Thanksgiving is over and next up is Christmas so I wanted to share a little something I’ve been working on for the kiddos!
Remember that project I was hoping to have done in two weeks? It’s done. And in case you haven’t figured it out, these are rocking chairs. And they’ve been the bane of my existence for the last four weeks. Yes, four weeks. Double the length of time I predicted. These little, sweet, innocent looking chairs were deceptively harder than I imagined. That’s my official disclaimer.
My inspiration came from Here.
Although adorable, I had something else in mind. About the only thing that remained the same from the ‘inspiration’ plan was the sizing of the seat and back rest. The rest was more or less done on the fly. Arguably, following an actual plan would have been so much easier, but I wanted to live on the edge.
So, here’s how the chairs came into existence.
1. I decided on a tractor for Matthew. Fitting since every night we read an antique tractor book before bed. Allis-Chalmers, Minneapolis Moline, Weeks-Dungey (bet you didn’t know that one?) has nothing on me. Try me, I’ve memorized the book. The elephant for Mollie has no sentimental significance, sorry Moll doll. But it’s cute, so that counts. First things first, I sketched out the drawings on some printer paper. Technical, I know.
Sorry, iPhone photos.
2. Cut out the pattern and transfer to MDF. You could consider using a pine board too, but for this MDF works. Especially because it cuts nicely with a jig saw. I used a 24″x 48″ piece of 3/4″ MDF.
3. Carefully cut the MDF using your jig saw. You could use an 8 to 10 TPI blade on your saw and will work well.
4. Then cut the rest of your boards needed for the seat and back rest using a miter saw or table saw. For the seats I used a piece of 1×10″ pine board cut to 12″. For the seat apron I used 1×3″ cut to 12″ and for the back rest I used 1×6″ cut to 12″. Sand the pieces of pine using 120 grit followed by 220 grit sandpaper. This is entirely optional, but I decided to personalize the back rest by using my wood burner to create Mollie and Matthew’s name. Then apply two coats of stain, I chose a walnut colored stain.
5. Once your pieces are cut use 120 grit sandpaper to smooth out just the edges of the MDF. Don’t sand the rest of it or the MDF will get fuzzy.
6. At this point I decided to paint the tractor and elephant prior to assembling it into a chair. There’s argument against waiting to paint for a couple reasons. A. If you choose to use glue in addition to screws, the glue won’t hold well on a painted surface. B. You’ll need to touch up many places after the chair is assembled, so waiting until the end isn’t so bad. Regardless, I painted first and it all worked out in the end. It took two coats to properly cover the MDF.
7. Next up is the rockers. I used 1×4″ select pine boards as select pine is minimally knotty giving way to a stronger piece of wood. And this is where it gets real my friends. After several failed attempts on my own, I called my grandpa, who knows everything I do not about wood working, and we got busy making rockers. Initially I attempted to cut the rockers with my jig saw, but the blade will often bow leaving a not entirely straight edge which is problematic when making a rocker. I was able to use my grandpa’s band saw which worked beautifully.
8. First, you need to decide how long the rocker will be. I choose 26″ (ultimately ended up being 25″ after sanding and rounding the edges). We found the mid-point of the rocker and two end points. Then used a thin, flexible piece of wood to create our arc and cut with a band saw.
9. Once the rockers are cut, sand them to create a smooth surface for rocking. You can do this by clamping the two rockers together, sanding initially with 120 grit paper on an orbital sander, followed by a finer sanding with 220 grit.
I then stained the rockers with two coats 0f walnut colored stain.
10. Then it’s time to attach the rockers to the sides of the chair (tractor and elephant). This is incredibly tedious. Several things to consider here including keeping the rockers level and symmetric so that your chair rocks in unison and also that the chair balances on the rocker so that it rocks appropriately when sitting in it. Seems simple, but it took a lot of clamping and fine tweaking to get it right. I have no tricks to this other than to start clamping your pieces together and continually checking for symmetry and testing the ‘rock’. This step really works better with having two sets of hands, so I was incredibly grateful to be able to work on this with my grandpa. I was on my own assembling the tractor, and it was far more difficult with only one set of hands.
11. Once the rockers are properly placed attach with 1″ wood screws.
12. Next is positioning of the seat and back rest. Equally tricky as positing the rockers. Same idea. Start clamping and making adjustments until the seat and back rest are level and at the height you want. I chose the seat height to be 9″ off the floor and the back rest is 3.5″ from the seat. You can adjust this to your preferences.
13. Once you have everything positioned and are satisfied with how the chair rocks, you get to attach it all! I used my Kreg jig to create pocket holes and it worked well. However, if you don’t have a kreg jig you could also consider making small braces that you attach to the seat and back rest, then attach to the sides of your chair. This eliminates seeing many screw holes in the face of your seat and back rest, but still creates a sturdy seat. It would look something like this:
14. If you use a kreg jig, make sure to create all your pocket holes prior to assembling. It’ll look something like this:
15. First, I attached the seat apron to the seat, then attached as a whole unit to the sides of the chair. I created a slight downward angle towards the back of the seat to make for comfortable sitting. There is probably a “proper” angle a seat should be positioned, but I don’t know what that is. I went with what looked comfortable.
16. Once the seat is attached, it’s time to position the back rest. Again, I positioned the back rest to be 3.5″ higher than the seat and created the same slight angle.
17. Now you should have the entire chair assembled. If you’re more skilled than myself, you won’t have much touch up to do. I had a lot of touching up however. Once I was satisfied with the paint and stain, I applied two coats of polycrylic for a protective finish.
I can’t wait to see these rocking chairs under the tree Christmas morning and the looks on the kids faces!
Give them a try yourself! The fun of these chairs is you can get creative and make any type of chair you want, as long as you can attach it to rockers and have space for a seat and back rest. You can also adjust the measurements and sizes to your preferences. Enjoy and happy holidays!