A place for me to display some of the varied projects that come out of my shop, as well as to "talk" about some of my experiences working with wood.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

From Rocking Chair University to Rocking Chair R&D Department

Research Subject
In a previous post I mentioned I am setting out to build a Maloof style rocker. Some of the elements in this project require new techniques for me and I felt I needed to go back to school for some of them. The Maloof  rocker has many complex elements, and Hal Taylor's interpretation of this iconic piece of furniture has some novel techniques to make construction do-able for the normal woodworker.

As mentioned in a previous post I am building Scott Morrison's ultimate shop stool as a test bed for my new techniques. I have modified Scott's design to try out some techniques for the rocker. My modifications include coopering the seat back to try Hal's technique, carving the joint areas and legs to practice my shaping skills, in addition to the seat treatment. I also have never really done much with dados on the table saw,and the stool and rocker require precise dados for the joinery - time to bite the bullet and buy a quality dado set.

Carving a heavily sculpted seat

Carved seat for Stool, clamped on workmate outside.
Sawdust plume cloud not in the shop!!
My dining room chairs have carved seats, however, the rocker requires considerable more material to be removed in the butt-cheeks part of the seat. This would make my manual carving technique with luthier planes very tedious and a nightmare - a long nightmare. I invested in a new angle grinder and bought a Kutzall wheel, which my reading (and YouTube research) told me would make short work of removing up to 7/8" of material from the seat. I also bought a backing wheel for sanding disks for the grinder and set about trying to make a seat.

Seat profile of the finished seat showing carved front section.
Scott's plan called for a square front as in the rough carve above, I wanted to try out the leg cutout and more heavily carved front of the seat which is typical of the Maloof tradition. 

Cutting Precise Dados on the Table Saw

Dado set and sled ready to cut some grooves
I have mostly cut dados using a rip blade on the table saw however this technique is tedious requiring many passes and takes a lot of effort to be accurate. Time to bring it up a notch!! I ordered the top of the line dado set for Lee Valley, made a few zero clearance insert plates for the saw, and made a dado sled for the stool legs.

Once setup and ready to make sawdust this set was a dream to use and made short work of the dados for the stool, I don't know why I took so long to get around to buying one of these.

Coopering the seat back

Using pinch dogs to assemble the four pieces for the seat back

My Marcou smoother made short work
 of trimming this cherry end grain.
The original plan for this stool called for  slab  backrest bandsawed to a concave shape and inserted in the stool. As I mentioned in my rocker post one of the elements I like the most about Hal Taylor's design is the coopered seat backrest, which makes the backrest grain vertical and allows it to flow from the seat itself. I used Hal's seat layout using the cherry's sapwood for the centre joint emphasizing the pommel, the sapwood is carried into the centre joint in the backrest as well - I really like this element.

Once the four pieces are assembled the curve is cut on the back and front on the bandsaw, lots of sanding later by hand and machine; and a lovely formed seat is ready to be mounted.

Dryfit with clamps and test fit for coopered seat back.

Carving and shaping of millwork

The rough cut lumber for this project is pretty chunky, the legs are square, the joints are square, it could do with some shaping. Using my many rasps and a bit of power sanding,as well as new carving burr for my Dremel, a lot of material went into sawdust making a much more refined and elegant look.

Carved transition arm support

One area the rocker that has a technically challenging joint to carve is where the arm attaches to the front leg, I wanted to try this out so modified the stool plans to use a built up block that would be carved to blend not the seat. In the rocker this transition block provides meat to bury a screw in for this joint, the stool does not need a screw there.

A much more organic look to this critical joint.

The other area which I thought needed some work was where the rear leg attached to the seat, the chunky joint needed some work. I tried out my new Kutzall carving burr here as it needed a concave area which rasps can't reach. Turned out okay I thought.

Rear leg/stretcher transition shaping.

The transition where the stretchers join the back legs needed some work, so some power grinding and lots of hand sanding later made this joint flow...

Time to build a rocker

With the necessary R&D complete, its time begin my rocker building adventure. I have all the bending forms built and ready to use; building this stool project has improved my confidence tremendously and I feel much better prepared for rocker work!

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