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Project by tyvekboy posted 12-16-2013 03:50 AM 5205 views 12 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Dec. 16, 2013

This rocker design is unique in that it is a low-rider. It is a combination of a mission style rocker with sculpted arms. Everyone who has sat in it loves it and likes the way the arms are positioned.


Queen Liliuokalani was the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii. This mission style design was favored and used by Queen Liluokalani, hence the name Liliuokalani Rocker. It was said to have been built by Chinese furniture makers of that time in Honolulu and has been accepted as the traditional Hawaiian Rocker.

LILIUOKALANI is pronounced like this:

LILLYU (like in moon)—O (like in sole)—KA (the a pronounced like “a” in far) – LA (same “a” like in KA) – NI (i pronounced like y in city)

Now you have had your hawaiian language lesson for today. LOL


Several variations of of this rocker have been made over time and I have combined features of the ones that I’ve seen into my version of this rocker.

Ever since I was a child I use to rock in the very rocker pictured below and have always wanted to have one of my own.

This is the one I took tracings from for the parts and measurements. This rocker was one that has been in my father’s family and was restored. I liked the arms, headrest and the front legs of this one.

Another one I saw was at a friend’s house. It is also known as the Monarch version of this rocker. The differences on this version is the pierced slats and the front seat support which I liked very much.

My rocker incorporates the basic design of my family heirloom, specifically the head rest and are arm shape and the pierced slats and the front seat support of the Monarch version.

The original ones were made of Koa. My reproduction is made of hickory.

All the rough pieces were joined with mortise and tenons first before any final cutting and shaping was done.


I started with the back and front legs.

The back seat support was fitted between the two back legs.

The top of the back legs were finished with pyramids instead of being flat on the top.

The front seat support was fitted between the front legs.

Next the headrest and the lower slat support received mortises for the slats. All machining (slat mortises and tenons at ends) were done while these parts were one big chunk of wood. Here is a picture of the head rest receiving it’s mortises for the slats. These mortises were done with a pattern and a router and guide bushing.

The tenons on both the head rest and lower slat support were then cut and fitted to the back legs. The slats would float between the two.

This is the jig I made to shape the inside curve of the headrest (and lower slat support). Here you see the headrest block before hogging out.

This router sled was used to smooth out the curve. A ball bit was used.

The head rest was hogged out on the table saw before using the above jig. Notice the legs left on the sides near the tenons. The reason it was left was so it could be placed on the band saw after the curves were formed to cut the shape of the top of the headrest. This operation would have been easier on the bandsaw.

The outside curve of the head rest and lower slat support was done with this jig and sled setup.

After the headrest and lower slat support were cut to final shape the slats were cut to final shape and fitted to the back legs.

I didn’t take photos as I built this so in the above picture you see the seat in place. You can also see the mortise in the back legs (for the back of the arms) and the tenons on the front legs (for the front of the arms).

The side rails that joined the front and back legs required angle tenons since the distance between the front legs was greater than the back legs. See my angle tenon jig posting that I use to cut these tenons. These were made next and the front and back legs were now joined together.

The arms were the next piece to be fitted with mortise and tenons. The joints were fitted before the arm was cut to final rough shape on the bandsaw. Here is how I fitted the front of the arm to the front legs.

This is how the back of the arm was fitted to the back legs.

Each arm “block” weighed about 8 pounds at this stage. After I was satisfied with the fitting, the arms were cut on the bandsaw and shaped with spokeshave, micro file, and sandpaper. The arms then weighed about 3 pounds.

The next part was fitting and carving the seat. This was roughed out with a router and Holey Gallahad disc. Final shaping was done with random orbital and finishing sanders.

Somewhere along the way the front seat support was cut to final shape.

I don’t have any pictures of cutting and fitting the rockers which were also joined with mortise and tenons. Cutting mortises in a curved piece of wood was tricky.

All seat supports were predrilled with pocket screw holes before any assembly started.

After all the pieces were fitted and clamped in place to check for fit, all pieces were rounded over with an 1/8 inch round over bit where required. Then each piece was sanded down to 320 grit sandpaper. Then and only then were all the pieces glued together.


The back legs, back seat support, headrest, slats, and lower slat support were glued together as one unit. Slats were not glued.

The front legs and front seat support was glued together as one unit.

Then the side rails and side seat supports were glued to join the front and back leg units.

The seat was set in place before the arms were glued to the front and back legs. If the seat was not in place, I would have never got it in after the arms are glued in place.

The rockers were the last pieces to glue on the rocker to finish the glue-up.

The seat was then attached with pocket screws.

Several coats of natural Watco Danish Oil was applied as the finish.


This project was very interesting and challenging considering I only had tracings of the parts and no knowledge of joints used. Building a piece of furniture with no plans or guidance really tests ones skills. I was very happy with the final outcome.

I hope you enjoyed the details of the build as much as I enjoyed building it.

Comments are appreciated. Questions always welcomed.

Thanks for looking.

