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Need Advice on Complicated Rocking Chair Assembly

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Forum topic by DustyMark posted 555 days ago 801 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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DustyMark

270 posts in 655 days


555 days ago

Topic tags/keywords: gorilla glue complex assembly compound angles rocking chair spindle thos moser spindles top crest cross dowel seat blank

I’m a day or two out from assembling the upper half of a New Gloucester rocking chair that has 14 back spindles. Here are a few photos of the upper half dry assembled with the prototype top crest (the back curve isn’t cut on the prototype.)

I’m able to insert one spindle at a time in the prototype by pushing the spindle up through the top crest and then dropping back down to the seat blank. All of the holes in the final top crest are stopped tenons. That means I’ll need to assemble 14 spindles at the same time. I assembled 7 spindles in a similar top crest for my bar stools last summer and my wife and I were able to handle it.

The trick I used on the bar stools was to insert the spindles in the top crest first and then fit the assembly into the seat. I’m thinking that with three people, we might be able to accomplish the same thing. Here are some other steps I’ll take:

1. Drill all of the top crest holes to specific depths and custom cut the mating spindles to the correct length.
2. Predrill some cross dowel holes into the top crest and the seat to hold the assembly together as we finally get things into place.
3. Use Gorilla glue since it allows easy repositioning and give quite a bit of assembly time.
4. Glue spindles into top crest first.
5. Use blue painters tape to minimize Gorilla glue mess. Tape seat blank and cut through spindle holes with Exacto knife. Do same to underside of top crest. Tape spindles outside joint line.
6. Considering drilling a number of the center spindle holes in the top crest deeper so that I can bring them down into the seat after getting more difficult spindles into place. That would leave less spindles to deal with at once. However, it would be a disaster if they stuck high and I couldn’t get them back down to contact the seat.

One thing I’ve discovered is that complex assemblies go together a lot easer with Gorilla glue applied than they do dry assembled. The glue is a great lubricant. Anybody tried a similar assembly? I welcome any thoughts or suggestions on this…

-- Mark, Florida


8 replies so far

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DustyMark

270 posts in 655 days


#1 posted 555 days ago

I just thought of a fall-back position. I could drill the top crest holes, cut it to shape, smooth out the bandsaw marks, rip the blank in half, and assemble the portion of the top crest with the spindle holes to the lower assembly. This would give me the ease of assembly offered by through tenons! After the glue is dry, I could then reglue the upper half of the top crest and cut the top curve with scroll saw. The seam would be barely noticeable in the grain pattern since it’s cut from the same block of wood. That’s more work, but possibly a lot less drama during assembly…

-- Mark, Florida

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SnowyRiver

51451 posts in 2066 days


#2 posted 555 days ago

I am not going to be much help here since I haven’t built chairs like that. I did want to say it looks beautiful. Great job. My only thought would be to use a wide piece of tape (maybe even duct tape) along the top rail and edge of the spindles once the spindles are inserted to hold them in place until you can get the bottoms inserted.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

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DustyMark

270 posts in 655 days


#3 posted 555 days ago

Thanks, I’m really enjoying this project and blogging it from start to finish.

The tape would help keep the spindles in the general position versus being spread out all over the place…great idea!

-- Mark, Florida

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rum

148 posts in 1171 days


#4 posted 554 days ago

Nice job so far!

A slight variation on your second idea:

What about cutting a slightly oversized guide that matches the top crest but has the holes drilled a smidge larger out so it drops down below where the crest will be. Then cut the guide in half on the BS right through the holes. Clamp the guide in place and then (assuming its all lined up correctly..) the top crest should be able to be dropped/tapped into place.

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lysdexic

4774 posts in 1208 days


#5 posted 554 days ago

That is a good idea rum.

-- It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe. - Muhammad Ali

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DustyMark

270 posts in 655 days


#6 posted 554 days ago

Rum:

I plan to try your awesome idea in the morning. I was hoping for a fresh view from a fellow woodworker when I posted this question to the forum. I’ll drill down through the prototype top crest into another scrap of wood. This will be the piece that you mentioned. The spindles run 3/8” down that far, but I’ll need to go oversize on the holes because the spindles point in toward each other in the top crest. That causes the spindles to be closer at their tips than at the entry holes at the bottom of the top crest. The oversize holes will allow me spread them a little bit to get them started, but they will also allow the spindles to point even closer together. Maybe 1/64” oversize is a good starting point and work my way up as needed for individual holes. I’ll screw the two halves together since they will be under a lot of stress to separate. This is definitely worth a try…thanks!!!

-- Mark, Florida

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DustyMark

270 posts in 655 days


#7 posted 554 days ago

Brilliant Solution

Here’s Rum’s brilliant suggestion executed. Build an alignment jig that fits just below the final crest. Drill down from the top of the top crest prototype into another piece of wood. This ensures that the compound angle holes continued in perfect alignment from one piece to the other. Cut the lower piece in half right down the holes. Shim the resulting kerf with playing card shims folded into four layers. Reassemble the new piece with 5 screws. Redrill the spindle holes since the jig probably didn’t mate perfectly. The alignment jig is ready for use.

The entire back is dry assembled through the alignment jig one spindle at a time. The spindles are popping through in perfect alignment to receive the actual top crest.

Here the top crest is postioned on top of the exposed spindles. Push down on the top crest to insert 14 spindles simultaneously into the top crest. This worked so well that I didn’t even need to use the dead-blow mallet!

The top crest is in position. The alignment jig is unscrewed to remove it from the assembly.

Evaluation

Rum’s alignment jig will remove the drama from assembling the upper half of the rocking chair. I could assemble it by myself now, but will ask my wife to help with handing the spindles to me in sequence and gluing the wedges. It seems that the easiest strategy during glue-up will be to use liquid hide glue and insert it in the spindle holes. That will allow me to keep a fast pace. That’s really the only option for the top crest since the spindles are inserted simultaneously.

Thanks Rum!!!

-- Mark, Florida

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lysdexic

4774 posts in 1208 days


#8 posted 554 days ago

Rum for the win!

-- It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe. - Muhammad Ali

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