Learning the “Dynamics of a Rocking Chair” is crucial to our beginning:
Dynamics of a Rocking Chair
Unlike most chairs, rocking chairs by their very nature of construction are a moving entity. Because a rocking chair is made to rock there are unique factors to be considered in the manufacturing of a custom quality rocking chair. First, let us agree on some basics. The design of the rocking chair is pleasing, the materials used in construction are quality products and the method of construction is proven and time-honored mechanics. With these basics assured, let us examine the real reason why one rocking chair is a pleasant experience while others are adequate at best to exasperating.
An exasperating rocking chair would be one that walks while rocking or a “walking rocker”. Walking while rocking is an irritating experience some rocking chairs exhibit by advancing forward or backwards, maybe sideways, off their original placement.
Another exasperating characteristic of some rocking chairs is their persistence in giving the sensation of throwing you forward out of the chair or too far backwards.
An adequate experience in rocking can be measured collectively by most rocking chairs on the market today. They feel okay, nice, comfortable, or sufficient, but this should not be what a quality buyer is obliged to tolerate, however, this is what most people settles for; a cookie cutter rocker.
There is another category that I call “balanced rocking” a sooo comfortable and good feeling experience of a perfect balanced rocking chair. This is the exceptional rocking chair that is of course sized correctly, but it is also engineered to give the ultimate rocking experience, which is perfect balance so that the rocking is almost effortless. Near effortless rocking is what I design into my rocking chairs. How is this done?
Sizing a chair to fit a particular individual or category of body types such as standard, small or petite, large or ample, is important, but let’s face it almost anyone can sit in a chair. I am six foot three at two hundred and fifty pounds and I am quite comfortable in a petite, standard or large size. So what is important to a rocking chair?
There are at least three important considerations when building fine rocking chairs with the above given qualifiers.
First, the size of the rocking chair must be within the reasonable range of the owner and guests. Size is important as to width of the seat, the armrest placement and design, the seat clearance from the floor and the height of the headrest, etc. Once these dimensions are accurate the builder can calculate the other subtle proportions. It is also important to give the head adequate support while relaxing. On an airplane when you want to rest one of the first things you do is ask for a pillow. Why a pillow? To give support to your head and bring it forward a little for more comfort. Many people while rocking come close to sleeping or total relaxing. To get this fully relaxed feeling your head should be supported and not thrown back beyond comfort.
Second, the style or appearance of the furniture should be pleasing. The look of the rocking chair is, of necessity, controlled by the function of rocking, but this still leaves room for adaptation and individual taste.
Third, and to my mind, the most critical characteristic of a rocking chair is balance. Balance is why you buy a rocking chair. After all, if we weren’t interested in rocking then a regular chair would do just fine. Rocking should not be tiresome to the occupant even after prolonged periods of rocking. Rocking should be almost effortless. Rocking should be a pleasant and a relaxing experience. To achieve this perfect balance of relaxed rocking the builder woodworker must have mastered certain dynamics about a rocking chair design. The “runner” is the part of a rocking chair that controls the movement of force applied. These “runners” must be made to match the dynamic uniqueness of each rocking chair.
Wood is never of a uniform density. Because the densities of different woods vary from species to species, as well as within their own species, the woodworker must consider the balance point of each rocking chair made and shape the “runners” accordingly. A production “runner” manufactured in a high volume plant or one made on a jig in a one-man shop will not give the perfect balance for a quality rocking chair. If a standard “runner” is used the resulting rocking chair will only be of adequate quality, at best, and not the superior balance that a high-end rocking chair owner should demand.
Making chairs is the most challenging of all woodworking projects and making rocking chairs, the correct way, is the supreme challenge in woodworking.
Each of the custom rocking chairs built by Bill Kappel is constructed with this perfect balance or dynamics of the rocking chair in mind. Each rocking chair is balanced for the customer for an almost effortless rocking. No rocking walking or undue effort to annoy and distract from the pleasant experience of a well tuned rocking chair.
-- Rocking Chair Guy