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Woltz embarks on a Maloof style rocker build.


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What do you do when you already have a number of projects on the go?  You start another one haha.

So I have a set of plans from American Furniture Design Co. (https://www.leevalley.com/en-gb/shop/tools/plans/73902-nancys-rocker-and-footstool-plan?item=01L5131) which I've made copies of to turn into templates.  I just need to head to the hardware store and purchase some larger MDF because the sheets I had weren't big enough.  I'm also just waiting for one of the woodworking stores here in Australia to get a specific rebate router bit back in stock that I will need for the leg joints.

I have a stack of Southern Silky Oak in my shed that I am hoping to use pending it being dry enough and also that I have enough for the whole chair.  

Here is one of the pieces.

f5HVOoc.jpg

If the Silky Oak ends up not being an option then I will look at the pricing on Maple and Jarrah.

Edited by Woltz
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  • 2 months later...

So I'm just getting started on the rocker now.  I didn't quite have enough Silky Oak for a full chair but I already have another plan for that wood.

Instead I went and bought some West Australian Jarrah and I've been working on the templates.  

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I've also started making the jig to laminate the rockers.

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There are a couple of things that I am going to do differently to the plans (e.g. coopering the seat and having 7 spindles instead of 5) so I'll be working slowly to try and minimise the chance of mistakes or oversights.  An example of one of the things I have to consider.  When you cooper the seat, the centre of the seat relative to the legs (when compared with the flat seat in the plan) is lowered which means that you are slightly closer to the ground.  To compensate I will add 1/2" to the bottom of all of the legs.  The seat coopering also means that the spindle holes need to be drilled to different depths or the spindles made to different lengths.

Basically my intention is to make it in the following sequence:

1. Seat

2. Front Legs

3. Back Legs

4. Arms

5. Head Rest

6. Spindles

7. Rockers

I am absolutely nowhere near being an expert but I will try to answer any questions that anyone has based on what I experience during the build process.

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For several years back I stumbled upon a hint for changing an old armchair to a rocker. There was a nice idea for saving wood when making the rockers: Plane the plank on both sides, cut the arch that will touch the floor. Then joint the flat sides, potentially even splitting them for extra length.

kuva.png.b3e76fb158d4aa7c8247ec9ef9b790d5.png

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1 hour ago, Bizman62 said:

For several years back I stumbled upon a hint for changing an old armchair to a rocker. There was a nice idea for saving wood when making the rockers: Plane the plank on both sides, cut the arch that will touch the floor. Then joint the flat sides, potentially even splitting them for extra length.

kuva.png.b3e76fb158d4aa7c8247ec9ef9b790d5.png

This is a good idea!  I've seen a similar example for the headrest if you don't have a thick enough piece of wood to cut the curve.

In this situation the rockers are actually laminated not a solid piece.  Multiple thin strips glued together and clamped into the form so that as the glue dries it stays in the shape of the form.

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  • 2 months later...

So I put the first plans I purchased away (I'll donate them and the templates I made to the woodworking club I'm a part of) because there was a number of things I wanted done differently.  Given this is my first chair I lashed out and purchased the Charles Brock plans and DVD.  

Here is where I am up to with the seat. 

Seat boards to width and test clamped = done.

Cut the bevels on the edges of select boards to cooper the seat = done. 

Drilled the dowel holes ready for glue up = done.

Back leg maloof joint = in progress (have cut the corner area but waiting for router bits to arrive to finish)

Front leg maloof joint and cutting away the waste in the seat bowl to speed up carving is next.  Then glue up.

PntfDeC.jpg

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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

Ok here is the most recent update.  I have removed a lot of the excess wood with the band saw on boards 2, 3 and 4.  And I've started blending in areas that get missed by the bandsaw with a 60 grit disc on my angle grinder.  I've also cut out the notches for the front legs.  My next step with the seat is the clean up the front leg notches with my router plane and then I can do the rebates (the router bits I ordered have arrived) for the front and back legs.  After that there is a bit more shaping to be done with the angle grinder and then I can glue up the seat.

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Front on view of the pommel on the centre board.

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I've also prepared the stock for the two front legs.  I can't go any further with these until I've done the rebates on the seat because they are left oversize initially and then planed down to exactly match the width of the rebate.

gaXcEqU.jpg

I've also planed to thickness and rough cut the back legs.

7utRhKf.jpg

Edited by Woltz
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  • 1 month later...

Very very cool. Sam Maloof was a genius and a natural. Seeing his work on the bandsaw showed just how in touch he was with the tools and the materials. One of a kind.

Exceptionally clean mortise work; are you using a CNC?

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11 hours ago, Prostheta said:

Exceptionally clean mortise work; are you using a CNC?

Thanks mate.  No CNC, I haven't got the space at the moment.  I used a dado blade on table saw for the front notches then cleaned them up with a router plane.  Then a normal blade to cut the rear notches.  After that I used the router table to do the rebates.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just a small update.

Front legs now have a rough shape, the dado has been cut and roundover put on the required edges.  Next step is the turn them on the lathe.

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Test fit on seat.

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I've rough cut 3 of the 7 spindles.  I'll actually make 9 so that I have a couple extras as spares.

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I've also made and glued the adder blocks to the back legs.  These will be now be ripped at a 6 degree angle at the table saw to give me the required splay for the back legs.

WqBQ3An.jpg

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6 hours ago, mistermikev said:

right on.  starting to see it.  keep rocking!  (pun intended)

Haha.  All going well I hope to be able to get the dadoes cut in the back legs this weekend and then I'll be able to do a mock up with all 4 legs.

