From a woodworkers perspective, the thing that stands out most about a sculpted rocking chair like this is probably the Maloof-style joints used to join the legs to the seat. With all of the lamination behind me, I took the plunge to start the work for this unique joinery.
The joinery starts on the seat blank. So, I first used a sled on the table saw to trim the seat to finished length and width. The rear legs will be joined to the seat via a 3 inch by 3 inch cutout that is rabetted top and bottom on each back corner. The front legs have a similar configuration except they are set back from the front corners into a 2 inch wide notch in the seat.
These joints need to be very precise and with the thickness and size of the seat blank, that’s a challenge. In order to create the notches to exact size, I first laid out the joints with a pencil and then rough cut them at the band saw. This allowed me to get very close to the lines without worrying about the precision of the joints. The rear leg notches were cut out as single blocks. However, because the front legs are attached set back from the front corner, I used the band saw to create a series of kerfs to rough out the notches for them.
I created a couple of jigs to help with the process of precisely finishing these notches. In the picture you can see the front and rear leg jigs that I made to use with the router with a top bearing pattern bit. The openings on the jigs are exactly the size of the notches to be cut and the bearing on the bit rides along the edges of the jig to trim away excess material from the joint leaving a perfect notch. Because of the thickness of the seat, my pattern bit would not cut the entire rear leg joint in one pass. So, I first used the rear leg jig from the top and then again from the bottom to finish the joint. After routing the rear notches, I used a sharp chisel to remove the radius left by the router bit and to square up the inside corners of the notches.
The second operation for this joint was to create a rebate along both the top and bottom of each notch. This effectively leaves a tongue in the center of each notch that will later mate with a corresoponding groove in the legs. This was done with a series of shallow passes with a 1 1/2″ by 1/2″ rabetting bit. In the pictures you can see that I used a scrap block clamped to the outside of the seat to eliminate any tearout. The resulting rebate leaves a 3/4″ radius on the inside corners of each notch. Later the corners of the legs will be rounded over with a corresponding 3/4″ rounding over bit to create complementary profile on the legs.
With the joints for the front and rear legs completed I setup another jig to rout holes for the back braces where they enter the seat. These were done with a template that I got from Hal Taylor. The holes were routed with a 1/4″ straight bit and a 5/8″ OD collar on the router. These holes are actually slightly oval in order to allow the back braces to flex slightly as you sit in the chair.
Next up: Leg Joinery