Rocking chair technology has expanded a fair piece since the days of Whistler's Mother. There are a few basic types of rocking chair, each of which can be designed to a specific style or built out of different materials. Some common styles of rocking chair include Mission, Danish Modern and plush. Common building materials include wood, wicker and PVC, with pads from fabrics, leather or vinyl.
A traditional rocking chair rocks back and forth on curved legs. Advantages of a traditional rocking chair include expense and durability. The simple design makes this type of rocker less expensive than other chairs, and the lack of moving parts keeps breakage to a minimum. Disadvantages of a traditional rocker include lack of flexibility and, in some cases, space considerations.
A glider rocker uses a series of levers and swivels to move back and forth on a flat plane, rather than in an arc. The flat range of motion takes up less space than a traditional rocker and is considered more comfortable by many. On the downside, because of the mechanical complexity, glider rockers are more expensive and more prone to breakage than traditional rockers.
These chairs swing back and forth in an arc like traditional rockers, but use a set of mounted springs to cause the rocking motion. In most cases, the springs are contained inside a box at the base of the chair, rather than exposed and available to catch fingers and pets. Spring rockers are very durable and can be less expensive than glider rockers. However, they are often heavily upholstered and padded, which can drive the cost back up.
Glider and spring rockers can have a swivel mechanism (such as found in an office chair) added to allow rocking on a second plane of motion. This means more comfort and flexibility for the chair's passenger, though it makes the chair that much more complex. Greater complexity usually means higher cost and one more part of the chair that can break.
Some glider or spring rockers come with a reclining feature. By releasing a catch, the passenger can recline the back of the chair to one or more relaxed positions. Often, releasing this catch disables the rocking feature so as to avoid leaning too far and overbalancing backward. Like swivel rockers, this feature makes the chair more comfortable and flexible, but does increase expense and decrease durability.