Larry Ciesla Woodworking

glider rocker from quarter-sawn white oak

This "glider rocker" is made entirely from quartersawn white oak and finished in a traditional mission-style arts and craft finish.  During the summer of 2010 I made five of these rockers, one for myself and the other four for friends of mine.  Making five of anything this complex was quite an undertaking. 

I have settled into a consistent routine for each woodworking project I do.  First, I made a detailed full size drawing, then from the drawing I created templates for the pieces that had a curved element.  It might surprise you to know that I spend a great deal of time creating the full size drawing.  This chair was too complex for a single drawing, so I made two, one for the upper chair assembly and a second for the lower rocker assembly.  Next I made the various forms and jigs I would need to build the chair.  The assembly process involved breaking the project down into logical elements, and rough cutting the material for each element.  I do this for all the elements in a project, then set each group of rough cut material aside until the time comes to cut the material to final dimensions.
This picture shows the spectacular effect you can get from quartersawn white oak finished according to a finishing schedule I describe in detail here.  A friend of mine's daughter made the cushions from upolstery material we selected at a fabric store.  The design of the chair takes into account a four inch fabric cushion for both the seat the the back.

The armrest is laminated over a form from eight laminations each 1/8" thick.  The form was made directly from the template I took off the drawing.  I used the template as a pattern and using a pattern bit on the router table I laminated enough pieces of 3/4" MDF to make the form you see here.  I used Unibond 800 glue which is fantistic for creating glued up laminations that absolutely hold their shape when after you remove them from the form.  The form is completely covered with packing tape to prevent the glue from sticking to the form.  I also covered the top of the top lamination and the bottom of the bottom lamination with packing tape prior to glue up.  Since the top lamination's quartersawn look is a featured design element it was critical that I keep any glue from touching this surface.

After the prototype I made a second form and setup my vacuum press to allow me to make two arm rests at a time.

Squaring off each end of the laminated arm rest was tricky.  I used my squaring sled as you see here to accomplish this.  Notice that I clamped a piece of scrap to tightly hold the arm rest to the sled.  For safety it is critical that the arm rest be completely secure before attempting the cut.

This series of pictures shows the jig I made to pattern route the corbels that fit under the armrests.  I used a pattern taken directly from the full sized drawing to create a template that I used to create this jig.  The template was used to draw the basic shape on the stock that was then bandsawn leaving material outside the line.  The bandsawn corbel is then screwed to the form from the back and a pattern router bit is used to trim the excess wood from the corbel. 

Here is a picture of the chair back prior to assembly.  I used my Festool Domino machine to cut all the mortises you see here.  Assembly is just a matter of glue and some clamps.

One of the more interesting problems to solve in building this chair is how to attach the armrest to the side.  The armrest is curved slightly along its length, and the vertical members of the side are cut to the appropriate angle to match the curve of the armrest.  The challenge is drilling holes for dowels that are perfectly aligned and that enter the curved arm rest in such a way as to allow the dowel to go straight into the hole in the arm rest.  In other words, the hole in the armrest had to be in exact alignment with the hole in the side so the two would mate correctly.

I solved this problem by making two sets of matching blocks that you see in this picture. 

To make these drilling guide blocks, I used some extra leg stock that perfectly matched the legs and cut the stock to about 4 inches long.  On the drill press I drilled the two holes through the 4 inch stock you see here.  Then I drew the triangle on the stock you see in the picture then cut the stock in half with the angle of the cut matching the angle where the leg will meet the armrest.  I also glued sandpaper on each surface that would mate against the corresponding surface in which I had to drill a hole for the dowel.

Now it is a simple matter of clamping the block onto the workpiece with the sandpapered surface against the workpiece, then using a 3/8 drill with a stop to drill the hole into the armrest.

Here you see me attaching the curved armrest to the chair side.  I've already glued the dowels into the legs and am lining up the holes in the bottom of the arm rest with the dowels.

Here is a picture of the partially assembled chair.  The back and seat were made as one unit that was set into the two arm units that were connected together with a front stretcher.  If you look closely at the bottom you can see the bearings pressed into the sides.  A total of eight bearings are used to construct the rocking mechanism. 

Here is a good picture that shows the spectacular medulary ray flec pattern of the quartersawn white oak.  This shot is of one of the five chairs I built that was in the process of receiving its finish.   If you are interested in a detailed explaination of the finishing process I used to get this effect you can click on this link.