Legacy Project: The Dundas Rocking Chair

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Blog series by Lee Barker updated 12-07-2012 06:02 PM 8 parts 14180 reads 14 comments total

Part 1: The Backstory plus Gluing Up Backslats

11-24-2012 07:24 PM by Lee Barker | 1 comment »

He promised his grandchildren, now young adults, a rocking chair. This was to be a delightful part of his retirement. He built three, all from the same plan and then, sadly, he died. His widow commissioned me to build the fourth. She still had all the templates and plans and the build narrative, plus more of the same hard rock maple he had used before. I opted to cut and mill two sets of parts, looking to build another in the near future, plus allowing me a little comfortable fallbac...

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Part 2: Pile o' Parts Plus a comparison of the Dundas to the Maloof

11-24-2012 07:54 PM by Lee Barker | 0 comments »

With my limited experience in the world of rocking chairs, I’m inclined at this point to divide them into two groups: Armed and no arms. Of those two, the first group has two subgroups: Arm integral with the front leg, and Not. The Windsor Rocker is a fine example of the arm and leg not being integral. The most elegant of the other subgroup is the Maloof chair. Much has been written here and elsewhere about this iconic design. Let me just add that, having built one, I c...

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Part 3: Building the Halves

11-24-2012 08:06 PM by Lee Barker | 0 comments »

In the Maloof construction process one attaches the front legs to the seat and builds from there. In the Dundas instructions, the sides are assembled: Back leg, front leg, side rail and rocker. (The arm is added after the first part is set up.) The construction narrative image showed this section clamped up and laying on the floor. This gave me the willies. What if the angles differed? After considerable pondering I ended up clamping the two rockers onto the edge of my work table (...

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Part 4: Shaping

11-24-2012 08:24 PM by Lee Barker | 0 comments »

Principal shaping tools: air powered carbide burr and electric sanders, both orbital and RO. Hand tools: half round Microplane, two Nicholson files (49 and 50) and a fine, round file. Discoveries: Only one, really, Where the back leg meets the block there is, before shaping, an acute angle. Next time I will add a piece to the leg there so I’ll have a smoother transition to the block. Small item, but it may become a signature feature which you can copy all you want! (In the s...

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Part 5: "Two Arms! Two Arms!"

11-24-2012 08:37 PM by Lee Barker | 0 comments »

The spots where the arms drop onto the front legs are subject to any tuning that must be done at the joint to the back leg, so they are not selected until that work is complete. I tried to get them as symmetrical as possible before glueup. It turns out I could have done more shaping where underarm meets leg (imagine that! No, don’t!). Here I was careful to select similar grain patterns on the top (not shown). Mockup with back parts: It looks to sit properly verti...

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Part 6: Glued Up! plus a couple of Process Suggestions

11-27-2012 04:27 PM by Lee Barker | 6 comments »

Just a little pruning of a loose tenon or two and epoxy part A met epoxy part B and I was ready to put it all together. The plan narrative says to leave the back slats loose. I was nervous about that, but I feel I need to trust the designer. He obviously made many of these in order to refine the design and the construction as he did. I felt the slats were too loose so I just inserted some space balls in the bottom mortises. Viola! Free to move, but no sloppiness permitted. I used the...

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Part 7: Drilling Corner Blocks and the Beginning of the Finish

11-30-2012 05:47 PM by Lee Barker | 1 comment »

An engineer friend once told me that the best angle for the screw through a corner block is 90o from the back (mating) surface, not the front surface of the block. That makes sense to me, but it certainly is easier to predrill and countersink these holes the latter way, especially before the angles are cut. Attempting to drill on that ramp usually results in the bit skating downhill—not a desirable result! Because joint stresses in a rocker are greater than in a foursquare chair, ...

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Part 8: The Graduation Photos and Final Reflections

12-07-2012 06:02 PM by Lee Barker | 6 comments »

My first impression of the finished chair was from the picture here. It appears to lean back in an uninviting, even risky way. That feeling left my enthusiasm for the project carefully metered. I couldn’t even get past that to appreciate other parts of it that, in isolation, are quite pleasant. Now when I look at the chair I am totally smitten. Minwax Wipe On Poly: six coats on the rockers, 5 on the rest of the chair. Final finish: Watco Satin Wax. It is...

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