|Project by Malone||posted 09-05-2013 08:35 AM||1500 views||6 times favorited||7 comments|
The Mrs. saw an elephant-shaped child’s rocking chair on the internet (that’s an elephant-shaped chair, not an elephant-shaped child) and loved it. I don’t know whether it’s kosher to tell the name of the company whose design I knocked off, but you can see the real item if you google for “wood elephant rocker”. It was a nice looking item, but I thought it was a little expensive and it seemed like a pretty simple design. I figured I could make my own knock-off. Plus, it would be made by my own two hands!
I’m new to woodworking. Previous to this item, my best output had been the proverbial birdhouse and a planter box held together with about 4000 nails. So, as simple as the rocker is, it was a bit of a step forward for me from a technical standpoint.
Here’s how I went about it. First, I found the dimensions and a good profile image of the rocker on the internet. Then I took the image and drew a grid over it in Photoshop at a scale of 1-inch squares. I thought about including my gridded image in this post but, although I’m not above copying someone else’s design for my own personal project, I don’t think it’s my place to reproduce it here.
Next, I drew a 1-inch grid on my plywood (I used 3/4” birch plywood from the blue store) and used it as a guide to transfer the shape of the rocker. I carefully cut it out with a jigsaw. Once I had smoothed out a couple of rough spots, I used the first side as a pattern and traced the design on the other piece of plywood. I just roughed in the shape using the jigsaw on the second piece and then attached the first piece to it with some double-sided carpet tape so I could use it as a pattern and finish cutting the shape using a flush trim router bit. This way both sides are precisely the same shape. The carpet tape left some residue on the wood which was a pain to clean off, so I might try a different method if I had it to do over.
I used a round-over router bit to soften the edges. The seat and back are just rectangular pieces, the only complication being an angle cut on the seat back. I intentionally cut the seat a little long because I wanted to base my dado cuts on it, but I didn’t want to commit to an angle yet. To cut the dadoes, I placed the seat perpendicular to a side, positioned where I intended to make my cut, and then placed two straight pieces of plywood on either side of the seat and clamped them down. Then I removed the seat piece, so I was left two pieces of plywood that I could use as a guide for my flush trim bit. Square the ends with a chisel. Then the same thing for the seat back.
Now it was time to cut the same dadoes on the opposite side. So now I had a problem. I needed to make two dado cuts in a fairly arbitrary location the middle of the piece with very little in the way of reference points. How could I ensure that I make the cuts in exactly the same place, same angle, same length, only in a mirror image? I puzzled over this for a while and came up with this solution. I cut some strips the same length as my seat and back, but only deep enough to stand a little proud of the dadoes. I put these in place dry, but put a LITTLE glue on the tops. Then I placed the second side on top of the lightly glued strips. With the two sides almost right together, I could get them perfectly aligned. When the glue was dry enough to pull the strips out of the dadoes I separated the sides and traced the outline of the strips. Now I had an exactly marked mirror image of the first side.
It might have been easier to just create a pattern that had the dadoes cut all the way through, and then just use that to mark both sides. In fact, I’m sure it would have been easier. I just didn’t think of it at the time.
I ran the round-over bit across the seat and back, making sure not to round-over the bit that goes in the dado. I used Titebond on the dado joints and the butt joint between the seat and back. It was good to see it all in one piece at last! To finish I filled a few gaps in the plywood with wood filler, sanded all over a couple of times, used two coats of oil based primer, three coats of latex paint and three coats of glossy Polycrylic.