Rocking chair

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Project by Jon Spelbring posted 02-20-2010 04:22 PM 3425 views 9 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This all started better than a year ago. I found out my youngest sister was pregnant, and she asked if I would make something for her new baby’s nursery. Now, she had in mind a little book case, or maybe a toybox. After thinking about it for awhile, I asked if she would like a rocking chair. She was thrilled with the idea. I pulled some images off the web of various styles and sent them to her. As soon as she saw the Maloof style chair, her decision was made. I was pretty excited about it too. At that time, I had only built one piece of furniture – a small oak tabouret. So, I started reading up on Maloof, and signed up for a weekend class at the Woodcraft in Atlanta taught by Charles Brock.

I was in so far over my head that I was afraid my nose would start to bleed! But, taking my time, breaking down each task, and making a ton of mistakes, I finally managed to complete it. I’m told it gets daily use (I live in Illinois, and my sister lives in Arizona). I learned a lot, bought lots of tools, and had fun (mostly).

The chair in made of Walnut, with ebony and maple accents. The finish in Maloof’s topcoat over Arm R Seal.

My thanks goes out to Sam Maloof for creating the style, Charles Brock for answering my many questions both during the class, and the long build process, and my sister, for patiently waiting.

The last pic is the finished chair at the Pak N Wrap for shipping to its new home in Arizona.

-- To do is to be

20 comments so far

View johnnyroofer's profile


6 posts in 4472 days

#1 posted 02-20-2010 04:34 PM

No denying this has Sam Maloof written all over it. Very nice and very impressive.

View Speednork's profile


65 posts in 4847 days

#2 posted 02-20-2010 04:34 PM

Awesome chair! I am getting ready to start my first one. Congratulations!

-- In the time it takes some people to plan a project they could have built the project. Work from within not from paper.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 4528 days

#3 posted 02-20-2010 04:57 PM

Excellent work. You should be very proud. A rocking chair like this is a goal for many people (including me) and a major accomplishment for those who have made one.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Chase's profile


448 posts in 4480 days

#4 posted 02-20-2010 05:18 PM

Fantastic, I don’t know that I would trust myself enough to have a seat in something like that! Good work.

-- Every neighborhood has an eccentric neighbor. I wondered for years "who was ours?" Then I realized it was me.

View Glen Peterson's profile

Glen Peterson

556 posts in 4510 days

#5 posted 02-20-2010 05:42 PM

Great job, particularly for your second furniture project. I’m sure your sister will be thrilled. Have you gotten orders from your other siblings yet?

-- Glen

View Jonathan's profile


2609 posts in 4504 days

#6 posted 02-20-2010 05:56 PM

I would think that would certainly be a challenge, but you were up for it.This is something I would like to work up to some day, but will probably go a bit simpler than this for my first one.

My hat’s off to you for completing this challenging project, especially being your 2nd furniture piece! I’m sure you learned many things along the journey and acquired several new woodworking skills.

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View daveintexas's profile


365 posts in 5329 days

#7 posted 02-20-2010 06:24 PM

Great job, love the grain pattern on the crest rail.
For a second project you did a super job.
Maybe you can list some of the areas you had problems with, I am sure there are others who are leary about taking on a daunting project. but if they no what areas could give them some problems, they may be able to work thru them.

Thanks for posting

View Dennis Zongker's profile

Dennis Zongker

2874 posts in 5045 days

#8 posted 02-20-2010 06:25 PM

Beautiful Chair! Your craftsmanship is superb!

-- Dennis Zongker

View Mary Anne's profile

Mary Anne

1058 posts in 4662 days

#9 posted 02-20-2010 06:40 PM

Gorgeous chair and a wonderful story.
What an accomplishment. You must feel like you can tackle anything now!

View Jon Spelbring's profile

Jon Spelbring

200 posts in 5707 days

#10 posted 02-20-2010 07:24 PM

Thanks for all the kudos! As to learning curves, well, there were many. All of the other furniture I like (and plan to build) is Arts and Crafts. Mostly straight line, with a small curve here or there. On the rocker, it was reversed. Very few straight lines, lots of curves.

In truth, the hard part was setting up for the Maloof style joints where the legs meet the seat. I actually messed up the first seat – had it roughed out, and when I went to cut the joints, I messed up my router setting, and the rabbet was too big <sigh>. I also had to redo three of the back splats, as they warped considerably once cut (and I left them out way too long – I might have been able to salvage them if I had been quicker to assemble the headrest).

Interesting stuff (to me anyway):

  • For the holes in the seat and head rest, I used a brace and spoon bits (3/8 and 1/2). It was actually pretty easy.
  • For the back splats themselves, I cut the basic shape on the bandsaw, then used spokeshaves to finish them.
  • To carve out the seat, it was an angle grinder with a coarse/medium carbide cutzall disk, followed by sanding discs, then finally finished with a Festool Rotex (tool purchase for the project) up to 400 grit. This is one messy job. Best done outside, and with a respirator.
  • This was also the first time I’d done any serious work with rasps and sureforms. They are a must! I picked up a pair of Nicholson pattern makers rasps – they worked great!
  • For the Maloof joint, I recommend shelling out the bucks for a matched set – rabbet/roundover bits. I went with the straight ones, per Brock’s plan, but there also a set that’s designed (by Sam) for this.

To those of you thinking about making one, I highly recommend it. It was difficult, but after this, I am no longer afraid to try any project. Will I make mistakes? Sure, but hopefully, new ones each time. I know there are other plans and classes out there – go with what you’re comfortable with. I really liked Chuck Brock’s class – just a weekender, but he covered each step. He also sells instructions/plans through Highland Woodworking. I couldn’t have done it without his help.

-- To do is to be

View John Stegall's profile

John Stegall

558 posts in 4970 days

#11 posted 02-20-2010 07:35 PM

As everyone has already said, you did a great job. For anyone who might be interested in making one of these, Hal Taylor apparently has just finished a video. It is on his website and he shows a lot of short previews of it. Even if you do not want to make one of these, there is a lot of good info there (on his free previews). Here is a link:

-- jstegall

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 4644 days

#12 posted 02-20-2010 08:07 PM

Chairs are so intimidating to me. What a great work, and tribute to sams style.

Well, maybe this profile will encourage me to start some chairs soon….

Great workmanship Mister!!!!

-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View woodworm's profile


14477 posts in 5044 days

#13 posted 02-20-2010 08:22 PM

Superbly done!

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View Skylark53's profile


2868 posts in 4514 days

#14 posted 02-20-2010 09:22 PM

Very nice.

-- Rick, Tennessee, John 3:16

View DonJ's profile


253 posts in 4981 days

#15 posted 02-20-2010 11:35 PM


I add the same comments of an awesome job!! I want to build this type of chair as well, and have started to acquire the tooling I don’t yet have. I have the Brock plans already as well. Quick question: On your ebony highlight, did you have a piece the full length? I’ve already purchased a chunk of ebony, but it isn’t quite long enough. I had planned on butting two strips together. Thanks.

-- Don, San Antonio, TX

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