 posted 04-21-2015 01:31 AM

Routing those joints in the seat looked pretty stressful! The seat sculpting looks totally professional! You are off to a great start.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View AandCstyle's profile


3283 posts in 3031 days

#2 posted 04-21-2015 10:30 PM

Thanks for posting all these details and pix. I may have to add this to my list of projects to try since I’ve never made a rocker. :)

-- Art

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