What Degree to Cut Rockers for a Rocking Chair

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The shape of the rockers is key to how a rocking chair works.
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There are few experiences quite so relaxing as sitting in a rocking chair on a sunny porch. If you want a rocking chair for your home and have some basic woodworking ability, make yourself a rocker to suit your frame and personal style. Keep in mind that rocking chairs require different design considerations than regular chairs, so their construction is more appropriate for those with more advanced woodworking skills.

Rocker Basics

Typically, the rockers for rocking chairs are not designed based on a single angle of measurement. Rather, you must take into consideration the curve of the rockers, any difference between the front and back of the rockers, the rockers' overall length and their orientation in relationship to the chair legs. For example, you can produce a very different chair with the same rockers, depending on whether you slide the chair an inch forward or backward along the rockers.

Determining the Curves

If you are designing your own rocking chair, you can easily determine the angle of the rockers by using a string to draw an even curve along a straight piece of wood. For a fairly standard-sized rocker, cut a piece of string 42 inches in length. Have a partner hold one end of the string in place on the floor. Extend the string out straight so its other end reaches the middle of the wood you will use for the first rocker. With the first end held in place, gently pull the other end left and right against the wood to form a gentle arc. Trace this arc onto the wood with a pencil and use it as your pattern for both rockers.

Different Chairs, Different Angles

While the string technique works well for designing rocking chairs of all sizes, you may need slightly different string lengths for very large or small chairs. For a custom-made rocker, measure the leg of the person who will be using the chair. The ratio of the string length to the person's leg length should equal about 3.14, or the mathematical value of pi.

Additional Factors

If you are new to building rocking chairs, it's generally advisable to build based on a ready-made and tested chair design. If you're adapting a store-bought chair to make a rocker, opt for a chair with a fairly straight back and shorten the chair legs to accommodate the extra inches for the rockers. You can also use an existing rocker, as a model, for designing your own. If you can do so safely, clamp the legs of the chair to the rockers before attaching them and gently try out the chair.


Danielle Hill

Danielle Hill has been writing, editing and translating since 2005. She has contributed to "Globe Pequot" Barcelona travel guide, "Gulfshore Business Magazine," "Connecting Lines: New Poetry from Mexico" and "The Barcelona Review." She has trained in neuro-linguistic programming and holds a Bachelor of Arts in comparative literature and literary translation from Brown University.