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Wood selection for Maloof-style rocker

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Forum topic by bues0022 posted 11-19-2010 05:32 AM 2801 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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bues0022

216 posts in 1912 days


11-19-2010 05:32 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

It’s been a rough and busy year for me with both mine and my wife’s graduate school. I’m finally done and ready to get back into the shop and make some things. My wife and I are talking about finally starting a family, and I want to make her a Maloof-inspired rocking chair. I’ll be purchasing the plans (I’m assuming). I’ve typically done mostly cabinet-type projects such as tables, free-standing cupboards and the like – so this project is going to stretch me considerably and also help me learn many more valuable skills. I know it’s not likely the best idea to be learning many different things on one project, but I’m rather detail-orientated and will test things on scrap wood as I go along to ensure I know what I’m actually doing!

In any case, I’d like some opinions/ideas on wood selection and design. My wife is from Wisconsin, so I’d like to use woods (mostly at least) that can be found up here. Furthermore, there is a guy I’ve found in Milwaukee that has a contract or agreement with local municipalities that when they take a tree down, they bring it to him to cut into lumber instead of sending it to the landfill. I’m not particularly “green” usually, but I really kinda like his idea on using good wood that would otherwise go to waste.

Most of all, I want this to be a head-turner. I want it to be absolutely unique. I’ve seen some gorgeous maple or walnut chairs, but most don’t seem to really pop out at me. I’ve thought about some contrasting woods such as black walnut/hard maple or black walnut/hickory. Her parents have a lot of maple trees on their property, and while I wouldn’t be using any of them, it would be fairly sentimental to use said wood. I’m also a huge fan of spalted maple, and thought the combination of spalted maple and walnut may look very rustic and unique. Another idea was to use hickory. We had a hickory tree fall on her parents land I when I cut it up for firewood (too messed up for lumber) it appears to be spalted. I don’t know how common this is, but I really do like to color of hickory. Even if it isn’t spalted my in-;aws kitchen has “low-grade” hickory cabinets, and my wife really likes the character the color bands and black stains is has. I’m not too afraid of the hardness of hickory, I just know it will require a bit more work.

That’s as far as my idea has gone at this point. Does anyone have ideas on how to plan where each wood would go? Anything that may help this scream unique? Do a layup of alternating light/dark then cut the backs slats from this? Solid headrest or light with dark stripes? opposite? matching seat also, but what “style”? Any other wood additions or combinations? If you were to make one, what would you do? I’ve looked at countless pictures, but I’d like to hear thoughts behind the images.

-- Ryan -- Maple Grove, MN


28 replies so far

View chewbuddy13's profile

chewbuddy13

150 posts in 2037 days


#1 posted 11-19-2010 04:51 PM

Sounds like you’ve got some good ideas on the wood selection. I recently did a rocking chair out of cherry. I’m doing two more, one out of ambrosia maple and another out of purpleheart. I like your idea about the spalted maple or hickory, that sounds neat.

As far as suggestions on planning what wood to use for each piece, try cutting out a negative image of the shape on paper and use it to look at the different pieces of wood that you have. I used this method to find the best boards to use for the arms and seat and such.

View Canadian Woodworks's profile

Canadian Woodworks

632 posts in 1822 days


#2 posted 11-21-2010 02:10 AM

one thing we have done with some rocking chairs is to use a 1.5’’ seat blank sandwiched between 2 pieces of 1/4’’ to make up a 2’’ final seat blank, so when the seat section gets carved out it reveal the inner blank.

So far we’ve only done this with lacewood and walnut, you can check my projects on here to see what i’m talking about.

-- Paul Lemiski, Ontario Canada, Custom Wooden Rocking chairs and tables http://www.canadianwoodworks.com

View WoodLe's profile

WoodLe

154 posts in 1549 days


#3 posted 11-21-2010 04:18 AM

I got some spalted maple just cut (not dry yet). Just started cutting another spalted maple today, beautiful slab lumber. If you didn’t live so far away, maybe I could sell you some. Maybe I could anyway!

-- www.largewoodslabs.com Wooster, Ohio

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bues0022

216 posts in 1912 days


#4 posted 11-21-2010 04:54 AM

Paul- That is an interesting idea. I’ll have to check out your site to get some more ideas. One thing (along those lines) that I’ve thought about doing, is making a laminate of alternating layers maple/walnut for the rockers themselves. The end result might look cool….maybe? Also, I could make the back slats all out of spalted maple with a thin line of walnut down the center of each – also using a layup type idea.

WooodLe- I appreciate the offer, but I’m a LONG way from Ohio, and never make it that direction either. Thanks for the offer.

Any other ideas of interesting ways to combine spalted maple and walnut on this chair?

