Birdseye Maple Maloof Inspired Rocking Chair

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Project by SwedishIron posted 05-19-2011 09:52 AM 7819 views 15 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Here is my attempt at a Maloof Inspired rocking chair which started out as a class at a local community college called Redrocks Community College in Lakewood Co. The class was taken in the Spring of 2010 and it was about 50% completed at the end of the class. The chair’s crest-rail material was a bit too wet to shape so it pretty much needed to finish drying out for around 10 months. My goal of the project was to build a Maloof inspired reproduction as much as possible, not an exact replica of a single one of his prototypes but an assembly of parts or styles from across the evolution of his rocking chair development. I purchased two books that were very handy to use as reference material:
The Furniture of Sam Maloof by Jeremy Adamson and Woodworker by Sam Maloof

In early April I jumped back into the project with a goal of completing it by the May 14th Open House at RRCC. The last 6 weeks required a time investment of around 3 hours per weekday evening and 10-16 hours per weekend. The final total was pretty close to 200 hrs of work.

The Material
The primary material is amazing 8/4 Birdseye Maple from and the dark plugs are Brazilian Rosewood.

The Build
With as many other of these chairs that have been built and documented on the internet the last few years I’m sure most LJ’s have a rough idea as to the process behind these chairs. Templates are used to rough out the initial shapes of the chair pieces, the bandsaw/shapers is used to help remove and sculpt the material down to make it easier at a later state in the process. Joinery was cut using tablesaws, router and a regular handsaw. In addition a few other handy shaping tool include an Angle Grinder using a fine 4” Carbide Burr disk, larger rasps, a “double ended 8 Grobet Wax File (the most useful file ever!), 6” Random Orbital Sander, dowels and other profiles wrapped in sandpaper and finally hand sanding.

The material being so hard, and the light color of the material really made it hard to skimp on the sanding and required a methodical progression from rough to finer sandpaper grits in order to remove all the tool and sanding marks. As each of the transitions between the parts were finished I finished sanded as much of the chair to 400 grit to help minimize sanding the entire chair once shaping was completed. After all the shaping was completed a large % of the chair required additional sanding to prep the surface for finishing.

The Finish
Before applying the finish the entire chair was burnished using 0000 Ultra fine steel wool to really give the surface a nice shine. As for the finish I used the standard two part Maloof Finish sold by Rockler. The first three coats consisted of this mixture/ratio: 1/3 Tung Oil, 1/3 Boiled Linseed Oil, and 1/3 Semi-Gloss Poly. After applying each coat of the oil, before whipping it off I used 1500 grit wet/dry sandpaper to really work the oil into the wood and take the finish to the next level. The next part of the finishing schedule was three more coats of the second potion of Tung Oil, BLO and Beeswax this time. After the final coat dried for 24 hours I paste waxed the surface of the chair 5 times and buffed the surface. The result speaks for itself in the pictures and really popped out the curl in the material and accentuated the depth of the luster as the light bounces off the surface.

Lessons Learned
When in doubt go as thin as possible without pushing your luck too much and risk exposing a screw or dowel. Close your eyes and trust your hands/feel to find the elements of the chair which are still asymmetric and require additional shaping to get everything just right. Don’t rush anything doing this chair, take your time and don’t get cheap with the sandpaper.

The Last Picture
Not that I ever saw the underside of a Maloof chair photographed to show how he treated that surface but I did take the time and added in somewhat of a “belly” on the seat bottom to preserve the thickness of that portion of the chair where it is sculpted the deepest. The classed instructor mentioned he had an opportunity to take a class with Maloof before he passed away and that was a touch he like to incorporate in his chairs. Just wanted to explain what that picture is and why I took it from such a strange angle.

Thanks for reading..

The first three pictures from this set were taken by Gregory Fulghum @ RRCC

-- Scott, Colorado

16 comments so far

View HalDougherty's profile


1820 posts in 4318 days

#1 posted 05-19-2011 12:54 PM

Your chair is absolutely spectacular. Your wood selection is outstanding! When I started carving gunstocks, the first load of wood I bought was all tiger & birdseye maple. I got it from a man that went to a lot of small sawmills and bought all the figured maple he could find. He sold me all the wood the guitar builders rejected for $1/bft! I bought all he had. It was beautiful stuff and I’m using the last piece today.

Taking photos of figured maple is tough. You’ve got some great photos too.

-- Hal, Tennessee

View papargbear's profile


75 posts in 4702 days

#2 posted 05-19-2011 02:12 PM


View Kenns's profile


155 posts in 3672 days

#3 posted 05-19-2011 02:29 PM

I deeply admire the craftsmanship. I particularly admire your patience and skill. Beautiful, beautiful.

-- Then, Than, Their, There, They're, To, Too, Two.....Pine, Maple, Walnut....We need to know the difference.....

View devann's profile


2260 posts in 3773 days

#4 posted 05-19-2011 03:10 PM

A beautiful chair. And it’s a rocking chair, my favorite kind of chair. Your rendition of a Maloof chair is well done and inspiring. It looks like it will stand the test of time. I’m sure that you heirs or somebodies heirs will be very pleased to have this someday.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View Mark Blomster's profile

Mark Blomster

107 posts in 4066 days

#5 posted 05-19-2011 04:29 PM

A beautiful piece! Anyone who sits in it should feel honored!

View MShort's profile


1798 posts in 4499 days

#6 posted 05-19-2011 06:13 PM

A beautiful rocker. GREAT choice of wood for this project.

-- Mike, Missouri --- “A positive life can not happen with a negative mind.” ---

View Matt 's profile


212 posts in 4830 days

#7 posted 05-19-2011 11:21 PM

Wow, that’s all I have to say. That is beautiful. The figure really works well.

-- Hold on! Let me get the board stretcher!

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 4351 days

#8 posted 05-19-2011 11:28 PM

Exquisite..that wood is superb….I love BE Maple….it is one of my favorite figured woods….You can hardly make a bad project when using it….the grain pops at you from all directions…..That chair is definitely headed towards heirloom status.

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View AngelofDeath's profile


116 posts in 4157 days

#9 posted 05-19-2011 11:50 PM

AWESOME….so how much you want for it?

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14189 posts in 5064 days

#10 posted 05-20-2011 03:02 AM

Fun project posting. Well written and entertaining. Beautiful choice of material and finish. One of the nicest examples ever. Well done Bud!

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Josh's profile


1234 posts in 3650 days

#11 posted 05-20-2011 08:32 AM

I was thinking it looked maloof-like! Awe-inspiring.

-- Tree, wood, and box lover from Pennsylvania

View bigike's profile


4057 posts in 4369 days

#12 posted 05-20-2011 01:35 PM

I hate BE Maple but this chair is saweeeeeeeeeeeet. Tha way everything is put together and looks is very nice.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://[email protected]

View christopheralan's profile


1126 posts in 4801 days

#13 posted 05-20-2011 04:26 PM

Nothing short of PERFECTION! Well done!

-- christopheralan

View furnitologist's profile


198 posts in 5094 days

#14 posted 05-20-2011 06:20 PM

Hi Shhhhcottie….......I have to say that is more than an attempt at a Maloof inspired rocker. That’s the real deal. From material selection to your personal decisions on the little details that could easliy have gotten away from you.

That’s fine work!!!!


View FlWoodRat's profile


732 posts in 4990 days

#15 posted 06-05-2011 11:32 PM

All good. Pretty wood, nice lines… I can’t wait to hear how it sits.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning....

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