Mark ( on March 30th, 2009

You may be wondering just when does the sculpting of this Sculpted Rocking Chair actually start? The answer is that is starts now!

cutting-front-leg-adder-piecefront-legs-cutWell, maybe after a quick commercial interruption…you’ll recall that in the last post I had glued the two perfectly good front legs together with a piece of two inch stock in between them.  Well, of course they were not going to stay that way.  So, I traced a curve onto the adder piece between the legs and then cut them apart on the band saw.  The front legs will be cut and sculpted further at a later stage.  Now that that was out of the way, I could turn my attention to the first efforts of sculpting on the chair – shaping the seat.

layout-for-seat-shapingdepth-holes-for-seat-shapingseat-ready-for-shapingTo start this process, I first layed out the outline of the seat area from my templates.  Next, I carefully layed out the locations for some depth holes.  I drilled these holes into the seat to help me judge when the sculpting had reached the desired depth.  The rear holes were drilled at 3/4″, the center holes at 5/8″ and the two sets of front holes at 1/2″.

angle-grinder-with-kutzall-disk-for-seat-shapingTo do the rough shaping I used a coarse Kutzall donut-shaped disk in an angle grinder.  This disk removed material very quickly and produced copious amounts of dust!  However, if careful I was capable of fairly fine work with it.   The key was to use slow, steady movements of the grinder in the direction against its rotation.  I started the shaping at the rear of the seat, staying about 1/4″ away from my layout lines and gradually working toward the finished depth.  When I was about 1/8″ away from the finished depth I moved to the front to work it to a similar level.  The center keel of the seat had to be shaped manually as I went along.  After I got the entire seat to within about 1/16″ of finished depth, I carefully used the grinder to shape up to my layout lines.  The sequence of pictures below shows the process from start to finish.



The next step was to move on to sanding with the random orbit sander.  I started this with 60 grit to even out the coarse surface left by the grinder and then moved on to 120 grit.  I also used folded sandpaper and my thumb to ride the curved surface along the edge of the shaped seat leaving a crisp line along the top.  In the picture, you can see how rough the surface was prior to sanding. A little more layout on the front of the seat, some filing and some sanding and I had contoured the front of the seat to allow the user’s legs  to wrap nicely over the front edge of the seat.

seat-shaping-completed-1seat-shaping-completed-2In the final pictures you can see the final shaped seat ready to be joined with the legs.

Next up: Shaping the rear legs and arm rests

Tags: , , , ,

15 Responses to “Sculpted Rocking Chair: Shaping the Seat”

  1. Hey Mark……..nice. Seems like nobody wants to get dirty anymore. Some of the best designs can only be seen through the dust. Yeah, I know some tools can rough it out in bigger chips, but there’s something special about the physical aspect of being covered up in protection and working in the silence of a machine.

    Good show……….Neil

  2. Hey Neil,

    I definitely got dirty working on the seat – saw dust everywhere! It’s actually amazing how much control you can have with that Kutzall disk on the angle grinder after a bit of practice. Not your average carving tool, but it works well for the task at hand.

    Thanks for stopping by.


  3. Looks good…I completely relate with that calming sense of ‘silence’ through the blanket of dust and wood chips. Back in the wooden boat building days this was the norm for me. I do miss it sometimes. This summer I’ll be back out East in my old shop full of power tools…angle grinder and Kutzall to boot. I have a few maple and beech slabs that have been drying for three years now…This is inspiring indeed.

  4. Tom,

    Thanks for stopping by and for the comment. Though one can get lost in the din of a motor, I still like the peacefulness of hearing a hand plane slice the wood – less dust too. Having said that, that Kutzall is a good tool on the angle grinder for this kind of work.


  5. the kutzall disc looks great; but is there a way to do these sculpted seats on the tablesaw?

  6. Brenda,

    A cove cut on the table saw is how I will be forming the arm rests for the chair in an upcoming post. This might be an option for the seat, however, that operation typically involves a cove that passes all the way through the length of a piece. So, it does not sound ideal. Of course, carving out the seat with hand tools is also an option.


  7. Hi Mark….

    You said—-

    “Though one can get lost in the din of a motor, I still like the peacefulness of hearing a hand plane slice the wood – less dust too.”

    the peacefulness of hearing a plane slice wood, is what “everybody” says. The freshest woodworking comes from places few go. I’ve been wondering lately, why everybody is following and being uncommon in woodworking is really the lost art not using a hndplane. For a generation that grew-up supporting the independence of Pearl Jam………What’s going on?

  8. Hi Neil,

    Interesting thoughts.

    In my mind, I’m not sure that the choice of tool is the driver of doing unique things in the craft. To me, the tool is just an implement and/or conduit for expressing my ideas in the medium. Power or hand tools, I’ll use whatever does what I am after in the best way.

    As to the following, I think that maybe that is the first step down the path to discovering your own ideas. For some, the point where the following ends and the leading begins comes quick, for others it may never come. For me, I’m still workin’ on it…


  9. Hi Mark…… matter what the Craft, is this “following” aspect, the final indication that ones specific craft is officially a hobby. That is where my thinking is going. The creativity, material exploration and tool maniplation is something that never is seen much, less discussed. Has the social aspect of internet woodworking become more important than the craft, or is it that the current woodworker doesn’t know or care to express themselves through what they create. Maybe each woodworker rationalizes his own expression, with quotes out of context.

    I know much has to do with what an individual is exposed to. I believe that what the current woodworker is being “exposed to” is just the basics being presented as a final thesis.

    I don’t believe following is the first step; asking questions, being curious yes, but following to the extent that the internet woodworker does seems to be the only step.

    Just to end, You mention being unsure that a tool is a driver of unique things in a craft, I’m sure that a tool is the driver to being uncommon in woodworking, as long as you don’t follow the only way it first presented.


  10. When do you plan on getting back to the rocker? Cant wait to see more.

  11. Shane,

    Thanks for your interest in the rocker. I got a bit side tracked with the Hunt Board at the Mar Adams School. I still have some work to do on it in my shop, but I will probably work in some tie on the rocker as well. Of course, it is approaching summer, so thinks do slow down for me a bit…keep a look out here at the blog for more.


  12. I am working on a rocker based on the Hal Taylor book. I think you got past the leg joints. I have the front legs joined, but the joints won’t close up. There continues to be a gap on the inside of about 1/16″. Got any ideas???

  13. Fred,

    That’s a tough question without seeing things. But suffice it to say that getting a good fit is all about the layout of the joint before you make any sawdust.

    There are a lot of contact surfaces in the joint. You first need to find out where things are hanging up. Look at the surfaces for a burnished area after you have assembled/disassembled it. That will give you a clue as to where you need to remove material. Do this sparingly and recheck often. If you have a shoulder plane that may be a good tool (depending on where the issue is). A sharp chisel and/or file will help as well.

    Good luck and if you don’t have success, if you’d like to e-mail me a picture I may be able to be of more assistance.


  14. Hey Mark, I’m on the verge of making my first chair, and I’m having trouble finding any kind of plans as far as the seat goes. How deep and where to carve it out.. any tips you can point me to would be appreciated.

  15. Bob,

    Unfortunately, there really aren’t any plans for this kind of thing. It’s really a sculptural effort where there are no real wrong answers.

    Having said that, if you read this post again, where I detail the depth of the gauge holes that I drilled and their relative locations, that along with the pictures and descriptions of using the grinder and sander, you should be able to come out with a nicely carved seat.

    This sculptural kind of woodworking takes a bit to get used to when we are used to dealing with straight lines and surfaces. Good luck on your chair!


Leave a Reply