-- Ryan -- Maple Grove, MN

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bues0022

216 posts in 1912 days


#5 posted 11-21-2010 05:17 AM

Paul, your work is beautiful. I may need to pick your brain a bit if that’s ok. I may be a bit in the dark, but I’ve not seen Hal Taylor chairs before. How are they different from the Maloof-style? Are the Maloof back slats also flexible? I really like the idea of flexible and rotatable back slats – I may need to do some more research on that style!

Also, when you mentioned the head rest is “coopered” what is that? Why do you do a layup for the back slats rather than cut it from a single piece of wood on a bandsaw?

Sorry if some of these questions seem a bit newbie, as I definitely am with this type of project.

-- Ryan -- Maple Grove, MN

View Canadian Woodworks's profile

Canadian Woodworks

632 posts in 1822 days


#6 posted 11-22-2010 01:53 AM

Thanks, we work hard at making our pieces!

Hal did a great job of what I like to say to to re-engineer sams chair.

No Maloof style rockers do not have flexible back braces.

The back braces on Hals design call for 4 2.29mm think pieces to be laminated together on a form to achieve the desired shape. We have experimented with slices as thin as 2.1mm

The laminated back brace is much stronger then if made from a single piece of lumber. The bottom seat holes are kinda oval to allow movement front and back but very little side ways.
also the holes into the headrest are double drilled to allow movement at the top of the back brace.

You can push on the back brace backwards close to 4’’ ( depending on thickness ), the tops almost come out of the headrest, there in there 1 1/8’’ it’s really amazing how much strength the laminated back braces has and by allowing stress free movement at the tips there is no reason for failure.

Also allows us to use a high light pieces front and back if desired, or 2 walnuts front back and ash / maple in the middle as the accent.

Picture a wine barrel, it’s coopered…. all the pieces have angles on them to make the circle. Sam actually coopered his seats to allow more of a hugging seat.

The headrest is glued up using 4 or 6 blanks with a angle cut on the edges, this allows us to cut a curve on the band saw that could not be cut even using 4’’ thick lumber. = greater curve = greater comfort.

Also gluing up the headrest keep the grain flowing up an down, through the headrest down the arms, through the seat. The maloof way the headrest is grain running across, creating a end grain to long grain leg joint. Hal’s design creates a long grain to long grain leg headrest joint.

Hal sells a book and it is a great investment, it’s so detailed it will blow you away…. He really has done a great job with this chair and instructions.

BTW – I have a blog on my custom wooden rocking chair website, i’ve taken pretty detailed pictures and what not of most of the process of building these chair and also designing tables using the Maloof style.

-- Paul Lemiski, Ontario Canada, Custom Wooden Rocking chairs and tables http://www.canadianwoodworks.com

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2169 posts in 1602 days


#7 posted 11-22-2010 02:10 AM

bues—congrats on the grad school completion. What a great way to celebrate!

I cannot compare with others, but I bought “Charles Brock’s package” http://www.charlesbrockchairmaker.com/
and enjoyed his respectful treatment of Sam’s brilliance. His book and DVD are clear and good, with, I felt, just enough negative space that you have to figure some things out for yourself. That’s good learning. And by the way, skip the kit. It’s cheesy to have someone else choose your parts! BTW, Charles’ estimates for material were spot on (a student of mine and I built together).

My chair: http://lumberjocks.com/projects/35493

As for the material and splash that you’re looking for, I’m having a hard time imagining that. There’s no real billboard in the chair for anything except the seat and headrest to display contrast (oh, rockers, of course) and too much of anything there takes away from the breathtaking sculptural beauty of the design. I’d say save the dazzling contrasts and indigenous woods for a cradle project.

This chair is a daunting task for someone who’s just done foursquare work, so I’d recommend staying with a wood that’s easy to shape. Walnut, though prosaic, is the #1 choice here for strength, beauty and workability. Hickory would be a teeth-gnashing project IMHO. Cherry would be a great second choice, and you could get a grade with a lot of sapwood—Sam loved including sap—and do honor to the man and have an interesting piece.

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

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Lee Barker

2169 posts in 1602 days


#8 posted 11-22-2010 05:12 AM

Post script: To do a Maloof you’ll need a good bandsaw and a good tablesaw. There are a couple expensive files and a cutter head for an angle grinder and some dowel cutters that are pretty valuable in the process.

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View bues0022's profile

bues0022

216 posts in 1912 days


#9 posted 11-22-2010 08:07 PM

Thank you Paul and Lee for your very informative insights. I think I am going to go with my original gut idea on using spalted maple and walnut – but now I’m at a loss on how to combine them. My idea was to use mostly maple, and the walnut would be used as the accent color (where I’m not sure yet). But I just looked at Paul’s double rocker, and I really like how mostly walnut was used, with lighter wood as the accent and seat.

I’ll do a bit of thinking and get back with more color-design questions. multi-wood complex projects is new to me, so I have a hard time visualizing what will look good. Something that might seem neat on one component in my head may turn out looking awkward once everything is assembled.

