1. Check the leg labeL
2. Check the mortise label.
3. Check top/bottom orientation.
4. Check whether existing hole is toward or away from you.
deep and the dark-shaded area J/«-in. deep. Routing out these areas not only reduces the amount of wood that must be removed by hand, but also serves as a guide to help keep the shaping of the two sides symmetrical. Finish by carving the seat from the outline to the routed area with a large, broad gouge and a flat chisel. Although you could disc-sand the seat to the required depth, it's more work than using the gouge.
Fig. 3 shows an area to be rasped on the underside of the scat. The purpose is to give the front edge of the seat a well-defined sweep as seen in the photo on page 34. Rasp so that the front edge gently slopes back from the top surface. You may want to postpone this shaping until you are balancing the rocker (explained at the end of this article).
The Rockers — Bandsaw the rockers from 4/4 stoek
To drill the angled hoies in the seat, Hne up the sight line on the seat with the plumb line and the drill bit (In this photo the sight One that is being used is hidden behind the plumb Hne.)
that has been surfaced to in. Perform all of the cleanup while the two rockers are clamped together, sincc you want to keep the rockers identical. Clean up the tops of the rockers with a straight spokeshavc, then put a slight curve across the bottoms of the rockers with a concave spokeshavc. Mark the location of the front leg mortises with a pencil, but wait until the asscmblv of the rocker to drill them.
The Crest Rail—Transfer the profile of the crest rail from Fig. 3 to the top edge of a piece of 10/4 stock and saw it out. Bandsaw to the waste side of the line and save the two waste pieces to support the crest rail
FIG. 5: SETUP FOR ANGLED HOLES
A plumb line helps line up the chair seat for drifing splayed leg mortises.
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STEP 1. Center STEP 2. Hang STEP 3. Sight drill bit on table. plumb line perpen- through plumb line dlcular to table todriUbH (Sight tilt axis. fate on chair seat must lie In this fine of sight)
when drilling the backrest spindle mortises. Don't cut out the outline of the crest until later. Scrape and spokeshave both faces until the rail is 7*-in. thick, then transfer the location of the spindles and the pattern of the carving onto the crest. Carve the crest and name.
When you cut the tenons on the ends of the crest rail, shape the shoulders to fit the round support spindles. You'll need to trim the tenons to fit the mortises during dry assembly.
Tape the crest rail between the front and back waste pieces that you saved when sawing out the profile, then drill the mortises for the spindles at the angles given in Fig. 3. Drill them parallel to the face of the rail. With the waste pieces still supporting the rail, handsaw out the top of the crest and scrape smooth.
The Armrests—The armrests are 1 -/»-in. thick at the front, but because they taper to in. at the rear, you can cut both armrests from one piece of 10/4 stock. After cutting the profile and the taper, and smoothing the surfaces, round over both edges of the top surface to about a Va-in. radius. During dry assembly, you'll need to cove the back ends of the armrests to fit the crest-rail support spindles and mortise the bottom for the armrest post.
The Victorians applied their finish after assembly, and the appearance suffered for it. If you're careful to keep finishing materials off of the tenons and out of the mortises, you'll get better results finishing the parts before assembling them. I prefer an oil finish such as tung oil, linseed oil or Danish oil. For spindles, finishing on the lathe is easiest. Apply oil liberally, allow it to soak in. and apply more. Then wipe off the excess and burnish the oil into the wood using either your hand or a rag, applying pressure while the spindle is turning at low speed. Finish all the spindles, then repeat the process 6 or 8 times to build a beautiful patina. Rubbing oil into the other parts of the rocker is more work, but worth the effort. If you wax the parts after the oil has dried —but before assembly—you'll find it easier to remove glue squeeze-out.
When the parts are finished, it's time to assemble the rocking chair. The first step is to construct the carriage (legs, stretchers, rockers and seat) and the second is to assemble the back and armrests to the seat. The second step includes balancing the rocker. The seat and back of a balanced rocker tip back, inviting use. If it's not balanced, the chair appears awkward, as though it would spill the occupant forward and out.
To assemble the carriage, begin with a dry run. Put all the legs in their correct locations in the seat, but do not drive them in. Insert the front stretcher into the front legs, then fit the side and back stretchers. Since these rails are little more than dowels, they can be trimmed if they fit poorly.
When the stretchers are in place, drive the legs in gently but firmly. With the assembly upright, it should appear symmetrical, and the legs should rest evenly on a flat surface. If it isn't right, check that the spindles are all the way in. Then turn the assembly upside down again and line up the front leg mortise marks on the rockers with the front legs. Mark the position of the back legs on the rockers and drill all four Va-in. dia. mortises. If everything is assembled as shown in the drawings, these holes should be perpendicular to the rocker.
It's necessary to attach the legs to the seat in order to mark the rockers accurately for the leg mortises, as just described. But to assemble the rockers, the legs must go into the rockers before going into the seat. Gently remove the legs from the seat; insert the legs into the rockers, then the stretchers into the legs, and finally the seat onto the legs. When you're happy that all fits properly, disassemble. Now glue it together, rockers first.
When the glue has set, try a dry-assembly run on the upper portion. Insert the backrest spindles into the seat and the crest rail. Then insert the crest-rail support spindles into the seat and insert the crest-rail tenons into their mortises, trimming them as necessary. Put a cove in the armrests where they join the crest-rail support spindles. (I used a 7<-in. dia. drum sander for this step.) When they fit nicely, mark and then drill the mortises for the armrest posts, dry fit the parts, and drill for the screws that hold the armrest to the crest-rail spindle).
Now check the balance of the rocker; it should tilt back slightly. If it doesn't, there are a few ways to remedy it. The easiest way to make it tilt further is to remove wood from the underside of the hand-grip part of the armrest or the rasped underside of the seat. Another option is to drill holes in the ends of the rockers, the underside of the seat or the underside of the crest rail, fill them with lead weights, and plug the holes. Experiment with the weights before drilling holes in your chair! When it balances properly, glue it all together. Your rocker is ready to stand the test of time. A
Peter Hutchinson is a professional geologist and the former editor of American Woodturner, the Journal of The American Association of Woodturners.
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