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1 hour ago, Woltz said:

Haha.  All going well I hope to be able to get the dadoes cut in the back legs this weekend and then I'll be able to do a mock up with all 4 legs.

noice.  for me things always speed up a bit once I start to 'see' the object.  probably I get excited and then have to slow myself to prevent mistakes.  looking fwd to seeing some more.

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  • 2 weeks later...

So here is the latest update.

The front legs are turned. 

I cut the 6 degree angle on the back legs, cut the dadoes and routed the round-over.  I also used the bandsaw to cut away some excess material on the back legs.

Here are the legs.

ru5rfX3.jpg

And after a bit of fine fitting with the router plane, a chisel and some sandpaper.

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I just need to drill the holes for the dowels in the front legs, then drill the screw holes and screw all the legs on.  Next step is the arms and headrest.  After the arms and headrest are done I'll start the sculpting alongside making the spindles and rocker sleds.

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I've probably already mentioned thing, but anybody who can pull off a chair to the level of Sam Maloof makes us guitar makers look like we're only dipping our toes. Most work absolutely relies on reference planes/edges and can easily be constrained by them. Imagine a tree having grown up with cold rules or restrictions....it would be uncanny valley right away. I have a preference for the Greene & Greene canon, and I'm constantly fascinated by the elimination of corners, sharp edges and proliferating the levels of any planes to invite depth and interaction with light. Seeing you having used a lathe seems the most orderly and rigid stage of the construction in some ways!

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 6/28/2021 at 10:57 PM, Prostheta said:

I've probably already mentioned thing, but anybody who can pull off a chair to the level of Sam Maloof makes us guitar makers look like we're only dipping our toes. Most work absolutely relies on reference planes/edges and can easily be constrained by them. Imagine a tree having grown up with cold rules or restrictions....it would be uncanny valley right away. I have a preference for the Greene & Greene canon, and I'm constantly fascinated by the elimination of corners, sharp edges and proliferating the levels of any planes to invite depth and interaction with light. Seeing you having used a lathe seems the most orderly and rigid stage of the construction in some ways!

I'm definitely not achieving anywhere near close to a product that Sam would've produced but it's coming along nicely for my first attempt. 

I think we can learn so much from woodworkers through history with regards to beauty, functionality and longevity of the piece. Unfortunately a lot of people no longer want heirloom furniture because either they fear it will go out of style or it is too expensive when compared with cheap Ikea junk.  Although I believe that the Maloof rocker transcends the risk of going out of style because it is elegant and both complex and simple at the same time.  I do find the Greene & Greene joinery interesting as well with the use of ebony splines and plugs.

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It's rocker update time. 

I drilled and screwed all the legs on and I drilled the dowel holes in the top of the front legs.  Then onto the arms, the first step is cutting 6 degrees off the bottom at the front.  This is the area that will contact the top of the front leg.  Then I clamped the arm blank to the chair to find the correct angle for the rear where it contacts the back leg.

tjqOn2a.jpg

After that I cut the angle at the back of the arm blank, I then marked for the dowel location on the based of the front of the arm and drilled the dowel hole.  After drilling the hole for the dowel I did a quick mock up, something did shift very slightly but it pulled together ok without too much effort.  I then rough cut out the arm and did a small amount of work on the carving of the arms, still a lot to go.  Here they are on the chair.

QEQG5eZ.jpg

Next stop headrest.  I used the same 6 degree jig that I used for the angled cut on the back legs to cut the edges of the headrest.  Then I bandsawed the curves and drilled the holes for the spindles.  It got a little thinner that it should be at this point on the bottom edge but as it is rounded over anyway this shouldn't have any significant effect.  Here is the headrest just sitting on the clamps in the chair.  

sF4Fkm4.jpg'

Despite the angle of the legs and angle on the headrest being virtually identical, the headrest isn't a perfect fit, there is a very small gap.  After investigating this morning I realised that it is because boards 1 and 5 are not perfectly level with each other.  Fortunately the headrest is about 1/8" oversize so it'll allow me to use a hand plane to just refine the fit so that I'm not having to pull the joint closed with lots of clamping pressure.

I also have cut the rest of the 7 spindles and then routed all of them.  I need to bandsaw the front profile next and then the rest is hand work to shape them.  But here they are sitting on the chair.

8YCMVSK.jpg

So the next steps are to refine the fit of the head rest and screw it into place.  Then pull everything apart to make some cuts on the back legs and seat to remove the last of the excess material to help with the shaping process.  I also need to drill the spindle holes in the seat and finish shaping the arms.  Alongside those things I will start shaping the spindles and begin work on the rocker sleds. 

I wish I had kept a log to track the hours closely to know at the end how much time it took but for those curious I'm guessing I have somewhere around 50 - 60 hours in it so far.  I'm guessing by the time it is finished I'll have over 200 hours in it.

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That doesn't surprise me. The finessing is worth all of the time spent, in my opinion. I would say that I wouldn't rely on clamping pressure to close up a joint as there will always be a built-in tension that wants to be free. If possible, aiming for a tension-free, closed dry setup is worth the investment. Whilst not the same as wood or even in the same league, I've had two weeks of assembling Corian waiter stations for a restaurant in the current cruise ship at the yard. These always have to fit cleanly dry as the material will not accept finagling or fixing via applied clamping pressure. It gets pretty ninja at times, however the fundamental design underneath always dictates how cleanly and accurately the final assembly is. Suffice it to say, bad design leads to swearing, frustration and anger. Unlike my adventure, you've got 100% control over everything here, so cut no corners 😉

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