Although rocking chairs don't all look the same, many rockers have some of the same basic parts or structures. Knowing the proper terms or names of each part comes in handy if the chair needs partial repair or replacement. This knowledge helps you explain the chair's problems to a repair craftsman or to a chair retailer who is offering replacement parts for a specific chair model.
No matter what the design of the rocking chair or its age, the seat is standard. The seat may be made of wood, as is the case with a solid wood rocker, or woven, such as a cane or wicker rocking chair. Some rockers may have a sling-style fabric or material for the seat, stretched over a seat frame holding the basic structure in place.
Legs, Long and Short
A rocking chair typically has legs supporting the structure between the curved rockers and the seat. These legs typically look much like the legs on any basic wooden chair, but with the rocker assembly on the bottom. Some rocking chairs feature curved supports or decorative railings that morph into the rockers on the chair bottom. If the chair is made of bent wood, cane or metal, the armrests and rockers are often one continual loop on each side.
Rails All Around
Rails serve as the structure holding the back of the rocking chair together, if the chair does not have a solid back or a back made of planks, such as an Adirondack rocking chair. The top rail is the uppermost piece along the top of the chair back. The side rails are the two main pieces that travel downward from the top rail and hold it up. Between the rails, the chair back may have spindles or a splat, which is a somewhat flat piece of wood carved into a shape such as a vase. The splat may be curved to allow for back comfort.
Rockers, sometimes called rocker rails, are the curved parts along the bottom of the chair that allow the chair to rock back and forth. On many models, the rocker is formed from the same piece of wood as the arm; on other chairs, the rockers attach to the bottoms of legs. The rocker rails are the part that differentiates a rocker from a glider, which also provides movement but has a solid, non-moving base.
Arm and Back Basics
Armrests and a seat back are standard structures on a rocking chair. No firm standards exist for the arms or armrests on a rocking chair, just as these pieces vary on other armchairs. The back may be one solid piece, composed of splats or spindles, or a woven structure between two rails.