How I make a rocker

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Blog entry by Brian posted 10-03-2008 12:20 PM 4074 reads 29 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I thought folks might be interested in seeing the steps that I take to make a Maloof style rocker. Perhaps after seeing how it isn’t really all that difficult to make one it might give encouragement to try and make one yourselves.
These steps are for a mahogany rocker that I’ve finished.
Started with quite a large slab of mahogany. This photo is after cutting 4 ft. from 1 end.

This is 1 of many templates I use. I don’t have to do any measuring for many of the necessary cuts. Below is the seat template.

Seat template

Here is the seat with the groove made for the sculpted seat edge and the leg cutouts. The holes are depth holes that I use as guides to tell me how low I can sculpt the seat -I use a another template for this.
Seat B4 sculpting

The seat after being sculpted and sanded. I use a Lancelot wheel on a grinder to rough out the seat and then use sanding discs to smooth it out more.
Seat After sculpting

The Maloof leg joints are fairly simple. Just a bit tough for me to explain.
You first dado out the seat cutouts on the tablesaw holding the seat on edge. The seat will look like the template shown earlier. Then using a 3/8” rabbet bit you route out the top and bottom of the seat. The seat tongue remaining should be equal to the top and bottom total rabbet height.
For the front legs you make the legs the width of the rabbeted cutout. Then dado the legs the same width and depth as the seat tongue.

Then you use a 3/8” roundover bit at the area where the leg will enter the seat. Voila! A nice fit.

You then remove equal amounts from the sides of the legs above and below the joint. This will give you a square leg. Then roundover the legs.
Hope the photos here explains it better.


The back legs are formed on the router table using the template you see on the right.

Then dado out the 2 sides of the leg for the seat connection. Er…make sure you identify a left and right leg first!

You chisel out the 3/8” radius corner of the seat rabbets so that the square edged back legs fit.

The seat with the legs dryfitted. I’ve give a slight arc at the seat sides and back to give a transition. I’ve also give a slight roundover to the seat top and bottom.

Next is glueup. I use to use epoxy for these joints but lately have been using Titebond 3.
1 screw holds the legs in place.

The arms are next. Again a template is used for the rough shape for both the top and side of the arms. Below is the side template. I rough cut it on the bandsaw.

The arms are connected with epoxy and with a dowel to the front leg and a screw in the backlegs.

Headrest shape is cut on the bandsaw AFTER getting the 2” thick piece to fit well between the back legs.

Now the backslats, which are made of three 1/8” thick lamination done on a form.
Laminating the back slats

The slat ends are then shaped with a template.

The rounded ends are done with a tenon cutter. Then I smooth out the ends and roundover the slat sides.

Holes are drilled in the headrest bottom and the seat for the slats. Then I dryfit the slats into the seat and headrest and clamp the headrest to the back legs to see how everything goes together.
If everything is good, while the headrest is clamped in the center I counterbore and drill the holes in the leg sides for securing the headrest to the legs. (I don’t have a good photo of this)
Then in 1 glueup operation; I put epoxy into the seat and headrest holes, the backslat ends, the headrest ends and the inside of the leg tops where they mate with the headrest. Insert the slats into the seat holes, put the headrest over the slat tops and get the headrest between the backlegs. Finally, screw the legs to the the headrest.

At this stage you’ve got basically a complete chair without rockers. It’s a good time to smooth out the joints and apply the ebony plugs and sand away.

The rockers are made of 5 laminations approx 1/4” thick done on a form similiar to the one for the backslats.
I rough cut the leg ends and I can sit the chair on the rockers to see how it rocks. I might make a couple more cuts to get the right feel for the rocking.
Once satisfied I attach sticky sandpaper to the rockers and by using the rockers as my sanding block I get a pretty good fit.

The rocker edges are rounded over and attached with epoxy and a no. 14 screw.

That’s just about it. Now comes a lot of final shaping and smoothing and then you’re ready to apply the finish.



10 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4189 days

#1 posted 10-03-2008 12:23 PM

Brian – this is wonderful!! What a great tutorial on how to make this MAGNIFICENT chair
(Love the little stool as well)


-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 3827 days

#2 posted 10-03-2008 01:05 PM

great step by step. I love to see posts like this. Really educational and helpful for all of us. Thanks!

-- making sawdust....

View lew's profile


12102 posts in 3783 days

#3 posted 10-03-2008 01:23 PM

Beautiful Work. Great step by step.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Marco Cecala's profile

Marco Cecala

189 posts in 4061 days

#4 posted 10-03-2008 04:56 PM

Thanks for the inspiration, very nice work.

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 3914 days

#5 posted 10-03-2008 05:35 PM

GREAT POST!!! I favorited it.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 3902 days

#6 posted 10-03-2008 06:49 PM

Yea, this is a beautiful process. I’m so glad I got to see it. Great photos. Thanks!

-- Happy woodworking!

View Dennis Zongker's profile

Dennis Zongker

2745 posts in 3620 days

#7 posted 10-03-2008 07:18 PM

Great Blog!!! Thanks for posting.

-- Dennis Zongker

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 4050 days

#8 posted 10-03-2008 07:38 PM

Great tutorial.
How a many hours does it take you to build the chair itself?
I seem to remember Sam Maloof saying 90 hours for his.


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2821 posts in 3618 days

#9 posted 10-03-2008 09:15 PM

90 hours for one chair? I believe he said it but I don’t believe it. Not with all the jigs and everything made already. Plus he’s been doing the same chair for decades. I bet he can build one on a whim in 30 hours if he wanted. Maybe less. This is a great blog. I think I will favorite it also.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View Eamon Fleming's profile

Eamon Fleming

4 posts in 3733 days

#10 posted 11-06-2008 03:10 PM

Great tutorial Brain, once again proving there is life after CWW :-)

I was missing your great posts but now I know where to look. Love that chair.


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