-- Ryan -- Maple Grove, MN

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2169 posts in 1602 days


#10 posted 11-22-2010 08:28 PM

Thanks bues—this is a good time to be thoughtful. I had looked at a bunch of rockers on the web and hadn’t seen one with the horizontal contrasting strips in the headrest. When I glued up the piece, it looked dazzling, but once I shaped the curve, I didn’t like it so much. It was too rigid a line against the fluidity of the sapwood. I doubt I will do it again.

I like the light colored pieces I put in the seat. They seem fine, and I like having more contrasting pieces than just in the rockers.

Oh, and one more thing I learned, talking about contrasting rockers. When I was gluing up the risers where the rockers blend with the legs, I just continued the pattern (I think it was two walnut, one alder, etc) I’d used in the rockers. I don’t like the result of that. Next time I’ll just use the primary wood from rocker to leg. The reason is twofold: One, where the contrasting wood lands on the rocker, it’s hard to get the deltas all to look the same (and good), and two, I had to plane some of the risers so the legs would land kerplunk on them, and that happened to be on the light colored piece, so it’s thinner on the inside than on the outside. Such is larnin’!

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

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bues0022

216 posts in 1912 days


#11 posted 11-22-2010 09:02 PM

And just like that I may have come up with an idea. Criticism welcomed….

Seat – similar to Paul’s idea: walnut top and bottom, spalted maple middle exposed once shaped.

Back Slats – laminated, either: 1) Spalted maple front and back, walnut sandwiched in middle 2) Spalted maple front, walnut back 3) Front and back laminate from spalted maple with a walnut strip running vertically (I like #1 best)

Rockers: laminte of alternating maple/walnut

Armrests: Made in same fashion as the seat: walnut top, maple exposed when shaped.

Vertical members (legs, back uprights)?? I don’t have a compelling argument of walnut or maple either way.

Headrest: Same thoughts as vertical members. However, if I made the vert. members walnut, it might look nice to be maple.

Thoughts?

-- Ryan -- Maple Grove, MN

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2169 posts in 1602 days


#12 posted 11-22-2010 09:38 PM

The inspiration has begun! I’d say at some point you’d enjoy gluing up some mockups and shaping them as if they were a certain segment of the part you are envisioning. See what happens!

Another overarching thought: Unlike most other objects we build, this chair presents negative space from whatever angle you view it. The only real canvas is the seat; the headrest is much smaller. The crowning glory of a table can be the top, but with the chair, it’s different.

End of philosophy blather for today! : )

-- "...in his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

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bues0022

216 posts in 1912 days


#13 posted 11-22-2010 10:04 PM

Your final thought is exactly why I am having such a hard time designing the wood selection locations. There are many nuances I am unfamiliar with. Designing a square item such as a table or cabinet is easy to visualize what it will turn out as, but on this I’m in the dark!

-- Ryan -- Maple Grove, MN

View Canadian Woodworks's profile

Canadian Woodworks

632 posts in 1822 days


#14 posted 11-23-2010 12:22 AM

so many choices, maybe you’ll just have to try them all

-- Paul Lemiski, Ontario Canada, Custom Wooden Rocking chairs and tables http://www.canadianwoodworks.com

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bues0022

216 posts in 1912 days


#15 posted 11-23-2010 07:57 PM

Maybe after my wife’s I’ll have to make one for myself :)

Update on ideas:
Seat, same as above,
armrests, same
rockers: laminate, but use mostly walnut, Maple for highlights
Back slats: laminate, maple front back, walnut center

questionable:
headrest: Maple
Uprights: walnut

I chose the last two because the seat top is walnut, so the maloof joint will show really well with the center maple section if the uprights are walnut. Also, I’m worried on the uprights you won’t see as much of the spalting, and the effect will be lost, or at least not as dramatic as the larger flat areas. Because of this reasoning, I’d like to make the headrest spalted maple, but what are your thoughts on the obvious contrasting wood for the headrest to the uprights? Will that look odd? I was also tossing around the idea of making the back of the headrest walnut, but I’m leaning away from that now.

IF I were to do the uprights maple, I would likely still keep the headrest maple – and the entire look of the chair will change from being a “lighter” colored chair, to a “darker” chair. Knowing that my wife prefers darker wood tones, I was thinking about more walnut than maple.

Looking at so many chairs online, I’m starting to think I’m over thinking the wood selection, and just need to get working! Here’s my ideas on physical design:

Combination Maloof/Hal Taylor. I prefer the Maloof-type design of the headrest downward curving like Paul’s Inspiration 2.0 chair, and the legs extending higher than the headrest. However, I really like the flexible laminate back slats of the Hal Taylor chair.

Since I’ve never done anything like this, I’m going to need some type of plans/book/information. I can see how getting a Maloof-type book would be great, then just change the back slat design, but the Hal Taylor book is supposed to be so good. How difficult would it be to alter the dimensional designs from the Hal Taylor book to meet my design ideas?

-- Ryan -- Maple Grove, MN

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