-- Tyvekboy -- Marietta, GA ………….. one can never be too organized

23 comments so far

View C_PLUS_Woodworker's profile


602 posts in 3982 days

#1 posted 12-16-2013 03:56 AM

What I tremendous amount of time and skill and dedication did this rocker take.

And what a huge amount of patience and skill went into this.

Really a remarkable piece.

Thanks for sharing the build. Added a lot to the post.


View Groucho0259's profile


1 post in 3004 days

#2 posted 12-16-2013 04:36 AM

Beautiful piece Alex! You do great work.

Mike (Groucho)

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

26186 posts in 4180 days

#3 posted 12-16-2013 04:57 AM

Beautiful rocker,Alex!!!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4409 days

#4 posted 12-16-2013 08:13 AM

Great work and a beautiful result on this heirloom quality rocker.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View clarkey's profile


468 posts in 4131 days

#5 posted 12-16-2013 11:52 AM

Good looking rocker, very impressive jigs.

View BobWemm's profile


2969 posts in 3001 days

#6 posted 12-16-2013 12:51 PM

Very nice Rocker.
Congratulations on the build. Well done.


-- Bob, Western Australia, The Sun came up this morning, what a great start to the day. Now it's up to me to make it even better. I've cut this piece of wood 4 times and it's still too damn short.

View Roger's profile


21054 posts in 3879 days

#7 posted 12-16-2013 01:24 PM

Very nicely done. Nice follow along pics of the process

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View weav's profile


132 posts in 3442 days

#8 posted 12-16-2013 01:42 PM

Thats a beautiful rocker. Heavy built with smooth lines. It looks like a comfortable place to pass some time.

-- jerry

View Schwieb's profile


1916 posts in 4536 days

#9 posted 12-16-2013 02:41 PM

Nice work, This is a classic and sure to be a treasured heirloom. Love the hickory, too! I’m curious as to why you did the head rest the way you did? Or maybe you don’t have a bandsaw available. That’s a lot of work to make out of a solid block.

-- Dr. Ken, Florida - Durch harte arbeit werden Träume wahr.

View Diwayne's profile


265 posts in 3765 days

#10 posted 12-16-2013 02:43 PM

Good looking rocker, like the history on it, and love the detailed pics. very nice.

-- What one man can do, another man can also do.

View tyvekboy's profile


2112 posts in 4088 days

#11 posted 12-16-2013 05:01 PM

Thanks to everyone who commented on my rocker.

I know I sometimes get wordy in my postings but I find it interesting to see how projects are done. This is also a record for me on the steps I took in case I decided to build another one … which is in the back of my mind.

WEAV: It is a comfortable chair … others who have sat it in have told me so. The big rounded ends on the end of the arms fall right into your palms and it’s sort of a sensual feeling to move your hands around on them. There are very few pieces of furniture I’ve sat in that you interact with in this way.

SCHWIEB: I do have a bandsaw that could have cut it but I was too lazy to change the blade to 1/4 inch. I also wanted to experiment with the jig I made to see if it was possible to finish off the curve. Also, the jig allowed me to control how close I could get to my finished lines. The router allowed me to sneak up on it very precisely and the finish required very little sanding. The reason why I cut it out of a big block was because it allowed me to better locate the tenons which I cut first. Also, leaving the “legs” near the tenons made it easier to cut the scroll work at the top of the headrest.

I replaced some pictures of the finished chair in the posting so you may want to go back and look at those.

-- Tyvekboy -- Marietta, GA ………….. one can never be too organized

View drewm873's profile


83 posts in 3604 days

#12 posted 12-16-2013 05:51 PM

Wow, that’s awesome! Love the hickory too.

-- Http://

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 3367 days

#13 posted 12-16-2013 06:05 PM

Great looking rocker—I understand that chairs are one of the hardest wood working projects that exist. You have master chair building (and a rocker no less) with great finesse and well documented/photographed write up. Thanks for sharing.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View tyvekboy's profile


2112 posts in 4088 days

#14 posted 12-16-2013 06:24 PM

HILLBILLYSHOOTER: You’re right about chairs … they’re not easy. That’s what I said before I started this project. However, after building 3 boats, this was a cake walk. I said to myself, if I can build a boat, I can surely build a rocking chair.

There is a lot of strategy in building a chair. For example, I had to think a lot about how I was going to fit the arms to the chair since it was such a complex piece. That’s why I kept it as a big block while I fitted the mortise and tenons before shaping it. Doing the arms reminded me of the time I did come cabriole legs for a table I built. It’s the same idea … 2 different shapes on two faces.

The same applied to the headrest and lower slat support … what needed to be done first, second, and third.

If any of you LJ’s haven’t done this before, the trick I use is to not cut the pattern on one face completely off because that piece contains the pattern for the other face. I used a piece of wood in the saw kerf to keep things lined up right when sawing the second pattern. This seemed to work for me on this project.

-- Tyvekboy -- Marietta, GA ………….. one can never be too organized

View natenaaron's profile


442 posts in 2872 days

#15 posted 12-16-2013 07:34 PM

That is a nice rocker.

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